RIM LTE Device Could Be Years Away

BlackBerry could take years to introduce a device based on long-term evolution (LTE) despite current talk about the BlackBerry vendor working on a wireless broadband handset based on the proto-4G technology.

A potential LTE phone faces two obstacles. First, there aren't any LTE chipsets commercially introduced yet for handsets. And that's partly because of the second problem: The LTE standard hasn't been finalized yet.

The chips are likely to become available sometime in 2009. Sandbridge Technologies Inc. has just started sampling a programmable LTE chipset and said recently that the devices should be commercially available next fall. Meanwhile, Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) has also said that it will introduce multi-mode LTE chips in 2009. (See Sandbridge Intros LTE Processors.)

Meanwhile, the LTE standard isn't completed, as a spokesman for RIM pointed out when Unstrung asked about all this at the Storm launch in New York earlier this week. Official ratification is expected next month. (See Wireless Camps Prep Fresh 4G Battle and First Look: RIM Storm From Verizon.) The spokesman couldn't comment further on any LTE developments at RIM. But AR Communications Inc. analyst Carmi Levy thinks it's likely that RIM will be starting the groundwork now for next-generation devices using LTE and possibly WiMax, even if all the elements aren't in place for commercial launches.

"RIM is prepping for a future in LTE and WiMax... even if we're actually still in the early days of 3G rollout in the U.S.," Levy notes.

"I would expect all of the major handset vendors to be developing LTE technologies."

Handsets, however, need a network to run on. Assuming that Verizon Wireless runs to schedule, its first LTE network sites will go commercial in 2010.

"It's still very early yet for LTE devices," Levy says.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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