The common wisdom long has been that WiMax has the speed-to-market advantage and Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the superior platform. Experts will debate the bits and bytes of the two approaches-which are similar-but it is clear that the availability advantage WiMax enjoys now will not last forever.
Recent reports suggest LTE is emerging at a fairly rapid pace. That trend continues. This Telephony Online piece says that Motorola -- one of five vendors named in November 2007 for joint Verizon Wireless and Vodafone trials -- has created an LTE test bed in Swinton, U.K. The tests will be run in Vodafone's region.
Another sign that the industry is moving more quickly is that another big vendor has jumped into the mix. Unstrung reports that Vodafone is looking at equipment from Huawei. Thus, the big test has seven players: Two carriers and five vendors. Vodafone is assessing gear from Motorola and Nokia Siemens in addition to Huawei, while Verizon Wireless is overseeing tests of Ericsson, Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent gear.
More evidence that LTE is on the rise is the appearance of emulators and other test gear. This week, EE Times reports that Azimuth Systems and AT4 Wireless released products that work on LTE networks. Azimuth's ACE MX actually tests both WiMax and LTE networks. The AT4 E2010 incorporates eNodeB emulation capabilities and parametric measurement in a single box. The story provides details of both products.
A final sign that change is in the air is that a consulting company has actually changed its identity in order to be more LTE-friendly. WiMax 20/20-originally WiROI-formerly focused its business case tools on WiMax. It now has been broadened to cover LTE. In addition, Wireless 20/20 will provide services to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) and other wireless technologies, the release says.
A potential crimp in Verizon's LTE plans-the likely delay in the switch to digital television-won't be a problem, at least according to the company. Verizon's plan is to use spectrum vacated by broadcasters for its tests. A possible problem emerged when it became apparent that the move of broadcasters may be delayed. This Seeking Alpha link offers an excerpt from the telco's fourth quarter conference call. All will go along as scheduled with the test, according to an unnamed executive. The plan sill is to test this year and offer LTE on a commercial basis in 2010.
Many experts think that WiMax and LTE will end up merging. Until that time, however, a horse race will exist. Right now, WiMax is ahead. But all signs point to a quick move by LTE over the next few months.