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Industry News

The Commercial Market

September 1, 1998
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The Commercial Market

First-half 1998 US Factory Electronics Sales Rise 9.6 Percent

Preliminary data from the Electronic Industries Alliance indicate that, despite the uncertainty in Asian markets, US factory sales of electronics equipment, components and related products totaled more than $241.6 B for the first half of 1998, a 9.6 percent increase over sales for the first half of 1997. The computers and peripherals product sector lead the list with a gain of 21 percent in sales that rose to $49.4 B from $40.7 B. Telecommunications equipment enjoyed the second-highest growth with sales rising to $36.9 B, a 14 percent increase over last year’s $32.3 B. For the first time in a number of years, the defense communications sector was among the top three fastest-growing sectors with sales of $15.8 B, an 11 percent increase over last year’s $14.2 B. Further down the list were electromedical equipment with an eight percent increase from $5.7 B to $6.2 B, other related products with a seven percent increase from $34.1 B to $36.4 B, consumer electronics with a six percent increase from $4.5 B to $4.8 B, electronic components with a five percent increase from $70.4 B to $74.2 B and industrial electronics with a one percent increase from $18.5 B to $18.6 B.

China Telecom Invests in Globalstar

Hong Kong-based China Telecom Group Ltd. has agreed to invest $37.5 M in Globalstar L.P., making it a full partner in the satellite telecommunications operation. China Telecom is a major provider of fixed and wireless services in China and, along with China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite Corp. (CHINASAT), will have the rights to provide Globalstar services in China. Both companies had been wholly owned by China’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and are expected to be wholly owned and supervised by China’s newly formed Ministry of Information Industry.

According to Bernard Schwartz, chairman and CEO of Globalstar L.P. and Loral Space & Communications, even though China (Globalstar’s largest equity owner) is installing 15 million lines of switching capacity and 100,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cable each year, its national telephone waiting list is over five million and continues to grow. Globalstar offers a partial solution to satisfying this demand.

China Telecom and CHINASAT will manage all Globalstar operations in China. China’s first gateway is being completed in Beijing and others are scheduled to be built in Guangzhou and Lanzhou. Chinese subscribers will use mobile terminals with dual-mode capability, allowing them to switch between satellite and conventional cellular telephony.

Motorola Receives Order for 50,000 Wireless Terminals

Motorola Inc.’s Cellular Infrastructure Group has received an order for 50,000 fixed wireless terminals (FWT) from Tata Lucent Technologies Ltd. of India, a joint venture between Tata Teleservices and Lucent Technologies. The order reportedly is the largest single sale of these devices to date.

Initially, the terminals will be used to connect Tata Teleservices subscribers to Tata Lucent 800 MHz code-division multiple access wireless local loop systems in Hyderabad and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and eventually will be used in connections throughout the entire area. Motorola also plans to establish a service center in Bangalore later this year to provide across-the-table FWT replacements.

Alternative Collision-avoidance System Promoted for Cargo Aircraft

In recent remarks to the Aero Club in Washington, DC, Tom Weidemeyer of United Parcel Service discussed alternatives to the present ground-based radar system for controlling commercial aviation traffic and navigation. He addressed the debate for requiring all-cargo airlines to install the Traffic Alert and Collision-avoidance System (TCAS) in their aircraft. The existing TCAS order, which is concerned with protecting the lives of the flying public, recognizes that cargo aircraft fly without passengers and mainly at night or during other light traffic periods.

Currently, cargo planes only carry transponders that make them visible to the TCAS-equipped passenger aircraft. Although Weidemeyer agrees that cargo aircraft will need full collision-avoidance equipment as traffic continues to becomes heavier and as daytime operations increase, he suggests that the air cargo industry-funded Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) program is a better alternative. The program offers a new generation of navigational equipment with operational and safety benefits, including an improved collision-avoidance system. This system precisely locates an aircraft whether it is in flight or on the ground and provides both current and projected positions in virtual real time. The aircraft’s current position is obtained from a Global Positioning System sensor and is broadcast along with flight identification information, speed, altitude and velocity vector.

Among the significant advantages Weidemeyer believes ADS-B offers over TCAS are the provision of enhanced information to cockpit crews, the ability to operate at low altitudes and on the ground, and its affordability for the general aviation community. He believes that it will be available for general installation at about the same time as TCAS 2 and that it represents a real contribution to the ultimate goal of the Federal Aviation Administration: the move to the free flight environment.

WAP May Open Wireless Market to Computer Industry Control

Arecently published Herschel Shosteck Associates Ltd. white paper, "The Implications and Risks of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)," suggests that WAP may create the opportunity for the computer industry to gain control of the market for future wireless devices. WAP is the wireless industry standard that outlines a specific method for delivering information to smart telephone wireless terminals. The standard is supported worldwide by 37 firms, including Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson.

According to the white paper, the Internet is the key driver of wireless data access and, while WAP content can originate on an Internet server, it does not allow access to the World Wide Web. WAP is designed to allow smart telephones (presently a narrow category of wireless devices) to connect to a limited subset of data. However, it does not address wireless connectivity to all types of devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDA), or allow access to the variety of content available on the Internet. The protocol is based on today’s voice telephone terminals, which feature limited memory and processing power, narrow bandwidth and data connections that generally are unreliable. The discussion suggests that WAP underestimates the need to provide increasing value to end users over time and ignores the eventual arrival of full Internet access to mobile terminals over future packet-switched wireless networks.

The white paper also reports that the computer industry is studying the design of mobile computing devices, which will have wireless access to the Internet, instead of making voice terminals capable of handling simple data services. It predicts that, once a wireless network is available that has broader bandwidth and higher reliability and is able to support packet data transfer, demand for the computer industry’s PDAs will easily outstrip that for the limited WAP terminals.

The paper also points out that even though the wireless industry has the RF connection (an essential piece of any data-over-wireless solution), it must recognize that voice and data services have little in common and that the data-over-wireless initiative may be lost unless the industry begins to move beyond narrow WAP-type solutions. For additional information, contact Jane Zweig at Herschel Shosteck Associates Ltd. (301) 589-2259 or e-mail: jzweig@shosteck.com.

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