18 August 2009

LTE testing in the US

If you're interested in technology migration in the wireless industry, you might find this item over at Ars Technica interesting. The article reports on this news release:

Verizon Wireless today completed its first successful Long Term Evolution (LTE) fourth generation (4G) data call in Boston based on the 3GPP Release 8 standard; the company also announced today that it had earlier completed the first LTE 4G data call based on the 3GPP Release 8 standard in Seattle. The successful data calls involved streaming video, file uploads and downloads, and Web browsing. Significantly, Verizon Wireless has successfully made data calls using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to enable voice transmissions over the LTE 4G network.


Boston and Seattle each now have 10 LTE 4G cell sites up and running on the 700 MHz spectrum. These LTE 4G markets were selected by network planners due to their geographic configuration of suburban and urban areas as well as the areas’ high-technology population. The trials will help Verizon Wireless and its LTE 4G network partners understand issues that include how to best prepare cell sites and how to add the new technology to the network.

Surely Verizon is interested in LTE because it provides a bridge to the GSM world, which it now lacks.

In regards to the competition with WiMAX in the race to 4G, Ars observed:

The announcement also made one of LTE's advantages over WiMax clear: a number of traditional wireless telecom powers were backing it. The tests' description read a bit like a who's who of the cellular world. Network equipment came from Starent Networks and Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson provided the base station hardware, and devices were provided by LG and Samsung.

But a key factor may ultimately wind up being bank balances. Verizon has continued to grow its earnings throughout the financial crisis, and wireless services account for nearly 90 percent of its income; it can't afford to appear as an also-ran, and has the money to make sure that it doesn't. Clearwire benefits from the deep pockets of its backers, most notably Intel, and has nearly $2.5 billion in the bank, according to its recent earnings release. But, at its current rate of operating losses, that cash will last it less than three years.

In other words, it may have little or nothing to do with the technical benefits of one versus the other, but rather with the ability to sustain the technological conversion. This reveals one of the essential features of telecom: that large capital investments are required before revenue can be earned, giving incumbents a powerful advantage.

Here is a related article from GigaOM.

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