Like LTE? You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

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Confusion and Skepticism May Impede 4G Adoption

With so many potential 4G customers expressing concerns about cost and performance, providers may be in for some disappointment.

There are two ways to look at the inexorable march of technology: That there is no rest for the weary (IT and telecom departments) or that there is something new and exciting every time you turn around.

Which stance is taken by an individual probably says more about his or her personality than anything else. The bottom line of both, however, is precisely the same: New techniques emerge on a regular basis. You can bet on it.

The rollout of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) has hit high gear. That can mean only one thing: Plans are being laid for the next big change.

That, to many, is LTE-Advanced. Ericsson provides an insight into how fast LTE-Advanced may be. Network World reported that the company in June demonstrated the platform running at peak speeds of almost 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps). This, the piece points out, represents a tenfold increase over peak speeds of the current version of the technology.

Last week, AT&T said that the rollout of LTE-Advanced will begin in 2013. The announcement, according to Connected Planet, was made by AT&T Labs President and CEO Krish Prabhu at the LTE North America Conference.

AT&T is far from the first carrier to announce the intention of deploying LTE-Advanced. In late October, Sprint was a bit more specific. According to GigaOm, the company said it will introduce a version of the platform capable of download speeds of 12 to 15 Megabits per second (Mbps) in the first half of 2013. The story speculates that the move may impact Clearwire:

The interesting thing about Sprint's announcement is how it might align with Clearwire, who has also declared it will deploy LTE-Advanced. The two companies are partners, but the relationship appears to be quite strained: Sprint executives said very little about possibly turning to Clearwire for LTE at their strategy update meeting despite being a majority owner in the 4G wholesaler. Clearwire has said it will take $600 million to launch an LTE-Advanced network on top of the cost of maintaining its WiMAX network though Sprint officials said the actual cost of running an LTE network for Clearwire would be much more.

No survey of wireless firm plans for anything is complete without a look at what Verizon is up to. Brad Molen at Engadget wrote in September that Praveen Atreya, the carrier's director of network technology, chose the day that AT&T announced that its LTE network was about to go live to announce that it will move to LTE-Advanced. Details seem to be even sketchier than AT&T and Sprint, and Molen suggested that the announcement was a bit of a no-brainer.

Look for LTE-Advanced to roll out in parallel with the next version of VoIP, which is called Voice over LTE (VoLTE). An interoperability test of VoLTE equipment was held at the Vodafone Test and Innovation Centre in Germany. Cellular News said that it was hosted by the MultiService Forum and backed by the GSMA.

The bottom line is that new technology always is on the horizon. In this case, that fresh tech is a very fast wireless network.