LTE Specs on Track

Recent developments at the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards organization indicate that the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) radio access network specifications could be completed by the end of this year or early next year. (See LTE Claims Standards Progress.)

At last month's plenary meeting, the 3GPP officially decided that LTE would be included in 3GPP Release 8, which is expected to be "frozen" by the end of 2008 or early 2009.

"The early floundering-about activity is finished, and now it's all controlled development," says John Meredith, 3GPP specifications manager at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) . "Now all changes have to be formally approved… so that companies can develop their products in line with the standard."

This means that the LTE standard is 80 percent complete, Meredith explains.

According to a recent Unstrung Insider report, "Evolved HSPA and the Roadmap to LTE," LTE is emerging as the dominant next-generation broadband wireless technology because of the weight of support from the world's largest mobile operators. (See 3G LTE: How Far? How Fast? and Next-Gen Spectrum Crunch.)

LTE certainly has some big backers, including NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Verizon Wireless , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). The technology can potentially offer downlink speeds of 100 Mbit/s, with a roadmap to more than 300 Mbit/s using 4x4 MIMO. For operators, LTE offers a migration path to an all-IP mobile broadband network. (See Verizon Goes LTE, Nokia Applauds Verizon LTE Plans, DoCoMo Tests 'Super 3G', DoCoMo Adds NEC for LTE, NSN Touts Tier 1 4G Trials, Verizon, Vodafone Head for LTE, and 2007 Top Ten: Wireless Stories.)

Another element to the LTE family is System Architecture Evolution (SAE), which specifies the mobile core network. 3GPP's Meredith says SAE is being developed in parallel with the LTE radio access network specifications so that it too should be finalized near the end of this year.

In addition, the LTE test specifications, which are necessary for handset manufacturers to test their devices with network elements, are "much further advanced" than normal.

"From the outset of LTE specification work, the 3GPP has focused on trying to compress the standards development timeline relative to 3G," notes Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown. "This keeps the industry on track for the first deployments in 2010, with NTT DoCoMo taking the lead."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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