Battle for 4G: LTE Outpace Wimax

21 Feb

In addition to the shootout of Android tablet PCs in the 2011 CES in Las Vegas, you will see the introductions of Android smart phones with 4G mobile network capabilities from major cell phone manufacturers and telecom carriers.  The occasion will serve as a formal announcement that the time for 4G is already here.  LTE comes from 3GPP Long Term Evolution (3GPP LTE) and is different from the other competing 4G technology – WiMax.

Market Condition of LTE 4G

LTE prevails in North America market.  The new technology is downward compatible with the existing 3G and 3.5G infrastructures.  Cell phones equipped with GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSDPA mobile technologies will continue to function with the enhanced base stations.  Smart phones that support 4G technology with enjoy high-speed Internet accesses, data uploads and downloads.

Verizon is the most aggressive carrier in promoting LTE in US market while MetroPCS and AT&T Mobility are building out its LTE network.  North Europe is the front runner in the European regions with Telia Sonera’s LTE network operational for over a year.  In Japan, NTT Docomo is readying its LTE switchover to add to the popular and mature 3G market.  The company will provide the LTE users with 37.5Mbps download and 12.5Mbps upload speeds in the first half of 2011.  The availability of LTE will be over 70% of its network coverage in 4 years.

LTE Access Speed

The download speed of LTE reached 326.4 Mbps (with 4×4 antenna) and 172.8 Mbps (with 2×2 antenna) in the laboratory test environment.  In the commercial setting, Verizon will provision its 4G users with 5Mbps to 12 Mbps speeds, which is a decimal improvement from the 0.6Mbps to 1.4Mbps speeds of 3G technology.  The speed marks reached in the lab and real world present a huge gap.  There is certainly room to improve in the commercial market.  Given that LTE is in its early stage of commercialization and the wide spread of the network coverage, Verizon has considerably come a long way.  NTT Docomo will follow its footsteps closely in its own Japanese market.

The target speed of 4G LTE has been set at 100Mbps download and 50Mbps upload.  It’s much speedier than the current 3.5G (HSDPA).  The benefit it will bring to the PC world is also something to be anticipated.

In comparison, Intel and a small number of countries support WiMax.  WiMax will continue to maintain its market share in limited geographic regions in the near future.  However, its advantage in higher speed will be gradually offset by telecom equipment capital expenditures, the limited availability and acceptance beyond the current supporter group.  The dominance of LTE has taken shape.

Smart Phone Tethering

SmartMobix indicated that there has been no guarantee for the mobile users with Notebook computers to find WiMax, or even wi-fi, signals when they are on the go.  On the contrary, cellular signals, may it be 2G, 3G, 3.5G or 4G, are almost always present.  A mobile users can purchase a USB network adapter and a data plan to gain instant Internet accesses.  A more economic option has come with the smart phones.  People now can tether their phones to the NBs, either thru USB or wi-fi connection, and share the data plans that come with the cellular subscriptions.

The WiMax connectivities have been foreign ideas to NB users.  We don’t expect the users to get motivated to walk down this new avenue and purchase WiMax adapters for the same functions they can have with smart phone tethering.  USB cable or not, your sidekick smart phones will get you connected everywhere you go.  The open hardware and software environments of Android enable this convenient application and the development of 4G networks and the growth of Android smart phones are further intertwined.

So, what is your choice of 4G technology, LTE or WiMax?

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