Can 3G unite Congress? Daley hopes so

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley hopes improved mobile phone services can help bridge the partisan chasm in Washington, he said on Monday at the 3G World Congress in Hong Kong.

"Bringing Republicans and Democrats in our country together could be the killer app the third generation needs," Daley quipped in his keynote address, recalling that in his effort to have permanent normal trade relations with China passed by Congress in 2000, former president Bill Clinton called Republican members of Congress so often they didn't want to take his calls any more.

Also in the keynote, Daley applauded the recent approval of contracts for CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks by China United Telecommunications Corp. (China Unicom), a set of deals that were years in the works and will bring the U.S.-developed mobile phone technology into mainland China on a large scale for the first time.

"None of us thought it would take as long as it has taken, but sometimes good things take time," said Daley, who was Commerce Secretary from 1997 to 2000.

He predicted difficulty ahead in the relationship between the U.S. and China, which he said will be the most important international relationship for the U.S. over the next 50 years, but said he believes Beijing has a supporter in President George W. Bush in its efforts to become a full member of the global economy.

Daley also predicted allocation of scarce radio spectrum for 3G and other wireless services in the U.S. over the next few years will be complicated.

"I think the Bush team will have their hands full with this one," Daley said, adding that although some spectrum needs to remain off-limits for defense purposes, "The U.S. falling behind in wireless technology could have its own national security implications."

The former chairman of then-Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign also pointed out that a mobile-phone call set off last year's long drama of vote-counting and court battles over the U.S. presidential election. He recalled riding late on election night to what would have been Gore's concession speech after Florida election returns indicated Gore would lose in the state.

"We were on our way to that speech when the cell phone I was carrying rang. The person told me that the 50,000-vote lead that George Bush had was suddenly down to 1,700 votes . . . after incredible confusion, I ended up on the stage rather than Al Gore, making the statement that the campaign would continue, and that led to that very crazy 37-day recount process in Florida."

The 3G World Congress continues through Friday.

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