The Future Of Cellular

Right now the cellular market is United States is dominated by four carriers:

I’ve put them in descending order of number of customers (which should be accurate after the acquisition of regional carrier AllTel Communications by Verizon Wireless).

Basically there are two protocols used in the United States at the moment:  CDMA (Verizon  and Sprint) and GSM (AT&T and T-Mobile).  And each has their own data formats associated with them.  Most of the rest of the world uses GSM, though there are a few other areas that use CDMA (there’s no standard frequency for the use of GSM or CDMA world wide).

Verizon has one of the most complete 3G networks today; but other carriers have 3G deployed in most urban areas as well.

But when Verizon wireless won the bulk of the C-Block allocations in open auction last year the wheels set in motion for major change.

Shortly after winning those C-Block allocations, Verizon announced that it would use LTE (Long Term Evolution), a 4G standard defined by 3GPP and backed by GSM.

Hold the phone — Verizon is essentially dropping CDMA on their C-Block allocations in favor of LTE; and the LTE standard defines LTE use on ALL the frequency bands used world wide… will Verizon convert over it’s existing spectrum to LTE; will all carriers follow suit and migrate to LTE?

Just when you thought you had the cellular market figured out, things change.  Of course, it will be around two years before we see LTE in use on those C-Block allocations by Verizon; and I’m guessing closer to three years before they really have coverage — so maybe a dual mode Verizon phone for CDMA/LTE for the interim?  Who knows… and who really cares!

All anyone wants is less expensive service, more freedom to choose handsets, and reliable connections!  Maybe those things will come with LTE as well (don’t hold your breath — just because open access is supposed to be part of the C-Block spectrum, cellular carriers have come up with lots of clever ways in the past to skirt the law).

Originally posted 2008-09-02 19:40:51.