FT : WiMax vs. LTE – The Battle For Wireless Domination

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A key battle (following the 3G vs. WiMAX bout) that could determine the shape of next- generation ‘4G’ wireless broadband networks across the globe is playing out behind the scenes at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona this week where the backers of competing standards including WiMax and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are rallying supporters.  At stake is a potentially huge market for 4G telecoms equipment and services that could dwarf the market to date for 3G technology.  Now, as consumer demand for higher speed mobile data services, especially video, accelerates, and mobile network operators look for ways to cut costs and accelerate the adoption of data, incumbent carriers and opportunistic new entrants alike are beginning to line up behind one 4G standard.  In the last few weeks AT&T…..has thrown its weight behind LTE, joining Verizon Wireless, the US joint venture between Verizon Communications and Britain’s Vodafone group.  Today, China Mobile is expected to join the LTE camp.  Meanwhile, a handful of leading carriers including Sprint Nextel, the third-largest US carrier, and most recently KDDI in Japan are committed to roll out wireless broadband networks this year, based on WiMax technology which was initially pushed by a consortium led by Intel, the US chipmaker, Motorola and others including Korea’s Samsung.  In total, there are an estimated 300 WiMax trials and deployments – including many in emerging markets – underway, of which about 120 are designated mobile deployments rather than fixed WiMax, which effectively replaced a DSL broadband link with a wireless connection…..WiMax, which is also known as ‘802.16’ and is a close cousin of the 802.11x technology that powers WiFi ‘hotspots,’ won early backing from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers international standards body but was endorsed by the International Telecommunications Union, the standard-setting body for the global telecoms industry, in October.  The ITU’s endorsement is significant because it ensures that WiMax – which has its roots in the computer industry rather than the telecoms sector – has emerged as a viable alternative to LTE and UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) another ‘4G’ standard backed primarily by Qualcomm, the US mobile phone chipmaker, which has so far failed to attract much support.  Inevitably, the existence of rival 4G standards has led to a battle of words between proponents – in particular about the relative costs and advantages of deploying different 4G technologies.  A key advantage for WiMax is that it is ready for deployment, whereas even LTE’s most ardent supporters accept the technology will not be ready for commercial deployment before the end of 2009…..In fact, in spite of their differences, LTE and WiMax share much of the same technology underpinnings.  Both are ‘flat IP’ (Internet Protocol) technologies which makes them ideal for integration with carriers’ fixed-line IP backbones.  “Eighty per cent of technology in LTE and WiMax is the same,” says Daniel Moloney, executive vice-president of Motorola’s home and networks mobility unit.  In theory, that should make it easier to unify the two standards, but industry insiders caution that no one should hold their breath because this requires rival standards bodies to work together.  “It is a political rather than technology issue,” says Intel’s Mr Maloney.

Three competing standards
WiMax: Backed by a consortium led by Intel, Motorola and others, WiMax, or 802.16, has emerged as one of the leading standards designed to deliver both fixed and mobile wireless broadband data.  WiMax is based on TCP/IP – the technology that underpins the internet – and is already being deployed by companies such as Sprint Nextel and Clearwire in the US, and SK Telecom in Korea.
LTE: Long Term Evolution is a 4G wireless broadband standard backed by all the leading telecommunications equipment makers and a growing number of carriers as well as the International Telecommunications Union.  It provides a relatively easy upgrade path for carriers that have already built and deployed 2.5 and 3G wireless networks, but is not expected to be widely available before the end of 2009 at the earliest.
UMB: Like both WiMax and LTE, Ultra Mobile Broadband is based on TCP/IP and claims a number of advantages over its rivals.  However, UMB, which is backed mainly by Qualcomm, has yet to attract significant support and is the furthest away from commercial deployment.  Some analysts have suggested it could be “Dead on Arrival”.

Reference : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f007b334-d9d6-11dc-bd4d-0000779fd2ac.html

One Response to “FT : WiMax vs. LTE – The Battle For Wireless Domination”

  1. Priyank Says:

    Interesting article providing quick snapshot on LTE/Wimax
    quite useful

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