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  1. Technology
February 14, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

There is a substantial groundswell building up that believes that the concept of the cordless telephone designed to be used in proximity of a fixed public phone point has even more potential than that of cellular telephones, so it is deeply disappointing for UK partners Ferranti International Plc and Libera Developments Ltd that their lead in the new technology could be eroded while the UK Office of Telecommunications, Oftel, waits to see what becomes of a competitive standard being touted by L M Ericsson (CI No 863). Oftel has put on hold all licences to develop networks adhering to the CT2 standard developed in the UK, and expects that the pause will last at least until August of this year – Ferranti had hoped to have phone zones up and running before then. Libera however remains optimistic: Chris Cant, Libera technical director told our sister paper Telegram the Department of Trade and Industry has taken steps to make sure that the plans of UK second generation cordless phone operators won’t be impeded. We don’t think that we will have to wait for the European standard to be fully defined in August. Little is known about the rival standard at this time except that, like CT2, it is a hybrid system using both frequency division multiple access and time division. Libera reckons that Ericsson is nowhere near ready with a product and won’t be for two years. While Ericsson, coming from a non-member country, Sweden, has no power to push the standard within the EEC, its system is a platform behind which competitive vendors within the Community can stand and try to muddy the waters on the cordless standard. But in its typically ambitious way, France Telecom has decided that the pocket cordless phone that bills all calls made on it to the user’s home telephone number, is the ideal alternative to costly fixed public telephone boxes that have to be emptied and are frequently vandalised – so much so that it is thinking in terms of pulling out the phones in the booths and installing cordless phonepoints in their place. Powerful French Allies Libera has already lined up some powerful French allies in Secre’ and Alcatel Thomson Radiophone, which have licenced Libera’s technology and will be pushing just as agressively for the French authorities to give them a licence for a public access service. It is believed that Oftel has made the decision to withold licences so that the UK doesn’t go ahead and begin installation and then find that it is incompatible with a future European standard. The European Commission expects to have sorted out the two standards by August but its decision may simply be to endorse both the standards. If that is the case, Oftel will quickly licence the CT2 system for installation. While Ferranti, working with Libera in which it holds 25%, seems to have the edge among the three UK efforts, both British Telecom, which has subcontracted product development to the CT2 standard to STC Telecommunications, and Sir Clive Sinclair’s Shaye Communications, are both expected to have products ready for installation by 1990 at the latest. The Libera concept is to use telepoints which link into the public-switched telephone network and can pick up signals from the new cordless phones up to 200 yards away. Working with Ferranti it wants to install telepoints in areas like railway stations and shopping centres. Anyone with a Zonephone will be able to phone anywhere, as long as they stay within the 200 yard radius of the telepoint. The development is sure to hit cellular phone growth, with the phone sets being far cheaper and calls being charged at standard rates – reducing the value of Mecury’s payphone licence. However none of the systems envisaged will be able to cater for communication from trains and cars the way cellular phones can.

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