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4G/3G/WiFi

LTE: The Big Freeze

4:20 PM -- Now that Clearwire is finally done and dusted, it's time to look at that other proto-4G contender. Long Term Evolution (LTE) is supposedly due to be officially ratified this month after two earlier “freezes” that aimed to lock in the elements that will be used in the specification. (See Clearwire, Sprint Complete Merger and RIM LTE Device Could Be Years Away.)

What does that mean? Well, it might give us some picture of a realistic timeline for the actual arrival of LTE infrastructure and devices. The 802.16e mobile WiMax standard, which built on the 802.16d specification, was ratified in December of 2005. Network equipment that supported the standard started to become widely available this year, and we’re just starting to get the initial trickle of mobile WiMax PC cards, modems and tablets, and services. (See IEEE OKs 802.16e Standard.)

If that pattern holds true for LTE, which is admittedly a big "if," then we might start to see widespread commercial availability of gear in 2011 sometime. Of course, LTE is based on orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) -- the same radio technology as WiMax -- so vendors that have already introduced WiMax gear might be able to reuse some of their R&D. There’s no getting around the exhaustive interoperability testing that will have to be done before LTE is ready for road, however. That stuff takes time.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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