Verizon To Go GSM

Verizon’s next generation of devices will run on the GSM network that will be used by AT&T and T-Mobile, meaning that in a few years, customers with unlocked phones will be able to move between the three providers without purchasing new equipment. Verizon currently uses a CDMA network along with Sprint, but last week announced that it would use the GSM-protocol LTE (Long Term Evolution) for their fourth-generation data services. Note, Verizon’s LTE phones will not be backwards-compatible with the current GSM networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. Both are expected to support LTE. And don’t expect to see the new phones anytime soon…

LTE is what you expect from a next generation of communications protocols: it can fit more information into less bandwidth than its predecessors. It is meant to reduce the complexity of wireless communication by converting both voice and data communications into packets using Internet Protocol. Loosely speaking, it competes with the WiMax standard being promoted by Sprint and Clearwire, a startup founded by Craig O. McCaw, the cellphone entrepreneur.

They key fact isn’t anything technical here. LTE is the format that has been endorsed by the GSM Association, which coordinates the wireless standard used in most countries. And it has been endorsed by AT&T. What it means is that in a few years, you will be able to buy phones and switch them between the two largest wireless networks in the United States–Verizon and AT&T–as well as carriers in most of the world.

The announcement also means that for the first time, Verizon will share a platform with its corporate parent, European-telecom Vodafone. Vodafone is expected to be testing LTE well into 2009. The 4G phones should be available by 2010.

It could just be us, but Verizon seems a little less evil lately. The decision to open their network coupled with the move to GSM will undeniably benefit consumers – unless, of course, Verizon lets their usual profit motive mangle their seemingly good intentions.

Verizon’s Real Move to Openness [NYT]
PREVIOUSLY: Verizon To Open Its Network To Any Compatible Device
(Photo: Maulleigh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. oldbluebox says:

    Um…LTE is for data transfer, not voice.

    Meaning yeah, you could use your unlocked att phone on their DATA network, but you couldn’t make VOICE calls while on Verizon.

    They’re staying CDMA.

    This article is all wrong.

  2. Quellman says:

    Maybe Carey will put that caveat in there.
    I have avoided GSM because my experience has been that more times than not if the phone is near the tv, radio, speakers, whatever, you get major interference. And THAT bothers me. Thanks for the clarification Oldbluebox.

  3. yg17 says:

    @oldbluebox: From what I understand, LTE uses a form of VoIP for voice

  4. neverest says:

    @YG17: since LTE infrastructure deployment will take many years to complete, we consumers will likely see hybrid handsets that support CDMA and LTE for some time. Verizon is staying CDMA for voice until they move their voice network over entirely to LTE from EV-DO. There is no way that Verizon will dump their investment on the CDMA infrastructure unless they’re basically pushed to do this – just because LTE was endorsed by the GSM Consortium, that doesn’t mean that LTE is a GSM-based technology.

  5. jhr2112 says:

    Wow, you didn’t check with Verizon before writing this story did you.Verizon is keeping cdma for voice and will use LTE for data. Keep in mind that cdma is the largest network in the USA and is a better system. Why do you think AT&T and T-Mobile use wcdma for their 3g data, as does Europe.What this does mean is that Sprint and Altel will no longer be able to data roam on Verizon but will be able to voice roam. Sprint is going to wimax for data.

  6. SBR249 says:

    @oldbluebox: Technically, LTE is the name of a project that aims to develop a standard for 4G cellular networks rather than the standard itself.

    Broadly speaking, LTE aims to base 4G cellular networks on TCP/IP, which is the protocol used by the internet. All data and voice services will be built on that foundation, meaning voice will resemble VoIP in form.

  7. amejr999 says:

    This makes no sense… won’t Verizon have to significantly alter every tower they have in the country?

  8. yg17 says:

    @amejr999: Yes, but all cell carriers are going to be moving forward with new technologies. They’ve all done it in the past, moving from 1G to 2G to 3G, and they’ll be doing it again in the future

  9. dlayphoto says:

    @oldbluebox: LTE is part of the 3GPP project, meaning voice is part of the technology:


    Although it should be noted that it technically isn’t GSM – GSM is based on TDMA technology. This technology uses the UMTS (WCDMA) standard.

  10. chili_dog says:

    Yes, LTE does indeed utilize IPv6 (or better) to handle the entire communication transaction as an IP connection. It’s too early to make a specific statement but it appears as though Verizon is planning on trashing CDMA.

  11. meadandale says:

    This would be great news if Verizon wasn’t already so late to the party.

    I’m currently in the market for a pda phone. It’s taken Verizon months to finally release a new HTC phone. It’s more expensive than the alternative from ATT and based on technology that essentially can’t be used outside the US (i.e. CDMA).

    I’ve been a Verizon subscriber for quite awhile but I’ve gotten tired of their lack of innovation and their heavy handed approach to managing their network (they have one of the most closed networks in the US).

    In fact, it’s pretty funny that the Verizon sales rep still has not gotten back to me about my inquiry regarding pricing and data plans for the new VX6800 in several days while the ATT rep returned my call the same day.

    It looks like the company who wants my business is going to be the one that gets it.

  12. Floobtronics says:

    @oldbluebox: The article isn’t completely incorrect. While you won’t be able to take your favorite GSM phone and throw a verizon SIM inside, that’s certainly the effective direction. LTE is based around an evolution of the currently deployed UMTS standard. UMTS isn’t deployed on the VZ network at this time, however.

    For those who don’t know, UMTS is the latest step in the evolution from the GSM world. Essentially, it looks like this in terms of voice/data matchup:


    In Verizonland, it looks more like:

    Analog/CDPD -> CDMA/19.2k dialup -> CDMA2000/1xRTT -> CDMA2000/1xEVDO -> LTE/HSOPA

    Verizon could have gone to CDMA2000 with 1xEVDV, but that’s really a dead end technology. WCDMA (the basis of UMTS and LTE) is where tech is moving and has big advantages over CDMA2000, not the least of which is better battery life.

    The real win for the carriers is to create devices that use data for everything – voice calls will be VoIP (likely SIP). Why? Provisioning costs plummet. If you only have to worry about keeping data connections up & running and can forget about voice handoffs, that’s huge. As long as that data connection stays alive, the call stays up. Lots of IPv6 using Mobile IPv6.

    To simply say that Verizon is “staying CDMA” is akin to saying that your pasta will be the same, since you’re moving from using ketchup to marinara sauce, and they’re both made from tomatoes…

  13. chili_dog says:

    Ipv6 is an amazing jump from the basics that is the IP of today. Increasing bandwidth is just the first step of using it to its’ fullest potential.

    Just think, every single electronic device in the world has a publically assignable IP address accessible by you from anywhere (as long as you have authorization). Your refrig sends you an email telling you that you need milk, eggs and beer.

    Your car sends a service request to your selected provider that an oil change is due. The provider shows up at night, does it, no muss no fuss.

    This is just the first step to a (really) interconnected world. What I’d give to see the evolution of electronics in 30-50 years. Especially considering 26 years ago this ( [] ) was state of the art.

  14. oneswellfoop says:

    It’s about time. I’ve refused to use any cell phone provider that uses a backwards-assed and locked down CDMA network. GSM only for me thanks.

  15. Shadowfire says:

    So those of us on Unicel who are getting forced into Verizon next year will still be screwed? :|

  16. algormortis says:

    I think that’s a pretty awesome move for data matters but I just don’t see Verizon giving up their CDMA network. It’s broad and covers very well; say what you will about Verizon, but they’re certainly accurate in selling their network size and quality…

  17. Major-General says:

    One, old news. Two, the Verizon gate phones will start showing up soon. Which in Verizon Speak is about 2015.

  18. Major-General says:

    @algormortis: Sorry, have you actually used Verizon’s network? Because I would prefer roaming on Sprint or USCellular, depending on the state.

  19. jamar0303 says:

    @oneswellfoop: Eh- it’s all in the implementation. China also uses CDMA, but unlike America, China uses R-UIMs and standard Java, making their CDMA network much closer to GSM. It’s faster and less congested too.

  20. yg17 says:

    @algormortis: Quality my ass. Everytime I talk to one of my friends who has Verizon, it’s nothing but a bunch of static and garbled speech, and they sound like they’re in a tiny room and it’s echoing. The only accuracy they advertise is that you’ll constantly be saying “Can you hear me now” because no, they can’t hear me. And it’s only Verizon (and to a certain extent, AT&T too). Calls I make to landlines and other T-Mobile users are crystal clear, calls to Sprint aren’t too bad either.

    And the size of their network that they advertise so much includes all of their roaming ares. Which, as with most carriers, I imagine if you roam too much, they’ll give you the boot.

    Oh, and there’s the other, albeit somewhat unrelated reason to hate Verizon. You pay for unlimited data? Yeah, it’s not really unlimited. Use too much, they’ll give you the boot.

    Verizon can open up more than a cheap whore, I’ll still never be a customer of theirs.

  21. CuriousO says:

    Whoever is saying that verizon is crap technology definitely does not know what they’re talking about. I Dare you to look up CDMA / EV-DO and compare it to GSM/UMTS. Anyone who knows anything about technology will tell you CDMA is a far superior technology and the only reason GSM exists is because most carriers where too cheap to upgrade to a better network from TDMA. They rather just update rather than Replace with better equipment, and for you SPRINT folks!!! yeah about 30% of sprints network is actually Verizon’s, so when you say sprint is better, most likely You re roaming of Verizon’s network.

  22. rolla says:

    wonder what sprint is going to be doing in response to all of these changes by verizon…first, better phones; second, opening up their network; and now this.

  23. chili_dog says:

    @rolla: Cancel the only product that actually works as advertised…… Nextel RIP by 2012.

    Although the Rev.A data cards do rock.

  24. jamar0303 says:

    @CuriousO: Need I repeat it? It’s all in the *implementation*. Look how far Japan got with TDMA alone (hint- every Japanese phone made before 2001 was TDMA- compare with American TDMA phones). Look how far they’re going with UMTS (same deal). If CDMA looks better than GSM you’re implementing the GSM wrong or you’re getting an absolute best-case scenario on the CDMA (Japan/Korea- go look at them for the *perfect* CDMA implementation and compare to Verizon/Sprint).

  25. algormortis says:

    Well, thanks for saying nice things about my employer, YG17. (i work for t-mobile, admittedly not in a department relating to cellular data.)

    i think it’s their phones, seriously. verizon has a lot of users on their cheap basic phones or on their high-end smartphones…both of which do poorly with their software. talk to someone on a motorola e815 and it sounds clear as a bell, though. the unlimited data thing sucks but if you could download enough data on the t-mo network to hit that kind of cap…oh, wait, you can’t. but it’s cheaper and yes it’s unlimited, just slooower.