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Trade — China’s Implementation of CDMA Still in Question

Cooperation Makes

It Happen During

Telecom Conference

Despite the House of Representatives’ approval of permanent normal trading relations with China late last month, and its expected admission into the World Trade Organization later this year, an agreement between Qualcomm Inc. and China’s second largest telephone carrier is apparently in question.

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When the deal was announced, Qualcomm touted it as a breakthrough into the world’s largest market, and one that appeared tailor-made for the company’s wireless technology called code division multiple access (CDMA).

But delays since that announcement have cast a pall over the agreement. Last week, executives of China Unicom, Qualcomm’s partners, were quoted as saying the firm would not adopt CDMA technology.

The executives said they would stick to using a competing technology called global standard for mobile communications or GSM. Unicom has an estimated 7 million cell phone subscribers using GSM, the overwhelming standard in China, other parts of Asia and in most of Europe.

Analysts tracking Qualcomm, whose stock has dropped more than $130 in value since the beginning of the year and was trading at about $66 as of May 31, said it doesn’t make much sense for Unicom to use a competing technology at this time.

All this doesn’t seem to faze Qualcomm officials, who say CDMA offers much greater capacity and easier upgrade to third generation usage such as Internet access than GSM.

“There are a lot of conflicting reports coming out of China,” said Qualcomm spokeswoman Diana Baldwin. “We still expect CDMA to roll out in China, and we continue to have discussions with Chinese manufacturers to build CDMA equipment.”

Baldwin could not say when the rollout would occur.

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Benefits Of Working: It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes government agencies and business organizations coordinate with each other to produce successful conferences.

That was the case last week when the California Trade and Commerce Agency and UCSD Connect collaborated on the fifth annual Evolving Markets in Telecommunications Conference on May 31 at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines Hotel.

Abi Barrow, director of programs for UCSD Connect, said the privately funded business development group and the state have worked together in the past, notably on an information technology conference in London.

This time, Trade and Commerce coordinated bringing in a group of European telecommunication executives for what the agency billed as “the first telecommunications delegation brought to San Diego.”

The companies represented at a seminar held May 30 were Argo Interactive Group, Digital Bridges Ltd., Gecco.net, and Wireless Systems International, all from the United Kingdom; iSMAP from France; M-Tech and Motech from Belgium; Logica, MDS Telephone Systems, Openet Telecom Inc., from Ireland; and Comtelco from Switzerland.

The Europeans joined the conference the following day at the La Jolla Hilton. Barrow said some 500 persons attended the event, which was produced in conjunction with the San Diego Telecom Council and the San Diego Venture Group.

Besides panel discussions, the event included an exhibit by 43 companies including some of the largest telecom firms in the world.

Trade and Commerce concluded its hosting of the Europeans by organizing a real estate tour, and a tour of Tijuana over the next two days.

“This is something that we want to do more of, and we will be doing more of , working with other agencies in the city and county and other business organizations collaboratively to assist local companies in their marketing efforts,” said Joan Dean, regional director of Trade and Commerce.

More European Access: Overland Data Inc., the San Diego-based manufacturer of computer backup products, said it has signed an agreement to distribute the company’s products in southern Europe.

The contract with GE Access, a major distributor based in Colorado, will entail selling Overland’s goods in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.

Overland also said it has reached agreement with Vodafone Airtouch International to provide its automated data storage systems for Vodafone’s international divisions at two facilities in England.

Overland reported sales of $92.2 million for its 1999 fiscal year ended last June 30. Of that amount, 48 percent came from export sales. The company sells its products in 48 countries.

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French Firm Lands Here: Paris-based Access Commerce, a business-to-business software firm, chose San Diego as the site for its first U.S. office, which recently opened. The company produces software that simplify and automate sales over the Internet. Last year, it had profits of $320,000 on sales of $14.8 million. Among its customers are Alcatel, General Electric and Renault. The office will be headed by Stephen Hofflander, who was previously vice president of marketing and sales with Sofkit Technologies.

Mexport 2000: The upcoming Mexport on June 15, the region’s largest trade show for the maquiladora industry, promises to be big.

For openers, organizers at the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce say they expect some 3,500 attendees and about 350 exhibitors for the 11th annual show to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Las Americas Business Park.

Admission is free. An important issue facing all the twin plants this year is the impending rule requiring the plants to purchase all the components used in manufacturing from only the three NAFTA nations, the United States, Canada and Mexico.

If the parts aren’t made in these countries, they will be subject to higher tariffs. That issue and others affecting the industry will be subjects for several seminars during the event.

Send any comments or international business items to mallen@sdbj.com.

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