Airvana not so down with UMB

You know the ultra mobile broadband (UMB), the proposed 4G path for CDMA EV-DO technology, is in question when one of CDMA's biggest backers has its doubts about the prospects for the technology. Airvana, which has historically pushed the envelop on getting the next iteration of CDMA2000 out the door, told Unstrung that it's too early to say what technology will be adopted by operators for mobile broadband, but UMB's future looks fuzzy.

"It feels like the world seems to be moving to LTE, and Sprint has gone with WiMAX for now," Airvana CEO Randy Battat said. "We're not sure what the opportunity will be for UMB. We're less zealous about that than you might expect from the CDMA camp."

CDMA has always held the advantage when it comes to getting higher speed data networks out the door. But the move to 4G is essentially a clean slate for everyone since it's a jump to OFDMA-based networks. WiMAX now has the first-mover advantage and LTE looks to have the economies of scale advantage since it's the GSM migration path.

With Sprint moving to WiMAX, it appears the success of the technology rests on Verizon Wireless' shoulders, and it hasn't decided its path. The chances are high that LTE is the choice since Vodafone and Verizon plan on using the same technology for their 4G networks. We know Vodafone won't flip to UMB, so the choice is between WiMAX (now a 3G standard)--which can be used in the near term to stave off competitive threats--and LTE.

For Verizon, it all drills down to performance, CEO Lowell McAdam said in an interview published this week in sister publication FierceWireless. "The suppliers of that technology would love to get you to declare early on. My view is whether it's WiMAX, Rev. C or LTE, you make the visionaries deliver something," he said. "You evaluate what they deliver and then you decide what fits best in your network ... Technology is technology. There's no emotion about it. Let's see how it performs."

Indeed, a lot can happen before 2010, but vendors need to make the right bets now.--Lynnette