I live in rural Alberta here in Western Canada, and our cellular providers and options are limited.  If you live in a large city, you’ve got a lot more choices.  The biggest choices here in Southern Alberta are Telus and Bell on the CDMA network, while Rogers and Fido live on the GSM network.  Where I live, CDMA technology has by far the widest coverage thanks to Telus, while in the city and along major routes, Rogers has a big following.

The biggest drawback of CDMA-based technology is that the phones are hard-coded to the retailer and are locked up tighter than a politician’s purse.  If you’ve got a Telus phone and want to travel abroad, you have a single Blackberry choice that works on both CDMA and GSM networks.  This phone is very expensive and not practical for many users.  Some people claim that the CDMA (EVDO) network is much slower than the GSM 3G network, and with all the buzz around 3G – every company wants a piece of the pie.

I’ve heard rumors that Telus is getting into the 3G marketplace and this is good news for those of us that would like to have more advanced phones that can’t connect them to a CDMA network.  Recently I noticed that Telus is now claiming to have “Canada’s Largest 3G Network”.

Once I saw this, I wanted to find out more about the 3G network vs. the EVDO network.  Telus already has the infrastructure set up so could this be true?

Here’s the lowdown:

CDMA2000 Network used by Telus. Enhancements to this network protocol are CDMA1xRTT (known as 1x), EV-DO, and EV-DO Rev. A.  CDMA at best is considered a 2.75G network – not 3G.  Also EV-DO is limited to CDMA networks and not GSM networks.

HSDPA (GSM Network 3G resides on) Network used by Rogers.  To get an idea of the HSDPA technology, please check the Wikipedia entry here.  Part of this network technology is EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution), and this is a step up from the standard HSDPA network.

The biggest problem with these networks is that they can actually run over the same frequencies, and modulation, packet information, and actual mechanics separate CDMA (EV-DO) from HSDPA (3G).  We typically assume that any network that claims to have 3G (litterally, 3rd Generation) is a GSM/HSDPA network.  Phones that use the GSM/HSDPA network usually have one or more SIM card slots that allow you to drop in the SIM of your favorite provider and you are up and running.  Telus’ 3G network has nothing to do with this at all however.

I spent quite a bit of time of the phone with Telus and was told that Telus thinks their network is a 3rd Generation network so they want to get on the “3G” bandwagon.  Much like companies jumped on the “XP” bandwagon back in 2003.  The end result is that you can’t get an iPhone 3G on the Telus network, or any other “unlocked” phone from your favorite provider.  Telus is still living on the CDMA bandwagon, and according to their Public Relations department has no intention of going 3G.  When questioned about their claim to be “Canada’s Largest 3G Network”, they responded “We feel that our network is 3G.”  Wow.

I feel that my Explorer should be jacked up and know me by name but it doesn’t.  I feel that I should be able to make money by blogging, but it doesn’t seem to happen.  Telus openly admitted that they don’t have a “3G” network but want the consumers to feel comfortable and not limited on the Telus network.  That’s a great idea – confuse the consumer and make them think they have better service, quality and functionality than they actually are purchasing.  Sounds like they think they have a lot of stupid customers who don’t know any better doesn’t it?

As with everything today, marketing hype is everywhere and cannot be trusted.  Please research every product purchase you make and don’t expect to grab the new Nokia N96 from TigerDirect.ca to activate on Telus.  Both the phone and the provider say they support 3G, but they aren’t compatible.  Don’t confuse 3G with GSM – although it used to mean support for the same network, Teuls has crossed the line into mass confusion.  It’s just that simple, or convoluted – take your pick.