Bare Nuckles in Barcelona: LTE Vrs WiMAX  

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the showdown pitting upstart Mobile WiMAX against Long Term Evolution, backed by heavy weight telcos, is going head-to-head. At stake is a huge global market for 4G telecom gear and services that could dwarf today’s 3G.

China Mobile announced today that it will join Verizon Wireless and Vodafone in a three-way operator trial of Long Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G mobile broadband standard, says Light Reading. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile operator, with over 350 million customers, and may tip the 4G standards scales in LTE’s favor.

Along with Verizon and Vodafone, the operator joins the ranks of NTT DoCoMo, which has an aggressive LTE deployment plan and AT&T, which is expected to make a committment to LTE but has not made it official (yet).

Alcatel-Lucent also announced it is teaming with Japan’s NEC in a joint LTE venture. Alcatel-Lucent CEO Patricia Russo (left), said the move is an offensive play, rather than a defensive one.

“It’s about scale, time to market, and pooling existing R&D,” she told reporters during an afternoon press conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. “This is not a way to reduce our investment.”

The China Mobile trials will focus on both the frequency-division duplex (FDD) and time-division duplex (TDD) varieties of the LTE standard. The TDD version of LTE is China Mobile’s technology choice because it is an evolution of the Chinese homegrown 3G standard, TD-SCDMA.

LTE is a telecom-centric project. It is not a standard yet, but it is expected to mold the new release 8 of the UMTS IP-based standard. LTE’s overriding characteristic is many telco layers and proprietary protocols.

Most observers believe WiMAX has a 2-3 year lead over LTE.

That may have prompted GSM Association CEO Rob Conway to opine that WiMAX should become a subset of LTE.

WiMax supporters say it should be the other way around.

“We went from having virtually no products here in Barcelona last year to having over 40 companies with real products on their stands, so Wimax is here and it’s real,” said Wimax Forum president Ron Resnick.

Resnick said 28 Wimax products in the 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency bands had been submitted for Wimax Forum certification since the forum’s labs opened for business late last year (pdf). The forum is aiming to certify 100 products for interoperability by the end of this year, and 270 by 2010 – not including CPE gear. The industry body, which lists almost 540 member companies, promoted a walking booth tour of over 40 companies at the show demonstrating Wimax equipment.

Cisco’s John Chambers predicted at the Mobile World Congress that by 2011, WiMax will account for 10 to 15 percent of wireless traffic.

GSMA chairman Craig Ehrlich has been openly critical of the Wimax business case, describing it as too little, too late in the face of escalating HSDPA rollouts and the coming of LTE. Officials at China’s MII attacked Wimax’s inclusion last October as an IMT-2000 standard, seeing it as a rival to their homegrown TD-SCDMA technology.

According to the GSM Association, about 80% of cellular users world-wide use the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) technology, or more than 2.5 billion people. A total of 3.3 billion people — more than half the world’s population — now use cell phones. Revenues, which totaled $125Bn in 2007, are expected to reach $200Bn by 2011. Intel sees a $10 billion mobile chip market by 2011.

[get this widget]

AddThis Social Bookmark Button