Joe Lawrence, VP of marketing for the CDG, has taken a robust stance toward the future of CDMA, highlighting new opportunities for the technology such as the rollout of CDMA450 to exploit an otherwise underutilised spectrum band.

Speaking in a CDG presentation in Poland this week, he said that 2011 saw the launch of “over a dozen” new CDMA networks, the majority of which are using 450MHz spectrum. New markets coming online in 2012 include Eastern European countries such as Georgia and Serbia.

“I think [CDMA] will always continue to be a very significant force in the industry. We have 331 networks, in 121 countries. That’s a sizable business,” the executive said.

“We are in a multi-technology environment, and there’s no way around it – we will always be in a multi technology environment,” he continued. Lawrence argued that the competition between CDMA and the more widely-deployed GSM-family technology has been good for the industry as a whole.

He said: “I think that the dynamics between GSM and CDMA have not only been very good for our industry, but for consumers. Because it has forced new innovation, lower price points, and better technology. I don’t believe that we would have seen the mass proliferation of HSPA+ if it had not been for the introduction of [CDMA] EVDO.”

“EVDO was the very first broadband wireless technology that delivered a performance and economic offer that made it very attractive. And as soon as that happened, we saw HSPA come,” he continued.

While CDMA was unable to gain a foothold in the European market for 2G and 3G mobile voice and data services, it is proving popular with operators who have 450MHz allocations – primarily those who had been using this for NMT analogue services. With WCDMA not supporting this band, and LTE still not having been standardised at 450MHz, this has created a window of opportunity for CDMA.

While the technology is proving popular in markets where NMT was deployed – for example in Eastern Europe and Nordic territories – it has not found a foothold in markets such as Western Europe or the US, where either the spectrum has not been allocated or where frequencies are already in use for other purposes.

“We do know that there is interest in making that assignment available in other countries,” Lawrence said. Currently, 116 operators in 61 countries and territories use CDMA at 450MHz.

One of the key advantages of this technology is that it enables a broader geographic coverage with fewer base stations than the alternatives. This means that the capital expenditure for a network build is lower, which in-turn means that operators can generate returns from less lucrative subscribers.

“The operators that offer CDMA450, many of them offer GSM and UMTS and HSPA. And if you were to ask them which of those flavours of technology provide the best profit margin, they may not tell you. But I know that it is CDMA450,” Lawrence observed.

Citing figures from Alcatel-Lucent, he said that a CDMA450 network requires one third the number of base stations to a similar deployment at 850MHz, or one twelfth of the number needed at 2100MHz. “The CDMA450 networks in Africa are profitable on ARPUs of less than US$5. That helps the digital divide,” he noted.