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LTE Watch: Testing Times

Long-Term Evolution testing is in the news this week as carriers start to run broadband cards on trial networks and Swedish analysts find that initial networks -- shock horror! -- aren't as fast as promised:

  • Spirent Communications plc has signed on as the device certification partner for Verizon Wireless 's forthcoming Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. The vendor expects to be testing LTE cards and USB dongles initially and doesn't expect to see smartphones using the technology trickle onto the network until 2011.

    Intriguingly, Spirent's PR firm sent Unstrung an email back in January stating that Nigel Wright, Spirent's vice president of product development, believes that carriers will not be able to deploy LTE and 4G in 2010. Verizon, meanwhile, is sticking to the official line that it will launch 25 to 30 LTE markets in 2010, covering 100 million people. Spirent is not the only vendor to cast some doubt on initial LTE launch schedules; Altair Semiconductor and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) have both made similar comments. (See 'Millions' of LTE Handsets by 2012?)

  • We thought it was a little too good to be true: Swedish analysts Northstream have tested Telia Company 's LTE network in Sweden and found it is not quite as fast as the carrier was initially promising. TeliaSonera said when it launched the network in Stockholm and Olso, Norway, in December that users could expect to experience data network speeds between 20Mbit/s and 80Mbit/s. Northstream said that it "never exceeded 12 Mbps in downlink" in countless tests, which is much more in line with what other carriers have said. (Verizon has also promised between 5Mbit/s and 12Mbit/s on the downlink.) The "frequent drops in service" don't sound so great either, but, as Northstream says, it is "early days" for the wireless broadband technology. (See NSN Replaces Huawei in Euro LTE Rollout and TeliaSonera First to Go Live With LTE.)

  • Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) is still figuring out whether it will stick with WiMax or move to LTE. Company executives have consistently said they could move to LTE if the technology warrants it and that option is still on the table.

    "Consumers don't care which technology you use. They want a robust mobile broadband experience that is fast and reliable," Mike Sievert, chief commercial officer for Clearwire, tells CNET. [Ed note: Thank you, Captain Obvious!] Remember, however, that Clearwire is locked into deploying WiMax until 2011, thanks to a market agreement with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) took its LTE roadshow to Europe this week. Yes, the oh-so stationary "LTE car" was there but -- perhaps more importantly -- AlcaLu did live demonstrations of LTE over 2.6GHz, the band that many European carriers will actually use to deploy the technology. Curiously, the vendor actually did run "drive demonstrations" using LTE, but using a van instead of the Prius we saw at CES.

  • Oh yeah, there's the little matter of a rumored LTE iPhone too, now with a slightly more realistic launch date of June 2011 attached. (See The Hilarity of LTE iPhone Rumors.)

    For more LTE news, click on through:

    — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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