2014
01.17

GSM, CDMA Divided

There are truly two camps when it comes to GSM and CDMA. For as long as I have been covering the wireless space it has been a distinct demarcation with Verizon and Sprint entrenched in the CDMA camp and T-Mobile and AT&T locked in GSM.

However, as the market continues to evolve the gap is closing as 4G LTE (long-term evolution) becomes more globally accepted as a wireless standard.

It seems all the carriers are hot for 4G LTE and they want to bring it to our cars, homes, fitness, and anything they can that’s well beyond the traditional world of voice. The world of data brings unlimited possibilities and the carriers are chomping at the bit to be a part of all of it.

Someone much smarter than me explained it to me this way: GSM divides the frequency bands into multiple channels allowing multiple people to access the network via a tower at the same time; CDMA networks on the other hand, layer digitized calls over each other, and unpack them on the backend with sequence codes. I find it noteworthy that CDMA has several key strengths which give it a strong following including, a secure communication channel, it can carry multiple communication tasks simultaneously, it’s effective in remote areas, and its power consumption is lesser. The pros for GSM are its global popularity, international roaming, and its stable network.

But there’s a cautionary tale here. Some carriers are still leaving UMTS and EVDO networks live until 2020 so we still have 2G and 3G networks that will be live for quite some time. So that means we aren’t as interchangeable quite yet. We will get there but we have a ways to go. So don’t get tripped up by all the U.S. hype just yet. So while everyone is talking 4G LTE it’s not as simple as they make it out to be. It’s interesting to note that while CDMA is prevalent in most parts of North America and many pockets of Asia, GSM is widespread in Western Europe.

While GSM might edge out in the long run and win in the network race, the M2M community will still need a global standard for wireless telecommunication. There still needs to be more discussion on the cost of modules, SIM, management, IP, security, and the list goes on. This is where the industry is falling down. The M2M community is getting closer, but with carriers using their own networks to further their own agenda, the M2M community is still many years away from a common standard unless something changes. They have the power to make change. Just like TV viewers stood up for Phil Roberston of Duck Dynasty, you have the opportunity to have your voice heard. The direction things are headed now I don’t see how that helps M2M data customers today. Seems like a lot of sales talk, and in the end you will have very little to show for it, but a big fat expense.

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  1. Great article!!

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