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LTE comes into focus

Verizon leads charge to deploy Long Term Evolution wireless

By Brad Reed
April 3, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Network World - In the two weeks prior to the International CTIA Wireless convention, Motorola's team of technicians went to work building an ad hoc 4G wireless network on top of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The goal was to give convention attendees a live outdoor demonstration of Long Term Evolution mobile broadband technology by streaming live high-definition video from the top of the building into a moving van.

The results were far from perfect; the video was jittery because the network equipment's location atop the convention center was not ideal for propagation, but the demonstration served notice that LTE is starting to move out of the test labs of carriers and device manufacturers and into the real world.

Widely expected to be the next major standard in mobile broadband technology, LTE received a lot of attention from both speakers and vendors at this year's CTIA show, which attracted 1,000 exhibitors -- a 10% increase over last year (CTIA officials did not have attendance figures however). As telecom carriers talked about deploying LTE, there was a sense that the wireless industry was reaching the end of an era. Specifically, it seems that the days when cellular carriers charge by the minute for voice services could be numbered.

Because LTE is built entirely around IP, wireless users will be far more likely to make their calls via VoIP systems than via traditional cellular networks, said AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega during a question-and-answer session. In particular, de la Vega said LTE's high bandwidth means that carriers would eventually move toward pricing models under which users are charged only for data volume, not for minutes.

"Once we deploy LTE, we will be able to sell more data at a lower price than we do today," he said. "The future trend will be to just sell data. It's a little too early to talk about rate plans for LTE, but I think the way the world is going it will be about how much data you want to buy."

And it isn't just the way that carriers price their voice services that could change with the advent of LTE. Fred Wright, who serves as Motorola's senior vice president for cellular and WiMax networks, predicted that widespread LTE adoption would result in more manufacturers designing mobile devices that place more emphasis on video services and less on voice and data.

"I expect that LTE devices will have four-inch display screens, for example, which won't have any buttons or keypads on [them]," he said. "It will be a larger display screen than current smartphones... the reason for this is that LTE will be all about video."

Reprinted with permission from NetworkWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 Network World, Inc. All rights reserved.
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