Verizon Wireless has finally made a decision on 4G, and its the expected one: the operator said on Thursday it plans to upgrade its network to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, and will begin trials in 2008.
No timeframe has been given for building the network, but Arun Sarin, CEO of Verizons corporate parent Vodafone Group plc (it owns Verizon as a joint venture with Verizon Communications Inc.), has said that it could be 2010 before LTE networks become fully commercial.
For now, several vendors and handset makers are signed up to participate in the 2008 trials, including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, LG Electronics, Motorola Inc., Nortel Networks, Nokia and Nokia-Siemens Networks, Samsung and Sony-Ericsson.
LTE is a version of 4G based on CDMA rival GSM, which is the standard adopted by most cellular operators around the globe. Like WiMAX and the for-now-theoretical UMB, it is a flat, all-IP, OFDM-based architecture that will provide greater spectral efficiencies, much higher throughputs and bandwidth control.
Verizons technology choice may have ramifications beyond giving LTE a boost. Verizon, along with Sprint-Nextel, is one of the few global CDMA operators, and it has been upgrading its network to CDMA-based EV-DO Rev. A for 3G. The projected 4G evolution path for CDMA is Qualcomm Inc.-backed Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), but that technology has been seen as unlikely to come to fruition, since Sprint has chosen WiMAX. With Verizon also turning its back on UMB, there is little of a market left for it disappointing news for Qualcomm. However, it now seems likely that there will be less fragmentation in wireless technology and therefore devices in the future. More operators settling on a common technology choice is a step toward creating the global, standardized, open wireless platform that is a requirement for the mobile Internet and the smart device ecosystem to really take off.
Vodafone has wireless networks deployed around the world, most built on GSM, making Verizon subscriber handsets incompatible with them when traveling abroad. Sarin said in September during a conference call that Verizon and Vodafone would work on creating a common platform so that subscribers could easily and more cheaply roam between their networks, and that LTE seemed a logical choice. However, the LTE plan for Verizon was not confirmed until Thursday.
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