There's no question mobile phones have made staying in touch with colleagues, friends and family a breeze--until you try taking them on a business trip to another city or country. Simply stated, different areas of the world operate cellular phone networks on different standards. There's an annoying array of acronyms representing each of the names: Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM), to name a couple. Of course, users don't care what alphabet-soup technology the wireless companies are throwing at them--they just want to talk.
Now, the International Telecommunications Union has a solution: It's unifying all the world's wireless telephony standards to create one global standard, which should be adopted over the next year. Once the standard is set, you'll be able to roam the globe without ever switching phones.
How will it work? Essentially, makers of cell phones will adapt them to carry multiple frequencies. Your current phone may now work in more places than it has in the past, but even better, cell phones of the future will have built-in multimode capabilities.
Gene Koprowski has covered the tech industry for 10 years and writes a monthly computing column for The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.