LTE Nears Rollout, but Verizon Could Be Hedging

Carl Weinschenk

The dynamic between Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax has been about the same for a while: LTE has more powerful carriers on its side, but is behind WiMax in rollouts.

That situation is fundamentally unchanged, but the industry is closing in on a new phase-the actual rollout of LTE to some or all of these big carriers' subscriber bases. Maravedis, a firm that follows the technologies closely, has released a report that says LTE will make great inroads during the next five years. The company, according to a Softpedia story, says the top 25 LTE carriers will serve 226.7 million subscribers with 3G/LTE handsets by 2015. These providers, the story says, will have a combined base of 1.08 billion subscribers.

There isn't unanimity on how fast the rollout will happen. Last week, Telecom Pragmatics said there "seems to be" second thoughts at Verizon Wireless about a full LTE rollout. The Marketwire press release, which cited no inside sources at Verizon, said the plan may be to use LTE for high-revenue subscribers but will stick with 3G Evolution-Data Optimized Revision B (EVDO Rev B) for others. The company also says Sprint is planning to deploy EVDO Rev B.

The Softpedia story reports that Maravedis says 84 percent of the system will head into LTE from High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and HSPA+ technologies; the rest will build their LTE on platforms of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and EVDO bases.

Verizon Wireless is the most significant LTE player in the U.S. and perhaps the world. Fierce Wireless reports that the carrier plans to launch as many as five LTE phones by next May. Suppliers will include Motorola, HTC, LG and Research in Motion. The carrier, which uses CDMA, said it will launch between 25 and 30 LTE markets during the fourth quarter that could cover 100 million potential subscribers. This doesn't directly contradict Telecom Pragmatics' position -- the company could have changed its overall plans but still initially launch to that many markets -- but certainly suggests that there is more to the story.


The story reports that Sprint Nextel-a WiMax player that is playing with the cable industry and is majority owner of Clearwire-will launch the 4G HTC Evo on June 4 and a device from Samsung and a second from HTC phone by year's end.

Things are going to get very interesting in the 4G sector, and the business initiatives that it can benefit, very soon. At least one key to watch will be whether Telecom Pragmatics' so far unsubstantiated assertion proves to be right, and Verizon is slowing the LTE train.

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