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April 27, 2011

Why did Mary’s AT&T iPhone Ask To Use Verizon?

"My iPhone wants to use Verzion," Mary said. As old telco hands, we both know that is impossible. AT&T uses GSM technology on its network; Verizon Wireless (VZW) uses CDMA. The technologies are incompatible. But she was right. Can you figure out what was going on?

Hint1: We were in the car.

Hint2: I was using my computer.

Hint3: I was checking my email.

Did you figure it out yet?

Answer: In order to get a connection in the car, I had my VZW MiFi hotspot turned on. The device uses the VZW network to get backhaul and provides WiFi service for up to five devices; that's how my computer was able to do email while driving.

Mary's iPhone is configured to use WiFi when available. It saw the MiFi hotspot which is named "Verizon AC30 5D47" (yeah, I never changed the default). Because this was a new network for the iPhone, it had to ask permission to use it. Mary saw her iPhone asking to use Verizon. If she'd given permission, she would have been able to make and receive calls on her AT&T phone on VZW's network. Could be useful if we were in a place where AT&T doesn't have coverage [but would have to use Skype or a similar app – not AT&T's native calling – pointed out by commenter GR on Facebook].

Is it possible that carrier wireless technologies like CDMA, GSM, and now-being-deployed LTE will actually end up being submerged beneath WiFi? Food for thought.

Related posts:

AT&T and Verizon Wireless: Opposite Strategies to Win Landline Business

Verizon Wireless Aims Salvo at Residential Landline Market

AT&T "Freeloading" on ISP Pipes

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