2011 will be the year when LTE goes live in a big way, as Verizon in the United States and DoCoMo in Japan will begin wide-scale roll-outs by the end of 2010. ABI Research Analyst Bhavya Khanna reports, “132 networks have reported trials or plans to launch LTE commercially, 32 more than the end of 2009. Verizon has also hinted at the availability of LTE-based handsets by May 2011.”
“However,” Khanna cautions, “don’t expect WiMAX to bow out just yet. Despite setbacks including Russia’s Yota switching to LTE, 188 WiMAX networks are now in trial or commercial operation worldwide. With India’s wireless broadband spectrum auction recently concluded, expect that number to grow in 2011. Clearwire, a WiMAX service provider in the United States, continues to build out its network and add subscribers, buoyed by the launch of a popular WiMAX-capable handset, the HTC EVO 4G.”
The threat that WiMAX will face will come from TD-LTE, an alternative technology championed by China and Qualcomm that can operate on the same bandwidth as existing WiMAX networks. If this technology proves successful, it could see several WiMAX operators migrate to the LTE standard.
While this battle plays out, incumbent operators cannot afford to ignore their legacy 3G networks. Technology upgrades such as HSPA+ for WCDMA networks are also proving popular, helping incumbents cope with demands for increasing speeds and bandwidth efficiency. As of March 2010, over 41 network operators had trials or commercial launches of HSPA+ networks, including T-Mobile in the United States and Vodafone in Turkey.
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