France last week took the lead in the scramble to meet the 1992 deadline for introducing the pan-European digital cellular mobile telephony system when it unveiled its plans for two pilot networks. France Telecom, the French PTT, has invited the companies throughout Europe to tender for the contract to build the networks, which are to be located in Paris and the Rhone Alpes region, and are planned to have capacity to support 10,000 users each. The networks will comply with the GSN standard agreed last May and support digital narrowband transmission at 900MHz. Since the GSN standard was first agreed between the UK, France, Italy and West Germany, 12 other European countries have added their signatures and ratification from the CEPT, the Conference on European Posts & Telecommunications, is expected soon. Speculation now centres on which of the cellular equipment manufacturers will tender and in which combination. Only one consortium, the one between Alcatel NV, AEG AG and Nokia Oy is fully signed and sealed and set in concrete – and that is open to additional members. L M Ericsson has development collaboration agreements with Siemens and Matra and has agreed to supply the Orbitel Ltd joint venture between Plessey Co Plc and Racal Electronics Plc with a switch, leading to speculation that all four will come together in another consortium. And West German Robert Bosch AG and French Jeumont-Schneider SA also have an understanding but may well coalesce with one of the two emerging consortia. Motorola Inc definitely wants to be a player, but at present does not have a partner and may go it alone. France Telecom wants to have the pilots ready for 1991 and is the first party to announce any provision for digital cellular although industry analysts expect a surge of activity if countries are to meet the deadline. Richard Prideaux of Dataquest said he would be surprised if the pan-European network is in place by 1992 and thinks 1993 a more likely date. A market of 10m users has been predicted for the new generation of cellular radio while the existing analogue version is expected to hit the 3.5m mark by the changeover period. The French government is currently looking for another cellular operator to compete with Radiocomm 2000, at present a monopoly.