Verizon Wireless recently announced it will purchase $5 billion worth of wireless equipment from manufacturer Lucent Technologies. The hardware uses a standard known as CDMA2000 to offer customers the high-speed, always-connected cell phones associated with "3G," or third generation.
But Vodafone's own network uses another standard, UMTS, that is based on GSM--the lingua franca for wireless communications throughout Europe. Vodafone is apparently concerned about the Verizon choice. Different network standards would make it impossible for someone in America to access Vodafone's European network, and vice versa.
"The different standard is valid," a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman said. "But the fact that it puts us in a path we can't veer off is not true."
Verizon said it would likely offer the technology associated with CDMA2000 in the next three to four years as it beefs up the network to offer the 3G services such as fast connections and streaming video to handhelds.
The supposed infighting dramatizes a bigger battle over standards throughout the world as cell phones and cell phone services get more advanced. European countries and carriers are, in general, using a standard known as GSM. Because they have largely agreed on a technology, European carriers have been able to introduce advanced cell phone service throughout the continent.
Carriers in the United States, on the other hand, are using a smattering of standards. It's among the reasons analysts believe the United States has lagged behind Europe in terms of third-generation phone plans. This has led to the perception among some in the industry that European carriers have more know-how, and therefore can tell their American partners what to do.
Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications and Vodafone. Verizon Communications controls Verizon Wireless. Vodafone owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless.
On Wednesday, representatives of both companies said there is no rift.
Verizon spokeswoman Andrea Linskey called the new reports "an exaggeration, if not a fabrication" of the facts.
A Vodafone spokeswoman reached in the company's London office also denied there were any disagreements between the two.
Linskey said that some of the blame for the supposedly erroneous reports lies in the complex nature of how telephone carriers are moving to a third generation of Internet-connected phones.
To do so, companies are choosing different standards. But, Linskey said, despite the common perception, choosing a certain path doesn't preclude companies from changing to different standards. Verizon expects to make those crucial decisions in the next three to four years as its network is being built out.