Verizon Wireless officially dropped another bomb this week. Though the move was widely speculated about several months ago after a Vodafone executive made some comments about the two companies' plans, Verizon made it official this morning. CDMA and its 4G derivative UWB are out. Long Term Evolution is in. Dose this mean CDMA is dead?This is another huge move for Verizon. Hot on the heals of its announcement that it will allow non-Verizon handsets to be activated on its network, it has now sided with its European partner in choosing the next generation of wireless technology it will use. The choice will open up a wide range of possibilities for Verizon Wireless and its customers.
Verizon Wireless, which is a joint venture between U.S.-based Verizon Communications and U.K.-based Vodafone, has used Qualcomm-developed technology for years. CDMA has been the bedrock of its wireless systems. CDMA, however, is not compatible with the GSM/HSPA systems used in Europe and other countries. Though Verizon does offer several hybrid handsets that have both technologies on board, like the BlackBerry 8800 World Edition, the bulk of its handsets work only on CDMA networks and are useless over in Europe. Customers interested in easier roaming between the U.S. and Europe have typically chosen AT&T or T-Mobile, because their GSM-based networks are compatible with those over in Europe. That has given AT&T and T-Mobile a little bit of an EDGE (pun intended).
By choosing LTE, Verizon Wireless is leveling the playing field in that respect. Many European carriers are siding with LTE, and Vodafone has a presence in many of the largest markets there. This will make the systems compatible and Verizon customers will be able to roam between the U.S. and other countries with fewer headaches.
What this all spells for the future of CDMA is another big question. Sprint, Alltel and Verizon have been the big CDMA users in the U.S. Sprint picked WiMAX as its 4G technology. Sprint has not said that it will halt its CDMA network any time soon, but by using WiMAX, it has foregone CDMA's 4G evolution Ultra Wide Band. For Verizon to also pick a non-CDMA based 4G alternative does not bode well for Qualcomm and its technologies.
Even so, having fully operation LTE systems in place is not going to happen over night. In fact, it is years from a reality, so Verizon will continue to operate its CDMA network for quite some time. Then it will be faced with the messy business of transitioning from one technology to the other. But that's another headache for another day.