Mobility

CDMA grip on North America strengthens


North American mobile users made CDMA the number one cellular standard for the first time this year. Even though the patent squabble against Qualcomm remains unresolved, and a ban prevents importing Qualcomm-chipset CDMA phones, over half of all North American mobile devices use the complex shared-frequency system that squeezes more users onto less bandwidth, as per last week's report in Cellular News. And that'll cost you, and me, and all mobile users in North America.

The 2003 U.S. mandate to carriers then offering analog service requiring them to continue operating analog service expires in February. Without that, analog's better audio, higher power, and longer range would prompt consumers to stay with analog. CDPD data over analog, while never exceeding 19.2kbps, was also reliable.

GSM, the world open standard for digital cellular, holds a little more than three-eights of this market, with Motorola's proprietary IDEN system (sold mostly by Sprint's Nextel, rated dead last in quality) shrinking by a percent to serve only one-twelfth of users. Waning analog and TDMA systems serve the remaining three percent, but since the report deadline closed, Rogers, Canada's largest carrier, went all-GSM and shut down analog and TDMA service.

What's the result? North Americans continue to pay more, due to Qualcomm royalties, which is reported to be $6 to manufacturers. That cost is marked up every step of the way through distribution until the user pays. CDMA phones also don't work on GSM systems, which not only inconveniences travelers to overseas, but it locks Sprint and Verizon customers from ever changing to GSM carriers (ATT, T-Mobile, et al.), effectively cutting competition between carriers.

Only North America has this schizoid system of so many different 'standards' for digital voice, and we pay for it dearly. Are you annoyed by being locked out of cellular provider because of your phone's design?

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31 comments
dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

The FCC needs to mandate all cellphones must be compatible with all available communications standards, so users are not locked out form any service provider.

ChrisVL
ChrisVL

The FCC exists to guarantee corporate profits, not ensure customers get what they pay for.

mark
mark

Yes, I'm annoyed at the dual standard. US carriers should drop the inferior GSM technology and switch to CDMA, and then convince the rest of the world to do so as well. CDMA has about a 2:1 spectrum efficiency advantage over GSM; for a given amount of coverage, you only need to use half as much radio bandwidth, or build half as many cell sites. I know it won't happen. The problem is that the world standardized too early in the process of technological development, before a superior technology was ready. ALL 3G cell technologies are based on CDMA techniques (although the 3G version of GSM uses a different variant than the 3G version of CDMA), and there are good reasons why that is true.

wndwman
wndwman

Someone here knows a little about the technologies. GSM is only a standard because of how many European installs there were. It is an outdated technology...

RikR
RikR

I wish we had GSM at 800 MHz. PCS coverage is terrible in many areas.

K7AAY
K7AAY

ATT provides GSM on 850MHz in many markets. However, ATT is moving from 850MHz to 1900MHz. However, as a Tarheel, do you notice a difference between winter and other seasons on 850MHz? Deciduous leaves block 850MHz, so winter reception is far better, whereas 1900MHz is consistant. 1900MHz also allows packing cells closer together because the range of 1900MHz, all other things being equal, is less than 850MHz. So, if you can increase cell density, you get less interference from adjacent cells, and can support more customers.

AU-man
AU-man

I have a lot of experience with mobile service in the UK. If you ever get over there check out the incredible charges for calling and receiving mobile phone calls. $0.50 to $1.00 per minute. If you call a land line it gets even more ridiculous. Free phones? Rare or not likely. You may have heard texting is huge over there as it only costs $0.20 to send a text and the receiver only gets charged $0.10! Service may suck in some areas here in the USA but we definately "Got It Good"

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

What good is having 500 free minutes and carryover if over half of the times, you can't even make a phone call without sounding like you're talking through a 2 tin cans with a string or hearing an echo of your own voice, not to mention all the dropped calls? Perhaps the folks in the U.K. and Europe don't mind paying the rates you quoted because their service is far more reliable and they don't experience as many dropped calls and dead zones as we do.

mark
mark

Europe has better cell coverage than the US because people live closer together. Population density makes it easier and more cost-effective to build out the cell infrastructure.

K7AAY
K7AAY

Do you consider the cost of being locked in to your carrier when choosing your phone? If not, why not?

bperkins
bperkins

Yes, I do consider the fact that I am locked into using a particular carrier when choosing service. Best service I ever had was VoiceStream(T-Mobile) but their coverage (or spottiness of it) was a real problem. BellSouth's GSM service was terrible. Now I hold my nose and stick with Verizon because the coverage is very good even though they cripple some features the phones they sell. In the ideal world one could buy a phone *then* choose a carrier. But we seem to be going the other way with carriers choosing the phones you will be allowed to use. Sad.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Look at all the fancy schmancy crap today's cell phones come with, such as camera, internet, mp3, text messaging, cheesy ringtones, etc., yet fail to do the simple thing they were designed for originally, which is to make a simple phone call without getting dropped. Also, the cellphone companies are specifically targeting teens because they have created a bunch of mindless non-stop cellphone blabbering addicts that must have the latest toys to impress their shallow and superficial friends. I own a simple old Nokia that does one thing and one thing alone, and that is to make a friggin phone call, nothing more. If I wanted to play MP3s', I'd use an iPod, and if I wanted to take photos, I'd use my Canon Powershot instead. This insanity must stop with cellphones being treated as and marketed as toys. It annoys me when I need to bring my phone in for service or repair and have to wait for hours because the sales rep are tied up by a bunch of punk ass teens wasting their time on what I consider as toys with flashing antennas and stupid ringtones. I'm there because I have a legitimate business reason for carrying a cellphone, not because I need to impress my friends with some pimped out piece of crap.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...you are right. Value-centeric customers who are only interested in reliable communications aren't hardly as profitable as kids with too much money who have been duped into the idea that paying an extra $2.99/mo for access to ring-tones is a cool idea. But then again, perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that these idiots are subsidizing your basic phone plan.

cepedajoe
cepedajoe

I think overtime the cost will come down but for now the organization (specifically Verizon wireless) will continue ripping customers off with its high priced plans. But, when a user compares the quality of the call from Verizon Wireless to that of the competition, then the cost isn't all that hard to swallow. You want better quality, wait until you are on a landline. (There may be a cost involved in that wait.) In the meantime, we pay through the nose until the marketplace saturates or something better comes along. Verizon Wireless bought into this technology first and they have the bucks to push it and capitalize on its strenghts. We the consumers can either pay for the service or not.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...who are dumb enough to only care about the "free" or subsidized phone, and consider the service plan 2nd. That's the primary reason that most of the rest of the world is better off. Personally, I'd rather negotiate separately for the phone and service; Pay up front for the phone and then have a better quality and cheaper service plan. If carriers couldn?t lock people into multi-year contracts, the customer service would be much better I assure you. Unfortunately, we?re outnumbered by those who think they?re getting something for nothing. On GSM: Back in the late 90?s, I purchased a PacBell GSM phone when it first rolled out because of its very attractive service plan and included features that were still ?extras? on most other plans. (Caller ID, call-forwarding, voice-mail, etc) The GSM service, where and when available, was the best quality I ever experienced. When I had my office phone call-forwarded to my GSM phone, people honestly could not tell that I was out of the office. Unfortunately at the time, the network was not built out beyond major cities and interstates and there were just too many places where it would not work. I reluctantly replaced it a year later when my contract was up with a TDMA phone that worked nearly everywhere, but with hardly the same quality. Even almost 10 years later, my CDMA phone isn?t half as good as that GSM phone was.

genethomas
genethomas

There is NO comppetition in the wiresless indusrty. They control the market with $175 termination fees and 2 years contracts that are 12 pages long and you have NO input on the terms and conditions. Additionally, VERIZON just sent me a 4 page paper on how to read and understand my bill. Their bill is impossible to read and undersatnd. Try it. What competitive company makes thier bill impossible to undersatnad, on purpose? NONE. Great service, coverage, support and attitude and not part of the business model for wireless customer retention, the legal system is the model. Legally lock them in, have a very high and unnecessary termination fee and send them amazingly confusing bills. Now the punch line, CONSUER REPORTS rates them the highest of all the wireless companies. Amazing wat lesser rated companies are DOING to thier customers to keeep them from exiting>>> not try to keep them staying

ChrisVL
ChrisVL

I've used Cingular, Sprint and Verizon. I had a friend who was on T-Mobile, but when I talked to her her phone disconnected every 5 minutes so I never wanted to try them. Of all those, Verizon has the best call quality and customer service- and that's not saying much since on a scale of 1-10 I would rate them at a 4 for customer service, Cingular a -50, and sprint a 1.

guessfox
guessfox

There is so much taxes put on the wireless system, I am surprised we support this crappy system. No other country double charges for cell phone usage. Also they can dis connect you anytime, but you don't get back money. I had T-Mobile stuck on a great plan, but they dropped my number. send a sorry letter but you can't keep that plan, then tried to stiff me with the disconnection of the line. I hate the US mobile phone system. The monopoly is only fueled by the government letting them get double the charges back with ZERO improvement to the infrastructure. The world is on 3G and 4G and we are on 2G. WTF. Someone has to be getting the kick backs. Even Iraq and other 3rd world countries have better phones and cell systems 10x better than ours. Please support GSM advancements and not buy locked phones. Cellhut.com, amazon.com, and nokia are selling unlocked phones with advanced features. We can pull the industry forward by being ahead of them and selecting the company that support these advanced features.

pandreas
pandreas

I think contracts for services have their place. If you want a "free phone" you have to pay for it some how. But to be forced to extend a contract because you change your plan to a better one is ridiculous and illegal. So if there was a phone(s) that handled both CDMA & GSM, then maybe we could just go to any store, buy it, sign up for month to month with any one you want. If you want a better price on services then promise a time frame to stay with the service. Maybe this would help level the playing field.

K7AAY
K7AAY

There are CDMA/GSM phones. However, the CDMA carriers order them locked out so you cannot use the GSM side in the US, a trick learned from Nextel who had Moto build iDEN/GSM phones. Nice idea, but the cellcos prevent it.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

but be prepared to spend at least $300 or more for the device itself, not including the service plan.

bmorton9
bmorton9

802.11 a/b/g/n and you've got a winner! I think the day is coming, but we Americans are so technologically uneducated as a whole that we can't push companies to provide more. To provide better services. We're simply amazed that we can take a crappy picture with our phones or that we can play a mindless game on it.

ChrisVL
ChrisVL

I never would have switched to Verizon. I actually had a Cingular rep tell me he doesn't care about the problem I had at the time because he doesn't have to.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

and I only hope the supervisor of this moron listened to how rudely you were treated. You should have recorded the conversation, called again, as asked to speak to a supervisor while playing back the rude remark made to you by the previous jackass.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

Cingular will be financially liable for erroneously reporting something on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act stipulates heavy fines on companies that erroneously report negative information on your credit report. Stick it to them and make the bastards pay.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

I'm sure you all remember the late 80s' and early 90s' with cellphones being analog based and how criminals were ripping off the ESNs' by sitting on the side of the highway with their ESN readers and then cloning phones left and right back in their garages. Needless to say, my dad was a victin of this and someone had rung up over $600 worth of calls to countries in the middle east and Europe. When my father called AT&T and tried to explain to them that he didn't make those calls and that he has no business making calls to those countries, AT&T treated him like a crook and put him on collections because they didn't buy his story. They simply refused to acknowledge that their phones were crap and their analog network was not impervious to cellphone cloners. My dad had to eventually pay the fine because he was being denied credit for a business loan because that one AT&T monkey on his back ruined his credit. I'm glad to say his credit is back to good standings, but I'd like to see the cellphone companies get torn apart for destroying people's credit histories over nonsense that should have neen properly investigated. The cellphone carriers are too quick to call you a criminal and forward your account to a collections agency.

ChrisVL
ChrisVL

This was a billing error that they admitted was an error, cut off my service anyways, MADE me pay for the 3 months I had no service until they so kindly decided to turn it back on, and still inisted that even though it was an error, because they sent a bill I am required to pay it. I eventually quit when my contract ran out, switched to Sprint, but their phones were all staticy and after the third return I canceled that and switched to Verizon. And I STILL get collection notices from Cingular (or ATT) about every 8 months demanding I pay the $90 billing error, where I have to call Cingular customer dis-service and explain the whole story all over again, listen to their claim that even though it is a billing error I am still required to pay them because they sent a bill, go through every single statement over the phone with them until they agree I am right and agree to cancel the collection. And 8 months later, I have to go through the whole process all over again (it's been 4 years now). I just can't believe in this day and age a company can survive being so arrogant as to claim "because we sent a bill you have to pay it no matter if it was an error or not".

ClanGordon
ClanGordon

Because I travel to Europe, the convenience of having a GSM phone here outweighs any concerns I may have with "The New AT&T" (what's that all about then?). I keep my number and my e-mail still gets to my Blackberry - albeit at a higher cost. Why is the US still in the analog dark-ages? Time to consolidate and invest in newer digital networks beyond GSM...

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

...and ny and far it's the CDMA carriers. TDMA just flat-out sucks (lose signal as soon as I walk into a building with any steel construction) and GSM just isn't 'great' in my area yet; hodge-podge of GSM/TDMA. My other grip about it is the 'bigger' of the TDMA/GSM networks is AT&T, and I refuse to use AT&T.

ImNotLisa
ImNotLisa

means that the company is out to screw you over. That goes for phone, electricity and cable. They lock in you in for one or two years and then lower prices for everyone else.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

on their network or provide GSM enabled phones. Call it American arrogance or whatnot, but no other countries use CDMA or TDMA as much as we do, as everyone else is on GSM or GPRS. I hate the fact that only T-Mobile and AT&T/Cingular are the only 2 major carriers that offer GSM enabled phones. I have to waste time and money renting a GSM phone whenever I travel outside of the continental USA. More GSM choices from our local carriers would be much appreciated.

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