LTE, WiMax Rollouts Escalating

Long term evolution 4G mobile broadband is gaining ground, but WiMax remains a contender, according to ABI Research.

Esther Shein

July 8, 2010

2 Min Read
Network Computing logo

The mobile broadband standard long term evolution (LTE) will see major strides next year as Verizon and Japan's DoCoMo are planning wide-scale rollouts by the end of 2010, according to ABI Research.

So far, 132 networks have reported trials or LTE commercial launch plans -- 32 more than at the end of 2009, said analyst Bhavya Khanna, in a statement. By 2011, there may be LTE-based handsets available, something Verizon has hinted at, he said.

In a new report, "Wireless Spectrum, Services, and Technology Deployment Market Data," Khanna added that this momentum doesn't signal the end for the competing 4G technology WiMax yet. "Despite setbacks including Russia's Yota switching to LTE, 188 WiMax networks are now in trial or commercial operation worldwide,'' he said. "With India's wireless broadband spectrum auction recently concluded, expect that number to grow in 2011."

Khanna also noted that U.S.-based WiMax service provider Clearwire continues to build out its network and add subscribers, buoyed by the recent launch of the HTC EVO 4G handset, which is WiMax-capable and has experienced record-breaking sales.

"It's probably not a coincidence that the rollouts are occurring sooner in countries where there are competitive WiMax networks, like the U.S. and Japan,'' said Philip Solis, research director, mobile networks, at ABI Research. The LTE market will definitely be larger in the long run, he said, "but where WiMax comes in is that in some countries it provides Internet access where there is no DSL or cable and slow cellular networks, so WiMax provides a way to access the Internet."

What will pose a threat to WiMax is alternative technology TD-LTE, which can operate on the same bandwidth as existing WiMax networks and is being championed by China and Qualcomm, according to ABI Research. Several WiMax operators could migrate to the LTE standard if this technology proves successful, the firm said, however Solis noted that it is much further out in terms of deployment. There are also complex issues for service providers to consider, such as if they only have limited amount of spectrum, how are they going to switch people over from WiMax to LTE, he said, as well as who they are competing with. "If they are trying to compete with mobile operators, they may want to consider switching to LTE... But WiMax may end up being cheaper."

In the meantime, as the LTE-WiMax competition plays out, legacy 3G networks must still be maintained by incumbent operators, ABI Research emphasized.

In order to deal with the demands for increasing speeds and bandwidth efficiency, technology upgrades such as HSPA+ for WCDMA networks are helping existing operators cope and are proving to be popular solutions, the firm said. Over 41 network operators had trials or commercial launches of HSPA+ networks as of March 2010, including T-Mobile in the United States, ABI Research reported.

About the Author(s)

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights