LTE (Long term Evolution) and Wimax (Worldwide interoperability for Microwave access) are the two competing fourth generation technology standards that will usher in next generation wireless. (Thats a long long way off for a country like India, which struggles with 3G roll outs.)
As the graphic above suggests, the debate today centres around LTE versus WiMAX. Interestingly enough both these technologies come from the same parent OFDM. To that extent they are siblings and this is about sibling rivalry (Kane and Able anyone?)
Graphic on how data speeds stack up in Technologies. This doesnot mention the super standard which would be a combination of LTE and WImax and is supposed to have 1GB/Sec speeds on data transfer.
The Camps and the Lineage
Wimax is being rolled out by Sprint Nextel – Clearwire partnership. The roll out barnd would now be Clear (It was Xohm earlier). The roll out is expected to begin in 2009. This group has the auspices of Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Comcast and we will see why they have this backing. Mobile WiMAX has been implemented by WiBro in South Korea since 2006. As a technology WiMAX has been around for sometime now and it is now that it is beginning to see serious on the ground action.
LTE is being spearheaded by carriers At&T and Sprint in US, NTT Docomo in Japan. 7 major Telecom companies have agreed to a mutual framework for licensing I P Rights relating to LTE. This includes Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, NEC, Next Wave Wireless, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Network and Sony Ericsson. The clamor for LTE standards recieved a big boost when Nortel deserted its WiMAX position to check into the LTE camp (Nortel is a toast of recesssionary history now). Vodafone, the worlds No 1 operator also supports LTE standards, which comes as a huge fillip to the LTS camp!
Time to Market
WiMAX will see the first level of deployments and serious action in 2009 and it will have a head start over LTE, which would only come alive by 2011-12. Having a 2-3 years head start can be a boon as GSM proved against CDMA. GSM was ahead of CDMA in terms of launch and till date enjoys 80% of the world market share.
This time to market for WiMAX as a technology will be offset by the pace of LTE launch. LTE will use the existing UMTS networks for a quicker launch. Thus it makes up for the time disadvantage by the incumbent advantage in terms of roll outs