Verizon picks LTE? Not so fast.

Verizon picks LTE? Not so fast.

It's still early to declare Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology as the 4G winner at Verizon Wireless. Last week, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg announced at the Goldman Sachs investor conference that both carriers are planning on using the same technology for their 4G networks and that both are studying the LTE standard.

"It makes complete sense for us to go from HSDPA to LTE and it makes sense for Verizon to go from EV-DO to LTE." Sarin said.

But the devil is in the details. Interestingly, Verizon Wireless somewhat distanced itself from the initial announcement. An operator spokesman told Telephony Magazine that neither company has committed to a specific technology and they are not locked in deploying the same infrastructure after their 4G evaluations are complete. Both companies are looking at WiMAX too.

Certainly aligning technology paths has been a long-time desire for both Vodafone and Verizon, who own stakes in Verizon Wireless (45 percent and 55 percent, respectively). Vodafone makes use of GSM and HSDPA and Verizon Wireless has deployed CDMA and EV-DO Rev. A. That makes global offerings and network procurement savings difficult. Plus, Vodafone has been under significant pressure to divest its stake in Verizon Wireless as investors say there is little synergy.

Verizon Wireless wanted a harmonized standard for 3G back in the 1990s, but vendor politics left two incompatible standards: CDMA2000 and W-CDMA. Now there is a new opportunity for alignment again with 4G as a move to LTE, Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), the evolution path for EV-DO Rev. A, or WiMAX would require a fork-lift upgrade since all are based on OFDMA technology.

Still, many factors could keep Verizon Wireless from technologically aligning itself with Vodafone. Whether Verizon Wireless wins spectrum in the 700 MHz auction has a bearing on technology decisions given the fact that it will face buildout deadlines and competitive pressures from WiMAX. Moreover, LTE is about three to four years away from deployment. UMB's development is further along and could very well be ready significantly earlier than LTE. If Verizon is facing competitive pressure on the mobile broadband front, especially from the likes of Sprint's WiMAX network, it could find itself pushed to deploy UMB. It also could find that EV-DO Rev. B will give it enough speed until LTE is ready. Vendors expect that a 5 MHz Rev. B channel will support average downstream rates of 9.3 Mbps, representing an improvement over Rev. A by three times. Of course, there's always WiMAX.

On another interesting note, did you notice the flurry of announcements Ericsson has made around making HSPA more of a mass-market technology? The world's largest infrastructure provider, which has publicly shunned WiMAX, appears to be looking to accelerate the adoption of HSPA before WiMAX shows up in force.

Last week, the vendor announced its first HSPA module for laptops and other client devices, aiming for 50 percent of notebook computers to adopt HSPA modules by 2011. In India, where WiMAX is supposed to make some significant inroads, Ericsson launched an initiative to introduce the benefits of HSPA technology in rural India and connect communities to high-speed Internet services. Earlier this month, Ericsson introduced the U335 WCDMA mobile platform designed to enable handset providers to create mass-market HSPA multimedia devices capable of offering services such as mobile TV, mobile video blogging and other services that require both high uplink and downlink data speeds.