CDMA going way of the dodo?

by Peter Nowak,

Ericsson Canada president Mark Henderson dropped some interesting stats during his keynote address at the Canadian Telecom Summit today. Henderson said Code Division Multiple Access cellphone technology – the likes of which is used by Bell Canada and Telus in Canada – is on the verge of extinction.

Currently, about 80 per cent of cellphone companies in the world, including Rogers in Canada, use the rival Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology. Henderson said that GSM, and the Long-Term Evolution standard that is slowly succeeding it, will expand to 96 per cent of carriers by 2012 as CDMA carriers convert, and as new networks crop up.

Granted, Ericsson is a major purveyor of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network equipment, so that view may be a bit skewed, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. Canada is likely to have a number of new cellphone carriers starting next year – Shaw, Quebecor, Bragg and Globalive all look like they're going to be significant players, if the government's spectrum auction is any indication. The smart money is on all of them going with GSM/LTE. Rumours of Canada's CDMA carriers converting to GSM also continue to swirl, fuelled by reports last week that Telus is looking into LTE.

In fact, some folks here at the summit are wondering if the lack of presence from Bell and Telus has something to do with this CDMA-GSM situation. Aside from having a few token representatives in some of the panel sessions, the country's two largest phone companies are noticeably absent from speaking engagements at the summit.

Rogers, of course, is well represented. Chief operating officer Nadir Mohamed extolled the virtues of the company's GSM network in his speech this morning and couldn't resist taking a cheap shot at his CDMA rivals: "By the way, our services work wherever you might be in the world."

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Currently, about 80 per cent of cellphone companies in the world, including Rogers in Canada, use the rival Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology.

At 80%, the comment should be "use the dominant or business accepted"...not rival.

There is no rivalry here some companies made the correct choice 10 or 15 years ago. Bell did not.

Posted June 16, 2008 03:54 PM


Blogers write whatever they feel. No facts, proof or material reference. Too bad.
CEO's say whatever they feel. No facts, proof or references. Just words. Just to make shareholders happy. It's okay
it's the way it works. It's business.

What really works and what really is happening is GSM is going away and is migrating to CDMA and this has
been onging for the last 5 years. The company that allows this is Qualcomm. The pioneer of CDMA. 15 years ago
the GSM cartel said it couldn't be done that CDMA defied the laws of physics. Thats what they said. Reminds me so much
of what CEO's say....

Does it matter if the next evolution to GSM is called "mustard" or "tobacco". Does it matter if it's called tds-CDMA,
CDMA-1x, CDMA-evdo or w-CDMA which was once called UMTS or better yet 3GPP. It doesn't matter. GSM is toast!

Posted June 17, 2008 12:46 AM

Kim Osborne


I have to refute the statement that "By the way, our services work wherever you might be in the world."

I come from a rural acreage in Alberta, where I had no cell phone coverage with Rogers. Telus (my parent's carrier) had full coverage. I now live in Oshawa where I am renting a basement room. Again, I have no coverage in my room. For a company that brags that they have service everywhere in the world: guess what? I found the two places in the world that don't.

I stay with Rogers because I like the flexibility of GSM and I think they have great customer service.

Posted June 17, 2008 07:34 AM

Craig C.

I hope LTE addresses the shortcomings of both GSM and CDMA moving forward as a presumptive universal standard.

I use a Bell CDMA cell and a Rogers BlackBerry, and off the main routes in Atlantic Canada, Rogers has very poor data reception and signal. Also, am I the only person that finds it very annoying that GSM, being high-power pulse-based in its packet transmission, causes speakers from other devices to react and warble to varying degrees? My old GSM Treo was worse, but similar. CDMA BlackBerries do not do this, being I believe tone-based in their transmission technology. This and the poor reception off the main track is why I still want to switch to a CDMA BlackBerry until a new standard comes along.

Posted June 18, 2008 10:29 AM



CDMA may be going "extinct" as Rogers says, too bad its still 10 times superior in call quality and coverage, and GSM phones dont work anywhere in the world contrary to what these people will have you think

Posted June 19, 2008 03:28 PM


this is in response to "a"...

"CDMA-1x, CDMA-evdo or w-CDMA which was once called UMTS or better yet 3GPP. It doesn't matter. GSM is toast!"

Wrong... CDMA 1x (cdma2000) and evdo are examples of Code-Division multiple access technologies. WCDMA is actually UMTS which is part of GSM's evolution. GSM is technically modeled on Time-Division multiple access. GSM is not toast; why would 80% of the world go with GSM over CDMA? GSM and GPRS may be toast, but it has given way to EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA and soon HSUPA. All these technologies are on the same evolution path... not CDMA.

For the others who claim CDMA's quality is better... most peoples' experiences will be subjective. GSM networks' coverage was not good until a few years ago when Rogers made the switch from TDMA to GSM. Today, GSM networks are clearly better. While there may be some areas where one network's coverage is superior to the other there will always been this situation. Then there is the plethora of handsets and handset manufacturers available. No two handsets are ever exactly alike and is why no consumer-level comparison or argument over which network is better will ever win.

The only answer to all this mess is which network is able to meet the end user's needs. In the end, this may lean towards a GSM network as parts and equipment are cheaper vs the seldom used, and highly-proprietary CDMA network. Just as you pointed out, a name is really meaningless. WCDMA is wideband code division multiple access... it's just a name, but the technology is NOT akin to standard cdma/cdma2000. It is an upgrade to GSM/Edge networks and not cdma, Belus networks.

Posted June 22, 2008 07:17 AM



GSM is definitely superior to CDMA. My Fido quad band phone receives signals even in the 3rd level parking below ground. I acid test the phone in making calls while the elevator was heading down the parking, the call stayed connected. The reception is clear.

I wish I could say the same about Telus' CDMA phone.

Posted July 2, 2008 01:32 AM

Chip M.

"why would 80% of the world go with GSM over CDMA?"

Convenience and device portability... in fact, the protocols used by the GSM standard are lacking, and limited...

as far as referencing material, I won't... I'm not your personal assistant... I did the research... so, can you...

just like BETA and VHS... the lesser technology is more popular globally...

solutions that have the veil of being proprietary, lose out... look to every OS that needed specific hardware...

and I whole heartedly disagree with the author of the article... Bell and Telus are either hedging their bet, or see a possible convergence between GSM and EV-DO...

the more likely battle, IP/packet-based phone vs. circuit switched...

but, this is only my meager opinion, and I will provide you the option of arguing that my thoughts are not predicated on fact

Posted July 19, 2008 07:46 PM


To answer "Kevbodian"'s question the reason why carriers internationally stuck with GSM is because they didn't feel like paying royalties to Qualcomm to use their CDMA technology.

CDMA has always been superior to GSM in both bandwidth and power effeciency.

While you have a point EVDO and UMTS protocols are not compatible the claim (W)CDMA is somehow not really CDMA is untrue.

With all technologies going forward being CDMA based we will continue to see more and more phones avaliable that work on both networks.

Posted November 28, 2008 06:18 PM

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