The world's biggest mobile companies have created a body to review future technology, attempting to pull influence back from mobile phone manufacturers and standard organisations.
Sprint Nextel, Vodafone, China Mobile, Orange, DoCoMo, Royal KPN and T-Mobile announced yesterday that they had formed the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) initiative. NGMN will be a non-profit group based in London and won't push a particular type of network but rather a set of guidelines for future technologies.
"We think that we can speak with a more organised and concerted voice that we have in the past," said Steve Falk, vice-president of global standards at Sprint. Vendors and standards organisations had stronger voices in the development of 2G and 3G systems, he said, but carriers will represent the interests of their customers, the end-users.
The group is already consulting with phone manufacturers but will only include carriers as members. It may also be pitting itself against Qualcomm, which developed much of the current 3G technology but has been criticised for its royalty and licensing practices.
The NGMN is looking toward the technologies to follow 3G systems such as HSDPA and EV-DO. Carriers are still deploying and upgrading those networks, which are based on GSM and CDMA respectively, but even faster technologies are coming down the road.
Carriers will favour technologies covered by so-called Frand (fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory) intellectual property rules, Falk said. "One of the principles of NGMN is an open and transparent IPR [intellectual property rights] regime," he said.
The NGMN believes greater harmony will lower costs and speed up product development for vendors too. "In some cases, 2G and 3G vendors have had to do very costly and time-consuming development on three to five different kinds of technology," Falk said. Being able to focus on one or two tracks, in turn, will help bring products and services to mobile subscribers faster and more economically, he said.