December 2009 saw the first commercial launch of LTE networks, with TeliaSonera the first service provider in the world to offer the service in Stockholm and Oslo. 2010 promises to see the commercial launch of several LTE networks, including large operators such as Verizon Wireless in the United States and NTT DoCoMo in Japan. With voice standards still in development and a lack of compatible handsets, however, one can expect these networks to carry only data traffic for some time to come.
As LTE deployments begin to pick up pace, WiMAX continues its steady progress. ABI Research Analyst Bhavya Khanna says, “While LTE does promise data speeds greater than 50 Mbps, they have yet to be achieved by live or trial networks, whereas mobile WiMAX is now a tried and tested standard.” Several operators, including Sprint in the United States, have chosen to go with WiMAX as their 4G network of choice. ABI Research reports 164 mobile WiMAX networks in trial or commercial operation at the end of 2009, compared to just over 100 LTE trials.
In addition, the total number of network contract announcements for mobile WiMAX tracked by ABI Research was 242, compared to only 38 for LTE. With the planned launch of several WiMAX devices in 2010, including handsets from smartphone maker HTC, it looks likely that this technology will co-exist with LTE for some time to come.