Light Reading
Unstrung tries to get beyond the theoretical peak speeds of new mobile broadband networks from AT&T, Clearwire, and Verizon

WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
5/28/2009
50%
50%

With several major new mobile broadband services launched -- or coming soon -- in the U.S., and all promising blazing performance, it can be hard to get a clear picture of what wireless speeds you will actually get when you plug in your new data card or switch on that minty fresh new handheld or netbook.

The official word from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), and Verizon Wireless is that their new networks will be faster than the maximum speeds offered today. But not landline-replacement kind of fast.

In fact, the fastest-sounding new network is also the one with the least known about it. Indeed, Verizon doesn’t want to talk numbers at all on its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network until it has done a lot more testing outside the lab. But we can look to other users' experiences, particularly in the case of AT&T’s planned High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) upgrade, to glean some indication of how these networks will operate in the real-world.

AT&T
AT&T has just unveiled its timetable to update its 3G network with a technology called HSPA 7.2, work that is expected to start this year and be completed by 2011. A spokeswoman for AT&T says that -- as you might expect -- the network upgrade will offer a “theoretical maximum speed of 7.2 Mbit/s” compared to the 3.2 Mbit/s peak rate currently available.

The operator says the new update "will primarily affect downlink speeds." It notes that uplink speeds will be between 500 kbit/s and 1.2 Mbit/s.

We can, however, look to Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)’s deployment of the 7.2-Mbit/s upgrade in the U.K. to get some general idea of how AT&T’s network might perform. Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown tested the network in June last year and recorded some performance figures.

Brown found that in central London locations where 7.2-Mbit/s service was enabled, service was consistently in the range of 3 to 4 Mbit/s data throughput on the downlink while stationary, with bursts as high as 5.5 Mbit/s. Stationary uplink offered a throughput of around 1 Mbit/s. 3G in motion was not quite so blazing, however: “300 kbit/s is what you can expect on a 3G connection while on the move across London by car or train,” Brown wrote at the time. (See Vodafone's Blazin' 3G Upgrade.)

There's no guarantee that AT&T’s network will perform exactly the same, since each market topology is different and can affect performance, amongst many other variables. Still, the Vodafone experience does offer a starting point for user expectations.

Clearwire
Clearwire is a little more forthcoming about the average speeds of its new Clear mobile WiMax networks. "Average download speeds range from 2 to 6 Mbit/s," a spokesman tells Unstrung. "Upload speeds are typically up to 1 Mbit/s." The company says the network can deliver burst peak rates of "more than 10 Mbit/s," but there's no telling how close you have to live to the cell-tower for that to happen.

Clearwire’s WiMax service is currently available in Atlanta and Portland, Ore. When Clear’s precursor, the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) XOHM service launched in Baltimore, Unstrung saw download speeds between 1 Mbit/s and 3.5 Mbit/s in the various tests around the city, although the Clear networks are said to be somewhat different than the original Sprint offering. (See XOHM's Big WiMax Demo Day.)

Verizon
Verizon is the most tight-lipped of the three about the speeds that will be offered by its LTE network, which is due to start going commercial in 2010. The operator has only said that it has seen between 50- and 60-Mbit/s downloads with the technology in initial tests. A spokesman for the company says that it doesn’t want to set customer expectations until it has done "a lot more testing outside of the lab" with the proto-4G technology.

"The bottom line is that until you load the network you can’t know for certain -- you can make an educated guess, but you can’t know," the spokesman says.

Unstrung has very little hard data on how LTE runs, since the first commercial base station just went live in Sweden. (See Sweden Claims LTE First.) Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) did, however, stream video at 8 Mbit/s on an LTE test network at the CTIA show this year. This may give some indication of the raw speeds but doesn’t yet help to account for how the network will perform when lots of users are roaming on it.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
kaps
50%
50%
kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:52 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


Verizon's Dick Lynch has said, publicly, that advanced radio technologies like WiMax and LTE are essentially equivalent. So what will make for higher end-user speeds? The amount of available spectrum.


If you REALLY want to see Verizon and AT&T get tight-lipped, start asking them about how much spectrum they have available for mobile wireless data use. Even the so-called "beachfront property" 700 MHz chunks won at auction don't really offer a whole lot of wireless pipe. And when you don't have enough overall spectrum depth, you have to use smaller channels per antenna -- which reduces the speed. See this handy chart Motorola has put together to get an idea on some "real world" speeds.


The betting line -- WiMax will stay fastest because Clearwire has gobs of spectrum, but likely available in fewer markets. LTE when it launches will be in the 7 Mbps range if Verizon is lucky; and AT&T's HSPA+ upgrades... well, this company said a year ago it was going to 20 Mbps this year. Now it's down to 7.2. How low can you go and keep the iPhone all to yourself?

kaps
50%
50%
kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:52 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


Verizon's Dick Lynch has said, publicly, that advanced radio technologies like WiMax and LTE are essentially equivalent. So what will make for higher end-user speeds? The amount of available spectrum.


If you REALLY want to see Verizon and AT&T get tight-lipped, start asking them about how much spectrum they have available for mobile wireless data use. Even the so-called "beachfront property" 700 MHz chunks won at auction don't really offer a whole lot of wireless pipe. And when you don't have enough overall spectrum depth, you have to use smaller channels per antenna -- which reduces the speed. See this handy chart Motorola has put together to get an idea on some "real world" speeds.


The betting line -- WiMax will stay fastest because Clearwire has gobs of spectrum, but likely available in fewer markets. LTE when it launches will be in the 7 Mbps range if Verizon is lucky; and AT&T's HSPA+ upgrades... well, this company said a year ago it was going to 20 Mbps this year. Now it's down to 7.2. How low can you go and keep the iPhone all to yourself?

joset01
50%
50%
joset01,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:51 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


Asked Dick Lynch that back at MWC in Barcelona, he said he was "very comfortable" with their spectrum position, but then what did you really expect him to say?


I think the spectrum postion is interesting, but it is what it is, the only way AT&T and Verizon add more in the future is by buying it in. I sometimes wonder if that the eventual outcome of Clearwire, to be bought by one of the big two? I think its a possibility, I don't know how likely a possibility yet, Clearwire still has show they can make it work across more markets.


I actually think the upload speeds of these technologies is as interesting as the downloads. If they really want cameras and netbooks and all kinds of other gizmos on there I think the upload speeds become much more important.


DJ 

kaps
50%
50%
kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:51 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


I think you're spot on, Dan -- if CLWR were to be sold it wouldn't be the first time a Craig McCaw spectrum-acquisition strategy paid off, would it? But I see a sticking point in the Comcast and Google investment... they may not approve any such deal, think it will be something to watch if CLWR can prove the business case.


Gabriel, I understand your desire for everywhere connectivity, but I wonder how much that caveat applies to the general populace. For every globe-trotting mobile professional there must be many more folks who stay close to home and might see greater value in faster speeds with local mobility. Not sure there is enough data yet to prove this idea, but it's a flip side to your coin that bears consideration.

kaps
50%
50%
kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:51 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


I think you're spot on, Dan -- if CLWR were to be sold it wouldn't be the first time a Craig McCaw spectrum-acquisition strategy paid off, would it? But I see a sticking point in the Comcast and Google investment... they may not approve any such deal, think it will be something to watch if CLWR can prove the business case.


Gabriel, I understand your desire for everywhere connectivity, but I wonder how much that caveat applies to the general populace. For every globe-trotting mobile professional there must be many more folks who stay close to home and might see greater value in faster speeds with local mobility. Not sure there is enough data yet to prove this idea, but it's a flip side to your coin that bears consideration.

IPobserver
50%
50%
IPobserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:51 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


There's been a good amount of simulation and testing on what LTE might deliver in the real world.


LSTI has some public results. Slide 15 of this presentation from February 2009 is worth a look: http://www.lstiforum.org/file/news/Latest_LSTI_Results_Feb09_v1.pdf


They have some more recent data, but I can't find a link.


For my money, coverage is at least as important as high data rates. Knowing you can get a connection everywhere at, say, 1 Mbit/s is more valuable to me than being able to get, say, 5 Mbit/s every now and then.

mobileinsider
50%
50%
mobileinsider,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:50 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


Dan, great article - it brings up a variety of points and angles for consideration.


My point of view is: It's not about LTE vs WiMAX speeds. It's about best experience using available spectrum with full mobility and access to a plethora of devices and laptops. HSPA and HSPA+ networks will deliver a great multi-Mb experience for years to come - today. Why wait for LTE? Look at Telstra...people are experiencing 2-3Mb and sometimes more. AT&T will be able to replicate this here in the US much like Vodafone and T-Mobile will be able to do the same in Europe and US for years to come. 


Verizon wants access to the global device market and to simplify its device/service offerings, thus the path to LTE makes good sense. As for spectrum, all of the operators need more spectrum - period (video is a network destroyer).  Where will they get it from?  Yes, Clearwire is a good target as is Sprint.  I would be surprised if both brand names are still around 12 months from now. Suitable buyers include: T-Mobile, A&T, VZ (market entry by: China Mobile, Vodafone). 


Just my 2 cents.


Twitter/mobilinsider

IPobserver
50%
50%
IPobserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:50 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


It's not so much globe-trotting execs I'm talking about. It's having that always-on, always-available, experience that comes from good coverage.


That will have a big influence on mobile apps and and the mobile data use case.


Coverage is King !

john.nobel@team.telstra.com
50%
50%
john.nobel@team.telstra.com,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:44 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World


You might want to check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NextG ...


"The Next G Network is also the fastest cellular network in the world, delivering theoretical network speeds of up to 21Mbit/s,<sup class="reference" id="cite_ref-1">[2]</sup> and is planning to increase the speed up to 42Mbit/s in 2009." HSPA ...


Or http://www.telstra.com/nextg&nbsp;...


"Telstra is excited to announce the launch of the new Turbo 21 Modem<sup>^</sup> that provides typical download speeds of 550kbps to 8Mbps in selected CBD, metro and regional areas<sup>^</sup>. Available now exclusively to business customers, it will unleash the power of the world&rsquo;s fastest national mobile broadband network for Australian businesses in these areas."


John

IPobserver
50%
50%
IPobserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:42 PM
re: WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World

@omniobso -- I didn&rsquo;t read this as an LTE vs. WiMax&nbsp;, or ClearWire vs VZW, article. More like an attempt to get a handle on what end users might realistically expect.

Broadly,&nbsp;I think the service provided over today's HSPA is phenomenal. Think back five years and 3 Mbit/s downlink was a top end ADSL service. Now it's available on a &pound;10-&pound;15 a month mobile plan.

Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 2

10|21|14   |   8:51:00 AM   |   (0) comments


ARRIS CTO Network Solutions Tom Cloonan discusses why many if not most MSOs will continue with integrated CCAP, while addressing why some are also looking at two futuristic, distributed access architectures: Remote PHY and Remote CCAP.
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed Access Architectures – 1

10|21|14   |   9:01   |   (0) comments


SCTE Sr. Director of Engineering Dean Stoneback discusses the pros and cons of distributed access architecture (DAA) and its various forms, which range from basic Remote PHY to full CMTS functionality in the node.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 2

10|21|14   |   3:58   |   (0) comments


ARRIS Senior Solution Architect Eli Baruch talks about how MSOs can enable public and community WiFi through 1) outdoor access points, 2) businesses seeking to offer WiFi to customers, and 3) residential WiFi gateway extensions.
LRTV Custom TV
The WiFi Road to Riches – 1

10|21|14   |   10:15   |   (0) comments


SCTE Director of Advanced Technologies Steve Harris discusses WiFi deployments, drivers, challenges and advances, including 802.11ac, carrier-grade WiFi, community WiFi, Hotspot 2.0, Passpoint, WiFi-First and voice-over-WiFi.
LRTV Custom TV
Advantech Accelerates 100G Traffic Handling

10|17|14   |   7:56   |   (0) comments


Paul Stevens from Advantech explains why handling 100GbE needs a whole new platform design approach and how Advantech is addressing the needs of equipment providers and carriers to give them the flexibility and performance they will need for SDN and NFV deployment.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Holland's Imtech Traffic & Infra Discusses Huawei's ICT Solution and Services

10|16|14   |   4:49   |   (0) comments


Dimitry Theebe is from the business unit at Imtech Traffic & Infra which delivers communications solutions for transportations. His partnershp with Huawei began about a years ago. In this video, Theebe speaks more about this partnership and what he hopes to accomplish with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Comprehensive Storage Solutions Vital for SVR

10|16|14   |   6:16   |   (0) comments


SVR Information Technology provides cloud services for academic and special sectors. With Huawei's support, SVR and Yildiz Technical University has established Turkey's largest and most advanced High Performance Computing system. CSO Ismail Cem Aslan talks about what he hopes Huawei's OceanStor storage system will bring for him.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Mexico's Servitron's Impression of Huawei at CCW 2014

10|16|14   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Servitron is a network operator in Mexico that has been in the trunking industry for the past 20 years. Its COO, Ing. Ragnar Trillo O., explains at Critical Communications World 2014 that his company has been interested in the long-term evolution of LTE technology and its adoption for TETRA.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Better Dubai

10|16|14   |   2:06   |   (0) comments


Abdulla Ahmed Al Falasi is the director of commercial affairs, a telecommunications coordinator for the government of Dubai. Their areas of service span across multiple industries, including police, safety, shopping malls and more. In this video, Abdulla talks about his department's work with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Lights Up Malaysia Partner Maju Nusa

10|16|14   |   1:59   |   (0) comments


Malaysia's Maju Nusa is an enterprise partner to Huawei in networking, route switches and telco equipment. At this year's Critical Communications World in Singapore, CTO Pushpender Singh talks about what Huawei's eLTE solutions mean to his company and for Malaysia.
LRTV Custom TV
Evolving From HFC to FTTH Networks

10|15|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Todd McCrum delves into the future of cable's HFC plant, examining how DOCSIS 3.1 and advanced video compression will extend its life and how the IP video transition will usher in GPON and EPON over FTTH.
LRTV Custom TV
Exploring the Future of Cable Access

10|15|14   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Brett Wingo looks at where cable access architectures are heading, discussing the impact of DOCSIS 3.1, CCAP, Remote PHY, SDN, virtualization of cable networks and related technologies.
Upcoming Live Events
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Forget the Internet, Brace for Skynet
Stephen Saunders, 10/15/2014
HBO Will Go OTT in 2015
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/15/2014
Google: Carriers & Cloud Providers Need to Cooperate
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/16/2014
Could Data Be the New 'Currency'?
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/16/2014
iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/17/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed