How Nortel, LG will help keep CDMA alive

One of the problems with technology is that it doesn't stand still. Asa result, you can be caught with out-of-date stuff. Like a Betamaxvideo recorder. Or, if you're a cellular operator like Bell and Telus,a CDMA/EVDO-based network while most of the world adopted GSM/HSPA. Theproblem: there isn't a straight upgrade path from CDMA to LTE, the nextgeneration of wireless broadband called. Which is why in the U.S.Verizon is starting to build an LTE network. However, it would like tokeep its CDMA network around for as long as possible. On Thursday, LGElectronics and Nortel announced a way.

AtNortel's Ottawa lab recently they claim to have succesfully tested anLG-made dual-mode handset able to pass data between a CDMA and an LTEnetwork. Presumably, this brings big smiles to the faces of Verizonexecs. Its new LTE network, to begin trials shortly, will initiallystart in only a few cities. Most customers will be on the CDMA network,which will have the bigger footprint for a while. But what will LTEcustomers do if they wander outside the LTE coverage? With a dual modephone, they can default to the CDMA network. CDMA operators around theworld are watching.

Many of them use Nortel gear, which is alsowhy execs at Nortel's wireless carrier unit may also be smiling. Theycan tell these operators this is a sign their investments are protectedshould they decide to jump to LTE, especially should they jump usingNortel's LTE solution. It's also good news for Ericsson, which, unlessOttawa intervenes, is about to buy the Nortel wireless division and allthose CDMA operator customers. As Amit Kaminer, an analyst atSeaBoard Group pointed out, Verizon is using Ericsson's LTE solution.Or, more accurately, a pre-LTE solution that hasn't been officiallyapproved. The more operators who adopt Ericsson's technology, the morelikely it will be adopted as the industry standard.

Meanwhile,who's making a dual mode CDMA-HSPA phone? Bell and Telus may want toknow, because they've decided to take the less risky move to LTE byfirst building a new HSPA wireless network that will run alongsidetheir legacy CDMA network. A dual-mode phone would be mighty handy.On the other hand, their plans are to almost equalthe CDMA network from the start, so maybe they won't needdual mode phones. The heavy data users will be encouraged to switch tothe HSPA network, leaving the CDMA network for the Solo/Koodo brands.

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