Friday, May 15, 2009

Canada's Slow Road to 4G

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Within the next couple of years the cell phone industry is going to be making a change that is as big as the change from analog cellular to digital back in the mid 1990's. Cell phone carriers are going to be making a change over from current GSM and CDMA networks to new networks using Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) . While LTE is true 4G right from deployment UMTS is 3.5 G with supporting carriers claiming that UMTS will be 4G equivilant.

The largest GSM carrier AT&T and the largest CDMA carrier, Verizon will be making the switch to LTE, T-Mobile will be using UMTS. The 4th cell carrier, Sprint will be using WiMax as their technology for their 4G services. In Canada the picture looks very different. Only Rogers is planning to deploy LTE based 4G, Canada's other cell carriers Bell, Telus, and the other two regional cell carriers are going with UMTS.

This presents an issue for cell phone toting snowbirds on Bell or Telus, Any UMTS phone will need CDMA fallback in order to work in any area where there is no service provided by T-Mobile. Without the ability to fall back to CDMA a customer on Bell or Telus may find themselves without cell phone service in Manitoba or Saskatchewan because the regional cell carriers in those provinces will not have UMTS deployed in many areas for may years to come.

Just like the days of the switch over from analog to digital, the change to 4G will bring services that are not yet even imaginable. But just like that earlier transition the switch to 4G the ability to fall back to 2.5, 3G systems will be be just as essential.

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