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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 13:19 GMT
Iraq war sparks wireless row
The widening gulf between the US and European countries opposed to the war has spread to the world of wireless.

Close-up of mobile phone
Which mobile standard will prevail in post-war Iraq?
A band of US politicians are angered over plans to build a communication system in post-war Iraq based upon European wireless standards.

Members of the US Congress are adding their names to a letter drafted by Californian republican Darrell Issa objecting to the use of US funds to build a GSM network in Iraq after Saddam has gone.

They want the government to use the US-developed CDMA standard instead.

Support for US firms

Congressman Issa is furious that French and German firms such as Alcatel and Siemens would benefit while US firms would lose out.

France and Germany are the two European countries most opposed to the war in Iraq.

"If European GSM technology is deployed in Iraq, much of the equipment would be manufactured in France, Germany and elsewhere in western and northern Europe," reads the letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"CDMS is widely recognised as technically superior to European GSM technology. If the US Government deploys US-developed CDMA in Iraq, then American companies will manufacture most of the necessary equipment," the letter goes on.

Distortion of facts

Congressman Issa has drafted a bill that would see US companies given preference to European nations in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Richard Dineen, research director at analyst firm Ovum, thinks the debate needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

"Congressman Issa is based north of San Diego and has the headquarters of CDMA pioneers Qualcomm in his backyard," he said.

He is doing a favour to his political supporters and the distortion of facts is entertaining rather than insidious
Richard Dineen, Ovum
"He is doing a favour to his political supporters and the distortion of facts is entertaining rather than insidious," he added.

For example, Mr Issa refers in his letter to GSM as standing for Groupe Speciale Mobile to highlight its French origins.

In fact the technology has not been known as that for 10 years, adopting the alternative Global Standard for Mobile communication to reflect its global nature.

Both CDMA and GSM standards have their own proponents. CDMA systems tend to have a larger talk range whereas GSM offers longer talk time.


Most crucially though, GSM is the standard used for 70% of the world's mobile subscribers, making it a much more viable bet for a post-war Iraq, thinks Mr Dineen.

"If they want to do the right thing by Iraq in terms of rehabilitating its communication infrastructure then GSM is dominant in all neighbouring countries such as Kuwait, Turkey and Saudi Arabia," he said.

Technology companies based in France and Germany are bound to feel some backlash from the frosty relationships its governments currently have with the Bush administration, says Mr Dineen.

But he is hopeful commonsense will prevail.

"The US is taking the opposing stances of France and Germany very seriously but one hopes companies will be given a chance and commonsense will dictate where technology is implemented."

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