Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group aim to develop a common technology for their future mobile networks that would allow their cell phone users to roam on each others’ services.
But the endeavor will likely take years to complete, said the heads of Vodafone and Verizon Communications, which jointly own the second-largest U.S. mobile service provider Verizon Wireless.
“It might be the year 2015 or so before complete integration occurs but are we headed toward the same platform? Yes, we are,” Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin told a Goldman Sachs investor conference on Wednesday.
Sarin noted that both companies were part of a working group developing a technology know as Long Term Evolution (LTE) — expected to be the basis for a future version of HSDPA, the high-speed wireless technology Vodafone currently uses.
“It makes complete sense for us to go from HSDPA to LTE and it makes sense for Verizon to go from EV-DO to LTE,” said Sarin, estimating that it would likely be 2010 or 2011 before it would be possible to start using LTE.
Verizon Wireless uses the EV-DO mobile standard, which is incompatible with HSDPA for most users, unless they have a handset specially designed to support both technologies.
This means most Verizon customers have to use a separate phone or a competing network when they travel in Vodafone territories. Similarly Vodafone customers traveling in the United States must roam on rival services.
The two companies are now working on future generations of wireless technologies with an aim to eventually upgrade to the same wireless standard.
At the Goldman conference, Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg confirmed Verizon Wireless was working toward a common platform with Vodafone, saying they could “stimulate extensive growth by having a common platform.”
But he did not say which technology Verizon Wireless would chose for future networks. “This LTE thing plays out probably over five to six years,” said Seidenberg.
Seidenberg also said Verizon Wireless and Vodafone were working together on tests of WiMax, another emerging technology from which No. 3 U.S. mobile service provider Sprint Nextel plans to build services starting this year.
Verizon Communications is the majority owner of Verizon Wireless with a 55 percent stake. Verizon has long said it would be willing to buy Vodafone’s 45 percent stake, but the British company has not been in a hurry to sell out.
Asked about the future of the relationship, Seidenberg said that he had met with Sarin for a few hours on Tuesday and all they had talked about was “how to grow the business.”
“We’ve very good operating relationships with (Vodafone) right now,” he said, but added, “Long term is a long time so we’ll see how things evolve.”
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