|In the case of South Korea, I think that standard, consumer-related issues had little or nothing to do with SK Telecom's decision to go for W-CDMA. The primary impetus seems to have revolved around the ability to attain far greater roaming revenues. My guess is that, had SK Telecom not opted for W-CDMA, neither LG Telecom or Freetel would've done so either; but since SK Telecom did act in the manner that it did, these two were put in a tough spot, one where the consumer-related issues came to the forefront, with the largest of these issues being, as you pointed out, that SK Telecom would most likely have a superior set of handset offerings should LG and Freetel opt for cdma2000, something that would be accentuated by a shift in handset development priorities on the part of Samsung. I'm sure that the fact that it'd be harder to convince an SK Telecom subscriber to change carriers should he have a W-CDMA handset without cdma2000 support also was factored in. However, the point is that, had SK Telecom not been enticed by the roaming revenue issue, and had opted to stick with cdma2000, chances are that the other two would've acted likewise, and the handset and roaming issues could be ignored the same way that they're "ignored" in South Korea today.|
As for Nextel and the American TDMA operators, I'm not sure how the consumer appeal issue can favor a GSM-WCDMA upgrade path over an IS/95 upgrade. First, for voice pricing, not only would they not benefit from the capacity gains of a 1x rollout, they'd also end up indirectly passing down the costs of building out a GSM-MAP core to their subscribers. Second, considering that all of these carriers operate in the 800 Mhz. band, the handset issue probably wouldn't work to their favor. While CDMA 800-1900/AMPS tri-modes are currently plentiful thanks to Verizon and others, GSM 800-1900/AMPS tri-modes would have to be created for AWE and Cingular.
Lastly, the spectrum issue does matter a lot in terms of the services that are offered to consumers. It'd be a mistake to look at the slow consumer uptake for that sorry excuse for an interactive paging service known as WAP, and assume that future mobile data applications will be met with an equally lukewarm response. Provided that the cost isn't prohibitive, and privded that they're implemented properly, I think that streaming video and MP3 playback could especially see levels of demand that blow away all expectations. However, the problem is that if the 700 Mhz. band isn't cleared up three years from now, these carriers will have to depend on their existing spectrum for such broadband offerings. Assuming that they have enough existing spectrum, this probably won't be a problem for Sprint and Verizon, with their plans for 1x and, in Sprint's case, also HDR, but how will any carrier stuck with GPRS fare? I don't think that video clips come out too well via 30 kbps connections.
Or, suppose that, within three years, the TDMA carriers were able to clear out some of the spectrum that they won in the 700 Mhz. band, but not all of it. As I stated earlier, since W-CDMA requires the use of 5 Mhz. carriers, this could severely limit their flexibility here. This, in turn, would mean that these carriers could have less spectrum to work with when they roll out 3G offerings within these bands, and this would force them to increase their prices.
Once again, these are all consumer issues. The average person might not care about network air interfaces and FCC spectrum auctions, but he will care if one carrier charges twice as much as another for an equal amount of voice minutes, and if the cheaper carrier also offers a greater number of handsets to chose from, and allows him to watch highlights of a football game while he's at Disney World or Central Park.
PS - Eric L., I think you're right on this one. After doing a few quick searches, it now appears that I got the 3xMC standard confused with 1xEV-DV, the latter of which will have its specifications published by the middle of next year, and thus should be available by 2003. I couldn't find anything on 3xMC standardization. However, with that said, with 1xEV-DV set to offer significantly higher capacity levels when compared to 1xRTT, as well as maximum data rates of 3-5 mbps, I'm having trouble seeing how, assuming that the 2 mbps stationary/384 kbps mobile version of W-CDMA is the primary version that's utilized in 2003, the use of 1xEV-DV will put any carrier which choses to implement it at any sort of technological disadvantage when compared to rivals that happen to be using W-CDMA. The issue of the technology's name seems to be more of a semantical one.