Verizon Wireless will give LTE a trial run in 2008 using equipment from Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia-Siemens, and Nortel. The project is expected to attract start-ups specializing in fourth-generation wireless technologies.
The move is likely to give a fresh blow to rival wireless broadband technology WiMAX, and may be the killing blow for the current Wi-Fi technology, with industry players admitting that the decision to use the technology is significant because it is an indication of Verizon Wireless’ willingness to operate a more commonly used network. CDMA, Verizon’s current standard, is not compatible with many of the world’s carriers, which use a standard called GSM.
Verizon’s pronouncement follows AT&T in saying that the largest US carrier will be using LTE, the latest 4G technology which promises high data transmission rates. The move is seen as the long-awaited upgrade by Verizon, which is still using CDMA networks, in turn enabling Vodafone to resolve long-standing incompatibilities with its GSM-based networks.
In a statement published at Redherring.com, Fran O’Brien, director of wireless standards for Alcatel-Lucent said “two major carriers with a common platform also give suppliers a bigger target to shoot for.”
O’Brien added that LTE has attracted the attention of a number of global operators. Verizon’s commitment to the technology, he said, lends immense credibility to LTE and could provide the incentive that makes it a mainstream technology.
One of the early adopters of CDMA and its high-speed data technology Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) Verizon’s adoption of LTE is in many ways a surprise departure from CDMA orthodoxy.
Verizon released a statement to the Financial Times saying that its recent commitment to open access to its network is made more feasible through the higher bandwidth promised by LTE. It also adds that Verizon Wireless now plan to let independent developers attach to its network, effectively opening its network to outsiders.
Richard Lynch, Verizon’s chief technology officer, added that LTE was part of the company’s vision of giving customers an all-encompassing wireless internet connectivity that is linked to “a multitude of new devices and applications, with particular focus on embedded wireless in virtually every piece of electronics.”
On the other hand, developers of CDMA technology is putting up a brave face amidst the impending transition. Perry LaForge, executive director of the CDMA Development Group said that although it has become clear that a ‘one technology fits all’ strategy may no longer suffice in today’s competitive markets, 3G CDMA services will remain the dominant generation of mobile communications services long into the future.
Verizon’s announcement to eventually unlock its network to any device or software program marks the company’s reversal of its previous inclination for a closed network, acknowledging that having a common network goes a long way toward an open environment where cellphones can seamlessly roam between different network providers.
“The company’s move toward a 4G network is driven by our vision of pervasive wireless Internet connectivity and mobility,” Richard Lynch, chief technology officer for Verizon Communications Inc., said in a statement released to the Financial Times.
Verizon Wireless, together with Vodafone Group PLC, plans to begin trials next year with the cooperation of Alcatel-Lucent, L.M. Ericsson Telephone Co., Nokia Siemens Networks and Nortel Networks Corp. as network suppliers. It is currently negotiating with major industry players such as Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc., to provide the handsets, eventually making it easier for Verizon Wireless customers in the U.S. to travel abroad and use their phones.