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