Don't panic - your Verizon handset will still work for awhile, anyway.
Verizon Wireless announced last week that they're planning to adopt LTE as their 4G solution of choice, solidifying their relationship with partner Vodafone Group (who along with Verizon proper controls Verizon Wireless). LTE? 4G? Huh?
In lay terms it goes like this: Verizon Wireless operates a CDMA network in the US. That's why almost every VZW handset doesn't use a SIM card, and why you can't use those VZW phones overseas or run an unlocked phone (iPhone or otherwise) on Verizon's network (the recently launched BlackBerry 8830 for VZW runs on both CDMA and GSM). Sprint and Verizon are the major CDMA providers in the US, while folks like AT&T and T-Mobile run GSM shops.
Currently, mobile broadband in the US is referred to as 3G (or sometimes 3.5G) - as in Third Generation. 4G - fourth generation - is what's coming down the pike, promising all sorts of crazy fast cellular data for Internet, Video, Audio, and who knows what else. EV-DO Rev. C (aka Ultra Mobile Broadband) is the 4G path for CDMA networks, while LTE is the 4G technology of choice for GSM providers like Vodafone's operators over in Europe.
What this all means is that Verizon Wireless announcing they're moving to LTE is tantamount to announcing that they're getting ready to dump CDMA in favor of GSM. This is a good thing, if you ask me. Remember Beta video tapes? Yeah, ha ha. Most of the world uses GSM, but Sprint and Verizon went Beta, if you will, in adopting something of a proprietary standard. Sure, CDMA & EV-DO work well now, but only if you're in the US. GSM is the way to go if you want to travel abroad - or use an unlocked and/or imported phone.
A Verizon move to GSM and LTE means more competition amongst network operators in the US and more choice for consumers. Right now if you're willing to do a little tech support on your own, you can move from AT&T to T-Mobile and back again with the same unlocked GSM handset. Throw a third major carrier into that GSM in the USA mix and you've got a much more interesting ball game.
What makes it more interesting is that handset makers like Nokia, Apple, and Sony Ericsson are starting to market unlocked phones in the US. Verizon customers have long complained that VZW has a bad habit of mucking up good hardware by installing their branded menus and "crippling" features like Bluetooth profiles. A GSM-based Verizon network could well mean VZW customers escaping those shackles at long last.
It'll be another three or four years, most likely, before LTE becomes a reality here in the states, and it'll be interesting to see how Verizon positions themselves in the meantime. A lot can change over three years in an industry as fast-moving as the cellular industry - but this latest news is certainly something to be excited about if you're a mobile consumer in the US. And something to be more than a little concerned about if you're heavily invested in CDMA.
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