Tuesday 24 September 2013

Is CDMA a Dying Breed?

There are reports that Telus is considering decommissioning their CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network within the next two years.  Telus, Bell and Tbaytel currently operate or share CDMA networks in the Algoma District although any new Bell sites constructed since the activation of the Desbarats site in Dec 2010 have not included CDMA capabilities.

The reasons espoused include a diminishing customer base as users switch to smartphones and data,  lack of new handsets with improved capabilities and the chance to reuse the freed up spectrum for HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) expansion

Bell and Telus jointly built and converted their primary networks to HSPA in time for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and subsequently have been rolling out LTE upgrades. 

In general terms, the new sophisticated smartphones are not amenable to CDMA although there are smartphone model available that will operate in both CDMA and HSPA modes. They are just not available in Canada at this time.

This is one of the features that Verizon would have brought to Canada as they still operate the biggest CDMA network in North America and have CDMA/HSPA/LTE tri-mode phones – for a price. Verizon has indicated they will operate their CDMA network until at least 2021 but like everything in the mobile phone business it is likely subject to change on short notice.

CDMA is often the technology of choice for users who want just voice and limited texting capable in their phones.  Various reports indicate there are about 1Million plus users of CDMA phones in Canada. Many experts consider CDMA the Sony Beta of the industry in that the better technology but lost out in the end.

The carriers need to be careful if they do not want to anger their customer base as they did with their last major network decommissioning when they shut down the analogue networks. At least one western regional carrier is getting their customers ready for an adjustment by offering free exchange of CDMA phones for HSPA to LTE phones. 

Potential Participants in Canadian 700 MHz Spectrum Auction

This is the complete list as published by Industry Canada of the applicants for participation in the 700 MHz spectrum auction to be held in early 2014. The list includes all the major national carriers as well as the principal regional carriers which in the case of the Algoma District include Bell, Rogers and Telus and the regional carrier Tbaytel.
  • ·       1770129 Alberta Inc.
  • ·         Bell Mobility Inc.
  • ·         BH Wave Acquisition Corporation
  • ·         Bragg Communications Incorporated
  • ·         Feenix Wireless Inc.
  • ·         Globalive Wireless Management Corp.
  • ·         MTS Inc.
  • ·         Novus Wireless Inc.
  • ·         Rogers Communications Partnership
  • ·         Saskatchewan Telecommunications
  • ·         TBayTel
  • ·         TELUS Communications Company
  • ·         The Catalyst Capital Group Inc.
  • ·         Vecima Networks Inc.
  • ·         Vidéotron s.e.n.c.

If one connects to this Industry Canada page it has more information about each vendor including a link to the details of the beneficial ownership of each applicant.

The list also includes a number of lesser know vendors that may be interested in very specific regions or perhaps the unpaired spectrum which will be very good for fixed wireless broadband applications. See this blog entry for details of the blocks and the regions covered.

After many weeks and days of speculation, no foreign carriers submitted applications although a couple of foreign companies show up in the beneficial ownership listings.  Also missing were the two carriers formed as a result of the last auction in 2008, namely Mobilicity and Public Mobile. However, Mr. John Bitove who is President and CEO of Mobilicity is listed as a principal of Feenix Wireless Inc. Also The Catalyst Capital Group Inc is financially connected to Mobility

To get on the list, a company had to make a refundable pre-auction deposit of 5% based on projected costs of the spectrum as produced by the government. The next step in the process is scheduled for 22 Oct 2013 when Industry Canada publishes the final list of qualified bidders. The bidders then have until 29 Oct 2013 to submit the remaining 95% of the necessary pre-auction deposits.