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Bell Mobility Timetable for CDMA Shutdown

When networks first had to choose which direction to take when they moved on from analog service to the new second generation digital services, some in North America chose Qualcomm’s CDMA solution, while others went with the European GSM solution. Here in Canada Telus Mobility in the west and Bell Mobility in the east decided to take the CDMA route, while competitor Rogers went with GSM. Back then there was no clear vision as to which technology would eventually triumph.

Most new entrants into the Canadian market over the last few years have either chosen HSPA, with the exception of Public Mobile. However, they are a very small network and have been consumed by Telus Mobility anyway.

Both Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility realized the failing fortunes of CDMA over 4 years ago and began work on a shared GSM network. However, they chose to skip the 2G implementation that everyone generically refers to as GSM and they went directly to the HSPA. That meant they ran two parallel networks, which was of course a financial burden.

Now that virtually every single provider on earth has chosen to go the route of LTE (which is a GSM technology), CDMA is being phased out. When LTE was introduced, both Bell and Telus also adopted it and are still in the process of expanding its coverage within Canada.

Bell has made a timetable for the shutdown of their CDMA networks and it’s probably much sooner than many people might have thought. After all, analog survived for a very long period of time after being supplanted by better 2G technologies.

Telus has already shutdown EVDO service in Western Canada (as of March 31st of this year), which means anyone using older...



CDMA devices will no longer get very fast data rates, as they’ll have to rely on sluggish 1X performance. Bell Mobility plans to operate EVDO for a little longer, extending it to December 31st, 2014 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and then on July 1, 2015 in the remainder of Eastern Canada.

Next will see the shutdown of 1X in most of Canada, with a few odd exceptions. They will include Fort Nelson in British Columbia, the province of Alberta, the areas surrounding Quebec City, and along the Gaspe Peninsula. By Jan 1st, 2017 there will no longer be CDMA coverage anywhere in Canada (including 911 connections). That date is approaching fast, because it’s a little over 2 and a half years away.

For Canadians, this means that those who are hanging on to old CDMA phones will be forced to upgrade to a newer HSPA/LTE model in that period, but a bigger concern might be for Americans visiting Canada with older Verizon phones. At this time I was unable to determine any solid plans by Verizon to shutdown their CDMA network. If it lasts beyond Jan 1st, 2017, then no Verizon users with CDMA-only devices will be able to roam in Canada, as there will be no network up here for them to roam on.

While there are bound to be a few individuals put out by this, they are clearly in the minority and will likely be wooed into buying a new phone ahead of the shutdown via special deals. While not exclusively, this will likely encompass elderly users who only use the phone for emergencies anyway. The rapid advancement of cellular technology virtually assured this day was coming much quicker than most people imaged.

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