motoq The purpose of this post is to present a simple explanation about CDMA for ordinary consumers. The post will touch upon CDMA flavors (CDMA2000, W-CDMA), explain 3G technologies for mobile phones, and CDMA-based fixed or mobile Internet and phone service using wireless local loop.

For users and consumers the important thing is that CDMA is the prevailing mobile communication technology of the next generation: it enables 3G (short for third-generation technology, for mobile phones) and wireless internet access at high speeds. CDMA and 3G allow you to check your email from a smart phone, browse the web on the go on your laptop, send multimedia messages or watch streaming videos on your mobile.

At the risk of over-simplification, here’s a brief overview of CDMA flavors:

W-CDMA is the 3G technology (mobile phone protocol) for GSM mobile phone (wireless) networks, as in Pakistan and Europe. It is also referred to as 3GSM (3G and GSM). Wireless Intelligence reports that there are 83 million W-CDMA customers in 49 countries.

CDMA2000 is a whole family the 3G telecommunications standards for non-GSM networks, such as most of the mobile phone companies in US and some companies in Japan and South Korea. There are about 275 million users of CDMA2000 in 75 countries (estimated by CDMA Development Group). As explained below Pakistan is using CDMA2000 for Wireless phone and Internet.

The key point:

W-CDMA and CDMA2000 are competing standards and are incompatible!

And if that was not enough China has its own 3G standard, TD-SCDMA! Below is a view of CDMA subscribers over the years.

cdma subscribers

Above I have described CDMA for mobile telecommunication. CDMA is enabler of Wireless Local Loop (WLL) as well. That is, the use of a wireless communications link as the “last mile / first mile” connection for delivering plain old telephone service and broadband Internet to telecommunications customers. WLL can be fixed or mobile (with limitations). A number of Pakistani companies (listed as “operators” here) are providing wireless phone and Internet service using CDMA2000 technology. The state-of-the-art CDMA2000 1xEV-DO is provides a peak data rate of 2.4 Mbps.

There is a wealth of information about CDMA in Pakistan at PakCDMA Website.

As a disclaimer I admit there are lots of technical details which I’ve chosen to ignore here for the purpose of keeping this post simple. For those who would like to dig deeper, I’d suggest these Wikipedia resources: