CDMA has been in the news a lot this week thanks to Verizon Wireless’ new iPhone, and the attention hasn’t been all positive.
The fact that Verizon’s CDMA network doesn’t support simultaneous voice and data traffic hasn’t gone unnoticed by the media, much less GSM rival AT&T, which was quick to point out both the lack of simultaneous voice and data and CDMA’s smaller global market share.
Still, the jabs coming from AT&T can’t take away the fact that the arrival of the iPhone on a CDMA network marks a big milestone for the standard. The Verizon iPhone marks the first iOS device to join the 2,455 other handsets, tablets, modems, routers and other devices that have been commercially launched on CDMA2000 networks since 1995, including 33 Android and 16 BlackBerry devices.
Wireless Week spoke with Perry LaForge, executive director of the CDMA Development Group (CDG), about the importance of Verizon’s iPhone to CDMA, the state of the standard and how its work on simultaneous voice and data capabilities is progressing. Below is an edited transcript of the discussion.
Wireless Week: Obviously, it’s nice to see Verizon get the iPhone after all these years. I’m wondering how this reflects on CDMA as a technology. Why is it important for the CDMA standard that Verizon has the iPhone?
Perry LaForge: It’s an addition of another operating system to the mix of all the devices we have on CDMA. That in itself is important for CDMA. For Verizon, it’s continued support for their CDMA system. It’s another operating system, like with Android, that will show the strength of their 3G network with the data demands that people have seen from the Apple iPhone. Verizon continues to show their support for CDMA even as they grow their LTE network.
WW: A lot has been made of the fact that Verizon’s iPhone won’t have simultaneous voice and data because it uses CDMA. What’s your reaction to that?
WW: Following up on that, CDG announced the SVDO simultaneous voice and data standard for CDMA back in August 2009 as part of the 1X Advanced standard, but I’m not aware of any operators that have moved to adopt the technology. Can you give me an update on that?
LaForge: It’s really a function of chipsets: SVDO being embedded in chipsets and those chipsets being available. That’s largely the function that drives adoption of that. Once SVDO is embedded in the chipsets and they start shipping commercially, that’s when you’ll start seeing people using that capability.
WW: So you’re saying nothing really needs to be done on the network side to get that, it’s really just in the chips?
LaForge: That’s the gating factor on that, yeah.
WW: I guess I wasn’t aware of that – I thought it was something operators had to do to their networks.
LaForge: I’m sure there are individual things that they’ll have to do with their networks, but it’s not all that significant relative to making sure the devices are out there with the SVDO capability. It’s not like a huge network upgrade that you have to do.
WW: I guess I’m trying to get on what’s the hold up. That standard was announced back in 2009 and I haven’t seen any movement on it since then. You’re saying it’s up to the chipset vendors to get a move on with that?
LaForge: That’s my understanding, yes. The biggest issue is the availability of devices with the chips. Those commercial devices have to start hitting the market.
WW: Can you tell me what CDG is seeing in terms of global investment trends for CDMA? Are you seeing investment in CDMA networks increasing or decreasing?
LaForge: It’s by region. For example, we see very strong continued growth in China. China Telecom is sourcing some 200 million devices last year, they’re growing to almost 100 million customers and will be one of the world’s largest CDMA operators. In that market, there’s very aggressive growth.
In other markets, it depends on spectrum availability. For example, in India we’ve seen a bit of a slowing because there’s just no additional spectrum for CDMA in that particular region.
WW: But worldwide, all markets together, are you seeing an increase or decrease?
LaForge: If you take it on the aggregate, we’re continuing to see growth.
WW: What are you seeing in terms of deployment of the networks themselves?
LaForge: We saw 18 new networks. We’re starting to see continued interest in developing economies, as well as growth in places like Indonesia and other regions.
WW: I’m interested to get your perspective on how the industry should view CDMA as we look at investing in LTE networks. Why should operators continue to invest in their CDMA networks given the industry’s move toward LTE?
LaForge: Again, you have to break it down by region. If you look at the ability to do voice traffic and voice calls very efficiently, 1X Advanced is something the industry is looking at across the board. It’s probably one of the most efficient ways to carry voice traffic.
I’m not discouraging LTE in any way, but there’s a lot of concern in the industry about how to handle voice calling through LTE. That’s yet to be fleshed out. In those markets where LTE is being implemented, EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B certainly provide data capabilities and 1X Advanced provides advanced voice capabilities.
In terms of developing economies, probably the most efficient way to do voice and data at this point is through the CDMA approach, which is why we’re seeing pretty strong interest in regions like Indonesia and Africa. A lot of those markets don’t have spectrum available for LTE, so really the easiest way to do it is to with CDMA, and that’s where we’ve been seeing the interest.