May 21, 2013
By Sarah Reedy
Verizon Wireless has promised single-mode LTE devices in 2014, and 4G LTE-only smartphones may be included in the line-up by the end of the year.
Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said on the carrier’s last earnings call that it would have devices without 3G CDMA chipsets next year. In a meeting here at CTIA, Verizon Executive Director of Network and Technology Jim Wales confirmed those devices may possibly include single-mode LTE smartphones by the end of the year. The carrier has discussed it, Wales said, but he made it clear it won’t be abandoning CDMA entirely. (See Verizon Promises Voice-Over LTE in 2014.)
Essentially, once Verizon deploys voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) it will start to have less need to keep CDMA around for voice fall-back over time. Verizon says that its LTE footprint now covers 95 percent of its existing 3G CDMA footprint. And, it’s incentivized to get rid of its legacy network so it can reuse the spectrum for other purposes.
A 3G phase-out would likely take years, however, as many customers are still currently on 3G phones. Wales said it will support 3G through the end of the decade and wants to ensure the best customer experience possible. That’s why the first batch of single-mode LTE devices will likely not be smartphones.
Even so, Chee Kwan, VP of worldwide sales at Altair Semicondutor, which makes single-mode LTE chips, said Verizon is pushing for the 4G-only modules for other devices now.
Today Verizon’s only LTE-only devices are in the machine-to-machine (M2M) business, tablets and one LTE router. Kwan said to expect Verizon to add on many more LTE-only gadgets, but for it to use multimode chips in smartphones until it frees itself of its CDMA network entirely. Even then it will face challenges.
“If you are a Verizon customer with an LTE-only phone it may be good for here but if you’re in Europe, roaming will be an issue,” he says. “From a global standpoint, it will be a while before mobile phones go pure-single mode.”