IMT-2000 takes centre stage at TELECOM 99, a few days before ITU meets in Helsinki to approve the radio interface specifications

Geneva – As the ITU is to meet in Helsinki to approve the radio interface specifications for IMT-2000, the importance of wireless access to the Internet in business strategies of most telecoms and IT companies took centre stage at TELECOM 99. Many TELECOM 99 stands showed IMT-2000 "prototypes", there were plenty of videophones and a great number of speakers at the Forum addressed third-generation mobile systems.

Major business leaders at TELECOM 99, from both the IT and telecommunications industries, strongly endorsed the key role that new emerging wireless access technologies, such as IMT-2000, will play in providing cost-effective access to the Internet for both developed and developing regions of the world.

A typical forecast showed that there would be around 1 billion users of fixed-line and wireless services by 2004 and it is likely that Internet will increasingly be accessed by wireless users.

In the fixed network, ITU standards have ensured that the different transmission media, e.g. copper, fiber, radio, and the various communication protocols involved in connecting a call are invisible to the user. As wireless access approaches and exceeds wired access in less than five years, it is essential that our wired/wireless information-based future be as seamless and easy to use as the wired telecommunications network is today.

"Users do not care about technologies: they care about services, performance and costs", Mr Yoshio Utsumi, ITU Secretary-General told reporters at TELECOM 99. "They want to be able to have easy and affordable access to IMT-2000 based services wherever they are, wherever they go for work or leisure" he stressed.

"My message to the participants of the Helsinki meeting is to keep these consumers requirements in mind so that the benefits of IMT-2000 can be extended to as many of the world's inhabitants as possible", Mr Utsumi concluded.

The detailed specifications that will be adopted at Helsinki should be able to guarantee that the different technologies are fully interoperable and that their interoperability is ultimately cost-effective for both operators and the consumers.

Presentations at the Telecom technical summit stressed that while competition in 2G has been largely based on technology, in 3G it would be based on services. Panel sessions with key leaders of operator associations and standards bodies, which have been rivals in the past, emphasized their current high level of cooperation with the ITU to ensure timely adoption of IMT-2000 specifications that will appear to 21st century users as a single global standard.

"While operators require various options within the IMT-2000 standard, to ensure smooth evolution to 3G from 2G standards, these options must be transparent to users, i.e. one mobile phone works everywhere without significant penalties in size, cost or battery life. Software-defined radio technologies will, I believe, allow progressively increasing flexibility without incurring significant penalties in hand-held mobile units" said Michael Callendar, Chairman ITU-R Task Group 8/1, which is defining the IMT-2000 radio specifications.

The global team approach adopted by the ITU, with 3G Partnership Projects (3GPPs) and other related Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), making full use of the power of the Internet, allows rapid development and updating of complex documentation, while ensuring that the ITU can provide "one stop electronic shopping" for IMT-2000 standard to its global membership.

The Task Group will meet in Helsinki from 25 October to 5 November 1999, hosted by the Finnish Telecommunications Administration Centre with the support of Nokia Corporation, Sonera Ltd, Ericsson and Oy Radiolinja Ab (Ltd). The Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland, Mr Olli-Pekka Heinonen, will officially open the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to complete Release 99 of the IMT-2000 radio interface specifications so that products can be available in time for the initial launch of IMT-2000 services in 2001.

Following the requirement of operators to have freedom of choice in migrating from current 2nd generation systems to 3rd generation, the IMT-2000 radio interface standard offers a variety of migration paths to accommodate all major wireless operators irrespective of the core networks and radio interface they use today. This very high degree of flexibility is what makes IMT-2000 standard so valuable to the telecoms industry worldwide. On the basis of the possible paths, the manufacturing industry is currently starting to develop products that will enable operators to carry out these migrations according to market requirements and individual business strategies. The merits of the various products in terms of efficiency or suitability will however remain a matter for each operator to evaluate.

The outcome of the Helsinki meeting will be announced on 5 November 1999 via our Website at Reporters wishing to receive the press release by e-mail are kindly requested to send an e-mail to with the following subject "IMT-2000 outcome of Helsinki meeting".