AT&T Mobility recently announced it hopes to launch commercial LTE service by
mid-2011 and cover between 70 million and 75 million POPS by the end of next year.
AT&T has been a little slow with this launch considering Sprint and Clear have
already been serving 52 markets with 4G WiMAX. Even Verizon 鈥檚 4G LTE will
launch this year in November. Why has AT&T been so slow? Corporate
spokespersons say that rather than launching their own 4G network, such as their
competitors, they have focused on upgrading their HSPA 3G network to allow for
downloads up to 7.2Mbps. That also state that now that this is done, they are working
on pulling together a 4G network and will be conducting tests in Baltimore, MD and
AT&T spokespersons also stated that they were waiting on the 4G market to become
more mature before moving forward with a full-scale deployment. In that, the
company plans to spend $700 million in capital expenditures on LTE this year and go
beyond that in 2011.
So what is this LTE? It stands for Long Term Evolution and it is a 4th generation or
4G mobile broadband standard. LTE is aimed to succeed 3G technologies and
GSM/UMTS. Like WiMAX, this technology will provide broadband services
wirelessly (like EVDO), but instead of transmitting signals via microwaves, LTE
utilizes a radio platform. You will need a LTE modem to access the network, which
can be in USB format, ExpressCard, PCMCIA, or embedded in a laptop; it will also
likely be featured as the internet connection on PDAs and phones.
The network is known to be super-fast and is promising to have peak download rates
of up to100Mbps, which will provide an alternative to DSL, cable, satellite, and
dial-up internet. This may not mean anything to anybody - unless you are in a rural
area and aren 鈥榯 currently serviced by a high-speed network. The technology is to
also free people from the burden of having to find a WiFi hotspot when they are on
the road. As long as one has an LTE modem, they can connect to the internet
anywhere in the service provider's coverage area.
The main advantages with LTE are high throughput, low latency, plug and play, FDD
and TDD in the same platform, an improved end-user experience and a simple
architecture resulting in low operating costs. LTE will also support seamless passing
to cell towers with older network technology such as GSM, cdmaOne, UMTS, and
CDMA2000. The next step for LTE evolution is LTE Advanced and is currently being
standardized in 3GPP Release 10.
With LTE technology moving forward comes the inclusion of vendors to join the
procession. In March of this year, Qualcomm stated that it was integrating LTE into
According to Juniper Research in a report 鈥?G LTE Hard Opportunities 鈥? they
state 鈥渢 he faster data rates and reduced latency of 4G LTE make it a network
well-suited to new and upgraded devices such as netbooks, tablets, digital cameras
and gaming systems.鈥? Juniper also predicts LTE netbooks and tablets will outstrip
LTE laptop shipments, especially in the consumer market.
鈥淛 uniper 鈥檚 view is that mobile operators will be keen to embed a wide variety
of devices with broadband wireless connectivity, because they see this as a route to
stave off ARPU (average revenue per user) declines: Our forecasts show that there
will be roughly as many LTE netbooks and tablets combined as laptops by 2015."
However, a faster network does not necessarily mean a better user experience.
Juniper points out that issues including availability and customer support for
connected devices as well as demand for new business models that will replace
existing data plans must be addressed and overcome before the industry can truly take
advantage of the next-generation network.
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