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Motorola Forges Path with CDMA Research Center

Motorola plans to set up a software research center for cellular infrastructure systems in Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

The US$10 million center will explore specific new technology such as Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) through Wireless Local Loop (WiLL), as well as broader areas such as intelligent networks, telecommunications management networks and e-commerce sapplications.

Currently housed just outside Kuala Lumpur, the center will be relocated to Cyberjaya, the host city for the MSC, Malaysia's much-hyped high-tech research zone, next year.

Local Talent

The center's managing director S Surya said at the launch that the center is aimed at the growing local competency in software development and has grown aggressively from a staff of five to 80 software engineers since last March. It plans to expand to a staff 250 by 2003.

"Now that we have acquired the brainpower mass, our next task is further technological enhancement and the commissioning of cutting-edge hardware and application systems," he said.

Surya said the center's immediate charter will be to work with its counterpart in India to further develop CDMA technology to enhance bandwidth and the quality of data, voice and video transfers through wireless networks.

CDMA provides data transfer capacity of 64Kbps, which is about four or five times the capacity of competing Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology.

"Motorola is the leading CDMA infrastructure provider in the world, which enables mobile phone operators and content providers to generate new revenues by providing high-speed data services to subscribers," he said.

The company is negotiating with local mobile service operators, currently mostly entrenched with GSM technology, to adopt CDMA as next generation cellular technology.

The newly-established software centre, which has achieved 40 patent submissions, is the 16th such site for Motorola worldwide.

Motorola Asia Pacific president, C D Tam, expressed confidence in growth prospects for CDMA in the region and the world, and indicated that the technology represents over half of the mobile phone market in Japan.

"Based on 1999 figures, there are one billion fixed-line users in the world, 600 million users on wired (Internet) networks and 475 million users on cellular or wireless networks. By the end of 2003, we expect the figures for wired networks and wireless networks to a billion users each," said Tam.

Motorola is one of the largest multinationals based in Malaysia with an 8,000-strong workforce and 27-year history in chip assembly and test operations in Kuala Lumpur and portable two-way radio products plant in Penang.

The company has invested more than US$1.1 billion in the country, and this latest venture is an attempt to move local operations up the value chain in research and development.

On a visit in March, Motorola chairman and chief executive officer, Christopher Galvin, said the company's Malaysian operations enjoyed a 45% jump in sales to 2 billion ringgit (US$526,000) last year, and he expects to invest another US$250 million to US$500 million over the next five- to- seven years.

He said apart from the software center, Motorola plans to focus on its DigitalDNA embedded electronic solutions for its semiconductor operations and on energy products and wireless solutions for its Penang operations.

by Julian Matthews, Kuala Lumpur

(August 2000 Issue, Nikkei Electronics Asia)

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