The path to LTE

Despite a continued gloomy economic outlook in most parts of the world, last month’s Mobile World Congress was a remarkably upbeat event
The path to LTE
By Roger Field
Tue 17 Feb 2009 04:00 PM

Despite a continued gloomy economic outlook in most parts of the world, last month’s Mobile World Congress was a remarkably upbeat event, with many of the world’s leading vendors vying to impress the industry with ongoing developments in LTE technology.

LTE, or Long Term Evolution, the GSMA-backed standard for the next generation of wireless communication, will eventually supersede existing 2G and 3G networks, offering a level of bandwidth that will revolutionise the way people interact with mobile content.

At its most basic level, the technology will allow telecom operators and content providers to offer services that are currently beyond the reach of genuine mass market deployment on 3G networks, such as quality video conferencing, instant film downloads and TV streaming. But LTE will also lead to the development of unexpected new services, similar to rise of web2.0 applications such as Facebook and YouTube, which took many industry insiders by surprise.

Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola were just two vendors to announce some significant initiatives involving LTE at Mobile World Congress. Alcatel-Lucent said it had used LTE technology to complete a series of data calls involving terminals from third-party suppliers, and is demonstrating some of the potential capabilities of the technology at the congress.

But consumers will most likely have to wait for a couple of years before they get their first taste of LTE, with most Alcatel-Lucent spokespeople indicating that first deployments of the technology will be late 2009 or early 2010. The first LTE handsets may also come equipped with 3G chips, to ensure adequate coverage in the early stages of the rollout of LTE networks, and so that operators continue to leverage the huge investments they have made in their 3G networks.

While LTE will have a huge impact on the sector in the coming years, the GSM Association also used the congress to highlight the importance of ensuring adequate spectrum for 3G mobile broadband, particularly as a means to aid development in the current economic climate.

The release of valuable spectrum in countries around the world will provide an opportunity for governments to increase mobile broadband coverage, according to the GSMA. But the GSMA stresses that governments need to ensure they adopt policies that encourage more investment in mobile services and networks, and that where possible, governments should aim to create a stable regulator environment while licencing spectrum “on the right terms” to encourage spending on network infrastructure and services.

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