Feature Article

May 19, 2010

How Much Bandwidth Will Be Enough?

No fewer than 25 of the top operators are going to be reaching 200M users with LTE by 2015, according to a detailed report by Marvedis.

The report does a very job of dissecting the information and showing which companies are using which players. It's a significant read -- each company is committed and has a primary vendor. 

IMHO, the primary vendor, has a half life of about three years. Most carriers do not like having a single source supplier and will avoid that over time. However, to assure LTE rollouts are swift and timely the carriers are following the silicon of the suppliers from end to end. It's the logical move, but it can lead to some scary moments.

A well-known carrier had a lot of growing pains to get to their fiber to the home strategy. It took two generations to really have a service that was a market leader. Today the service is great, but the word of mouth about the service today, has yet to undo the damage of past experiences.

In talking about LTE, the promise from Verizon Wireless is that it will be about 11 MBs throughput. I think this is a realistic goal for the time being, but I am not sure it's enough.

The push to LTE has a lot of nuances, but there is really only one driver in this market. It's the Internet.  The Internet has morphed over the last 40 years.  It was a research system, a modem pool, a chat board, the web and now it's morphing again.

At the same day that this report came out, I was interviewing Dr. Song of Samsung and talking about WIMAX 2.0. WiMAX 2.0 is actually the IMT-2000 compliant specification that the ITU has put on the roadmap for LTE and WiMAX. It's a promise of 100 MB mobile and 1 TB stationary. Sometime in this decade LTE will be at those speeds. WiMAX  will be there in 2012 with their silicon.

However, to pit the one against the other as a carrier's decision is foolish. It's not about the carrier's need for speed. It's about user's applications and the tolerance for pricing.

From a sheer volume perspective, LTE looks like the clear winner, but if it's about use cases.

I read some reports about Teenagers this week from ChaCha and Pew Research. SMS is their preferred method of communication. Voice is very distant. The web and entertainment are the other dominant uses of the phone. (If this is the trend, we in theory could have delivered x.25 over IP wirelessly and the teens would be happy. Oh yeah, that's what we are doing with SMS). 

This seems to indicate 11 MB of LTE will be adequate.  The wild card will be Video.

If video dominates the use cases, we are going to see a much different marketplace they any report can predict today.


Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri


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