Verizon gives Motorola LTE Razrs their GSM wings

Along with Android 4.0, the Razr and Razr Maxx now can use their GSM radios for international roaming

Verizon Wireless is activating GSM roaming capability for the first time on LTE handsets, turning on radios that were already built into the Motorola Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx.

Verizon has the biggest 4G LTE footprint in the U.S., but its 4G phones so far have been limited when users traveled overseas. For roaming, they have relied on 3G CDMA technology, which reduced their travel range to about 40 countries.

Now, along with an upgrade to Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, Verizon is pushing out software that activates the GSM radios in the two Motorola smartphones. As soon as subscribers get the update, which started going out Friday, they can use international roaming in about 150 countries.

Occasional travelers can talk on foreign carrier networks at rates ranging from $0.69 per minute in Canada to $4.99 per minute in Kenya, Sri Lanka and several other countries. A $4.99-per-month Value Plan reduces those rates. Data roaming, on networks with speeds up to 3G, costs $0.02 per kilobyte or $20.48 per megabyte in most countries, or $25 per month for 100MB.

Subject to restrictions, Verizon can also allow subscribers to go to a foreign carrier and buy a new SIM card to replace the one in their Razr or Razr Maxx, spokeswoman Brenda Raney said. They would then pay the foreign carrier's rates, while also relying on that carrier for support, she said. Verizon subscribers can't use the phones on GSM-based carriers in the U.S., she said.

The two Motorola phones are equipped with radios for GSM in the 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz bands, and for 3G HSPA in the 850MHz, 900MHz, 1900MHz and 2100MHz bands, Raney said.

Verizon offers several 3G CDMA handsets that include GSM "world phone" capability, but the Razr and Razr Maxx are its first LTE phones with this feature. Verizon said it plans to offer more global phones in the future, without giving details.

Despite most 4G carriers around the world converging on LTE as their technology of choice, it's likely to take years for roaming on that high-speed system to take shape. The frequencies that different operators are using for LTE are too varied, industry observers say. The international industry group Next-Generation Mobile Networks is trying to foster consensus on a few bands where LTE could be available in many countries, but regulatory and business needs make that a complicated task, executives said last week at the NGMN's annual conference in San Francisco.

The Droid Razr was introduced in November 2011 and the Droid Razr Maxx in January 2012. Subscribers probably have been waiting this long for global roaming capability because the software wasn't ready when the phones first shipped, said analyst Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. International roaming typically isn't a high priority, because only a minority of subscribers use it, he said.

"International roaming is one of those things that is not important broadly," Greengart said. Most U.S. mobile subscribers don't leave the country, and most of those who do only need voice service when they travel. But some business users need both voice and data overseas, and those tend to be higher level executives, he said.

"The most important thing about these executives is that the ones who travel the most are often the ones ... in senior positions who can then mandate that other people in their firm use Verizon," Greengart said. Subscribers on corporate plans, like those on family plans, are especially valued because they are less likely to switch carriers, he added.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?