Telus switching to GSM?

The rumour surfacing now is that Telus wants to switch to a GSM network from its current CDMA net. There’s good reason to think about it; the rest of the world is predominantly GSM. Telstra in Australia is shutting down its CDMA network to move to the GSM standard in April. SIM cards are handy. Your phone will work overseas (more revenue). Overseas phones will work here (more revenue).

(I’ve never understood why, when most of the rest of the world went GSM, two of the three carriers in Canada elected to go CDMA. We’re just contrarians, I guess.)

There’s more to consider, though. Moving to GSM would come at tremendous cost, and not just in infrastructure. What about all those customers with CDMA models? If Telus is to keep them, it means free or nearly free phones for everybody. And a customer changing phones is at a fork in the road — it’s an opportunity to consider switching providers.

Telus won’t just be taking on Rogers for market share. Yes, Rogers is the only GSM carrier in Canada. But there’s a spectrum auction coming up and a new player almost certain to be in the mix. The way the wind is blowing, an MTS Allstream or Videotron would likely want to play in the GSM pool as well.

When 4G technology hits the wireless scene, that’s another upgrade. (It’s also a disincentive to new entrants, but it won’t keep them out of the bidding.) Yes, CDMA has its drawbacks, but for time being, it’s hard to make the case that switching to GSM would be a good thing.

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