Verizon reportedly blocking new Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones from their network

For many months now I have stated that it was only AT&T in the US picking up the Lumia 950 – not even the Lumia 950 XL – with other carriers being sidelined. Since then, there have been a few back and forth exchanges between Microsoft and T-Mobile for the blame. Verizon, so far, has remained quiet on the situation seemingly not caring either way.

On Windows Weekly #435 Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley both point the finger at Verizon. The radios in the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL should technically support Verizon's CDMA band for phone calls, leading many to wonder why Microsoft just doesn't sell the phone unlocked with Verizon's bands.

According to Mary Jo Foley, she heard that Verizon won't authenticate the phones to work on their network. The reason is due to the nature of CDMA, which has MEIDs (Mobile equipment identifier) that must be added to the Verizon system and network even if they are unlocked. Without Verizon adding – and in a sense blessing – these phones on their network, they would never work. (Customers typically need to call the carrier and manually enter in the MEID in order to activate the phone. However, if the phone is not listed in the database or the unique ID device code is blocked, it cannot work.).

Due to the complexities of the situation, it would make sense that a new owner of a Lumia 950 would blame Microsoft for the situation when it was Verizon's refusal to accept the phone. As a result, Microsoft has reportedly disabled the CDMA portion of the radio since Verizon would not allow it. Although there is no mention of Sprint in the conversation the same rules would apply to them as well. However, it is not clear what Sprint's position is on this matter.

Such a CDMA/MEID system does not exist for GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, and it can be considered unique to the US. Even with T-Mobile unlocked phones not sold by the carrier are unlikely to support such features as Wi-Fi calling. Having said that, these new Lumias should work on T-Mobile's GSM network for data and calls, though such a scenario still needs to be verified.

As Thurrott and Foley note, Microsoft is trying their best to these phones into user's hands, but the company is facing many obstacles. Having the largest carrier in the US shun Microsoft is a big blow, but should not be surprising. In the past, Verizon has requested exclusive phones like the Lumia 928, Lumia Icon and Lumia 735 only to promote them half-heartedly after months of delays for approval.

For what it is worth, Verizon has done similar things in the past. The Nexus 7 and Nexus 5 have also had the same issue with Verizon's network.

If true, Verizon's actions appear to be more of spite than technological. Windows Central is reaching out to Verizon for comment on the matter, and we'll update this article if we received a response on the matter.

You can fast-forward to the 1:01:18 mark to hear the full conversation on Windows Weekly.

Source: Windows Weekly; via Reddit

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

540 Comments
  • As I've noted many times in the past, there is more to these Lumias than just Microsoft wanting to sell them. In the US, you do need cooperation to get them on networks. For those quick to blame Microsoft, it behooves us to remember these are complicated deals and situations. FWIW, I agree with Thurrott and MJF and put the blame on Verizon.
  • I'm leaving Verizon once the 950 and 950XL become available.
  • Same!
  • My cousin is switching is whole family to ATT soon.  Partly because of this.
  • I'm sure if every Windows Phone user (including ones who have switched to non-Windows devices) left Verizon today, it would barely nick their bottom line. That's not to say, as fans, you should not do so--I absolutely think you should leave Verizon at the curb. However, this is not the only thing we can do. I know you have all had this conversation with your friends or family at least once: the one where you all talk about who your carrier is and how much your plan costs. It usually comes up when people pull out their phones and only some have reception. When the topic arises, be sure to voice your opinion that Verizon is run by a bunch of petty, exclusionary fools who want to overcharge you for the "privilege" of a substandard phone experience. This might not make a difference overnight, but keep telling it to anyone who will listen. Eventually people will come to see Verizon as an outdated lame duck that overcharges for their product. That kind of uncool doesn't wash off. Good luck with that Verizon.
  • Your thoughts sound identical to a conversation I had with my parents recently. iPhone users, but still considering switching to ATT for the savings.
  • Honestly, my reception on AT&T has never been lacking compared to Verizon's. I know this isn't everyone's experience, but for me: AT&T has always been fine at much cheaper rates than Verizon. Likewise, Verizon seems to be REALLY bad about texting via MMS. I have friend on T-Mobile and Sprint whom I text no problem, but god, texting my Verizon friends is such a mess (ESPECIALLY in groups chats). No idea why, cellular infrastructure isn't my forte, but god Verizon is such a mess trying to do MMS. So is AT&T the cheapest? Not at all, but I've honestly not had any problems with them, and AT&T has always had the greatest variety of devices to chose from. I'm buying a 950 XL unlocked, so I guess AT&T's variety doesn't matter in this case, but still: I've always appreciated how many devices AT&T has to pick from. I plan on switching to T-Mobile one day, but again: AT&T has really great coverage, no problems yet (Aside from the update issue, but that's a whole other mess that universal in the US) and T-Mobile's network still isn't up to scratch yet. It's getting there, but not quite yet.
  • You might want to consider Cricket Wireless since it is owned by AT&T. I only pay $35 a month per line.
  • Well written post. I plan on trying to talk everyone I can off Verizon, and any carrier that resells Verizon's signal.
  • Unfortunately , Verizon does have the best network. Its the only network in my area other than ATT. With ATT , I had serious connection problems. It was hit or miss. No problems of any kind with Verizon. So not all have a choice of carrier.
  • Exact opposite here. Verizon has horrible coverage compared to AT&T. They may have the largest network but that doesn't equate to greater quality.
  • Verizon doesn't have a good network in Las Vegas. Its marginally better than Sprint..which isn't saying much. They have "commercial reputation" working for them right now. Much like Sprints "unlimited" garbage. But as far as network speed and reliability, I'll stick with AT&T all day long.
  • AT&T and Cricket both have great off contract family plans now.
  • My contract just ran out on Verizon!! My wife switched it to monthly today.I am now checking my new options. Our 928s are good for another 2 years if necessary.
  • I'm leaving next month when I get my project Fi service.
  • And as bad as they are Verizon is far more trustworthy than Google.
  • Now that is a ludicrous statement. Verizon is raw worse than Google Posted via the Windows Central App for Android because it's superior to the Windows Phone one
  • What a hilarious signature lol
  • But is the true.. The app for android is 1000x better than WP one
  • but how do you get an android app to run on the phone? an emulator?
  • Wrong. Verizon is not global, Verizon only has access to a fraction of the data Google has. Verizon doesn't employ Eric Schmidt. And Verizon is not this:
    https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/
  • No , he is right. Verizon is more trustworthy than Google.
  • Considering google has contracts with the Department of Defense, that may be true.
  • Idiots arguing which is worse, the frying pan or the fire....
  • Yeah, no.  Google does a lot of stuff that I don't like, but they're pretty transparent about it all.  At least you know what you're getting into and you can opt out of most of it easily.  With Verizon, they sneakily subject you to things like super cookies.  Eff Verizon.  They're the epitome of the "big evil corporation."
  • nobody is more evil than google
  • take the tinfoil hat off already... geez. I bet you have a facebook account, a twitter account, an instagram account and yet google is a "bad guy" ...  windows 10 and bing is spying on you as much as google is.  
  • I'm not sure why this was a reply to my comment.
  • @332 the windows forums here have quality equal to a windows phone app. my reply was to Prithwish, but you can't tell that because it just throws it under your main comment.  He was talking about how evil google is, yet google allows you to opt out of everything very easliy.  There are been 30 articles on how to find hidden menus to keep MS Win 10 (desktop) from spying on everything you do, with no easy obvious way to opt out. People are just dumb. they think one company is evil for spying while every single company out there is data farming and spying on everything you do. 
  • spying, eh? Let me know your proof about Windows and Bing are spying at you. I can assure this one, and this has been published in WC, too: Microsoft has stated that the data sent to their server is only the anonymous data, not your personal data. If you're still unsure about that, you can stop using Windows (and its companions) and Bing, and switch to Linux/Mac and Yahoo! as a substitution.
  • I have a tinfoil cylinder hat
  • Google is beyond evil. They're insidious.
    https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/
  • And Microsoft is spotless? The amount of crap that Microsoft has done throughout the years should scare the crap out of everyone. These are companies. They all do crap like this
  • Your supposed 'God of tech', the innocent Google, bought Motorola and them sold them a dummy by dumping it off to Lenovo. Lenovo worked hard and saved the popularity of Moto series. And people still blame MS for spoiling Nokia, whereas MS took the Lumia devices and made them into very good Windows Phone devices, something which Nokia failed to do by itself! For all their "we are free tech people who do anything for technology" BS talk, they still have done nothing for building Windows based Google services! Do you know why? They are scared that if they allow MS to have Goggle services" then, MS might build a significant competition out of it over the next few years!
  • Is that so? Tell me about all the people who had the option of 'opting out' of Wi-Spy. Google is the most evil tech company on the planet. Total hypocrites.
  • Everybody had the option to opt out.  Don't broadcast an unsecurre WiFi signal for everybody to see.  Google mining the data should be the least of your concerns at that point.
  • Really?  So you can activate an Android phone without a gmail account?
  • Yes.... You silly jaded person
  • Obtuse to say the least.  You "can" but then you lose access to services or functionality.  You are, by cause and effect, forced to have such an account, even if you don't plan to use it.  But thank you dwayne, your answer tells us something of your support for products.
  • Best thing I ever did.  If Microsoft started an MVNO similar to Project Fi, I'd likely ditch Fi and make the switch to Microsoft's.  I hope to never give Verizon or AT&T another dime of my money.
  • MVNOs pay rental fees to ATT and Verizon and whoever else towers they are using.
  • Yeah, I understand how it works, but at least then they're Microsoft's problem and not mine.  I don't have to worry about their terrible customer service or having to wait several months for the carrier to test the software update or just decide they don't want to push it out at all for my device.  If all the carriers moved toward solely being network operators, I think we'd all be better served.
  • I will be moving 16 lines off Verizon because of this.
  • I already did because I got tired of their crap. For me it was charging me extra for tethering my own data I buy every month. Tmo paid my ETF so I went with them for about 8 months or so. Then went to Cricket (uses the ATT towers, not partners though) and pay less and have better service in my area. I dont regret it one bit. I actually wonder why people use Verizon in my area and not Cricket if I am honest. Anyways, the 950 imo is worth leaving Verizon for.
  • My family is on AT&T currently, but looking to switch to a less expensive alternative. Narrowed it down to Pure TalkUSA and Cricket; it depends on the price of the phones on and off-contract to determine what will be less expensive in the end (and what my brother ends up choosing).
  • Sorry Scabrat, Cricket is a wholly-owned subsidiary, of AT&T. So, yes, "partners." Just didn't want you to be misinformed.
  • Switch to Cricket, I have it and never had one problem with it. Hard to beat $35/month service. The only thing is people freak when they first see just how expensive phones are. Once you get past the gut reaction the service is actually great and very affordable. It easily makes up for the price of the phone, besides people need to realize what all they are actually paying.
  • Cricket is the cheapest way to get ATT coverage.  For the phone, get a "go" phone or BYO ATT phone.  Go phones tend to be cheaper and less locked down than their Cricket counterparts (i.e. L640).  Most go phones can be unlocked free if you do so prior to inserting a SIM.  Also Cricket rebates have been a hassle for me.
  • Same here. I'm taking my family of 6 and leaving Verizon for AT&T. The reception of Verizon's network has been flawless and I will miss that when travel the intercontinental US, but I won't let a carrier dictate which device I can use on their network. Besides, traveling internationally isn't simple with Verizon phones (i.e. CDMA in Europe) so this issue with the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL has pushed me past the tipping point.
  • I did the same thing years ago for other reasons.  Been using AT&T for 7 years.  MUCH better company to deal with.  Plus, they own DirectTV now, have Uverse internet service, and many good VOIP business services (Ring Central, etc.).   They service all my needs now for these things and I save a lot of money bundling.   
  • Yeah, ATT is best if you travel outside North America.
  • Does CDMA still exist in Europe? I thought the US was one of the few countries that still clung to an obsolete technology... It has been shutoff completely in Australia since 2008!
  • Still exists in Norway, W-cdma, but will be replaced with more LTE (4G voice) and newer. But it's still not the same lockdown as in the US (Verizon)
    I can go into whatever store I want, and buy whatever phone I want, and put in sim from whatever operator I want. Doesn't quite understand the power US operators have to deny people to buy the phone they want. Doesn't remind me much of the "Land of the free..."
  • WCDMA is not CDMA but GSM version of 3G Posted via my Motorola Startac.
  • What is this crap? You don't need CDMA. Verizon sucks yea, but their phones work just fine internationally. They all have GSM and you don't need CDMA on other networks. In fact, CDMA cab be shut completely off and the phone made entirely GSM.  
  • That's the spirit.
  • I left VZ back when they encrypted the GPS chip on my Atrix and tried to force everyone to use their crappy pay-per-month Verizon Navigator. Constantly screwing your customers will eventually catch up with you, ask Blockbuster. I havent missed them.
  • Ive been with Verizon for 20 years and i'm sick of this game. i'm moving 5 phones to at&t.
  • I have been too and i can't take this anymore.  Having an Icon I can wait a bit but this is just like the iPhones weren't on Verizon.  ATT hasn't been saintly regarding supporting the phones either.  Or change to iPhone.  Coworkers and most of my family have ATT, and don't have issues.  And if VZ wants me back they can offer phones I want and offer some incentive plan pricing to make it worthwhile.  With LTE being widely installed all over coverage will be basically equal in the next year or two.  In fact Verizon will have more trouble getting the boat anchor of CDMA out of their system.  For example part of the challenge in rolling out HD voice is the handoff problem  when a user moves from LTE coverage to CDMA and keeping the call intact.  As they try to roll out digital level improvements, Verizon is constantly faced with dealing with the legacy CDMA interaction problems.  Verizon has no problem selling people's accounts to Fairpoint, so we should have no problem taking our business elsewhere too.  In fact the company discount is the same on either carrier.  Apparently my long loyalty to Verizon has done nothing but make them arrogant.  Time to find a carrier willing to work a bit harder for me, the customer.
  • I'm leaving Verizon as soon as the 950 comes out! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yep, pretty much this. I've put up with a lot of crap from Verizon over the years, but I'm pretty much done with their "you'll take what we give you and be happy to have it" attitude. McAdam can take his Microsoft grudge and shove it up his ass. Verizon acts all butthurt that they lost money on Kin, but that was 100% Verizon's choice to throw everything behind Droid because it was ready first and they were terrified of the iPhone. The problem is they just don't care about losing customers who want something specific. For every one of us, there's 10,000 complete morons who buy whatever the sales reps tell them to (i.e. whichever device is giving the bigger spiff at the moment) instead of researching and making their own choices. Educated customers are a pain in the ass, and I honestly doubt they'll be sad to see us go.
  • The Kin was design for young people, if I recall but when I saw what they were going to bill each month for usage of these phones they would have needed a forty hour work week. So, the Kin which alot of folks blamed the failure on Microsoft didn't think so see who the carrier was and it's pricing which was on Verizon.
  • I think I might have to do the same
  • hasn't this always ben a verizon issue? if the phone isn't in their database, then it's not getting on... there was a similar issue with a nexus phone being compatible, but verizon didn't allow it until some time after it launched. Hopefully people will read this an understand it's verizon's antiquated network requiring your meid to be on hand to let you get onto their network.  
  • When the nexus 6 first came out if your sims card fit the phone it would work but if you needed a sims card and went to Verizon they wouldn't give you one 
  • there was another before the 6... but similar result....
  • wouldn't be better if we just all wrote to the FCC and complained stressing lack of allowing a competitive phone on their network?
  • Kin is to blame here. MS wanted cheap service plans and low barrier to entry, Verizon priced the service as a full on smartphone. That move cost MS a lot of money. Perhaps Nadella can reunite the clans, as they have with Apple...
  • No, this is not at all how it went down. Verizon cut deals with Google (Android) and Microsoft (Kin) at the same time, because they were idiots and turned down the iPhone and were desperate for a product that could compete. Android was ready first, and so they went with that. Microsoft lost a ton of money on Kin (they would have lost even more, but they launched Kin anyway and kept it in the market for 6 weeks to fulfill contractual obligations and avoid additional penalties). But it cost Verizon a lot of money, too, because under that same contract they were required to spend money on marketing Kin -- a device they knew Microsoft would be pulling off the market because Verizon made it unsellable due to requiring a full data plan. Verizon has held an immature grudge ever since, ironically over a situation they were mostly responsible for. It's really pretty pathetic. Sharp (who manufactured Kin) actually got screwed over, too, because they got stuck holding a ton of inventory. Verizon decided to bail them out somewhat by putting Kin back on sale several months later, with updated software from Microsoft to make it a WiFi-only device.
  • Only in the US do you need cooperation with CDMA network providers. It doesn't work that way anywhere else in the world (CDMA carriers in Asia tie everything to C-SIM, making this kind of carrier control impossible).
  • EHRPD is their flavor of network until volte matures unfortunately. I dont blame them as seeing how bellus transitioned users off their cdma network alot of customers chose to leave instead of buying new hardware that had at the time alot of deadspots in the country. Would've been better off having dual mode(cdma/gsm) handsets like vzw/sprint have
  • You might want tostate that Bellus is Bell and Telus in Canada.  As most readers outside Canada would know what you meant.
  • Never been on Verizon, now, never will.
  • Every body say's they are leaving Verizon. Does that include leaving your tv and internet service as well.
  • I don't use Verizon for my TV and internet.
  • Cable TV and internet depend on your area.  Some places only Cox, Time Warner, Fios etc.  in my area, I can't get fios but I can get TW or AT&T.
  • I left Verizon FIOS for RCN recently. I get 150+ MBs down for 1/3 rd of what I was paying Verizon for 25MBs
  • Yes I left Verizon Internet Service 5 years ago, then their Phones, and finally thier Cell service.  Took 2 year, but Yes I was done wit them.
  • AT+T forced removal of Qi on the 1520 they aren't exactly saints either they just carry one of these phones and allow both on their network
  • and they seemed to have learned their lesson since the 830 had qi and pma :)
  • When did that 830 get Denim?
  • The 830 got Denim yesterday, or at least it started rolling out yesterday.
  • Exactly my point, how long has it been available?
    My 1520's got it a lonnng time ago. In fact articles were written claiming it would never come to the 830 on ATT
  • Is it even legal for Verizon to pull these shennigans?
  • That's exactly what I've been thinking while reading this.
    Such a procedure executed by a telecommunications company in the EU would definitely be prosecuted.
  • I don't believe it is legal for them to do this. I am looking into submitting a complaint to the FCC.
  •   They didn't. The article is taking a few nuggets of semi-truth and blowing them into clickbait. I had two customers yesterday who activated chinese dual-sim phones on Verizon. How, you may ask? There's no magic fairy dust that makes CDMA work. Asian carriers have been using SIM cards in CDMA devices for years. For a SIM card that supports CDMA, the MEID is on the SIM. You do need a Verizon device ID to provision phone service on a SIM card. What you do with that SIM afterwards depends entirely on what the phone supports. Now, recently VZW has started adding IMEIs that are not from our network to our billing system's database. This does nothing to the phones. It only allows customers to change their calling plan if they happen to be using a phone that didn't come from us. The standards on what they add are pretty strict, but once again, this does not enable or disable the use of the phone on the network. It is a convenience for calling plan changes, nothing more. Now, we can't support phones we didn't provide and it is up to the customer to get them working. But it can be done, and customers do it all the time.
  • We understand that the meid is on the Sim card, but what happens when Verizon system doesn't have a meid code for your phone? Is there a generic meid code they use to turn on any phone? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • On a 4G phone, the SIM supplies the MEID. On a 3G phone, the phone supplies the MEID. On a 3G phone, you put the MEID in the webpage, and the network programs the phone for you. On a 4G phone, the network programs the SIM. The MEID is in the SIM itself. You move the SIM to a new device, the MEID moves with it. It's entirely down to whether or not the phone itself supports it. Otherwise Google, Apple, and a variety of rom-cooking hobbyists wouldn't be able to do it.      
  • I want to add one more little tidbit. You can't see the SIM's MEID on most phones. Your phone may display an MEID, but it is usually just the IMEI minus one character. That IMEI minus one is what the cell network sees, and that's how it determines what kind of phone your SIM has been placed into. If you were to ask a tech rep what the SIM's MEID was, you would get a *very* different answer.
  • I presume that you work for Verizon. Are you saying the MEID is not a unique quantifier for each phone and instead is actually a quantifier for a SIM? and you can move the SIM from one phone to the next. If the MEID is the IMEI minus one character, that does not make sense because the IMEI is a unique identifier of a phone. How can you move the SIM from one phone to the next then? Can you explain this inconsistency?
  • It's certainly illegal in the EU under competition laws
  • I am all over pushing the blame to VZW. I have them now, and the only reason I stayed with them 2 years ago was to get the Icon. Their customer service sucks, and the in store associates think that the iPhone is the only phone in existance.    So happy that I have a legit reason (the 950XL) to move back to AT&T. That will end up being 5 accounts dropping VZW in about a month.
  • Is there such thing as a north american carrier that DOESN'T piss off and rip off it's customers?  I'm on Rogers in Canada, only because I hate them the least, not because I like anything about them.  
  • How on earth did Verizon become the biggest US network whilst running a niche mobile system (CDMA).
    America is really backwards in having two fundamentally different mobile standards.
    I definitely don't blame MS for the Verizon situation. Hopefully consumers will vote with their wallets and leave CDMA/Verizon behind!
  • No to mention VZW, with their antiquated system is the most expensive... Also, AT&T consistently tops the 20 largest city speed tests...
  • Alltel had built and catered an extensive network for rural folks. The US is spread out a lot and many of us prefer not to be jammed into a block with 100 people per acre. Verizon merged with Alltel and their combined CDMA network gives access in many remote places that the lower distance GSM carriers don't reach. When you travel, and you have a VZW phone, you'll rarely drop your signal. With AT&T and T-Mobile you tend to run into a lot of spots where they don't reach, though this is improving year after year.  
  • You say a lot of spots, but when I travel with Tmp I rarely am without service.
  • You must only travel in urban areas. There are many rural areas near me where AT&T and T-Mobile are nonexistent. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • That was the reason that here in New Zealand we went CDMA in 2000 to keep the same coverage as AMPS. CDMA was turned off here about 5 years ago and replaced with WCDMA network and not LTE. Posted via my Motorola Startac.
  • CDMA is going away and carrier networks will be interoperable, we are just not they yet. Once VoLTE is completely rolled out, we will be there.
  • Thanks for the transparency and insite into this.
  • I'm holding out for HTC to help us out. My m8 is wonderful and gets updates timely.
  • That's right. In the US. Luckily in Europe it's MUCH better. No carrier blocking what so ever. And the news so far is that in for example The Netherlands, all carriers will sell/promote the Lumia 950/950XL.
  • Of course carriers are free to sell what they want, but blocking a specific company phone
    Is M A F I A !
    Period
  • Thanks for your two cents. How is that relevant? No one cares about how it is in Europe.
  • You must be rigth, and Verizon doesn' care about You and MS. LOL
  • You do understand that there internet goes outside the US, don't you? We have to read your bleating all the time and sit patiently through stuff which is irrelevant to us, so cut people a bit of slack. He's not you're enemy.
  • About 500 million europeans care.... Don't you have consumer rights in the US? How can carriers be allowed to weild so much power? In my country carrier locked phones are illegal, contracts lasting more than a year are illegal. I am free to buy any phone I want, and use it with any contract or carrier I want (well the 5 or 6 that operate in my country). And from what I hear, our phone bills are a lot lower as well. My point is you should start voting for a goverment that can empower an organisation to keep companies from abusing their customers.
  • You can't pop out an already activated Verizon sim and put it in the Lumia 950? Why would the Lumia 950 even have a MEID, it is not a Verizon phone.  It costs money to have an IMEI yeah?  Why is Microsoft holding back with CDMA carriers?
  • You are apparently not a good reader/listener as this has been thoroughly explained many times. You simply can't get the phone activated because with cdma the phone/subscription is stored on Verizon's servers rather then on the sim card. This allows Verizon to block any device they don't want from their network.