Monthly Archives: March 2003

CDMA in Iraq

Andy M also asks what I think about the construction of a wireless communications system in Iraq after the war. If you haven’t heard, here’s a brief summary: According to reports, the defense department was planning to build a GSM cellular system in Iraq after the war. GSM is a standard that is used throughout the world, but it was initially developped for use in Europe. Well, California Congressman Darrell Issa caught wind of this and introduced a bill that would require the system constructed in Iraq to be based on “American” CDMA technology. Here’s a story on the subject.

I understand the logic behind this measure: The French and Germans wouldn’t support us in this war so now we’ll show them by shutting them out of the rebuilding Iraq. In addition, Congressman Issa states that CDMA technology is superior to GSM.

Although debateable, I agree with the Congressman’s assessment of the technology. CDMA is commonly held to be superior technology. Nevertheless, I think his measure is completely misguided.

Although Qualcomm, the main holder of intellectual property related to CDMA, is an American company, the argument that using CDMA instead of GSM “supports America” is completely off-base. Two of the top six manufacturers of GSM network equipment are U.S. companies — Lucent and Motorola — while a number of manufacturers of CDMA equipment are European — Alcatel and Nokia spring to mind.

In addition, while CDMA may be technically superior, GSM tends to be much more interoperable because it is deployed more widely. GSM countries include Iran, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and even Afghanistan. To force Iraq to adopt a different system, preventing roaming even throughout the Middle East, would be a great disservice to the Iraqi people. Ultimately, it’s not technical superiority that matters here; it’s usability.

The DoD has already demonstrated that it will tend to prefer American companies in the rebuilding of Iraq. Whatever. In choosing GSM for Iraq, though, the DoD was definitely making the right decision. The bigger issue here: Doesn’t Congress have more important things to worry about than what kind of cell phones the Iraqi people get?


Just to clarify a couple of points…

When I made my “Hope is not a plan” entry, I wasn’t really talking just about the war. In fact, in my own life at the moment, it seems to refer mostly to my job search, which is, to use the most sanitized language I can think of, operating outside of specification. I hope that it will improve soon and I will land the job of my dreams, but in the meantime I’m working my tail off.

As I pointed out later, though, I think it is also somewhat applicable to the war. Andy M’s comment is well-taken. It is still much to early to judge the success or failure of our military effort; I believe that we’ll ultimately be successful. Nevertheless, there is evidence to suggest that at the highest levels of planning there may have been a tendency towards an optimism that was not well-grounded in reality.

Along similar lines, in the past couple of days our leaders have warned us that this war may be long and difficult. They have implied, if not directly stated, that they have always believed this to be the case. The record, however, suggests otherwise [via IP].

bq. “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” – Ken Adelman, former U.N. ambassador, in the Washington Post, February 13, 2002

bq. “The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.” – Vice President Dick Cheney, on “Meet the Press,” March 16, 2003

Good Grief

War could last months. The most telling quote, to me, was this one:

bq. During planning for the invasion, worst-case scenarios sometimes predicated stiff resistance, but “no one took that very seriously,” an officer said.

Repeat after me. Hope is not a plan. [story via Medley]

Photo Tips

I realize I haven’t posted an image here in ages. (Bad weblogger!) I ran across this short article of photography tips today, though, and I thought I’d pass it along. I thought their tripod recommendation looked especially good, and I really liked tip number 10. With so much running water around here, I need to try that out…