Wireless Carriers Refine 4G Technology

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Dec 12, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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Wireless Carriers Refine 4G Technology

By
RUTH BENDER

And
GUSTAV SANDSTROM


Wall Street Journal

MARCH 9, 2010

Comments (5)

Have
you tried to download and watch a video on your smart phone? Chances are you had to
wait a while.

Wireless carriers, faced with rapid growth in wireless data usage and subscriber demand for
faster connections, are turning to a fourth
-
generation technology

called Long Term Evolution,
which boasts faster download speeds and has greater capacity than the networks supporting
today's third
-
generation phones.

Backers say it will transform mobile handsets into terminals for high
-
definition video streaming
and a
new generation of online games, and help operators' search for new revenue sources to
offset the decline in traditional voice and text
-
messaging revenue. Others caution, however, that
the shift will be gradual, given the huge expense of setting up LTE netw
orks and time needed to
allocate new wireless spectrum. Moreover, the solution to boosting speed and easing network
congestion may also have to include other technologies, such as the WiMax wireless broadband
standard.

"LTE will be an even bigger shake
-
up

than 3G [was]

because while with 2G and 3G we were
clearly in the world of telecoms, with LTE we shift a little more into the world of information
technology," says Frederic Pujol, head of radio technologies and spectrum practice at research
institute IDA
TE.

As growing numbers of people use smart phones, such as
Apple

Inc.'s iPhone or
Research

In
Motion

Inc.'s Blackberry, industry experts warn that mobile data demand could outstrip network
capacity as early as 2011 or 2012.
AT&T

Inc., the largest wireless operator
in the U.S., has said
wireless data traffic has expanded in volume by a factor of nearly 5,000 over the past three years.

The world's top telecom
-
equipment makers

in particular
Telefon AB L.M . Ericsson

of Sweden
and the French
-
American company Alcatel
-
Lucent

are pushing LTE as the next technological
leap.

Major wireless operators have also committed to the technology.
TeliaSonera

AB late last year
launched the world's first commercial LTE service in Stockholm and Oslo, and Verizon Wireless
said is on track to deliver LTE to 25 to 30 U.S. markets by year end.
NTT Docomo

Inc. of Japan
plans to launch the service in December 2010. AT&T, European operators such as
Vodafone

PLC

and
France Telecom
, as well as China Mobile, are also committed to LTE.

While third
-
generation network upgrades to High
-
Speed Packet Access Plus, or HSPA+, will
help increa
se network capacity and speed over the next few years, industry leaders say that the
eventual transition to LTE is not only necessary to provide higher speed and increase capacity,
but will also be an important tool in the industry's quest for new sources
of revenue growth.

In contrast to 3G, LTE handles everything that is transmitted as data, similar to the Internet.
Hence, in addition to the promise of landline
-
like Internet speeds for wireless, the Internet
protocol
-
based architecture gives operators the

advantage of better integrating mobile networks
into fixed networks, according to IDATE's Mr. Pujol.

In 2010 there will only be a maximum of 100,000 LTE subscribers, mainly in Sweden, Norway
and the U.S., according to IDATE. But IDATE estimates that 380
million subscribers are likely
to have access to mobile data through LTE networks by 2015, mainly in the U.S. and Western
Europe, but also in China, Japan and South Korea.

LTE can also be an important tool for reducing operators' fixed costs, said Hugh Br
adlow, chief
technology officer at Australia's
Telstra

Corp., as each LTE base station reduces the cost of
delivery per byte of data transmitted. Still, he cautions, "From

a technology perspective, LTE is
certainly an improvement. But it's not a revolutionary improvement, it's an evolutionary
improvement."

In order to make returns on their investment, operators may have to abandon flat
-
rate pricing and
instead find models t
o charge users depending on how much data they use.

"Allowing subscribers to download multigigabyte HD movies with a $30 all
-
you
-
can
-
eat data
plan does not seem like economics that is sustainable after the operator invested billions of
dollars to deploy it
s LTE network," says Scott Siegler, an analyst at research firm Dell'Oro.

Not only will the rollout of LTE networks cost operators considerable amounts of money,
deployment isn't likely to take off until new spectrum bands and LTE
-
based devices become
ava
ilable. As 2G and 3G frequencies won't be able to handle LTE, governments will have to sell
new frequency bands through auctions, a process that can be long and complicated.

Corrections & Amplifications:

Frederic Pujol is head of radio technologies and spe
ctrum
practice at research institute IDATE. The initial version of this article misspelled his first name
as Frederique.



Paul Sharma in London contributed to this article.