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LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Some mobile operators may be planning to deploy initial Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks next year, but handsets that support the mobile broadband technology are unlikely to be available in the mass market before 2011 at the earliest, according to analysts.

Long-Term Evolution is regarded by many carriers as the gateway to next-generation wireless networks, and, indeed, some are already talking about LTE as 4G technology. Verizon Wireless in the U.S. and TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN) in Sweden are expected to be among the first to deploy LTE in 2010.

This doesn't mean, however, that users can expect phones that support LTE to be offered among initial products that can run on the networks. This is largely down to the fact that LTE chipsets are expected to start being sent to vendors in the second quarter of this year, and there is a significant design lag time between getting sample silicon and introducing commercial handsets. (See Gearing Up for LTE.)

"The general rule of thumb is that it takes about a year and a half," analyst Linley Gwennap from semiconductor specialist The Linley Group told Unstrung recently. "With LTE I wouldn't be surprised if that dateline extends."

This is because vendors and carriers may need to carry out more testing of the new phones as they get deployed on the new technology, Gwennap says.

So far on the chipset side, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) has said that it expects to start sampling LTE chipsets in the second quarter of 2009. LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) , meanwhile, showed off an LTE modem at this year's Mobile World Congress.

LG has said its chip "can achieve wireless download speeds of 60 Mbit/s and upload speeds of 20 Mbit/s." By comparison, the fastest high-speed 3G phones currently on the market download at a maximum possible speed of 7.6 Mbit/s.

The Linley Group's Gwennap expects the earliest handsets will use a LTE modem chip with a separate silicon baseband. This will make them big, expensive, and "battery-hungry," he predicts.

"2011 is when I would expect to really first see mass-market [LTE] handsets," Gwennap says.

"Although we'll probably see some early examples hit the market sometime in 2010, I doubt we'll see any kind of significant volume until well into 2011," agrees Carmi Levy at AR Communications Inc. "Carrier network infrastructure and service offerings take time to build out, and the demand for handsets simply won't be there until the surrounding landscape is ready to support them."

Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown thinks that 2011 may even be too early to expect a serious stream of handsets utilizing the new technology.

"2011 is likely to be modems and maybe some early devices, not mass-market product," he says. "2012 is when it will start to pick up volume."

Verizon CTO Dick Lynch told Unstrung at Mobile World Congress that Verizon is expecting to initially introduce data cards, followed by PDAs and the like, when it first fires up commercial LTE in 2010. The carrier hasn't yet said when it expects to have handsets on the new network. (See MWC 2009: Verizon Picks LTE Vendors.)

No. 1 cellphone maker Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), meanwhile, anticipates having LTE "devices" on the market next year, but hasn't provided an exact date. There is some speculation that Nokia may actually launch its first laptops with the new wireless technology onboard. (See Ready for a Nokia Laptop?) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:21 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks
Does this make anyone change their views about WiMAX?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:20 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks

there aren't much of WiMAX Phones around either, except for the Yota ones at Russha from HTC. WiMAX Device Market is dominated by Home & Enterprise Gateways, PCMCIA Cards, USB Dongles, Laptop Embedded-áand some MIDs/Tablets/PDAs. Phones are quite some miles away. The same could be the case as is with LTE. LTE phones are aeons away.

The strategy of Operators would still be inline. All the incumbents and GSM Operators would go for LTE finally. WISPs, ISPs, Rural ISPs and some greenfield guys would go for Mobile WiMAX. The CDMA guys could tilt either way.

However - 2015 and Beyond would only see LTE. And that is when we could see some mass adoption of LTE MIDs, Smartphones, PDAs, Tablets and Phones. Laptop Embedded WiMAX devices is a huge thing - primarily due to Intel and its support for WiMAX. LTE needs to pick up someone for its game. AMD could use this trick to try and obtain some traction.

Any clue as to Sprint's current state on LTE, as they were testing them quite some weeks back.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:20 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks

WiMax devices were always going to be ahead of LTE. I mean the 802.16e standard was baked in 2005 and we're still not seeing many handsets out there.-áI doubt it changes much for carriers, it just means that 3G is going to be important for a good long while.

I think the really interesting thing is going to be how each standard handles VOIP. Then they can start to move off dual mode platforms. That's going to be years awaythough.



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:19 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks

No, Wimax is still a dead end. Phones have always lagged behind networks, for all new standards. Intel has failed to convince any major carrier in the whole world to focus on Wimax, except the special case of Clearwire. All the big players, operators and vendors alike, are focusing on LTE. And no, Intel is not a major player in wireless. The last year has seen a number of players dropping out of the Wimax race, while Intel has failed to recruit any new supporters. And now it's too late.

Frankly, I think the entire Clearwire project is beginning to look like something of a scam. Being the only major investor in a new technology, in a standards-driven market like telecom, is just stupid. Two years agow, there was still hope that Wimax would gain some traction, but by now anyone can do the math. Like one of LRs columnists wrote. "Wimax is not the new CDMA - it wishes it were the new CDMA."-á CDMA had a market share of 10% or so for a while, but Wimax is unlikely to peak above 1%.

Even if Clearwire will get 2-3 years of head start, and even if they manage to get a few million customers, which is unlikely, the power of global volumes of scale will eventually crush them. A few million customers is nothing in a world with billions of wireless users. The equipment prices for wimax will be higher and the selection of handsets will be puny (remember TDMA?). Haven't these guys learnt anything from the CDMA history?

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:18 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks


I agree with jepovic (good post). Unlike 802.16e,networks upgraded to LTE will be backwards compatible to HSDPA/HSPA+ for a longtime. Also, LTE is most likely deployed in dense metro areas to improvecapacity and may compete with DSL and Cable (and in some cases,Clearwire).HSDPA/HSPA+ subscribers willbenefit from the LTE "hot zones". It will be 2015 (at the earliest)before operators will demand single-chip LTE devices (if at all).For now, 802.16e biggest threat is not LTE --it is today's HSDPA and HSPA+ networks when it comes to mobility and a multi-Mbexperience. LTE is likely deployed in specific bands and devices will bemulti-band/HSDPA/HSPA+/LTE for many years to come. -á802.16e had its chance. There's only so much room on the device/notebook boards for radios. 3G/LTE won that fight.



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:08:18 PM
re: LTE Phones Will Lag Behind Networks
Second that - I also agree with jepovic and MobileInsider (both good posts).
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