US Republican protests over the use of European GSM technology in Iraq

Angered over the antiwar positions of France and Germany, Californian Republican, Darrell Issa has sent letters to US Defense...

Angered over the antiwar positions of France and Germany, Californian Republican Darrell Issa has sent letters to US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and various legislators asking them to support rival CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology, pioneered by Qualcomm for a new Iraqi mobile phone system.

"We have learned that the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology, GSM... for this new Iraqi mobile phone system," Issa wrote.

Issa expressed concern that if GSM technology were chosen, much of the equipment could come from manufacturers in France and Germany, as well as Finland and Sweden. That means the US government would be handing over taxpayers' money to companies in some countries that have decided not to support US war efforts, he claimed.

The choice of a mobile technology should be based on what is best for users in Iraq, according to Jason Chapman, a mobile infrastructure analyst at Gartner. "And that's GSM technology," he said.

GSM has a huge presence in the Middle East and Africa, in addition to Europe and Asia, so that makes roaming much easier for Iraqis traveling to other countries or visitors from GSM countries coming to Iraq, he said.

Price is another issue. "GSM infrastructure equipment is cheaper because it's a bigger market and there are more companies providing equipment," Chapman said.

"There are plenty of inexpensive low-function GSM handsets and there is also a market for refurbished handsets that have been returned to operators," he said. "This all adds up to savings for users, and that would be important to Iraqis."

Only one US company, Motorola, manufactures GSM infrastructure and handsets, compared with several in Europe, including  Alcatel, Siemens, Nokia and Ericsson.

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