Predictions & Probabilities for 2010

We've run down the biggest wireless stories of 2009, so let's look ahead to 2010. (See 2009 Top Ten: Wireless Stories.)

  • Don't hold your breath for LTE
    The biggest technology question of 2010 is when exactly major next-generation Long-Term Evolution network deployments will go live. Telia Company has already deployed city networks in Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm. Larger nationwide deployments from NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) in Japan and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. are expected to be the proof points for the technology in 2010, however. (See TeliaSonera First to Go Live With LTE.)

    So far, Verizon isn't saying much about its dates, except that it will deploy between 25 and 30 markets in 2010. (See When Will Verizon Launch LTE in 2010?)

    Bruce Brda, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) senior VP and GM for the vendor's home & networks mobility group, for instance, isn't expecting carrier LTE pioneers to launch the new technology too early in the new year.

    "I hate to speak for the carrier deployment plans, so I'm not going to answer your question directly, but I think that the early adopters are going to be a little later than we expected," he told Unstrung recently.

  • 2010 is make or break for femtocells
    Home base stations need to move beyond the trial phase and into an affordable price bracket in 2010. A recent Unstrung Insider report, however, suggests that femtocells won't fall below the magic $100 per box mark until "late 2010." Meanwhile, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is the most advanced with trialing 3G femtocells that can support data as well as voice services, but no U.S. carriers have yet announced plans for nationwide deployment of next-generation home base stations. (See Femtos Promise Big But Cost Too Much.)

  • Cisco gunning for the RAN?
    Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s $2.9 billion acquisition of Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR) this fall puts the networking giant just a short jump away from being a complete mobile infrastructure vendor. (See Cisco to Buy Starent for $2.9B.)

    "Our industry sources indicate the new division of Cisco may consider adding RAN [radio access network] into the portfolio," wrote Catharine Trebnick of Avian Securities LLC in a report when Cisco announced its Starent buy. "Once Cisco adds the RAN piece it will compete head on with the traditional end-to-end mobile suppliers such as Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Networks , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)."

  • Android getting cheaper
    The industry and tech media might be all aflutter about a new Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) phone right now, but expect lower Android price points to become a fresh talking point in 2010. Verizon Wireless has already broken the $100 price point with the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Eris. As Huawei, ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), and more Chinese and Taiwanese vendors deliver Android phones this coming year, expect to see price points come down and smartphone features move into a lower bracket.

  • WiMax 2 is coming
    The next version of WiMax -- 802.16m -- is expected to arrive in 2010 after long years of development and tests. The "WiMax 2" specification is said to enable 120Mbit/s downlink and 60Mbit/s uplink in an urban scenario using 4x2 MIMO (Multiple-Input/Multiple-Output) antennas on a 20MHz-wide channel. The good news? This will mean lots more debate about what is and isn't "4G" technology.

    — The Staff, Unstrung

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