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The WiMAX Forum and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) today announced at CTIA 2009, a cellular trade show in Las Vegas, a jointly developed roadmap to a unified “4G” standard.

The “4G Forum” would create a single International Telecommunications Union standard, world-wide. The incompatible Mobile WiMAX and LTE standards would then evolve — in partnership — into one single interoperable standard called IMT-Advanced.

The “4G Forum”, a newly formed joint standards body, was announced to bring current WiMAX and LTE standards together for the first time. The unified standards body is not expected to reach consensus on a single global 4G standard for 3-4 years. The new agreement, however, may allow the currently incompatible WiMAX and LTE standards to evolve into a single interoperable “4G” standard with 100 Mbps (mobile) and 1 Gbps (fixed) speeds, world-wide.

The WiMAX Forum had previously promoted 802.16m as their solution for a true “4G” standard, while 3GPP had promoted a similar, but incompatible, “4G” standard called LTE Advanced.

A single IMT-Advanced standard will combine the best of both worlds, say proponents.

The unified standard helps address bandwidth shortages. Currently, incompatible “4G” standards need to be isolated from each other to prevent interference. In addition, incompatible systems raise cost and lower performance. The unified “4G” system would include proposals for both Time Division and Frequency Division multiplex and operate in a variety of frequency bands.

The possibility of a single unified IMT-Advance “4G” standard has been under discussion for sometime. But the need for spectrum and the slow-down in the global economy has given global telecommunications leaders an opportunity to work together for the mutual benefit of everyone.

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