Saturday 28 June 2008

LTE and WiMax Working Together?

In my past blogs I have written about the competition between LTE and WiMax. From some of my previous blogs you might remember that I mentioned about the dirty war between LTE and WiMax. Until few months ago both LTE and WiMax camps never missed any opportunity to have go on each other. But it looks like things are changing now and may be changing for the good.

I have always believed that there is not much difference in the basics of the two technologies. Then why to have two camps which will not serve good to any body.

The issue for me is simply resources in our industry where we only have a finite number of R&D engineers and we split them into different camps, then we would be diluting what we can do in the future.
In the recent days after reading some articles and talking to some of my friends in the industry I can say that after a couple of years of verbal skirmishing and specsmanship, there are signs that the WiMax and LTE camps may be seeking a negotiated settlement.
I believe that LTE standard is an encompassing standard, an accommodating standard and there is a TDD section that I think WiMAX could fit into.

People in our industry must be knowing by now that the outgoing CEO of Vodafone group Arun Sarin has always been a supporter of WiMax. If I say that he was the one to kick start the open debate of LTE WiMax coming together then I won’t be million miles away from the fact. During the opening keynote at the last GSMA's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain the executive tossed out the suggestion that WiMAX could find a place within the LTE standard. He argued that we need about one sixth of the number of operating systems out there in the market and that we have to narrow the range of operating systems. Sarin continued by saying that that we have 30 or 40 operating systems right now, if we had three or five operating systems, then that would be a good thing.

For many players, there are compelling reasons for peace between the two camps and no doubt saving the money tops the list. A head-to-head battle over the next few years would require an outlay of multiple billions of dollars in equipment deployment. It would also be confusing for end users, and might even determine a winner and loser in a very high-stakes game.

Until recently, much has been made of the differences between the two 4G wireless-communications candidates, usually by comparing performance characteristics and ignoring architectural similarities. Sean Maloney, executive vice president at WiMax champion Intel Corp., has already hinted that the two standards should be harmonized because they are "about 80 percent similar." Maloney added that Intel is looking into ways to integrate the technologies. It is technically possible to create a chip set that could be used for both, he said. Maloney's comments might be interpreted as a response to Arun Sarin’s suggestion of the two coming together during the february’s GSMA’s mobile world congress.

While the feelers may not qualify as a love fest, they come at a time when emerging semiconductor technologies promise to make LTE-WiMax multimode operation a reality in the not-too-distant future. In that context, spending billions to deploy standard-specific networks becomes unattractive.

"The differences are more political than anything else," said Nadine Manjaro, senior analyst for wireless infrastructure at ABI Research (New York). Although Manjaro predicted the standards would merge, she also said LTE will not be a formal standard until 2009 or 2010. Thus, she said, it would be 2015 before any merger takes place.

Well time only will tell whether the early signs of this friendship between the two camps will materialize or not. I firmly believe there are more positives as compared to negative if the two camps come together. The time, money and resources saved will be immense if the two work together.

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