Orbitel Mobile Communications Ltd, the Plessey Co Plc-Racal Electronics Plc mobile telecommunications equipment venture has, as reported briefly (CI No 931), finally signed its marketing agreement with Matra Communications SA of France – in time to hit the deadline for manufacturers to submit bids for the pan European digital cellular network. The pact mirrors the alliance struck up with Ericsson last October and entails the two companies making their kit compatible, plus the consent to bundle each other’s equipment when tendering for contracts. A spokesman for Orbitel stressed that the new pact with Matra does not represent the third spoke of tripartite alliance involving Ericsson but is a quite separate two-way agreement, and confirmed that Orbitel is also in the middle of discussions with Siemens AG. The current line-up in the European digital cellular stakes now comprises the tightly-welded consortium formed by Alcatel NV of France, AEG AG of West Germany and Nokia Oy of Finland; the Plessey and Racal Orbitel marriage has deals with Ericsson and Matra; and Ericsson in turn has two-way agreements with Matra and Siemens. The Groupe Speciale Mobile which is driving the standards and pace of the pan-European network, had set the middle of May as the deadline for manufacturers bidding for the contracts. This deadline has been overstepped with operator Vodafone confirming that to date it has received just a handful of bids. The next Groupe Special Mobile milestones are the end of this month – June 30, when licensed operators are due to award contracts to their chosen suppliers and subsequently June 30 1989, when operators must verify that their hardware and software interfaces are to the agreed European standard. The aim is of course that you should be able to drive or ride the length and breadth of Europe and use the same phone – or make a continous phone call as you travel if you can afford it. But the hectic timetable scheduled by the Groupe Special Mobile in order open the pan-European airwaves for 1992 is proving too much for some nations. West Germany, for example, is still mooting the level of competition it wishes to introduce into the cellular arena so no licences for the service have been awarded.
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