LTE-Advanced: Upsetting the Apple Cart?

The new Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider, “LTE-Advanced: The Hope Beyond the Hype,” reviews the impact of LTE-Advanced (Release 10 of the LTE spec).

It’s a potential competitor to wired broadband services for consumers and some businesses, says Light Reading. Demos have shown speeds of 1 Gbit/s, making LTE-A an opportunity for both telcos, cable operators and other companies looking to sell fiber backhaul services and hardware. It brings additional revenue opportunity for site companies and operators.

LTE-A will eventually double or quadruple the number of antennas that each operator uses, from 2 to 4 or even 8 antennas on the tower. Ericsson’s 2011 drive-around demo used 8×8 MIMO to achieve 1Gbit/s speeds.

Although the first commercial networks will launch in 2013, LTE-A is still a few more years from being a major player. “We wouldn’t consider LTE-A to be really mainstream much before 2016, just because what little pockets there are of it are not necessarily going to be the kind of things that generate ecosystem economics,” said one operator.

Also known as Release 10 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP R10), LTE-A bears watching by pretty much every member of the telecom ecosystem, rather than just wireless vendors and mobile operators, says Heavy Reading.

Sprint has said it will offer 4G LTE service by June in six larger markets — Kansas City, Mo., Baltimore, Dallas, San Antonio, Atlanta and Houston—and that the service will cover 120 million people by the end of the year. Sprint will also become the first U.S. carrier to announce plans for a nationwide HD Voice network beginning in late 2012 on their consolidated Network Vision upgrade. HD Voice improves voice quality, sending voice over data networks.

For now, a Illinois town about 60 miles south of Chicago, with a population of 27,537, is the only spot Sprint will name where the service is up and running. Sprint is using FD-LTE in the PCS (1.9 GHz band). It will probably upgrade to LTE-A quickly since the spec allows channel aggregation, allowing Sprint to gang two 10 MHz PCS channels together.

Clearwire is dumping WiMAX for LTE-A, system-wide, beginning mid-2013. Their Time Division flavor of LTE-A, on the 2.6 GHz band, is expected to lower the cost of delivering bits, while enabling voice over LTE. Clearwire’s 120 MHz of spectrum and compatibility with the Chinese and Indian TD-LTE standard, could address everyone that’s cutting cable and telephone cords, with fast, unlimited data.

National sports networks like ESPN and regional sports channels account for about 50 percent of the cost of the average cable, satellite or telco TV bill.

Ericsson demonstrated evolved Broadcast over LTE at Mobile World Congress this January. eMBMS is a highly efficient means of broadcasting content to multiple users simultaneously, utilizing LTE networks. Sprint and Dish will soon have LTE-A and 160 MHz of spectrum between them. Clearwire (and Dish Networks) could lower the boom on duopoly providers. AT&T and Verizon don’t have the spectrum for “wireless cable”. Sprint does.

If you were Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Dish Networks, where would you go?

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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