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Verizon Wireless and CDMA deficiencies VZW the wrong choice?

by andylofgren / June 13, 2011 12:29 PM PDT

Perhaps I may offer a little commentary relating to Verizon Wireless, a company for which I served as a customer service representative from the fall of 2004 to March of 2006:


With Verizon Wireless you unfortunately may be, to some extent in "cell phone jail." Until a couple years ago or so (in response to a lawsuit,) all Verizon Wireless cell phones were permanently locked to the carrier, with no internal policy in place to provide for the contrary. Verizon Wireless subscribers unfortunately have far fewer phones to choose from, than subscribers of the GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. In addition the Verizon Wireless billing system is programmed to (by default) automatically restrict activation of any device that is not on their approved device list. As of the last time I was able to see this approved device list (some time in early 2008,) only about 250 or so devices were allowed.

I was working there in the summer of 2005 when suddenly this restriction was implemented, and customers unfortunately were no longer able to use devices they had purchased maybe as recently as one year before. The most common such occurrence where this was encountered was the situation where a customer had lost their new phone, and wanted to activate their previous phone. It was my job to inform the customer that unfortunately their previous phone was not allowed anymore, and therefore purchase of a new phone, usually to involve a contract extension or the payment of full price, was therefore required. Verizon Wireless did this under the false guise that this restriction was necessary to ensure compliance with an FCC mandate. The mandate however, according to Verizon Wireless' own website directed only that phones manufactured and sold by the carrier after a specific date needed to be compliant with the new 911 location information system. The VZW website even informed of the specific exemption the FCC provided in regard to this requirement for customer provided equipment (CPE.) Verizon Wireless apparently did not wish however, to extend this exemption provided by the FCC to the consumer as intended; rather, Verizon Wireless felt it very convenient to pretend that the exemption did not exist, at least on the part of the company's customer service representatives, the majority of which would falsely inform such customers that their phone was no longer allowed by the FCC.

A different standard however, applied to government and large corporate accounts (often of 1000 lines or more) which could have been lost by the company to a competitor had the wrong person had a bad experience: these customers were exempted from the restriction entirely.

For all others it is my understanding that VZW may have since adopted an open network initiative of some kind, with a process to allow the loading of an MEID (the electronic serial number by which a device is activated) into what they call their DMD (Device Management Database,) thereby allowing its activation. This process was intended to allow the activation of non-carrier branded devices which otherwise would be restricted by default according to their new policy. Unfortunately however only devices deemed to be compliant with the 911 system used by the carrier are permitted through this process. I can say that before leaving in 2006 I likely was one of the few agents at my call center that was even aware of this request process, meaning that it is most probable that a customer wishing to activate such a device would have been given the wrong answer when calling in, and been falsely told that their phone was "not network compliant," simply because the servicing CSR noticed an error message appear on the screen after entering the MEID provided by the customer, something which generally did not happen before the summer of 2005.

Perhaps I should note that it was brought to my attention that an FCC mandate at this time supposedly directed that 95% of devices in use on the network by a specified time be compatible with the 911 system. In regard to this, I have the following commentary to offer: "This provision was very clearly in conflict with the perhaps more important direction provided by means of the mandate's specific exemption for "Customer Provided Equipment (CPE)," which, as a result of the draconian measures conveniently implemented by VZW, applicable phone users did not receive (this exemption to which they were entitled) to any extent at all. This presents some important questions: 1) Did Verizon Wireless make any effort to rectify the conflicting provisions of the mandate in a manner that protected the interests of its subscriber base? 2) Did Verizon Wireless bother to ask for an extension of the imposed timeline, or look into any alternative means of complying with the mandate? If so, VZW made no effort to console those who stood to be negatively impacted by providing them with this information. I was in the company's customer service department at the time, and it was as though VZW had flipped the switch with virtually no concern whatsoever. What we do know is that many actually were impacted quite negatively by this abusive policy of suddenly deciding that numerous phone models no longer deserved to be allowed. As Verizon Wireless stood to gain financially from the implementation of this policy, it apparently made a decision to pursue its own (possibly selfish) interests rather than protecting those of its most valuable asset, its customer base. I think I should also note that no such deficiency was encountered by the subscribers of GSM carriers at this time, who apparently found a solution to complying with the mandate that did not necessitate the bullying tactic of permanently disallowing numerous phone models and necessitating many subscribers to purchase new phones at their own personal expense. To this day, no similar artificial restriction prevents GSM subscribers from using the device of their choice, no matter how old."


GSM (Global System for Mobile) is the wireless standard used by most of the rest of the world, outside of North America. With GSM you have a SIM card (subscriber identity module) which you can place in any of likely more than 10,000 different models available worldwide, which can be used in conjunction with your same US carrier overseas provided you have requested that international roaming be allowed. VZW's solution to this matter is to extend to you an expensive GSM rental phone option, as your current VZW device is unfortunately not compatible in most areas overseas.

GSM is the most widely used wireless standard in the world. If I am not mistaken, it is a superior system which provides for maximum efficiency, compatibility, clarity and consumer ease of use. Verizon Wireless uses the inferior primitive CDMA format, and likely will be stuck with this format for some time as the cost of upgrading to the superior system would be too cost prohibitive for them.

In making this claim relating to the inferiority of the CDMA system I think it would be suitable that I offer at least some supporting factual information that relates specifically to downsides that are likely to be quite apparent at the most basic user level. These user apparent differences between the two formats are in addition to the behavior that the company (VZW) has demonstrated with its preference to take advantage of certain aspects of the CDMA format in a non-user friendly way so as to limit consumer choice and freedom to an extent beyond that of any of the GSM carriers with which I am aware. Some of these CDMA downsides are as follows:

1) Handset programming is not automatic; VZW users must dial *228 upon the completion of a phone number change or to provide for the initial handset programming upon their receipt of a new device before this device will be able to place calls. In areas of the VZW network that are considered part of Verizon Wireless' so called "extended network" (areas of the network to which VZW subscribers have access but which are not owned by VZW directly,) the *228 function does not work which necessitates manual programming in cases of new activations. In comparison with GSM, no such manual programming is ever necessary simply for the user to place calls, as all necessary, applicable network compatibility information is communicated from the network and established within the handset upon initially powering on the phone after having inserted an activated SIM. With GSM no periodical, continued action on the part of the user is necessary to maintain the updated status of this network compatibility information stored in the phone; this however, is not so with Verizon Wireless' CDMA, where users must periodically update the handset's PRL (Preferred Roaming List) by dialing *228 because the phone and the network will not otherwise work together to keep this information updated. I should note that this preceding information was accurate as of the time I left VZW back in 2006, and I am not aware of the extent of any subsequent improvements.
2) The fact that CDMA (at least currently) does not (and has not) allowed the use of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards (which I understand, GSM has since its conception back in 1991) means carriers that use this format such as Verizon Wireless have the convenient ability to decide that some phones no longer deserve to be allowed, as it did back in 2005 as I describe earlier in my commentary. Specifically, with GSM a user can decide what phone they want to use simply by placing their SIM in any otherwise compatible device and powering it on. With Verizon Wireless, the activation process is a little less simple: the user either has to call them (or visit their website) and provide their ESN or MEID (electronic serial number) to the carrier in order to have their device activated. This allows the carrier the convenient opportunity to turn down (or disallow) some ESN numbers as opposed to others, which is an opportunity that GSM carriers do not have. Note that Verizon Wireless has taken full advantage of this convenience afforded them by their use of the CDMA format since 2005 to deliberately and unnecessarily restrict consumer freedom. By contrast, GSM carriers could attempt such tyranny only by deciding to disallow network access on the basis of the phone IMEI which is a value broadcast to the network from the handset. This would be somewhat less straightforward, and, on some devices this value can actually be changed by the user depending on the availability of capable software. As of this time I am not aware of any examples where a GSM network has decided to deny GSM access (the ability to place or receive calls) on the basis of a phone's IMEI value. I am aware however, that one or more GSM carriers (to include T-Mobile) have decided to use the IMEI value of a device to decide what data plan the device should be allowed to access data on the network in accordance with; in other words, there are examples in GSM where a carrier uses an IMEI value to place a subscriber in different data pricing brackets (to include in some cases denying data access in the case of an attempt to access data in connection with a data feature intended for a different [presumably more low level] handset which may not provide for the same browsing experience as one that could be considered more high end.) It is important to note however, that although GSM carriers may employ a like mechanism to enforce data pricing brackets, I am not aware of any cases where a GSM carrier has denied the ability of a phone to place a call or to use data for that matter provided that the full rate data plan has been selected.

Although CDMA is actually a newer format than GSM, having initially been established in 1995 (GSM in 1991,) as of the time I left my customer service role with Verizon Wireless back in 2006 (ten or so years after CDMA's initial development) these deficiencies as compared to the GSM system still had not been ironed out. I am not aware that any such deficiencies had ever been encountered by the GSM system. Although the significance and extent of the deficiencies of the CDMA format in comparison to GSM are likely to decline some and become less noticeable to consumers over time, what will inevitably remain for some time to come is the restrictiveness associated with the CDMA format, both those aspects resulting from limitations of the technology or the prevalence of its use (as in the case of the number of phones available,) and those imposed intentionally by the carrier on its subscribers, much of which is made possible to a greater extent (or is at least facilitated by,) the carrier's use of the CDMA format as opposed to GSM.


Another not so attractive matter related to Verizon Wireless is the fact that Verizon Wireless was the nation's only wireless carrier that believed you did not deserve to have the right as a consumer to keep your phone number when changing service providers, a consumer friendly government mandate known as LNP (Local Number Portability.) Verizon Wireless decided to petition the FCC and pursue legal action in an attempt to be granted "permanent forbearance" from this requirement. No other company did this. Fortunately however, Verizon Wireless was not successful with this pursuit.

Conclusion:
My Verizon Wireless commentary is concluded below, in my subsequent post.

Note: This post was edited by a forum moderator to edit OP's post as directed on 03/21/2012 at 1:27 PM PT

Note: This post was edited by a forum moderator to edit OP's post as directed on 06/11/2012 at 12:55 PM PT

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late to the party, eh?
by Pepe7 / June 14, 2011 5:57 AM PDT

Most of what you posted has been covered in great detail, especially over at howardforums if you want to go take a peek. Some it has been discussed here as well.

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yes, perhaps a little late...
by andylofgren / June 14, 2011 2:11 PM PDT
In reply to: late to the party, eh?

Surely, it would have been more optimal had I conceived this commentary at an earlier time, for much of it does relate specifically to things that happened at an earlier time. It does however, still have relevance today. This is a personalized version of my commentary, which details some of my individual experiences; I am not aware of the extent to which such has been detailed by others previously, as I generally am not very active in forums.

I myself am one who values greatly consumer freedom of choice, and I do not look favorably upon unnecessary restrictions. With this said, I offer the following additional commentary; I should note that the forms of reasoning I present are intended to be applicable for consideration by those who do not otherwise have a specific factor that otherwise determines their choice of wireless carrier, something which I should acknowledge does exclude a percentage of potential customers. In addition I should acknowledge that there no doubt are other factors as well that vary in their degree of applicability depending on the specifics associated with any one case scenario.

The relevant question perhaps may be, do you, or do you not, value greater optimization (in the form of additional freedom) when such is available to you without additional expense? For many the answer is not all that much, until they encounter a problem that directly impacts them; it may only be in this case that such applicable optimization may become of any concern to them, at which point the now necessary solution necessitated by their earlier choice is now more costly. Others however (such as myself,) prefer a different approach: rather than beginning with a less optimized scenario (in the event an alternative is available,) why not begin with a more optimized scenario provided such is available at no additional cost? We cannot always predict with certainty what the future may hold for us, or how our needs may change.

You are correct in your suggestion that many, and perhaps even most, likely will not find the deficiencies that I have identified in my commentary to be of much significance; for again, what is the significance of a limitation to one for whom the limitation is not currently impacting and who is not otherwise concerned? In this case only the future will hold the answer. While many may continue on in their ways without disturbance, a percentage of those who chose not to begin with the more optimized scenario (as opposed to the less optimized) will encounter a disturbance of some kind that could otherwise have been avoided.

In science, when a theory is conceived an effort is usually made to make it as wide reaching as possible in terms of its applicability factor; for, the more wider reaching it is, the greater the number of possible scenarios to which it may be applied. It was as so that the theory of Special Relativity was expanded upon to form the theory of General Relativity. In a similar nature so too, is it possible that an average person can find benefit from a scenario which offers them broader applicability and which therefore has a greater potential to have the capability to provide for the fulfillment of their needs in whatever way they may occur, within the widest possible context. As such, the more optimized scenario is therefore better positioned to accommodate any potential need that may arise.

This concept can be likened in a way to a choice between Microsoft Office Basic or the full version of Microsoft Office, presuming they were to be offered to you at the same price; this comparison is not significantly unlike the choice the average consumer has between the two major US wireless carriers, that is, if consumer freedom is a concern. Although you may never see yourself using some of the other applications such as PowerPoint, why not broaden your possibilities if the option is available at no additional cost?

Many potential wireless customers, when selecting a wireless provider have a choice that may be somewhat similar in nature: they can choose a provider that offers for their use the most widely used wireless standard in the world, thereby enabling their selection of any one of the many thousands (if not tens of thousands?) of possible phone models as well as the benefits of seamless international roaming, or they can choose the carrier who employs the other format (with far fewer phone options to begin with) who has also demonstrated a consistent history of intentionally further limiting consumer choice and freedom, an example being that only 250 devices were allowed by default as of 2008 with VZW.

All other factors being equal (as they are for many consumers who don't have specific needs that otherwise dictate this decision,) which logically seems to be the better option?

Note: This post was edited by a forum moderator to fix OP's post on 03/21/2012 at 1:31 PM PT

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And your point is????
by Pepe7 / June 14, 2011 2:27 PM PDT

All that massive diatribe, and you fail to get to any particularly concise or useful point. Pity. Check your formatting too- it's really tough to read.

Let's step back into the real world for a moment. Some folks prefer CDMA and others prefer GSM. In this sense, it's a win-win since you could go either way and do quite well depending on your needs. Also keep in mind that millions of ATT & Verizon customers, although using different technologies, only require voice service and use none of the additional bells and whistles. I'm quite certain there are happy customers of both carriers who could care less what LTE is as long as their service continues to work as it does now.

Heck, you could even stick with a landline if you wanted to. In some parts of the world on the other hand, you couldn't realistically even do that since it is cost prohibitive to install the service, sometimes amounting to several thousand U.S. dollars (half a year's wages).

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Note:

The preceding commentary on this page relates to the 2005 Verizon Wireless phone upgrade scam.

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