LTE the Hit -- or the Miss -- of the Big Party in Barcelona

Carl Weinschenk

LTE was predicted to be the big newsmaker at the GSMA Mobile World Congress this week in Bacelona this week. It did, indeed, make news. Perhaps the most interesting move was the apparent acceleration of AT&T's adoption of the new technology. Unstrung reports that the carrier's Senior Vice President of Architecture and Planning, Kris Rinne, said that it now aims to move to the 4G technology in the middle of 2011, about a year before it was thought likely to make the move. Rinne said a request for proposals is now in the hands of select vendors and trials are planned for next year.


While that is good news for LTE proponents, the show may not have been a coming out party for LTE. GigaOm's Stacey Higginbotham reports that the star of the proceedings instead turned out to be High Speed Packet Access + (HSPA+), which is an incremental upgrade over HSPA and still a 3G technology. Higginbotham mentions and links to a Financial Times story that says the desire to remain in the 3G realm is driven by the economy. The piece carries a paraphrased quote from an Ericsson executive to the effect that HSPA could be dominant for five more years, long after its shelf life was expected to expire.


Apparently, some companies are moving on while some are cutting back. This news, released perhaps on purpose right before the show, is that Fujitsu is aiming its LTE platform at the U.S. Fujitsu, a fixture in the wireline sector, is still trying to firmly establish itself in wireless. The technology comes to the U.S. market with a product that is a bit of a rarity: It has been in the field for a long time. The system, according to Telephony Online, has been tested in a wide variety of implementations with NTT DoCoMo in Japan. Chief Network Architect Jim Orr said the benefits include mature system optimization parameters, efficient schedulers and advanced RF modeling. The writer suggests, however, that Fujitsu may be a bit late to the U.S. party: Verizon is set to winnow down its already short list of vendors and other vendors, with the notable exception of AT&T, appear to be set as well.


There is no doubt that the carriers will strive for holistic infrastructure that doesn't rely on a single technology or type of platform. At the conference, Alcatel-Lucent announced the ng Connect Program. The idea is to bring together a great number of platforms, including LTE, GPON and others. The press release says that the goal of the ng Connect Program is to create networks (or networks of networks) that will reach mobile phones, desktops, systems in automobiles, gaming systems and others. In addition to Alcatel-Lucent, the initial members are HP, Samsung, Buzznet and several others.


This commentary by analyst Jeff Orr at a TMCnet-sponsored 4G site takes a worldwide view. He makes two essential points: The first is that much of the world still is mired in 2G technology. He suggests that it is not necessary to deploy 3G and then, down the road, 4G. It makes much more sense in a lot of cases to skip directly from 2G to 4G. The other point is that the changeover between 3G and 4G is not smooth. Working infrastructure still exists and must be figured into the equation. Orr presents a number of ways in which various carriers around the world are making the transition. It seems to be quite a messy process.

 

The truth seems to be that nobody is quite sure where LTE is. The only certainty is that the always cumbersome changeover of platforms will someday be complete. It just may be that that day is a bit later than people anticipated.



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