"Verizon Wireless, the largest wireless company in the United States, is considering changing to a different phone network technology, and its decision could help declare a winner in the global standards war.
"Verizon, which has more than 27 million subscribers, has spent about $5 billion building a wireless phone network that uses CDMA (code division multiple access) technology, developed by wireless technology giant Qualcomm.
"But a Verizon spokeswoman said that when the company upgrades to so-called third-generation (3G) technology sometime in 2004, it could switch to network equipment based on a rival technology known as wCDMA.
"Although the abbreviation implies that the technology is a successor to CDMA, the new standard is an upgrade to the current GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology that is popular with wireless operators in Europe and Asia.
"Operators using 3G versions of GSM and CDMA will be able to offer the same types of new services, such as high-speed, always-on Internet access. The two standards do have subtle differences, though, including operating on different radio frequencies.
"Some analysts said the potential switch by Verizon could solidify GSM and its next generation of standards as the dominant high-speed phone network in the world.
"If Verizon were really to deploy (the different technology) and begin phasing out the current network, then certainly it would not just shift the balance of power, but signal that wCDMA is really the winner," said Ira Brodsky, president of Datacomm Research, a St. Louis, Mo.-based market analyst firm.