Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is CDMA cell phone technology already dead? Analysts disagree

In separate reports issued this week, one prominent analyst firm proclaimed the impending death of CDMA cellular technology, while another touted its resurgence. So which is it?

Analyst firm Dell'Oro Group has declared CDMA -- for many years a widely used mobile communications standard, especially in North America -- already "dead."

Scott Siegler, a mobile infrastructure analyst at Dell'Oro, bases these claims on a slowdown in spending on CDMA by Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, as these wireless operators pour more investments into higher capacity GSM technologies.

"As a result of this contraction in North America, North America's share of the CDMA market fell to [an] approximately two-thirds share, from [an] over three-quarters share in the second quarter last year. Growth in Asia Pacific, particularly in India, helped to offset these declines," Siegler said.

"However, we believe the region will experience declines in the second half of the year, as we expect [operators in the Asia Pacific] to begin to focus more capital toward their GSM networks."

In complete contrast, ABI Research analyst Khor Hwai Lin suggests that the investment of CDMA operators in GSM types of technologies such as EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B really represents an upgrade to existing CDMA networks.

"The increased support for LTE from incumbent CDMA operators does not imply the imminent death of EV-DO Rev. A and B, because LTE is addressing different market needs than 3G (third generation) [wireless]," said the ABI analyst.

Like WiMAX, and HSPA+, LTE is regarded as a fourth generation (4G) wireless technology. "HSPA+ will contest with LTE and mobile WiMAX in the mobile broadband space," according to Jake Saunders, ATI's Asia-Pacific VP.

As previously reported in BetaNews, in the North American market, Sprint, Clearwire, and five investment partners are now making heavy investments into WiMAX, too. Verizon Wireless and AT&T are doing likewise with LTE.

Yet in any case, some mobile equipment manufacturers don't seem to believe that CDMA is on its way out any time soon.

This week, for example, China-based ZTE introduced a "full-featured CDMA AWS flip phone" into the US market. Meanwhile, Motorola rolled out a "Push-To-Talk Over Cellular (PoC) solution," describing the new technology as bring "optimized for CDMA 1.x networks equipped with EV-DO Rev. A data capability."

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