Saturday 19 July 2008

LTE and WiMax Harmonization

Everytime I decide to move away with the LTE and WiMax subject I just find something new to tell you guys. Recently I have found that some more debate is emerging from the LTE and WiMax camps regarding the harmonization between them.
As I said from the very beginning, in my opinion the harmonization of WiMAX and LTE makes good sense for the development of the industry. There is enough evidence that the two camps are interestedand participants from both the WiMAX and LTE camp and IEEE and ETSI 3GPP standards organizations have recognized the need to collaborate on development of communications.
You might remember from my previous blogs that outgoing CEO of Vodafone, Arun Sarin was one of the first to raise the issue openly of the two camps having a future together. Vodafone is among operators that have called for the merging of WiMAX and LTE because this will reduce conflicts and costs for the industry. The long-term trends in technology, regulation, ecosystem consolidation and globalization contribute to the rationale that wireless systems should strive to achieve common air interfaces where feasible. The primary obstacle to achieving harmonization of WiMAX and LTE is simply the commercial self-interests that prevent a common push forward.
Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Sean Maloney, head of Intel's sales and marketing, have called for harmonization between WiMAX and LTE, pointing out the goals of unified broadband communications and common use of technologies. But everything which is coming out of Intel in terms of two technologies, it clearly suggests that Intel will eventually provide combined support regardless of whether the standards groups achieve official harmonization or not. I am sure that Intel will provide a multi-mode WiMAX plus LTE chipset. Maloney came close to saying this but he preferred to say this
"We don't have any plans to do that yet; it would certainly be a nice long term goal."
I have no doubt that harmonization has become a hot topic because of heightened competition between WiMAX and LTE for a role in molding development of the next generation of wireless, 4G. While I do not think the current stage of development of WiMAX or LTE qualifies as 4G, both systems are frameworks for evolution to 4G.
There are several factors within wireless developments to compel harmonization. Following are some of them
-Pursuit of IMT-Advanced as the path to 4G
-Both existing 3G, ‘fixed' and new spectrum will be consolidated
-Multiple scale and application support
-Common SDR (Software Defined Radio) base stations
-Common Integrated Circuits
-Use of 80 percent to 90 percent common technologies
-Globalization of R&D
-Need for reduced cost for embedded applications & digital divide
-Harmonization of wireless standards is a stated goal of 3GPP
-Common ‘modular concept' for harmonization across systems

If we take a ‘30,000 foot perspective' at the evolution of communications, it becomes clear that arriving at common air interfaces is now not only feasible but also a desirable result. Leading wireless suppliers have consolidated in order to leverage content, services and applications across networks. Technology used in WiMAX and LTE are converging because both camps have come to similar conclusions on the technologies needed to form the next-generation evolutionary framework. In brief, the framework includes OFDMA, MIMO and Adaptive Antenna Systems (AAS) smart antenna technologies, and IP-based adaptive network architecture. The few significant differences between WiMAX and LTE are surmountable and can fit within the capabilities of increasingly adaptive radio techniques and smart IP-based network developments.
Further, societal demands for digital inclusion, a growing need for education, enterprise and government communications, harnessing of communications as an alternative to travel, and better use of spectrum resources compels a unified approach to wireless.
While all these talks of harmonization continue there are still some in the industry who favors one over another. This was evident when recently Sprint announced that it’s withdrawing from the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance, a group of global mobile operators that banded together last year to push for a common vision for networks and technologies beyond 3G. The operator was a founding member of the NGMN. Sprint said it ended its relationship with the NGMN Alliance after the group chose to endorse LTE (Long Term Evolution) for 4G. Sprint spokesman John Polivka said the NGMN was supposed to endorse the co-existence of various technologies without favoring one over another. In fact, he said, technology neutrality was a key tenet of the NGMN to make sure it didn't duplicate the work being done in existing standards bodies.
"Sprint was disappointed that NGMN shifted from its original technology-neutral stance. We respectfully withdrew our membership from the organization due to the change in direction," he said. "We are enthusiastically continuing with our plans to work with our burgeoning ecosystem and launch a WiMAX network in select U.S. cities beginning in the third quarter with expansion throughout 2009 and beyond."
Founding members of the NGMN Alliance include China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, Orange, KPN and T-Mobile, all of whom back LTE. A quick look at the list of the 18 operator members on the NGMN Alliance website shows the majority of the operators come from the WCDMA community, whose 4G path is LTE.
Another evidence of favoring one over the other occurred when in-flight communications provider Aircell announced that the future of its mobile broadband network will be based on LTE (Long Term Evolution).
Today, the company's Gogo service uses CDMA 1xEV-DO Rev. A technology, which enables the company to offer its air-to-ground data service at a data rate of more than 12 Mbps peak to Gogo-equipped aircraft. By the end of 2009, further advances to EV-DO will enable Aircell to deliver a raw data rate of up to 22.7 Mbps to aircraft. And by the start of 2011, Aircell expects to deploy its 4G LTE network, which will enable a throughput of up to 300 Mbps to aircraft.
The company says LTE will enable in-flight services such as hi-definition and interactive television as well as multi-player gaming. Aircell said it also chose LTE as a way to future-proof its air-to-ground technology. Airlines will also benefit from LTE because the technology will allow them to enhance their operations by offering applications such as high-resolution weather to the cockpit, the company said.
The company's customers so far include Virgin America and American Airlines

Ron Resnick, president of the WiMAX Forum, has said that the harmonization between WiMAX and LTE is "really up to the operators if that's what they want to do." That is the deciding factor that will determine to what extent WiMAX and LTE harmonize within the standards groups. Make no mistake, the technologies, ICs, devices, and systems are in the process of converging. Whether this occurs harmoniously or with excess rancor is up to the industry.

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