Today, the battle between CDMA and GSM is muddled. Where at one point Europe clearly favored GSM and North America, CDMA, the distinct advantage of one over the other has blurred as major carriers like AT&T Wireless begin to support GSM, and recent trials even showed compatibility between the two technologies.
GSM still holds the upper hand however. There's the numerical advantage for one thing: 456 million GSM users versus CDMA's 82 million.
Other factors potentially tipping the scales in the GSM direction include :
AT&T Wireless' move to overlay GSM atop its TDMA network means the European technology (GSM) gains instant access to North America's number two network.
Qualcomm's recently announced that Wideband-CDMA (WCDMA) won't be ready in Europe until 2005. This comes amidst reports that GSM's successor, General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) remains on target for deployment in 2001-2002.
For all of the historical and technological reasons outlined above, it appears that GSM, or some combination of GSM and CDMA, will become the long sought after grail for a global wireless standard. A universalization of wireless technologies can only stand to benefit the compatibility and development costs and demands on all wireless commerce participants.