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LTE,WiMAX: Co-Existance over Absolute Winning

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on April 10, 2009

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Making its loyalties clear, for the first time in about 5 years, Nokia has averred LTE to be the future 4G technology standards over WiMAX. In an interview to Financial Times, Nokia EVP (New Markets) Anssi Vanjoki, fore-beared WiMAX to be Betamax of the 4G technology standards. His remarks were the most dismissive by Nokia of WiMax to date. Nokia has previously been perceived as taking care not to be too critical of WiMax, while Nokia still has a seat on the board of the WiMax Forum.

Sony Betamax and VHS were also involved in a war of video format technology standards in 1970s and 80s, which was eventually won by VHS setting the technology standard.

 

The Finnish company is betting the 4G wireless standard LTE – Long Term Evolution – will dominate the mobile world by 2015 and WiMax will be the big loser.Nokia’s claim is the first in an open forum and comes after the Finnish Phone maker has had stakes in both the technologies. Nokia went as far as developing the first prototype of WiMAX based internet tablets, which were subsequently never put to production. The telecommunication industry is increasingly getting fragmented into the LTE and the WiMAX camps.

 

While I have covered WiMAX and LTE in a few other blog posts as well, I fail to see why one technology must beat the other in the future technology perspective. Both technologies may be fulfilling the same objective of high speed data carriers, but the technologies per se are based on very different platforms. LTE with its greater carpet area will allow users to access high speed data from a bigger geography. It has an able back up in terms of the 3G/2G network. If there is a hole in the LTE, users will tend to fall back on the 3G/2G backbones, there by not breaking the connection. The ability to leverage on the 3G/UMTS infrastructure decreases the initial costs.

 

WiMAX on the other hand, depends on line of sight which limits the geographical spread. However, it’s enhanced features such as security and multi-bands make it a huge bet in the enterprise segment. It will essentially replace WiFi as the office standard. Being a high value segment, the profitability of WiMAX could be expected to be higher that LTE. From the consumer perspective, WiMAX has a low operating cost, reducing the per unit cost. However, unlike the LTE, WiMAX has a high initial cost of infrastructure installation.

 

On the whole, while 80% of the telecom footprint will be LTE, WiMAX’s 20% will be more profitable and versatile. LTE on the other hand will be mostly voice/data based services.

 

I guess, we will have to wait and watch how this space develops. It will be only good for the consumers if both technologies are allowed to take their own course to offer the best of 4G technologies to the consumer. The future ought to be decided by the consumer more than anyone else.

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Debating WiMAX and LTE (Part II)

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on February 21, 2009

Picking the winner

Experts and bloggers all over have contested and claimed on which one is better than the other LTE or WiMAX? This is perhaps precipitated by the camps which back the technologies. However, a third view on these technologies suggest that there is no winner in strict terms because these technologies are complementary in nature. Bore OFDM parent, WiMAX has a data background and LTE has a voice background. Furthermore, WiMAX will work on 5 levels of service such as emergency services, public safety, data transmission (real time and otherwise) and Voice. To that extent it appears to be more versatile than LTE which has only two levels of service (one for voice, and the other for everything else). So the usage and market positions of these two technologies will depend on customers and their usages, spectrum positions and other technology quantities. Thus the idea (as depicted bythe graphic below) is complementary technologies for divergent telecom needs. There is a possibility that a single vendor may be use both these standards to provide services to different class of consumers!wimax_and_lte_pic

Advantage LTE: Where does LTE score above WiMAX?

LTE is the natural evolution resultant from 2G to #G and onto LTE. Thus

1. Handset manufacturers are likely to weight toward LTE handsets (as an extension of their 2G,3G,3.5G lines)

2. Using the existing UMTS network for 80% of its needs, LTE will not involve very high CAPEX involvements. Thus a better experience can be rewarded to the consumer with less investment as far as Telcos are concerned.

3. Mobile operators will roll out LTE and users can fall back on the 2G/3G networks where-ever there is a “hole” in the LTE network.

Advantage WiMAX: Where WiMAX would outscore LTE?

1. WiMAX works on a open standard which translates into a cheaper network.This reduces the cost of operations to almost half of that of LTE

2. As discussed earlier with 5 levels of service, WiMAX is a more versatile service compared to LTE.

3. Build on the IEEE 802.16 wireless broadband standard, fixed WiMAX (802.16D) will tantamount to a huge WiFi area. So this can be used in large campuses and office complexes and for within city Broadband and voice services (as long as in line of sight). Thus in terms of usage, WiMAX can be versatile in terms of group usage as well.

Weaknesses LTE and WiMAX

1. LTE will be limited to single subscriber system on a large carpet area.

2. WiMAX would work on a multi subscriber system in a small carpet area. Also, with loss in line of sight and distances between the tower and the reciver, the rates of data transfer may be erratic and inconsistent.

Final Verdict

Yet again, it will be different strokes for different folks sort of a thing out here. Taking pole positions with any one technology could prove to be counterproductive for the players in the market. While LTE will ride upon 80% GSM market share, WiMAX will be handy in Enterprise operation markets and data heavy networks. So while LTE will be at a lesser advantage in Data, WiMAX may find it difficult to cover full geographies as exhaustively as LTE!

The interesting bit is that a study into cellular subscriber patterns in 2012 still reveal that 55% of 4.8 billion cellular subscribers (by 2012) would still be using the GSM/EDGE/GPRS technologies and only a lowly handful will be into WiMAX and LTE.

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Debating WiMAX and LTE (part 1)

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on February 21, 2009

215id2_art_110LTE (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?)

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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
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