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When Verizon Kills CDMA, That Won’t Mean Open Season for Unlocked Phones on Their Network

verizon cdma lte unlocked

The end of Verizon’s CDMA network is something that unlocked phone enthusiasts have dreamed about for years. We have all tried to envision a world where Verizon’s lengthy and expensive CDMA testing would no longer be a requirement for phone makers and all of the phones that didn’t previously support that portion of Big Red’s network would soon just work without interference, assuming they were able to attach to Verizon’s LTE network. I hate to drop in on this Wednesday and crush your dreams, but Verizon supposedly has other plans for us.

According to PCMag who attended a roundtable at Verizon’s New Jersey HQ, come 2020 when Verizon shuts down their old 3G network, they aren’t about to let us all hangout on their network with whichever unlocked phone we happen to be interested in at the moment. Verizon still plans try and stop unapproved phones that haven’t been tested or certified for its network.

Verizon says that in order to pass its network-compatibility testing, phones have to pass a 3-4 week process that involves “friendly users” in the real world, labs, drivers, and global roaming tests. Once a phone finishes that process, a Verizon SIM will supposedly then work or at least allow the phone to activate.

Verizon told attendees at this meeting that the 3G CDMA network actually hasn’t been a hurdle in recent years for phone makers as they have transitioned to a mostly LTE experience. In other words, they are still putting phone makers through the extensive testing I just described for LTE devices as they prepare for CDMA death in 2020.

So wait, can Verizon actually stop you from slapping an unlocked phone on their network? If history provides us with anything, that depends. For one, I don’t know that I fully believe that Verizon is going to stop unlocked phones from working as they transition to an LTE-only experience. I say that because phones like the Essential Phone went weeks without receiving Verizon certification, yet you could slap in an active Verizon SIM and get service out of the box from day 1. I know because I tried it. The same thing happened with the Nexus 5X and 6P and Nexus 7 LTE and others. There may also be some Block C rules in there that Verizon has to follow when it comes to being open to accepting all phones.

What Verizon will do is make it difficult or impossible to walk into a store with an unlocked phone that hasn’t been certified and get it activated on a fresh SIM. This is how they have operated for years. The trick here is to have an active SIM, which I know, isn’t a situation that everyone is in.

In the end, just because CDMA is going away in the Verizon world, don’t expect it to be open season for your unlocked obsession.

// PCMag

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