Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the next broadband step up the ladder for the GSM world and promises to offer faster speed, lower latency – and brighter teeth and fresh breath for that matter. ABI Research says at least twelve wireless carriers will offer LTE next year, and Verizon Wireless has pledged to turn up at least one city by the end of 2009.
If the claims are to be believed, LTE subscribers will get speeds rivaling those of DOCSIS 3.0 cable or advanced DSL – or faster -- but given that the LTE standard has been recently formalized, carriers are just starting to figure out exactly what they might be able to do with it.
Carriers and equipment vendors have demonstrated data rates between 144 Mbps to 200 Mbps standing still and speeds of up to 50 Mbps while traveling in a moving vehicle.
Real world speeds are likely to be less, depending on the typical factors of how many bars you have (signal strength, how close you are to the tower) and how many other people are on the same cell tower desiring the same blazing speeds.
Using two antennas for transmission and two antennas for reception (2x2 MIMO if you are looking for buzz words to throw around), Ericsson – and most likely Verizon Wireless using its equipment– will deliver an "optimum" 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload speeds.
Beyond Verizon Wireless, LTE early deployments in North America look to include MetroPCS Wireless, U.S. Cellular and Bell Canada. Cox Communications is reportedly rolling out "LTE ready" technology as it deploys its cellular network around the 700 MHz spectrum it acquired at an FCC auction. AT&T expects to start its LTE trials – about the time Verizon goes into widespread deployment – with its service starting in 2011.
Good news in a move to LTE across the board means more devices and presumably lower pricing for handsets due to economies of scale around the world. Big LTE deployments next year will also take place in Japan and Europe, so equipment manufacturers have something to smile about these days.
For an IT person, LTE may not be all roses. Backwards compatibility with existing services and networks is going to be, shall we say, interesting. Verizon Wireless should have dual-mode EVDO/LTE handsets and USB modems available, but there will likely a price premium attached on dual-mode gear and dual-mode service if Sprint's EVDO/WiMAX plans are any indicator.
A more philosophical question becomes: Do your mobile workers need the increased speed? In many cases, the answer will be "no," even when you include scenarios like daily incremental backups of files in the evening. Access to large data sets is typically best done via web browser and VPN, backed up in the sanctity of the IT data center – not roaming the streets, waiting to be lost or stolen.
Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for MobilityTechzone and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi