updated 12:00 pm EDT, Fri September 21, 2007
Verizon and Vodafone 4G
Both Verizon and its part-parent company Vodafone will share the same high speed, fourth-generation data service when it comes time to upgrade their respective cellular networks, according to statements made by the chief executives of both companies at a conference today. Verizon's Ivan Seidenberg and Vodafone's Arun Sarin remarked that the company each planned to move to the 4G technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) within the next three to four years, allowing users of either platform to connect as quickly as 100 megabits downstream and roam with calls and data over each other's networks. This feat would be impossible over current services, which use the mutually incompatible CDMA (Verizon) and GSM (Vodafone) protocols.
When asked about the decision, Seidenberg outlined the move as a logical extension of the companies' relationship and a competitive move. Vodafone currently has a 45 percent stake in its American counterpart and was partly responsible for encouraging Verizon to adopt the BlackBerry 8830, which runs on both CDMA and GSM phone networks and would let customers of one service roam to the other.
"Going through a common platform is nothing more than the industry realizing that we can stimulate expansive growth by having a common platform and having the best networks," the Verizon chief said, also noting that a WiMAX test was likely in progress and would also be an alternative.
The revelation may pose trouble in the future for cellular providers that hold to the CDMA and EVDO standards in the US, as it would reduce their ability to roam on other providers' networks and to share similar phone models without requiring a separate version. Sprint plans to move to 4G-level WiMAX with its Xohm service, but Alltel and other smaller providers have yet to announce their own plans.
However, the move will also make Verizon's network compatible with AT&T's planned 4G network, which should also use LTE for calls and data, and could render the US cellular market similar to that in Europe, where a single cellular standard lets users easily switch between providers without abandoning an existing phone or device.