Polling LTE Drivers

I moderated a Light Reading webinar on "LTE Technology and Performance" last week. With more than 1,000 registrants and more than 500 attendees to the live session, there's clearly huge interest in next-generation wireless. This makes sense, given the phenomenal success of 3G over the past two years. 3G devices and applications are on fire.

The session covered all the basics, putting spectral efficiency, VOIP capacity, scalable channel widths, MIMO, and latency into context. It also addressed the difference between peak rates and average sector throughput that operators could expect in the real world.

During the webinar, we got a good response to the audience poll questions, which I thought I'd share in this column. These aren't results from a restricted-access survey targeted at specific operator demographics, as we would normally carry out at Heavy Reading; the questions were open to the industry at large. Think of it more as the popular vote.

In the first question, we asked what the main driver for LTE will be. The clear choice here was high data-rate applications. A skim though the votes showed that this is also what many of the operators in the audience selected.

This is a logical result – after all, applications are what attract users to a platform. However, my personal vote would have gone for lower cost per bit. The ability to support more users on a wireless network drives economies of scale for the operator, which in turn encourages the lower pricing that puts mobile broadband applications within reach of the mass market. To me this is a fundamental point.

In the second question, we asked about deployment strategies. There's obviously a lot of uncertainty about this right now, and we expect significant variation in different regions of the world, due to spectrum allocations, the competitive landscape, and so on.

What stands out is that majority of respondents don't see LTE as an outright replacement for 3G over the next six years. I couldn't disagree with that – although in Japan, for example, it's not unthinkable that 40 percent to 50 percent of subscribers could be using LTE by 2015.

The most popular option is for nationwide coexistence of the two technologies, and this would appear to best represent expectations for the North American market. In Western Europe, the "islands of LTE in a sea of 3G" scenario will perhaps dominate, although again we'd expect some variation in different nations.

The bottom line is that LTE will be the first truly global standard for mobile data, with unprecedented international alignment, and vast economies of scale.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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