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Special Report: Standards Rule: Wireless


In the U.S. wireless services market at the end of 2005, CDMA led with 97.64 million connections, followed by GSM with 70.96 million connections. TDMA had 10.13 million connections, according to Gartner.

Key standards for wireless communications predate modern computers and the Internet. Because the public airwaves are limited and require cooperation to achieve service reliability, government regulators spent much of the 20th century walking the fine line between encouraging innovative wireless applications and protecting the interests of individuals and organizations.

Sometimes regulators have driven the adoption of new standards, and sometimes standards bodies (or industry consortia playing that role) have driven regulators. The end result has been a wide variety of mobile computing and communication standards. In some cases, these standards provide the glue that facilitates interoperability. In other cases, divergent standards-based architectures have thrown up obstacles to interoperability.

In the future, we expect to see an array of wireless systems, including 3G, Wi-Fi and WiMAX, tied together by higher-layer standards like IMS. Integrating those technologies in a way that allows a wide range of devices to move transparently across networks won't be easy, but as standards evolve, that hope is likely to be realized.

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