V go with LTE

Friday, September 21, 2007

Carriers, Vodafone (VOD) and Verizon Wireless (VZ) have suggested that they will each go ahead with the 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE). This announcement signifies a stride ahead for LTE amidst the noise that Vodafone is making about dabbling with WiMax. This also sounds the death knell for the QualComm (QCOM) proprietary Ultra-Mobile BroadBand (UMB) as a competing 4G standard. While I will analyze the impact of this announcement in a later article, this is dedicated to removing a few popular misconceptions. I am a little disappointed with some of the half-informed and misguiding reports following this announcement. Among other things, I wish to re-emphasize the following points -
  • LTE is not a GSM technology, it is rather an evolution of the GSM standard
  • WCDMA/HSDPA that serve as the link between GSM and LTE is based on CDMA physical layer. In other words, the core over-the-air interface is similar in flavor to CDMA2000
  • UMB is not CDMA-based, but is rather an evolution of the CDMA2000 standard. In fact UMB and LTE are based on the same underlying Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) technology.
  • This may be bad for UMB, but not entirely for QualComm.
So, as a consequence -
  • Irrespective of whether UMB or LTE, or for that matter, WiMax wins, at the end of the day, CDMA as a technology is on its way out and even QualComm knows this.
  • Since the migration to UMB or LTE will have involved similar infra-structure overhauling, it makes sense for Verizon to go with LTE (I will elaborate on this in a subsequent article)
In summary, the notion of CDMA Vs GSM is very rudimentary and an analysis of the underlying technologies reveals much more in common than perceived and should be kept in mind as we look ahead into the futures of the companies with stakes in the battle.

Posted by Vijay Nagarajan at 4:45 PM  

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