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July 15, 2009

As More Consumer-Friendly 4G Technology, LTE to Dominate WiMAX: Expert

By Michael Dinan
TMCnet Editor

WiMAX is not designed as a consumer technology, so it likely will see no more than 15 percent of the global 4G wireless evolution (translation: super-fast wireless Internet service) market, an IT insider told TMCnet during an interview this week.
According to Brough Turner, founder of Ashtonbrooke.com, WiMAX’s major competitor for the 4G space – a technology known as “long term evolution,” or “LTE” – eventually will dominate.
“Real commercial LTE services will be available in selected markets in 2012 and widespread by 2015,” Turner told TMC President Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) in an interview that’s printed in full below. “In other words the elapsed time from frozen 3GPP specifications to commercial services will be about three years, as it’s been for every prior 3GPP specification release.”
Turner – who is moderating a pair of sessions at September’s 4GWE conference in Los Angeles, “Mobile Broadband – New Applications and New Business Models” and “Our G-enealogy” – also told Tehrani that the standards for how VoIP will work on LTE remain in flux.
Their full exchange follows.

RT: The WiMAX Forum’s certification process promises releases at the end of this calendar year. Any thoughts on that?
Brough Turner (pictured left): It’s good for the WiMAX community and I’m rooting for them, but WiMAX is a carrier technology not a consumer technology like WiFi (News - Alert). WiMAX must compete with the GSM community and their 3.5G/ 4G evolution. As a result, WiMAX is unlikely to garner more than 10 percent-15 percent global market share. WiMAX may be first, but LTE will predominate as 2G is retired and 3G gets old.

RT: Though analysts say the ceiling for long-term evolution subscriptions is very high, carriers increasingly appear to be stalling in their LTE rollout plans. Realistically, when are you expecting to see these roll-outs?
BT (News - Alert): Real commercial LTE services will be available in selected markets in 2012 and widespread by 2015. In other words the elapsed time from frozen 3GPP specifications to commercial services will be about three years, as it’s been for every prior 3GPP specification release.
RT: Apple’s (News - Alert) business model for peddling applications for its iPhone 3G, the virtual App Store, is seeing copycats across the industry, and analysts expect to see more. But is that what’s best for the mobile space? What other models, if any, can we expect to see?
BT: The more distribution channels, the better for the mobile industry. In the end, only 3-4 channels will prosper, but that’s far better than the carrier lock-in that’s been standard until recently.
RT: Many of us who cover or work in the mobile space are a rarity among parents who can relate to their children and kids’ obsessions with smartphones and mobile technologies in general? What does the next generation teach us about wireless usage and services?
BT: Always on, always connected will only get richer as mobile services become more affordable. Over time we can expect 4000 SMS messages per month to get replaced with a continuous video feed.
RT: VoIP dominates the way voice is transported on the PSTN, but the end-user rarely connects directly. What can we expect in terms of a parallel for wireless migration to 4G?
BT: Currently, the standards for how voice telephony will work on LTE are in flux. In the end, voice will be carried over packets but the critical issue is making the user experience identical to today’s experience. User’s don’t care if it’s VoIP or magic – what’s important is that it works as expected. Thus voice and SMS over LTE are likely to use softswitch controlled circuits-over-packets based on VoLGA specifications.
RT: Think about feature devices that leverage the wireless Internet – such as GPS systems and netbooks – or may someday do so – think of Flip-brand camcorders. What cool new features and functionality might be coming down the road for these devices?

BT: We’ll see a lot or new and innovative video applications as bandwidth becomes more and more affordable. Expect innovative versions of “see-what-I-see” built into all forms of communications and social networking.
RT: Talk to me specifically about your speaking engagement at the 4G Wireless Evolution conference. What will you be discussing and what people or companies should come?
BT: I have two presentations. On Tuesday morning I’ll be giving an overview of new applications enabled by mobile broadband and open mobile access to the Internet combined with a discussion of new business models that can pay for continuing upgrades to what are, increasingly, “dumb pipes.”
On Wednesday morning, I’ll be giving a high level version of my 3G-4G wireless tutorial covering how we got here, and how both 4G and WiFi are likely to play out in the coming years.

Learn more about Ashtonbrooke.com at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, 2009, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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