Swedish vendor Ericsson is testing TD-LTE technology in Ireland using the 2.3GHz band under a license issued under Irish regulator ComReg. Details of the tests were not disclosed, with the regulator noting only that they were designed to test TD-LTE’s capability “to provide high-speed broadband services which can be used to support services such as high-definition TV, video conferencing and many others.”
Wang Jianzhou, chairman of China Mobile, indicated several mobile operators in Asia, Europe and North America have voiced their interest in developing TD-LTE networks. TD-LTE technology uses unpaired frequencies, similar to WiMAX. TD-LTE is more compatible with FD-LTE, the flavor of LTE supported by the majority of cellular carriers such as Verizon.
Recent TD-LTE developments include:
- China Mobile is running a large-scale trial network for the Shanghai World Expo, working with Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent and Sequans.
- China Mobile also recently forged an agreement with Taiwanese operator Far EasTone that will see them jointly build a test network based on TD-LTE technology in Taiwan.
- China Mobile plans to team up with foreign operators to establish a TD-LTE trial network overseas in the next six months.
- China’s ZTE claims to have launched the industry’s first commercial TD-LTE base stations. The B8300 is based on ZTE’s software defined radio (SDR) platform. It features multi-mode functions of TD/TD-LTE, as well as its multi-band 2.3/2.6 GHz and multi-scenario indoor/outdoor applications. The vendor has deployed five commercial LTE networks and built 40 LTE trial networks for operators in Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and MEA.
- Verizon intends to build 4G networks in rural areas around the country where it has no towers or backhaul capability. It will partner with local companies that own towers and backhaul capability even if the local companies are not wireless providers. In 2010 Verizon says LTE will be available in 25 to 30 markets and cover about 100 million users. By 2012, the company estimates it will be about 200 million and by the end of 2013 Verizon will offer 4G coverage to all who have access to the 3G network, amounting to about 90% of the country.
- Qualcomm is bidding TD-LTE in India’s broadband spectrum auction, currently underway.
- Russian WiMAX operator Yota announced it would use LTE for future build-outs, and eventually overlay its current WiMAX systems in Moscow, St Petersburg and three other cities.
- Clearwire says it is open to LTE on its spectrum, although it’s not likely until 2012 at the earliest.
- TeliaSonera — the world’s first commercial LTE operator — is expecting to start offering handsets supporting the technology early next year.
Rethink Wireless says most GSM operators in Asia, Europe and North America will likely upgrade along the FDD path with the paired spectrum they own, but TD-LTE will be found in China, India and Russia. That should give it economies of scale.
Lars Johnsson, vice president of business development for Beceem, said Yota’s plans to pursue LTE is a blow to WiMax’s global image, but he believes it will have little impact on the overall market for WiMax devices. In fact, Johnsson said, it creates a new opportunity for Beceem to sell dual-mode WiMax-LTE chipsets.
Clearwire needs many more towers than Verizon, for the same coverage. But Verizon’s 700MHz capacity is limited by self-interference and bandwidth, with fewer towers shared by more people. That limits capacity. No beamforming either.
Clearwire’s spectrum is better for urban, high-density service. Combining 2.6GHz with 700MHz could be mutually beneficial, implies Kevin Fitchard. Some estimate the value of Clearwire’s spectrum holdings at $20 billion, well above their approximate $1.6 billion market cap.
On the other hand, it’s only money. Craig McCaw, still a big part of the equation, may have other motivations. Spectrum is the Lingua Fracta.