What Is EV-DO?

What you need to know about this network standard

Two people sitting at a wooden table outside with a laptop, smartphone, and tablet.


Mobile phones have come a long way since the days in which they were only used for phone calls. Since then, simple cell phones have largely given way to the current dominance of smartphones, and part of that dominance began with the underlying technology of 3G wireless technology and CDMA networks.

That technology is known as EV-DO. Let's take a look at what EV-DO actually is, what it does, and how this network standard and mobile broadband technology affects you.

What Is EV-DO?

Chances are, if you currently own a smartphone, it probably runs primarily on a 4G or 4G LTE service; and that "G" means "generation," as in, 4G is the fourth generation of wireless cellular service. But while this speedy wireless service is the one you're more likely to associate with how we use smartphones now, the journey to smartphones as we now know them began with 3G wireless service, CDMA networks, and EV-DO.

EV-DO stands for Evolution-Data Optimized or Evolution-Data Only and it's the mobile broadband technology behind 3G wireless technology for CDMA networks. Essentially, EV-DO gave phone service carriers with 3G CDMA networks the ability to provide high-speed internet access for mobile devices. EV-DO allowed consumers to have better access to things like email and online media using 3G networks.

CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access. Basically, it's a technology used to run 3G cell phone networks. CDMA-based networks are a commonly used cell phone network by carriers in the United States for 3G access.

But while EV-DO is able to provide (relatively) high-speed internet access for mobile devices, it's unable to do so during phone calls. As HowStuffWorks once noted, EV-DO was developed to run "over a part of the cellular network devoted entirely to data." EV-DO works by keeping voice and data channels separate from each other, which allows for optimized data transfers and faster mobile internet access.

How the EV-DO Network Standard Affects You

If your phone, like most phones developed in the last few years, runs primarily on 4G or 4G LTE, EV-DO doesn't really affect you all that much unless your phone carrier uses a CDMA-based network. In which case, if you found yourself in an area where you couldn't access any 4G connections, your CDMA-network phone could use a 3G signal as a backup wireless data connection.

That said, it's worth noting that having 3G CDMA/EV-DO as a backup option may not be available in the United States for much longer, especially as more carriers are opting to roll out 5G wireless access to their customers.

According to PCMag, Sprint is expected to keep offering 3G access until 2022, but also notes it's unclear how long it will offer CDMA, and that its end may "come in 2020 or 2021." It's also been reported that Verizon will retire its 3G CDMA networks by the end of 2019.