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Nokia hooks into North American market

A cell phone standard with a tongue-twister name--CDMA2000 1xEV-DV--is the handset maker's new weapon to sell more phones in the region, a company executive says.

A cell phone standard with a tongue-twister name is Nokia's new weapon to sell more phones in North America, a company executive said.

Some North American carriers will begin testing Nokia-made handsets based on a standard called CDMA2000 1xEV-DV during trials later this year, said Mike Wrape, a Nokia product manager. Wireless providers in other markets, such as Asia, are also expected to trial the phones, he said.

The world's biggest handset maker traditionally hasn't fared well in the North American region. It mainly sells cell phones based on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard, which is wildly popular in Europe. But the Finnish company only began in mid-2002 to make phones using another standard called Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a Qualcomm creation that enjoys success in North America and Korea. As a result, Nokia lags Motorola and Ericsson in U.S. CDMA sales.

Nokia hopes to change that by creating phones that use CDMA2000 1xEV-DV, a member of the CDMA family of standards used by Verizon Wireless--a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone--and Sprint PCS, which combined have nearly 40 percent of all U.S. wireless customers. The two carriers currently use a less-sophisticated version of CDMA in their networks, with yet another impossible name: CDMA2000 1xRTT.

EV-DV differs from RTT in one area--speed. Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless use RTT to increase the number of cell phone calls that they can simultaneously handle and to offer wireless Web speeds between 40kbps and 60kbps. EV-DV can host just as many calls, but it can zoom downloads at a much more user-friendly 3.1mbps, Wrape said.

"EV-DV is the best evolution option for North American carriers," he said.

Texas Instruments and Motorola back EV-DV, but representatives from the companies wouldn't comment on plans involving the standard. Sprint PCS and Verizon Wireless representatives said they could not speculate on Nokia's EV-DV plans at this point.

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Laszlo said Nokia's plans should be taken with a grain of salt because implementation of the technology is still far off. Carriers Verizon and Sprint PCS have only recently finished building their new network using 1xRTT. They will judge future network upgrades on how many customers use the new services.

"The benefit from any of these future phone technologies, for anyone, is years away," Laszlo said.