Monday 10 November 2008

We all want LTE now

One headline said, "T-Mobile International wants LTE fast" while the other said "LTE roll-out will accelerate despite recession, claims Motorola" and the third one screamed "Huawei To Launch First LTE Commercial Network In 2009".

I mentioned in an earlier post about attending LTE world summit this month. I am expecting some announcements and surprises in the conference where everyone would like to show off about their progress and readiness to launch LTE.

T-Mobile has announced recently that it plans to skip HSPA+ altogether and focus on LTE. It wants to roll out LTE network by 2010. The main reason for its decision stems from the fact that since MIMO is introduced in HSPA+, it wants to avoid the upgrade cost if LTE is available in couple of years. We have to remember though that HSPA+ is more of an upgrade to the existing HSPA and we can be assured of the reliability and the quality that we have so got used to. On the other hand, LTE may have its own problems and since it will be new technology, it would take time to mature. Can T-Mobile afford to go through this period of uncertainty and maturisation on its own without something to fall back on.

According to Ihab Ghattas, assistant president of Huawei Middle East, the Chinese telecommunications equipment and solutions provider plans to launch its first LTE/SAE commercial network in June 2009, providing LTE/SAE infrastructure to mobile operators.

Ghattas announced the decision in his report "Preparing for the future technology trends - LTE focus" at the meeting held by the SAMENA Telecommunications Council. He said the rapid development and benefits of wireless technology has seen mobile broadband evolve from UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+ to LTE, which offers more efficiency than other networks. Expectations are that by 2015 LTE subscriber base will reach 400 to 450 million, generating revenues of almost EUR150 billion.

Till date, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile and Verizon wireless had announced to launch LTE/SAE based networks. Now we can add Huawei and T-Mobile to this list as well. Companies like Motorola and Nortel have not much HSPA/HSPA+ presence and have invested heavily in LTE, hoping to grab market share by the fact that they are there before others.

According to this another report, Operators relying on mobile or fixed/mobile broadband services to increase their future revenues are not only facing an upgrade of their wireless networks to HSPA+, WiMAX or LTE, but also a massive increase in the backhaul capacity needed to support that data traffic and multimedia applications.

Paul Steinberg, chief architect for Motorola’s wireless infrastructure products, reinforced the message this week, predicting that even 3.5G technologies will start to struggle soon in areas of high usage, and that this will force new approaches to backhaul as well as an early move to LTE, despite economic uncertainty.

In an interview with US-based CommsDay, Steinberg said 3G operators in developed markets will experience increases in data usage in the course of this year, ranging from sixfold to 14fold, but revenue from data services is growing only by 10-30% a year. This will push carriers towards all-IP, flat networks like WiMAX and LTE, with their improved cost of delivering broadband data.

Citing research by ComScore, Steinberg said that reasonable traffic profiles for mobile users by 2011 will range from 2.7Gb of data for typical handset users, to 11.1Gb a month for heavy users with both a laptop and handset. He believes some operators will have to start to roll out 4G-class networks as early as the end of next year to cope with the demands. Motorola is still relying on LTE deployments by six operators next year and 10 in 2010. However small their initial build-outs, Motorola points out that the 16 carriers that have committed to LTE in the next two years account for about 1.8bn subscribers worldwide, about half the global total.

According to Motorola, each LTE base station will require 200Mbps-300Mbps of backhaul capacity, which will stretch most fixed or wireless technologies apart from fiber or Gigabit Ethernet. This will lead to new approaches, such as ‘wireless fiber’ technologies, or relay techniques.

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