Verizon Wireless to move toward LTE as its 4G platform

Proving it still had some fireworks left over from Monday, Verizon Wireless announced this afternoon its corporate parents will be steering its communications platform evolution away from the path it was already on.

Vodafone and Verizon will be jointly investing their efforts in LTE, the brainchild of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). Although they are both members of the project, as are US competitors AT&T and Sprint, the Long Term Evolution platform competes with the technology portfolio of 3GPP member Qualcomm. So membership has never necessarily been an indication of platform preference.

But LTE is also built atop the infrastructure of GSM, the 3G platform currently deployed by AT&T. Verizon Wireless in the US currently deploys CDMA, which is part of Qualcomm's portfolio. The 4G platform for CDMA technology is UMB, which Qualcomm is also behind and which VZW was expected to support.

With AT&T committed to GSM, and with Sprint appearing to back down from its support of WiMAX as its 4G platform of choice nationwide, under its Xohm brand name, UMB has a small chance of eking out a toehold with that carrier, but probably not as its sole platform.

During Monday's conference call announcing its historic decision to open up its CDMA network for devices of the customer's choosing, VZW CTO Dick Lynch told reporters his company had not yet made a complete decision on 4G. But then his boss, CEO Lowell McAdam, gently contradicted him.

"As we go to fourth generation," Lynch said, responding to a question about whether VZW plans to open up its 4G platform the same way it plans to open up CDMA, "we still have yet to make that technology decision. And when we make that, this will also be applicable there; but at this point, we haven't really made the 4G decision from a technology standpoint."

"As we see fourth-generation evolving," McAdam said, "we see lots of different device providers -- everything from home appliances to PDAs to phones that you see today. And what we're saying today is, we're ready to accelerate that piece of the fourth-generation technology. The market is there, we want to tap into it, the development community is there with innovative products and services. There's nothing magical about the timeline of fourth-generation. So we think we can tap into that now."

There were plenty of hints in McAdam's statement, including a reference to the "development community" responsible for 4G, that analysts could have pounced on...if they weren't already spellbound by the act of opening up the CDMA platform to third-party devices.

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