Sarin: We Need 4G Convergence

BARCELONA –- Mobile World Congress -– When Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) CEO Arun Sarin speaks, the mobile sector listens, and this year his message is about 4G convergence.

Last year at this event he told the vendor community it needed to hurry up with LTE (long term evolution), the 4G technology Vodafone plans to deploy. (See 3GSM: Mobile's Fear Factor.)

The response has been notable, with major vendors talking about commercial rollout from the second half of 2009 once the standards are fully baked. (See NSN Does LTE, Nortel Demos LTE, MWC Preview: LTE in the Limelight , and Ericsson's Need for Speed.)

And Sarin pressed home that point again this year. "HSDPA has delivered the goods in a way that WCDMA didn't. And HSDPA is fine for now... but will be insufficient three years from now. We need technologies like LTE soon." (See Vodafone Pumps Up HSPA.)

But Sarin wants more. Like most, if not all, of the world's major operators, Vodafone sees potential in deploying WiMax as part of the next-generation wireless network mix, where the market and technical conditions suit, so he’d like to see the standards for LTE and WiMax -- another of the so-called 4G wireless technologies that's already being deployed around the world -- integrated.

That would cut out the LTE versus WiMax scenario in the 4G world and make it easier for carriers to source, test, plan, and deploy their next-generation networks using one technical team that's all working off the same hymn sheet. "We should make WiMax part of the TDD [time division duplex] section of the LTE standard. We need unified standards, not competing standards."

But is that even a possibility? The head of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Mary Chan, believes the idea has legs. "We're looking at the potential for this in the TDD standards work of LTE," she stated on the sidelines of a press conference here in Barcelona. She believes that such a combination would be particularly relevant for the Chinese market, where TDD LTE "is a potential migration path from TD-SCDMA [China's homegrown flavor of 3G] as the carriers move from 3G to 4G." (See AlcaLu, NEC Team for 4G.)

A combination of LTE and WiMax is certainly something that vendors are working towards on their next-generation technical platforms.

Wireless chip vendor Picochip has WiMax integrated into its early LTE 4G chip design. And Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is this week showing off the latest version of its multi-standard base station, the BTS 3900, which can be used for GSM, WCDMA, WiMax, and LTE services as designated by the operator using the vendor's SDR RRU software-defined radio unit.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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