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No Sprint Or Verizon; Nextbit Fills All GSM Robin Orders But Cancels All CDMA

The trend of unlocked, higher-end but affordable smartphones has been great for the mobile market, and Nexbit’s Robin is one that we’ve been tracking for some time. After the project caught fire on Kickstarter, the company received feedback from users that wanted a CDMA version of the phone so they could take it to Sprint and Verizon.

Nextbit has now canceled those plans. In a sorrowful blog post, CEO Tom Moss described at length (but not in great detail) why the team made the decision. In a nutshell, they thought they could pull off a CDMA version, but after working with the carriers, they realized that it was going to cost too much money and take too long.

"What people at the carriers, in good faith given our need for quick answers, thought would take 'weeks' has turned into 'months.' What they thought would cost 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' has turned into 'millions,'" said Moss in the post.

He also noted that there was no clear end in sight, and rather than delay, delay, delay, Nextbit opted to stop pursuing the CDMA option altogether.

Nextbit is refunding CDMA backers in full, within the next 48 hours. As an olive branch, the company is offering a 25% discount code for each CDMA backer. Obviously, for backers locked into CDMA networks, that’s not especially useful, but you can gift your discount to a friend or family member that can use it on a GSM unit.

It’s good that Nextbit is being candid (and remorseful) rather than stringing backers along or making excuses or throwing the carriers under the bus, but it highlights some of the struggles inherent in startup land and the Kickstarter culture. Nextbit is staffed with mobile industry veterans and was well-funded, but it still couldn’t get over that particular hump.

However, the good news is that after a few delays, all GSM Robin orders have now shipped, according to Moss.

Seth Colaner is the News Director for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter @SethColaner. Follow us on Facebook, Google+, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

  • Emanuel Elmo
    good... maybe now people will get even more angry with Verizon and sprint and jump to GSM network.

    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....
    Reply
  • zanny
    Absolutely. The USA is backwards in few things. Healthcare, measurement units, and CDMA. The rest of the world has adopted ETSI standards rather than some proprietary <mod edit>. If AT&T was not the absolute worst company in the world (tied with Verizon, Comcast, Disney, Haliburton... and others) they would be a much better choice because they use the international standard networking tech rather than ancient crap.

    <Let's watch the language in these forums>
    Reply
  • silbaco
    good... maybe now people will get even more angry with Verizon and sprint and jump to GSM network.

    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....

    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....
    Agreed. This isn't about the technology, but about how Verizon (and Sprint to a lesser extent) use it. You can't just stick a phone on a CDMA network without the carrier explicitly allowing it. They make it extremely difficult to get any outside phones on their network, even if they are CDMA-capable and support all the right bands. If you try to force the issue they can delay and stall you almost indefinitely and at great financial cost. That's why MS opted not to enable the CDMA bits in the 950 series. Now it bit Nextbit (pun intended) in the rear quarters too!
    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.
    This is the other side of the coin. You're right, it makes no sense to shut down the CDMA network at this time. I am hoping that within the next couple of years they'll go all-LTE nationwide (including voice services) and send free phones (dumbphones and featurephones) to users who refuse to upgrade to a VoLTE capable device.

    Then we can start bringing more outside phones onto Verizon's network (I hope) and put this demon to rest. :)

    Other than the aforementioned issues, I rather like Verizon's network. In my area it has been extremely solid and fast. Also my company uses them so I get a discount.
    Reply
  • Solandri
    17683880 said:
    Absolutely. The USA is backwards in few things. Healthcare, measurement units, and CDMA. The rest of the world has adopted ETSI standards rather than some proprietary <mod edit>. If AT&T was not the absolute worst company in the world (tied with Verizon, Comcast, Disney, Haliburton... and others) they would be a much better choice because they use the international standard networking tech rather than ancient crap.
    Um, you know CDMA won the GSM vs CDMA war, right? Most implementations of 3G on GSM use CDMA or wideband CDMA.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G#Break-up_of_3G_systems

    See, GSM originally used TDMA - time division multiple access. Basically each phone communicating with the tower got a timeslice, and the tower cycles through each phone with an active voice or data connection one at a time. The problem is, each phone gets an entire timeslice regardless of whether or not it needed the full timeslice to transmit data, or even if it didn't have any data to transmit. This resulted in a lot of GSM data bandwidth being wasted. If a dozen GSM phones were maintaining a data connection, the most any single phone could ever get was 1/12th the total bandwidth. Even if all 11 other phones weren't transmitting data at that time.

    CDMA (code division multiple access) doesn't dedicate a timeslice or frequency to a single phone. All phones can transmit simultaneously. The tower tells them apart by the orthogonal codes they use. Kinda like writing one message horizontally on a piece of paper, another message vertically. As long as the codes (letters) are distinct (orthogonal), you can tell them apart even though they're overlapping. So data bandwidth on CDMA scales automatically. If only a single phone is transmitting, it can use all the available bandwidth. If a dozen phones are transmitting, each phone sees the transmissions of the other 11 phones as noise, and its bandwidth gets shrunk to 1/12th the total bandwidth due to a lower signal to noise ratio. if one of those phones finishes its data use and stops transmitting, the noise level drops slightly and the remaining phones each automatically get 1/11th the total bandwidth. In CDMA, all the bandwidth is used all the time, and when multiple devices are transmitting the technology by its very nature gives each phone a proportional share of the bandwidth.

    There's no way GSM could compete with that, so they were forced to license CDMA and implement it to stay competitive with CDMA data speeds. They were just too butt-hurt about it to call it CDMA, so instead they named it UMTS or HSPA or HSDPA. That's why GSM phones could talk and use data at the same time - they have a TDMA radio for voice, and a separate CDMA radio for data. The old CDMA phones couldn't do that because they only had a single CDMA radio which could only operate in voice mode or data mode, but not both simultaneously. If you think back to when we transitioned to 3G, CDMA got 3G speeds about a year before GSM networks did. Because GSM had to license CDMA, create new specs, and make new phones with CDMA data radios.

    Most LTE implementations use OFDMA - orthogonal frequency domain multiple access. Like CDMA, it uses orthogonality to use 100% of the available bandwidth. Except instead of using orthogonal codes, it uses orthogonal frequency allocations. It requires more processing power than CDMA, which is why it matured later. The processors needed to decode OFDMA required so much power that until the last few years it would've drained a cell phone battery too quickly. WiMAX used OFDMA, and my old 2010 phone which could go 12+ hours downloading over 3G would die in 4-5 hours on WiMAX.

    If the U.S. hadn't been stubborn about allowing CDMA and had instead forced the adoption of GSM, our phones would probably be stuck at 2G data speeds today. Competition is wonderful for correcting stupid decisions made by bureaucrats who are clueless about the actual technology they're creating standards for (enshrining TDMA as the "global" standard).

    17684246 said:
    Agreed. This isn't about the technology, but about how Verizon (and Sprint to a lesser extent) use it. You can't just stick a phone on a CDMA network without the carrier explicitly allowing it. They make it extremely difficult to get any outside phones on their network, even if they are CDMA-capable and support all the right bands. If you try to force the issue they can delay and stall you almost indefinitely and at great financial cost. That's why MS opted not to enable the CDMA bits in the 950 series.
    Sony doesn't put out CDMA versions of their phones either. One of the nice things about the Nexus phones is that there is no GSM vs CDMA version. They all support both GSM and CDMA. (Some do have an International vs U.S. version, with different LTE frequencies supported to reflect which LTE bands are used most often in each country.)
    17684045 said:
    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.
    See above. OFDMA (LTE) is more efficient than CDMA (allows faster signaling, thus higher speeds). If DSPs were low-power enough back in the 2000s, we probably would've jumped straight to OFDMA instead of CDMA since conceptually and mathematically they function the same way. But DSPs didn't drop in power consumption enough until about 2012-2013 for OFDMA to really be practical with the size battery found in most cell phones.

    Agreed that voice over LTE or voice over the next thing will be the future. Same as how VoIP has gradually been taking over landline phone networks (Vonage, Ooma, Magic Jack, etc).
    Reply
  • Emanuel Elmo
    17684045 said:
    good... maybe now people will get even more angry with Verizon and sprint and jump to GSM network.

    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....

    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.

    You completely missed the whole point of my post. The whole point is the version still makes it really difficult to bring any unlocked phones to there network. While other networks like AT&T and T-Mobile make it super easy.

    Like it said till their shareholders start hurting they will not change at all and this article proves my point.

    Never the less is does not make your more less valid.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    17683880 said:
    Absolutely. The USA is backwards in few things. Healthcare, measurement units, and CDMA. The rest of the world has adopted ETSI standards rather than some proprietary bullshit. If AT&T was not the absolute worst company in the world (tied with Verizon, Comcast, Disney, Haliburton... and others) they would be a much better choice because they use the international standard networking tech rather than ancient crap.

    Off topic, but FYI the old Imperial English measurement units are the global official of aviation, feet instead of meters specifically. You are assigned altitudes to fly anywhere in the world in measurements of feet. The metric system was played with some 40 years ago in the US and it was fully rejected.

    As one who worked in the telecommunications sector for nearly a decade, I can state our cell technology is held back for a variety of reasons. The root cause of this was seeded some 20 years ago: the government deregulated the telecom industry, removing barriers which would allow more carrier competition and choices similar to the airlines. At face value it sounded great. What it did though was the opposite (like a lot of government "good intentions" it came with unforeseen consequences...government knows best, right? WRONG).

    The most obvious of these unintended consequences was a lack of standardization that all carriers could come to the table and agree on. In that 20 years, everyone has had free range, so to speak, to create their own mobile tech and do their own upgrades and paths. And compound this with carriers having to back THROUGH the government (that broke the industry in the first place) when they want to upgrade tech, it takes several years and many billions in cost, so it is more expensive than it otherwise should be with a single standard. This is also why a specific area may have better coverage for one carrier vs. another carrier. Upgraded cell tech is too expensive to do all at once and companies will do it in regions over several years. Guess what? When that final region is complete, out comes a new tech! And the cycle repeats all over again.

    Reply
  • captaincharisma
    LMAO a phone that depended on the cloud that would eat up a data plan in no time. yea that was definitely a good idea.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    One of the nice things about the Nexus phones is that there is no GSM vs CDMA version. They all support both GSM and CDMA. (Some do have an International vs U.S. version, with different LTE frequencies supported to reflect which LTE bands are used most often in each country.)
    That's great. Now take a phone that ISN'T available through Verizon at all. The chipset used in the 950 is the same one used in other CDMA-capable phones that work on Verizon. However MS did not enable it because trying to get Verizon to allow non-Verizon devices on their network is like herding cats... mountain lions, even. You can get the FCC involved and eventually (after like a year or so of costly delays and back and forth) might be able to get your now-outdated-and-unwanted device on VZW... but then you've accomplished nothing AND you've drawn Verizon's ire which will impact your future prospects on Verizon. So again, it's not a technological limitation but this is why Nextbit isn't on Verizon and Sprint, and it's why MS (who has experience dealing with carriers) didn't bother trying to force a non-Verizon-sanctioned device onto Verizon's network.

    For further readings, look at the Nexus 5. It was fully CDMA and Verizon compatible. However it was not allowed on VZW in unlocked form until Verizon started selling the phone 6 months later. Had Verizon and Google never reached an agreement, it would have taken even longer to get it on their network. And that's GOOGLE for pete's sake. Verizon actually needs them. Imagine how bad it would be for companies that VZW doesn't need.

    Speaking of which I really hope HP is able to work something out with Verizon for their Elite X3. I know it's aimed at businesses, but I'd totally buy one.
    Reply
  • NeilBlake
    good... maybe now people will get even more angry with Verizon and sprint and jump to GSM network.

    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....
    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....
    Agreed. This isn't about the technology, but about how Verizon (and Sprint to a lesser extent) use it. You can't just stick a phone on a CDMA network without the carrier explicitly allowing it. They make it extremely difficult to get any outside phones on their network, even if they are CDMA-capable and support all the right bands. If you try to force the issue they can delay and stall you almost indefinitely and at great financial cost. That's why MS opted not to enable the CDMA bits in the 950 series. Now it bit Nextbit (pun intended) in the rear quarters too!
    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.
    This is the other side of the coin. You're right, it makes no sense to shut down the CDMA network at this time. I am hoping that within the next couple of years they'll go all-LTE nationwide (including voice services) and send free phones (dumbphones and featurephones) to users who refuse to upgrade to a VoLTE capable device.

    Then we can start bringing more outside phones onto Verizon's network (I hope) and put this demon to rest. :)

    Other than the aforementioned issues, I rather like Verizon's network. In my area it has been extremely solid and fast. Also my company uses them so I get a discount.
    Verizon will never rethink there business model till it starts to hurt shareholders. What better why than to move.....
    Agreed. This isn't about the technology, but about how Verizon (and Sprint to a lesser extent) use it. You can't just stick a phone on a CDMA network without the carrier explicitly allowing it. They make it extremely difficult to get any outside phones on their network, even if they are CDMA-capable and support all the right bands. If you try to force the issue they can delay and stall you almost indefinitely and at great financial cost. That's why MS opted not to enable the CDMA bits in the 950 series. Now it bit Nextbit (pun intended) in the rear quarters too!
    Verizon already did rethink their business model when they decided to adopt LTE. Shutting down the CDMA network which currently serves over 100 million devices to transition to GSM is not in anyone's best interest. It would cost both Verizon and consumers billions and would serve no purpose when everything is transitioning to full LTE anyway. Traditional GSM and CDMA networks are being phased out so all spectrum can be refarmed for LTE/VoLTE.
    This is the other side of the coin. You're right, it makes no sense to shut down the CDMA network at this time. I am hoping that within the next couple of years they'll go all-LTE nationwide (including voice services) and send free phones (dumbphones and featurephones) to users who refuse to upgrade to a VoLTE capable device.

    Then we can start bringing more outside phones onto Verizon's network (I hope) and put this demon to rest. :)

    Other than the aforementioned issues, I rather like Verizon's network. In my area it has been extremely solid and fast. Also my company uses them so I get a discount.

    Would be nice if you actually learned what you're talking about because you don't seem to know a thing about it.

    Any device can be put on Verizon's network. Yes, CDMA devices need to be certified, but that certification is handled by a third party and as long as it creates no problem on the network, Verizon does not stop it from being on the network. Microsoft decided to disable the CDMA portion of the 950/950XL modems because they really weren't interested in pushing the phone. All they would have had to do is pay a few thousand dollars for certification and sell it unlocked through their own store.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/10/if-the-lumia-950-and-950-xl-wont-work-on-verizon-thats-microsofts-fault/
    "The problem is Verizon can't really do that. As one of the conditions for being able to operate in the 700MHz frequency band, Verizon's network (or at least parts of it) are subject to open access requirements. In short, any phone that's compatible and FCC certified must be authenticated by Verizon. There are constraints here; unlike the Carterfone decision in 1968 that opened up AT&T's wired phone network to any device that was safe and compatible, Verizon can, and does, still require that phones pass through a certification process before allowing them on the network. But that authentication process, conducted not by Verizon itself but by third-party testing services, is open to anyone willing to pay the fee. It takes a few weeks, but once a phone passes the tests, Verizon has no option but to authenticate."
    Reply