Analysis: Big strides
for Super 3G and WiMAX by 2009
Other topics: WiMAX Basestation Receivers,
WiMAX Radio Integration
October 9, 2007
INTERNATIONAL. The big telcos don't want to miss out on the latest
technology no matter what it is, WiMAX, DVB-H or 3G LTE, or 'Super 3G'.
Amid growing interest in alternative technologies, such as DVB-H and
WiMAX, 3G is set to fight back with 3G LTE, which could dramatically
enhance the capabilities of 3G networks from 2009, according to a report
'Prospects for the Evolution of 3G and 4G', from Analysys, the global
advisers on telecoms, IT and media.
Though LTE has more long-term potential, WiMAX at the moment is
benefiting from having a two-year head start in the market for
|Another ABI Research
study projects that the number of WiMAX subscribers will grow
substantially by 2012, as roughly 95 million CPE users and 200 million
mobile device users will be using the technology. WiMAX is now gaining
momentum as a legitimate technology due to a "sharp rise" in interest
among some major operators in using the technology, says the study. In
particular, the study singles out Sprint and Clearwire - which agreed
this Summer to collaborate on building America's first nationwide WiMAX
network - as leading the way.
Additionally, Vodafone is looking to deploy WiMAX in Middle Eastern and
Eastern European markets, the study reports.
HSPA (high-speed packet access) and MBMS (multimedia broadcast and
multicast service) bring important capability enhancements to W-CDMA.
However, they do not match broadcasting technologies (such as DVB-H) or
broadband wireless access (such as WiMAX) for delivering mobile TV,
Internet access and other important services. 3G may need a major leap
forward in capabilities to remain competitive.
The relatively little-known 3G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) standard, often
termed ‘Super 3G’, may provide the necessary breakthrough, to support a
range of new services from 2009.
By adopting many of the same techniques as alternative wireless
technologies, such as WiMAX, 3G LTE is aiming to achieve a peak downlink
data rate of 100Mbit/s, an increase in capacity of three to five times
compared to HSPA (in the same bandwidth) and latency as low as 20ms.
While its performance in a real network implementation remains to be
seen, such capabilities have the potential to enable some significant
new service opportunities.
Social change in mobile usage by 2009
Fixed-mobile substitution, when customers cease using fixed voice
services altogether, is a great opportunity for mobile-only operators.
However, the need to be competitive with DSL, in terms of performance
and pricing, places great demands on wireless technology. HSPA does not
achieve the capacity, latency or cost per Mbyte needed to compete
head-on with fixed DSL services. But according to Mark Heath, co-author
of the Analysys report, “3G LTE could bring the step change needed for
mobile operators to offer a realistic alternative to fixed services.”
Mobile TV and video are increasingly seen by mobile operators as ‘must
have’ services. However, by the time the majority of users have migrated
to 3G networks, HSPA will only be able to support a few minutes of
unicast viewing per day. Moreover, within the confines of current 3G
paired-frequency allocations, the MBMS broadcasting capability will only
support a small number of channels compared to DVB-H. But, as Mark Heath
points out: “3G LTE could enable mobile operators to offer an attractive
mix of broadcast and unicast content without needing DVB-H.”
The advent of 3G LTE could also make cellular VoIP (voice over IP)
commercially viable for the first time. VoIP could bring major benefits
for mobile operators, including cost savings and the ability to
integrate voice and multimedia services. “While there is insufficient
rationale for using VoIP over HSPA, due to IP overheads, there may be a
compelling case with 3G LTE,” says Heath.
Although 3G LTE could revolutionise the capabilities of 3G networks,
there are some important challenges to overcome. According to report
co-author Alastair Brydon, “The full benefits of 3G LTE will only be
achieved if mobile operators are able to use it in 20MHz of bandwidth,
which will require new spectrum allocations.” This means that mobile
operators will need to secure additional spectrum, such as the GSM
extension band, and ensure that other technologies or new entrants do
not get access to this valuable spectrum.
“While 3G LTE is being designed to minimise the cost of upgrades for
mobile networks, there are still great uncertainties over the
investments that operators will need to make, in terms of network
infrastructure and spectrum,” says Brydon. The 3G community will need to
address these uncertainties quickly if it is to build momentum in 3G LTE.
Prospects for the Evolution of 3G and 4G studies the options for the
evolution of 3G networks, focusing on the forthcoming 3G LTE and 4G
standards. It evaluates the realistic capabilities of 3G LTE in terms of
throughput, capacity, latency and cost per Mbyte. By modelling a typical
network, it quantifies the practical gains that will be achieved by 3G
LTE and the service mixes that it will be able to support. The report
identifies actions to enable mobile network operators and equipment
vendors to seize the opportunities that the evolution of 3G networks
Bundling of next generation devices
Philip Solis, the principal mobile broadband analyst for ABI, says that
he expects WiMAX devices and services will be widely available to
consumers by 2009, with some significant product rollouts in 2008. He
thinks that WiMAX will allow wireless operators such as Sprint to sign
their customers up for multiple mobile devices - including handsets,
digital cameras, portable media players and USB modems - at a time.
Solis notes that one of WiMAX's major barriers has been a lack of
available spectrum, especially in Europe. However, he says many
countries are now taking "a more technology-neutral approach to
licensing spectrum." The UK, for instance, has decided that it won't
limit the 2.6-GHz spectrum only to 3G technology.
However, Solis also says that WiMAX's dominance in the 4G market will be
short-lived, as he expects LTE technology to hit the market by 2012 at
the very latest. One major advantage that LTE has, he says, is that it
evolved from the widely used GSM technology, which will make it more
appealing to GSM subscribers.
"I think that LTE will be the long-term winner for 4G services," he
says. "But when LTE is just getting off the ground, WiMAX will already
be going strong. It will have a two-year market advantage and room to
WiMAX garnered a great deal of attention last month after recent WiMAX
World convention in Chicago saw the debut of Motorola's WiMAX client
chipset. Meanwhile, operators officially began testing LTE last year,
with heavyweights such as T-Mobile, Vodafone and Alcatel-Lucent
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