Wireless show ablaze with gadgets and glitter

From high tech to high fashion, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) 2001 wireless show in Las Vegas this week will highlight both the state of the art and the state of confusion to be found among the wireless technology providers.

Amid the general buzz over 3G (third generation) wireless possibilities expected at the show, Sprint will unfurl comprehensive 3G migration plans built around use of their existing PCS network. Sprint officials have offered scant details on the strategy, which piggybacks a path to 3G on the company's CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network assets.

However, Sprint is quick to use its existing PCS spectrum, which cost the company a bundle in prior spectrum auctions, as proof that Sprint may have a leg up on 3G.

"I don't think as a nation or a company that we are significantly deficient in the delivery of more advanced mobile services," said Jay Keithley, Sprint's vice president of regulatory affairs.

Fear of being overtaken by European wireless advances appears to be what is driving most of the industry wireless network giants to define a strategy before all the pieces are in place.

"People are walking around in the industry feeling pressure to invest in 3G in the United States. This is wrong," said Bob Egan, vice president and research director of Gartner's mobile and wireless division.

According to Egan the United States is not behind Europe, and the reason for the push on the other side of the Atlantic, and the Pacific in Japan, is an issue of capacity, not one of delivering multimedia access to a screen "the size of a postage stamp," Egan said.

On the high-tech, high-fashion front, CTIA will also roll out the runway for Charmed Technology, in Beverly Hills, Calif., which will present its haute couture collection of wearable PCs.

Models will display CharmIt, a fully functional computer that uses Nanix, a stripped-down Linux kernel. The CharmIt OS supports both the 802.11 and Bluetooth wireless specifications, fits on a belt buckle, and can use voice input, 3D mouse, or the Twiddler keyboard, which has four keys in three rows.

Other show highlights include Broadcom's introduction of the first single-chip Bluetooth radio designed for mobile phones and the unveiling of The inUnison 2.0 from Appiant Technologies. The platform for wireless mobile infrastructure suppliers will give users voice or single-key access to voice, e-mail, and fax messages over wireless devices.

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