Is Wireless Working on Its Dream Ticket?

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Obama and Hillary and the Lakers and Celtics are not the only competitors who recently have spent a long time time vying for extremely valuable prizes. The two major 4G technologies -- Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax -- continue to go head to head.


At least one side may be considering asking for a deal. Sean Maloney, the executive vice president of WiMax proponent Intel, said the two standards are about 80 percent the same and could merge. The biggest similarity -- and the reason that the possibility even exists of combining the two -- is that they both use Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) modulation.


This EE Times story says that while it will be more expensive to design chips that support both, savings would be realized in infrastructure and the general lack of competition. The two are not the same -- the writer outlines three obstacles -- but the feeling is that the differences can be overcome.


This commentary at Fierce Broadband by Maravedis Group analyst Robert Syputa fills in more blanks in the case for harmonization of WiMax and LTE. The sense of his piece is that more executives and companies are signing onto the idea. He says that Vodafone has called for standardization and adds Intel CEO Paul Otellini to the list of those looking for cooperation. Syputa offers 10 bullets points on why it is a good idea. The basic idea is that combining the two approaches creates far more efficient operations.


This ElectronicsWeekly.com piece is a bit inconclusive, but it raises an important issue. The author agrees that there is no insurmountable technical obstacle to merging LTE and WiMax, but that perhaps an even stickier problem -- politics -- may be the major impediment. The main point is made through a quote from NXP CEO Penning de Vries: "As we've seen in the battles in other domains, it's not easy to get one standard."


Intel's position that LTE and WiMax should merge can be taken as an admission that LTE has stronger prospects, according to this Daily-Tech-Report post. To carry on the political analogy, Clinton only began trying to get on the Democratic ticket as vice president when it became apparent that she wouldn't win the top spot. The writer says that WiMax indeed is ahead, but its slow interoperability efforts are limiting that advantage. Conversely, the writer suggests that companies already committed to LTE have good reason to stay the course.


Though the prospect of combining the two approaches is in the air, it certainly is not a given that it will happen. In the meantime, of course, the road to competition will continue. Last week, In-Stat released a report that said that the first success of WiMax likely will be with residential users. Businesses, the firm suggests, will only be a later target. This plays into the idea that its lead over LTE is ephemeral.