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Report: Nokia's CDMA effort falters

The handset maker--king of phones based on the dominant GSM standard--has been pushing to sell product based on CDMA, popular in North America and Asia. Bad luck, a report says.

Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Ben Charny
covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
Ben Charny
2 min read
Despite a push to sell more phones meant for North America and Asia, handset maker Nokia lost ground in these key cell phone markets, an analyst report suggests.

The Finnish company dominates the market for cell phones that comply with the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard, used by about 75 percent of the world's wireless dialers. Nokia has a market-leading 43 percent share in the first quarter, according to a quarterly update of handset sales by Strategy Analytics, released Wednesday.

But Nokia is supplying fewer phones that use a standard called CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), popular in North America, Japan and Korea. During the first three months of 2003, Nokia supplied about 7.6 percent of the world's CDMA phones, versus 11.3 percent during the same period last year, according to the market researchers.

Although major handset makers Samsung, Motorola and LG Infocomm have been making CDMA phones for years, Nokia began only recently and "still hasn't perfected it to the level of Asian makers," said Chris Ambrosio, director in global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics.

Ambrosio believes the picture should brighten for Nokia later this year when it begins selling less-sophisticated CDMA phones, an area where Nokia will presumably be on technological par with rivals.

Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak said "wild swings" in the CDMA market are normal because only a handful of carriers use the standard.

"When you have a few large carriers, instead of a lot of smaller ones, whatever they have or are promoting--it really skews the numbers a lot," Nowak said.

The world's leading supplier of CDMA phones remains South Korea-based electronics maker Samsung Electronics, which finished the first quarter of 2003 with 29 percent, according to Strategy Analytics. LG, with 20 percent share, Motorola with 19 percent share and Kyocera with 11 percent share round out the top four. Nokia is in fifth place.