[Commentary] The technology wars were supposed to be over. The global adoption of LTE as a common 4G technology was going to heal the rift between the CDMA and GSM camps and give U.S. consumers more freedom to switch between carriers, as well as the ability to choose from set of common devices that could work on any network. Well forget it: Verizon’s planned sale of its extra LTE spectrum pretty much quashes that dream.
Instead of coalescing around mutually exclusive technologies, U.S. carriers are now coalescing around mutually exclusive spectrum bands; but the result is the same. A Verizon LTE phone won’t work on an AT&T LTE network, and vice versa. This was always going to be a problem, but Verizon’s proposed fire sale of 700 MHz licenses would essentially codify that rift. If Verizon dumps all of its lower 700 MHz spectrum, it won’t share a single similar license with any of the country’s other operators, effectively creating its own private band within the 700 MHz airwaves. That means device makers like Apple will have to design phones that work on Verizon’s network and no one else’s. That means dozens of carriers who own spectral real estate in the same band won’t be able to roam onto Verizon’s network. LTE was supposed to change everything, but the industry remains as Balkanized as it always was.
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