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The battle over next-generation cellular networks

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by Ironwalt, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. Ironwalt

    Ironwalt Junior Member
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    December 19, 2007, 6:00 am
    The battle over next-generation cellular networks
    By Michal Lev-Ram

    Half the world doesn’t even own a mobile phone but wireless carriers are already fighting over the next-generation cellular network.

    Consumers may care less about whether they’ll be using WiMAX, LTE or UMB to download video to their phones or browse the Web faster than ever before. But one by one, mobile operators are aligning themselves with one of these competing next-generation, or 4G, technologies, placing billion-dollar bets on the horse they hope will win the race.

    All three of the dueling technologies are Internet Protocol-based and tailored for mobile television, video chat and other data services that eat up a lot of bandwidth.

    The first of these technologies to hit prime time will be WiMax, which Sprint (S) is expected to soon launch in three trial markets — Chicago, Washington D.C. and Baltimore. By the end of 2008 the company says it will reach 100 million people with its new network. Motorola (MOT), one of the suppliers of infrastructure equipment — and eventually WiMax-enabled phones — for Sprint’s upcoming service, says it has signed 15 contracts for commercial WiMax networks.

    “We’re driving it at about twice the pace of traditional cellular technologies,” Fred Wright, senior VP of Motorola’s home and networks mobility unit, told reporters earlier this week.

    WiMax proponents claim that the technology is superior to other 4G standards because it’s faster and more affordable. But Philip Solis, an analyst with New York-based ABI Research, says all 4G networks are more or less created equal.

    “The three major 4G technologies are pretty much on par with each other,” says Solis, though he adds that WiMax has already been standardized and deployed.

    That didn’t stop Verizon Wireless (VZ) from picking LTE — Long Term Evolution. Solis says LTE isn’t expected to become widely available until 2010, but Verizon says it chose the technology partly because the roaming potential it will have with Vodafone. The British company owns a 40 percent stake in Verizon and has already chosen LTE as its next generation technology.

    Although the two largest CDMA carriers in the United States have picked opposing 4G technologies, Motorola’s Wright says that won’t slow adoption of next-gen networks.

    “There’s probably more industry confusion that was created than anything else,” he says.

    The U.S.’s No. 1 wireless carrier, AT&T (T), has not decided which 4G network it will deploy.

    In addition to WiMAX and LTE, AT&T has yet another technology to choose from — Qualcomm’s (QCOM) UMB, or Ultra Mobile Broadband. So far, though, no mobile operator has committed to UBM.

    But the bigger question — beyond whether the 4G network of choice will be WiMAX, LTE or UMB –– is whether consumers are as hungry for wireless broadband as carriers think they are.

    “We’re all hoping they’ll want to watch TV on their cell phones,” says Qualcomm executive Joe Lawrence.
     
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  2. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Its Funny they say AT&T hasnt choosen but AT&T has been dropping blatent hints its going LTE. Which LTE to me it obvious because it can talk to GSM, UMTS and CDMA. And AT&T current roaming partners especially the smaller ones arent going to lose money so they will probably follow.

    This is what I think will happen IMO. ATT, Verizon and Tmobile will go LTE, and Sprint Wimax.

    We need something from the other two bigger carriers Alltel and USCC to see what the landscape will really look like.
     
  3. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    Imagine the roaming possibilities of ATT, Verizon and TMO togeather. Talk about having a phone that worked almost everywhere! I think thats better than analog roaming. I think we are seeing the end of the CDMA/GSM debate.

    -Jay
     
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  4. Ironwalt

    Ironwalt Junior Member
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    Yeah that would be sweet.
     
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  5. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    I always laughed about analog roaming because if you didnt have at least 2 bars solid you were going to get the dreaded beep, beep, beep let alone an ear tumor and about 20 seconds of battery life. I do miss have a 3 watt analog phone in my work truck when Im working on a tower outage that knocks out a 10 mile wide area and you dont have squat and your field test mode just says
    ERR, ERR, ERR, ERR
     
    #5 RadioFoneGuy, Dec 19, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2007
  6. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    You know what I was just thinking, I wonder since Verizon will be potentially using the same standard as ATT, would they implement SIM card technology by that time? It would be silly to be using the same technology as ATT and not use SIMs.

    -Jay
     
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  7. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    I remember in my old TDMA StarTac days I used to manually force my phone into analog mode because instead of choppy audio, I'd have static. It was easier to hear through the static than to miss 5 seconds of a conversation.

    -Jay
     
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  8. garitaar

    garitaar New Member

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    Actually, LTE is 3gpp, not 3gpp2, so it talks WCDMA, not CDMA. CDMA and WCDMA have a lot of concepts in common, as one might suspect.

    CDMA is the made-in-California technology designed for security and robust electromagnetics compatibility properties for extreme military needs, and evolved to what Sprint & Verizon support today.

    The UMTS spec uses WCDMA as the wireless link. WCDMA is the thing that the GSM (TDMA) companies are migrating to in attempt to catch up with the CDMA operators. GSM & WCDMA are largely from Europe, though not entirely, so naturally (?!?!) AT&T uses GSM and WCMDA/UMTS.

    So Jay2, maybe this explains the real reason why the GSM folks are making less noise in attempt to perpetuate a CDMA versus GSM debate. They are trying to figure out how to 'splain the GSM operators' migration to WCDMA, and their best way to do that is to start talking about what comes next. The reality check is that AT&T and T-Mobile are just getting warmed-up on WCDMA/UMTS. Your notebook 'puter probably does not even yet have built-in CDMA/EVDO nor WCDMA/UMTS. I expect that the CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS will be with us for a very long time to come, and that is just fine.

    Might Verizon's influence from outside the US motivate them toward a 3gpp solution instead of a 3gpp2 track? I think I remember when Verizon's non-US representation stated that they would be doing WCDMA/UMTS, and a few weeks later, the US group announced that they would stay the course with CDMA. One wonders how the US-based technical staff at Verizon feel about this decision to migrate to the 3gpp/UMTS technologies.

    Will Sprint be the only remaining all-USA technology operator?

    garitaar
     
  9. Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton 10 years scandal free....
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    I am a little worried for Sprint if they are the only WiMax carrier in the US.

    I also have a feeling that people are not going to rush out and get a 4G device when the networks roll out. It's somewhat like the BluRay and HD DVD battle. Most people are fine with a standard DVD and they aren't in a huge hurry to get the next thing when the future is so unsure.

    Many people in the WA community to take advantage of the latest offerings but most customers are doing alright with the 3G technologies and >25% will be beating down the door to get a 4G device. I could be way off but it's just my general feeling. The plans are expensive and the majority of people just need their phone for talk and text and possibly the web. For that 3G speeds are fine.

    The 700MHz auction could bring about some changes in what the future looks like so that will be exciting to watch,
     
  10. garitaar

    garitaar New Member

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    I agree, but I fully expect that WiMAX, if Sprint continues with it, is just a method to provide higher-speed non-moving data services for notebooks - not really for voice or handsets. WiMAX uses OFDM, but the real sizzle comes with a more evolved OFDM called OFDMA. OFDMA enables UMB, and I seriously hope that Sprint ends up there - at ultra-mobile broadband UMB by Qualcomm.

    garitaar
     
  11. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Absolutely. It was Vodafone's idea to move Verizon down the LTE path, in order to offer a more compatible and open network. That's only a benefit to consumers. With 3 of the top 4 US operators taking LTE (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile) device compatibility and network roaming will be much easier for everyone. Sprint will be the odd man out with WiMAX, and Qualcom will be left crying on their UMB patents, as no US operator has chosen them.

    Altho to date WiMAX is mainly fixed wireless, the mobile version 802.16e is expected to support voice:
    ...and with Sprint's huge investment into WiMAX, I doubt they will switch to UMB down the road, especially if nobody else is using it. Maybe they'll join the LTE club eventually out of peer pressure, but anyway they are stuck with WiMAX the next 5 years or so, as they will have to earn back the money they invested in hardware.
     
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  12. garitaar

    garitaar New Member

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    WiMAX, if Sprint moves ahead with it, is not relavant to their handset users, but it could bring in a lot of notebook 'puter users.

    For handsets and voice services, a Sprint migration to a technology that is incompatible with their existing CDMA technology is highly unlikely indeed. I still have my doubts that Verizon will follow-through with such a shift - especially since there is no technological upside nor economic benefit, such moves are not logical.
     
  13. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    You have to look at the current technology shelf life as well and at a certain point you can only upgrade so much and the manufacturer whether Nortel, Moto, Nokia or whoever will stop support this equipment. All of these carrier have had experience running two networks side by side and migrating over to the other.

    LTE is flexible for both CDMA and GSM carriers to migrate from their system to LTE and tests have already been down with handoffs to both system using MIMO.

    Running mulitple systems isnt new, I see if everyday when I see either a CDMA, TDMA, Analog and a GSM cabinet sitting nexting to each other at the towers I work on.
     
  14. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    That's a good point. CDMA and GSM will most likely phased out in the next few years in favor of 3G technologies. In Japan I don't think any 2G networks are left in operation, I think it's only 3G. And in Europe, GSM900 is starting to be swapped out for UMTS900. It's a natural evolution.

    Since Verizon and Sprint are changing tracks away from the CDMA rail, it will be more difficult for them as their new technologies (LTE and WiMAX) will require a different chipset than their current CDMA one. So that means either having devices with dual chipets (expensive) or to force a change to the new technology and kill the old one.

    The largest operator in Australia (Telstra) did this recently. Between 2006-2007 they built up a 3G WCDMA network on 850Mhz and killed their 2G CDMA network on the same frequency. The change-over was a bit fast and messy, but in the end everyone was better of with a faster and newer 3G network.

    I suppose Verzon and/or Sprint could do something similar, but that would depend on their overall strategy, frequency allocation, etc. I can imagine them running 2 paralel networks for a while and making the change more gradually. Hopefully the voice quality on WiMAX will improve for Sprint's sake. Otherwise they'll be stuck running 2 networks (CDMA for voice, and WiMAX for data). But then Sprint likes to do things bass-ackwards ;)
     
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    #14 RadioRaiders, Dec 21, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2007
  15. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    3G to me is a vague statement, I have read somewhere Japan is still running their 2G TDMA knockoff and the Goofy Foma which technically 3G but will confuse the hell out any one elses UMTS phones. EVDO may be 3G but the voice is still using 2G architechure. Basically I could take a TDMA Base Station slaps some high speed date in it and call it 3G. It could only hold a handfull of calls but dang Youtube would load fast.
     
  16. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    I think wideband is the main criteria for 3G. In GSM the timeslots are 200 khz (about 14kbps) and CDMA uses orthogonality resulting in a similar user bandwidth/rate. They are both narrowband technologies. GPRS and EDGE "turbo charges" those GSM timeslots and earns the name "2.5 or 2.75 G", but really theres only so much you can do. You cant turn a Hyundai into a BMW ;)

    WCDMA uses 5 MHz and if theres only one user on the network, can give almost the whole band to the one user. EVDO is also wideband. So they both earn 3G titles.
     
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  17. Jerro

    Jerro Bronze Senior Member
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    The one that will win consumer support is the one that works well and drives down prices.
     
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  18. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    What works the best doesn't always become the standard. Remember Betamax? Sony wanted too much for the licensing fees so VHS was created.

    -Jay
     
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  19. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    I think the 4G battle was over before it started ;) LTE is the successor in the GSM/UMTS track that 85% of the world is using allready, so it's safe to say LTE will be the most widely deployed 4G technology. WiMAX will be a distant 2nd, and UMB will either be a VERY distant 3rd (or maybe aborted before it's launched, if nobody commits to it)
     
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  20. Jerro

    Jerro Bronze Senior Member
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    True, however I mentioned " The one that will win consumer support is the one that works well and drives down prices". So whatever they build will have to be accepted by the consumer or it flops. Right?
     
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  21. cheddar

    cheddar Senior Member
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    WIMAX wins if Intel wants it to. If every laptop with an intel chipset supports WIMAX the demand for WIMAX will be huge. It could easily take the most profitable portion of the market. Than again, Intel may not be willing to push things that hard.
     
  22. TelcomJunkie

    TelcomJunkie Bad Handoff Investigator
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    I'd really wager that Intel is interested in WiMax.
     
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  23. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Intel is probably the biggest thing WiMAX has going for it, and that's a big variable factor. Intel probably likes it because WiMAX is an IEEE 802.xx standard like WiFi and LAN, so it fits well with them. The only problem is most network operators are going the LTE route because it's on the same track as their legacy GSM/UMTS equipment. Intel can put WiMAX in as many laptops as they want, but if not many on the network side don't want to support it, it won't get too far. I'm sure LTE will be embedded in laptops also, as the demand for it grows.
     
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  24. cheddar

    cheddar Senior Member
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    I certainly agree that LTE isn't going the way of the dodo just yet. However, WIMAX already seems to have made more progress than CDMA ever did. I'm specifically thinking of Europe. Although if handset developers can give us multiple network compatibility at a decent price we may finally be able to not care what the network is running. We're probably not that lucky though.

    Now the Chinese could really make things interesting. How about a billion people without access to LTE, UMB, WIMAX, or anything we currently know?
     
  25. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    Well, what is China using then?

    -Jay
     
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  26. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    WiMAX is currently only deployed in Europe as a way to provide broadband to rural customers with no fixed-line ADSL access. So don't think it's all that popular in the old-world. It ain't ;)

    No cellular operators are really considering the mobile version of WiMAX, as GSM/UMTS is the incumbent technology, and LTE will be the "Long Term Evolution" of that ;)

    As for the Chinese, they have a mix of technologies, as most Asian countries do. Some home-grown stuff. GSM/UMTS is also pretty big there, as it is in the rest of the world (visitors need to be able to roam there, so it can't be all homegown stuff ;).

    The Chinese even made their own company a few years ago (Huawei) that produces GSM/UMTS network infrastructure (don't count on them for quality tho ;)). But they did manage to sell some in Europe! I know the Netherlands has some of their switches. They also have some customers in the Middle East. None in the USA that I know of.
     
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  27. bobolito

    bobolito Diamond Senior Member
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    That is so outdated information. AT&T's CEO has said in several interviews that they are going LTE.

    But we shouldn't forget about Alltel. They are an important roaming partner for Verizon and Sprint networks and who knows which route they may follow. They can go WiMax to side with Sprint so they can still have a national coverage map, or do it the hard way and go LTE and side with Verizon for national coverage, or they can go solo and embrace UMB and then have no national coverage and hard-to-get, incompatible (basically proprietary) phones.

    Something tells me Alltel would've liked going UMB, but because both Verizon and Sprint are abandoning Qualcomm they'll have to choose which way they will go: either WiMax or LTE. However, they have more reasons to choose LTE over anything else. Given that Alltel already has a large GSM network in place, that can pave the way for them to make the choice to go LTE, because the GSM core is the foundation for UMTS/HSDPA and LTE networks. Another reason for Alltel to pick LTE is the roaming revenue they can get from AT&T and Verizon. There's more revenue to get from that. If they pick WiMax, that network will only be useful to Sprint customers which will be less revenue, and if they pick UMB, that whole western side of the US they cover will be useless for everybody, so no roaming revenue there.
     
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  28. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
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    I think at this point it would be foolish for Alltel to go any other route than LTE, otherwise you are right, they would loose the capability of roaming on other networks, (Which they need for urban areas) and loose the revenue they would get from other carriers roaming on their network. Also, GSM based technology is a better fit for their attitude towards the customer and their choice of equipment. They are the only CDMA carrier I can think of right now that doesn't restrict the Bluetooth functions on their phones, which is more common on the GSM side.

    -Jay
     
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  29. RadioFoneGuy

    RadioFoneGuy Powered by HTC FUZE
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    Qualcomm is still in a good spot with LTE, since it uses a hybrid form of WCDMA. Maybe since its not 100% CDMA they wont be able to rape and pillage handset makers like they do know.
     
  30. Fire14

    Fire14 Easy,Cheap & Sleazy
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    Poor Outlook for Umb, but Qualcomm's Future Still Secure

    The prospects for widespread adoption of Qualcomm's flagship 4G technology UMB (Ultra Mobile Broadband) are dim, according to a new study from ABI Research. But Qualcomm's intellectual property portfolio is strong in key enabling technologies for 4G, and the company faces no real threat to its long-term future even without successful UMB network rollouts.

    The technology is expected to be commercially available by mid-2009, but, says senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, "No operator has yet announced plans to trial or deploy UMB. Several of the major CDMA operators in the two primary markets are migrating to other technologies. Vendors cannot move forward with development unless their customers commit to trial this technology. WiMAX and LTE have ecosystems in place that offer support. LTE, which is expected to be available around 2010, already has operator commitment from Vodafone and Verizon. WiMAX has implemented many trials, and has over fifty commercial deployments underway."

    ABI Research believes Qualcomm's biggest potential market for UMB is in Asia, but many operators there are considering WiMAX or are still focused on 3G. So UMB is unlikely to make much progress or significant revenue there.

    However Qualcomm has diversified its product portfolio by acquiring companies with OFDMA and MIMO patents (Flarion, for example) and has also developed chipsets for W-CDMA/HSPA technology. It will continue to be a strong industry player without UMB.

    "While Qualcomm has made many significant contributions to mobile communications," concludes Manjaro, "in this case we just have to be realistic. Vendors need to step up and say that they aren't going to invest any more resources in developing this technology, since there is virtually no demand for it."

    Poor Outlook for Umb, but Qualcomm's Future Still Secure
     

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