International Wireless Communications
Wireless communications and related technologies are driving forces behind the global economy. The United States does not dominate the world’s wireless communications mar-ket; in fact, researchers estimate that the United States is up to two years behind the fore-front of wireless technology. Although more Americans subscribe to cell-phone service than do citizens of any other country, the U.S. market penetration (i.e., the percentage of the population using the service) is lower than that in 10 of the top 20 wireless markets. Competing wireless standards and the availability of inexpensive wireline phone service have slowed the adoption of wireless technology in the United States. As a result, the per-centage of Europeans who own cell phones is nearly twice that of Americans.
The popularity of certain wireless applications differs greatly from country to country. For example, European consumers have embraced text-messaging services, whereas Americans often limit cell-phone use to voice applications. In addition, the United States has an extensive wireline telecommunications infrastructure that delivers relatively inexpensive telephone service and Internet access. Many other parts of the world do not have the same level of infrastructure, making telephone and Internet service costly and difficult to access. Some developing regions are turning to wireless infrastruc-ture solutions by implementing wireless local access, as well as wireline networks. Wireless local access refers to the establishment of wireless networks that serve as pri-mary telephone and Internet connections.
Next to voice service, messaging is the most popular cell-phone application in the global market. Messaging refers to the transmission of brief text messages to the display of another cell phone. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) Association, an organization that supports the extensive GSM cell-phone system, 15 billion Short Message Service (SMS) text messages were sent over GSM wireless networks during December 2000. SMS is used to send short, e-mail-like messages, as well as to alert sub-scribers to new e-mails, faxes or voice messages. Carriers worldwide are launching SMS Web portals that offer m-commerce applications, corporate services, sports, financial news and weather-based information services. In addition, individuals are creating innovative uses for SMS services; televised award ceremonies poll audiences via SMS, and some reli-gions use SMS to send reminders regarding prayer time.
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