Verizon CTO on their LTE Rollout and Use of Femtocells in the Home

Contrary to what you’ve might have read elsewhere, Verizon CTO Dick Lynch did not make a surprise LTE deployment announcement on 12/8/08 at Cisco’ C-Scape conference. What he did say was: "We expect to have LTE in service somewhere in the U.S. around this time next year. We’ll follow that up almost immediately with LTE to the home using femto-cells, which probably will have WiFi in them." There was no definite LTE committment from Verizon and no mention of locations or scale for their LTE deployments.

A similar statement was made by Link Hoewing, Verizon’s VP of Internet and Technology Policy, in early October at the US Telecom Association’s 2nd Annual Executive Business Forum in San Jose, CA. Hoewing stated that Verizon Wireless "plans to roll out LTE in early 2010 with possibily 75M bit/sec downstream rate." So Lynch’s LTE statement moves that up a few months, but was not indicative of an accelerated mass deployment. We think the VZW LTE deployment will likely be a very controlled test bed evnironment, limited to one or more select cities.

Our rationale: With the LTE standard not completely finished, there aren’t even any pre-standard LTE devices available yet. Hence, we think it’s quite premature for any large LTE roll out one year from now. Testing and device certification will be required for mass deployment and that is at least 2 years off, in our opinion.

The uncertain timing of LTE availability was highlighted by Enrico Salvatori, senior VP and general manager for Qualcomm Europe, speaking at the company’s inaugural European Innovation Summit on 12/2/08. He cautioned that commercial availability of Qualcomm’s LTE/HSPA+ multimode device, dubbed the MDM9000, "still depends on a number of very uncertain factors." According to a report in EE Times, there are still major standardization issues to be resolved, even though the important Rev.8 standard is due to be finalized in mid December, that there is still uncertainty about which spectrum ranges LTE would be deployed, and noted there are many important choices to be made on network topology.

Mr. Lynch stated that low latency (e.g. 10 to 15 ms delay vs 110 to 125 ms with 3G) would be a distinguishing characteristic of 4G technologies. Ubiquity will be critically important to success. VZ believes that "LTE will be the dominant provider technology to deliver 4G wireless broadband data services," according to Mr Lynch. The company is working with partners Vodafone and China Mobile to ensure LTE is embedded in many different types of devices for consumers and enterprise customers. "Think of 4G broadband technology in every car on the road, in every meter in the house, in consumer electronic appliances you buy," Lynch said. An example of a broadband wireless machine to machine was given: a camera wirelessly connected to a photo storage facility, with the capability for the camera to do auto uploads after the wireless connection was established.

Another key point made by Lynch was that femtocells would be used to deliver wireless broadband to residential users who want wireless (not wired) devices for use within the home. In this case, the network access configuration would be LTE to/from from the cell site and the home, with femto-cells used to create a micro cell site within each home for broadband wireless data delivery.

A few questions to ponder:

Do you think LTE will the dominant 4G technology or does mobile WiMAX have a chance given that it is now available or soon will be?

Does mobile WiMAX have a chance given that it is now available or soon will be while LTE is atleast 2 years (or more) from actual deployment?

If so, how can mobile WiMAX capitalize on this time to deployment lead?

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