David Ignatius's Nov. 21 op-ed column said that the United States is lagging "significantly" behind Europe and Japan in the race to go wireless and that the lack of a single standard has forced us to play "catch-up." I disagree. In the United States, wireless telephony competes head-to-head with inexpensive fixed wireline service. This is in contrast to some European countries, where cellular telephone service caught on as an alternative to the low-quality and high-cost wireline service. The availability of other alternatives here--such as pay telephones, which are ubiquitous--is another factor.

The article suggested that America runs third behind Europe and Japan in mobile phone usage because of a "confusing array of five different wireless standards." On the contrary, mobile phone users seldom experience problems related to multiple standards. Service gaps--both here and in Europe--are generally related to cellular infrastructure deployment and base-station coverage.

Why did U.S. regulators opt to open the market to an array of digital technologies? Because this approach has led to heightened competition and rapid advancements in technology. Much of the technology used in "second generation" wireless standards and used to form the basis for third-generation global standards originated in the United States.

In an industry in which technology evolves at an ever-increasing pace, competition and consumer choice, not regulatory mandates, are the keys to a vibrant market.

MATTHEW J. FLANIGAN

President

Telecommunications Industry Association

Arlington