"But they're GSM, so you can't use them on any network you want."
LTE is patented, unless your using the carrier that holds the patent or a sub licensed carrier of the patents involved. you're stuck with what ever a former standard became released from patent or is granted free license to.http://www.withersrogers.com/news/19/113
Expiring GSM patents will spark a fresh wave of innovation in the global mobile phone industry
20th October, 2008
Expiring GSM patents will spark a fresh wave of innovation in the global mobile phone industry,
Tens of thousands of patents filed back in the late 1980s to protect GSM technology used in the first digital mobile phones are now starting to expire, paving the way for a fresh wave of industry competition and innovation, according to Withers & Rogers LLP, a leading UK firm of patent and trade mark attorneys.
GSM technology was originally developed by the leading mobile phone operators and handset manufacturers for use in the first digital mobile phone handsets and networks, supporting voice calls and text messaging. The technology was extensively patented, but these patents have already started to expire and this is likely to spark a fresh wave of global industry competition over the next few years.
Nick Wallin, patent attorney, said:
“These essential GSM patents are held by leading brands like Motorola, Nokia and Eriksson and they have successfully protected this early digital mobile phone technology from competition for the past 20 years.
“As these patents expire, we should expect to see a fresh wave of competition among mobile phone manufacturers around the world as they seek to apply the technologies in their own handsets and infrastructure.
“This increase in competition is likely to drive down prices for GSM mobile phones and network equipment this could have a significant effect on the global mobile phone market.”
While in the UK and most of the developed world, GSM technology has been superceded by 2.5G (better known as GPRS) and 3G, which can support more data services, it remains popular in countries like Africa and India, where there is high demand for low cost telecommunications systems and infrastructure. The arrival of additional competition, bringing lower prices, is likely to drive market demand in these countries and could also create a new market opportunity in the UK.