LTE and WiMax: Good News All Around


The transition of 4G from a future technology with great potential to a current standard that is in the early stages of a long-term adoption and deployment cycle is upon us. Last week, WiMax got a big shot in the arm when Clearwire announced an alliance with Cisco that, if fully consummated, shows a road to fulfillment of the service provider's promise to make WiMax a serious national play.


This week, it seems to be Long Term Evolution's (LTE) turn. Today, Pyramid Research released a report that essentially says LTE is on pace to becoming a record-shattering new technology. The firm says the platform will grow at a 404 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from next year to 2014. This, Pyramid points out, would mean that it has a faster ramp-up than 3G technology. The dynamic the consultancy lays out: Early growth will be fueled by Japan, the U.S. and other established markets. However, uptake in emerging markets will be 30 percent faster. This will result in undeveloped markets gradually gaining the upper hand. They will move 5 percent of the total in 2010 to 43 percent in 2014. In the big picture, the dual drivers bode well for the platform's long-term prospects.


Part of the evolutionary process of moving from the lab and field trials into real-world deployments is the creation of efficient operations by vendors. What was done in trials must be replicated, but much more efficiently and inexpensively. One such advance was announced today by Motorola. The self-organizing network (SON) is said by Motorola to reduce costs via the automation of previously manual planning, deployment, optimization and operational steps.


On an even more granular level, Analog Devices today announced integrated RF to baseband transceivers-the AD9356 and the AD9357-that can be used for WiMax and LTE picocells and microcells, the company says. The release offers a tremendous amount of background on both products. The bottom line is that they are part of the drive by vendors to cash in on the transition of LTE and WiMax from the lab tests and field trials into full commercial production.


At times, people may see the relationship between two nascent platforms as more confrontational than it really is. Before 4G actually establishes itself, an announcement favoring one really is only a mixed good news/bad news result-not a total loss -- for the technology that comes out with the short end of the stick. In other words, Verizon Wireless and AT&T choosing LTE certainly isn't a victory for WiMax. Nor is WiMax adherent Clearwire making a deal with Cisco a good thing for LTE. But the loser in each of these marketplace face-offs can take some solace in the fact that the entire 4G category benefits when either side scores. That kind of category-wide progress is vital as the platform strives to truly establish itself. And, judging from the past couple of weeks, those victories and half-victories are happening with more regularity.