Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the new cellular data standard that is being adopted by Verizon and AT&T Even Sprint is considering switching their WiMax network to LTE. I’m rather excited for the technology as it means we’ll be able to blow through our impending data caps even faster now.
Currently there are two competing cellular standard in the United States, GSM and CDMA. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA while AT&T and T-Mobile (and the rest of the world) use GSM. Both standards have pros and cons. While CDMA is less susceptible to interference GSM allows a user to access their data plan while on a phone call. Data networks give a means of bypassing limitations of both GSM and CDMA but cellular providers haven’t been willing to utilize this potential until now.
AT&T and Verizon have both announced plans to do voice over LTE (think Skype). This would allow both carriers to use their upcoming LTE networks for voice and data through the wonderful fact that voice really is just data (as both CDMA and GSM use completely digital voice networks). Utilizing voice over LTE would alleviate many of the problems faced by nothing having a universal cellular standard in the United States, namely you could take your roam on Verizon’s network if you were an AT&T subscriber and visa versa (so long as both companies used the same voice over LTE protocol and had roaming agreements). This would be great being many locations in the United States have great coverage for either GSM or CDMA but not both (for instance my hometown has CDMA coverage but not GSM coverage).
I’d love to see this happen. It also makes economic sense since there wouldn’t be a need to support multiple radios and protocols for separate functions of phones. Likewise anybody who has used Skype on their phone has already done what AT&T and Verizon are looking into. It’s not a difficult idea to implement as the technology is there and the LTE networks are being built.