As many of you know, we have more than one mobile network in the US, GSM and CDMA. In Europe, nearly everyone is on GSM which makes it easy to purchase a phone and take it to any carrier you like. When word started getting around that all the major carriers in the US would be using LTE as their 4G technology, I thought that we might enjoy some of the same mobile liberties that others have. Just think, the ability to buy a phone, finish your initial contract and take it to any carrier. Alas, this is not the case.
Verizon confirmed last week that in fact its LTE phones would not be compatible on other LTE networks. The reason is that all the carriers have announced that they will be using different frequencies for their LTE devices.
If this idea is still a bit cloudy, lets compare it to your television. Today you can get your television signal from either an antenna, satellite dish or cable box. You can’t take your cable box and connect it to a satellite dish and expect it to work. That is comparable to mobile networks today, where they all exist on different technologies. Once they are all on the same LTE network, the differences between the two are more like changing channels. A cable box and other television devices are capable of managing different frequencies, most phones currently do not. While it is possible to build devices that will run on both networks, I think it will be highly unlikely that that will happen. In fact I expect it to be written off to an issue of maintaining quality.