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Will there be a full migration away from CDMA?


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Is it known whether sprint is looking to, or has plans to, decommission their CDMA stack eventually in favor of migrating to LTE(-Advanced)/(E-)UTRA?

 

This would make sense, since data is already being moved to LTE, and voice is presumably in the pipeline (VoLTE), and SMS is surely possible over LTE too? Also, CDMA, while a breakthrough at first, is now seen as an unnecessary complexification (http://gnuradio.org/redmine/projects/gnuradio/wiki/OpenBTSBackground#GSM-is-Old-and-Boring-Why-Not-CDMA), and Sprint also must pay royalties to Qualcomm when using CDMA technology. And, looking at the Qualcomm website, it would seem that they, too, are pushing LTE as the way forward, and CDMA not as much.

 

It would seem at first glance that Sprint has lots to gain, and little pain, in fully migrating to LTE and decommissioning its CDMA networks eventually (similarly to the AMPS story).

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I would imagine one factor in this would be the significant number of mvno's. Sprint (and to be fair all but vzw) have a lot of mvno's subs and generally these incorporate a lot of cheap phones. All the net10 \ boost et al customers would need to buy new phones and until you can get volte phones for $20 I honestly don't see there being a compelling case for it. Once they can do it relatively cheaply it will be on the cards. 

I'm not all that familiar with cdma, but isn't a single carrier about 1.5 MHz? Keeping a single cdma carrier for servicing all those budget phones isn't a huge spectrum cost. At some point the scales will tip, but I think we are talking closer to a decade than 3 years but there are far more informed folks than me around to give you a better idea :)

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OK, thanks for the answers, that makes lots of sense! Seeing that LTE is just starting out for sprint, I could guess it would take a while. I guess that answers what I was wondering, namelay, whether a move off CDMA would ever be considered in the future (since Sprint's been CDMA for a long time (>10 years, I think).

 

Sprint seems to still be a major Qualcomm consumer (for example, Direct Connect is based off Qualcomm's QChat), but Qualcomm itself seems to be moving to LTE (and away from legacy CDMA too).

 

So, I suppose it is likely that by the time 5G would roll around, we would have full LTE.

 

Even with all the bands, I think having everyone on one tech will be a good thing! :-)

Edited by hhm0
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I think sprint will have 1x on 800 for the next 20+ years. Why (can they even) refarm that 1.25 X 1.25 for LTE? Just keep it up to support older devices, and the coverage boost on CDMA compared to LTE is nothing to shrug off.

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What would the propagation characteristics be compared to say a 5x5 FDD LTE channel and current CDMA channel?

I'm pretty sure channel size doesn't effect propagation on LTE. However CDMA will certainly be more usable at a further distance.

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They will eventually move away, it'll just be a looooong time. Think 2025 or so. They just don't have a need to. CDMA is just a good solid voice fallback even when they go VoLTE for all the old handsets. It will be a couple years before VoLTE is even a thing on Sprint and then they can begin to plan the shutdown. Which will not have a lot of urgency as 1xAdvanxef is so spectrally efficient it costs next to nothing in terms of spectrum to maintain.

 

EV-DO on the other hand...

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In addition to the MVNOs, there are a lot of M2M / telemetry devices in the field that would need to be redeployed if / when Sprint moves away from CDMA. Those devices are a major PITA to replace, becuase they're installed in some other peice of equipment, so the customer has to send a technician out to wherever the device happens to be installed (which is often somewhere completely inconvenient, like an oil field out in the middle of Texas) to pull the modem and replace it. I think we'll at least see 1x advanced on 1900 and 800 for quite some time.

 

 

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I think Sprint will keep 1x Advanced deployed for a while. It is very efficient with Spectrum for wide voice coverage. LTE is needed to insane data capacity. Just look at Qualcomm's prediction of 1000x data use increase: http://www.qualcomm.com/solutions/wireless-networks/technologies/1000x-data

 

Qualcomm still seems to have confidence in their 1x and EV-DO technologies. They have it listed along with the GSM techs in their overview pages (which are very neat to read through, BTW) http://www.qualcomm.com/solutions/wireless-networks/technologies/carrier-aggregation It's also included in their roadmap: http://www.qualcomm.com/solutions/wireless-networks/technologies/3g-4g-roadmap

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