LTE and WiMAX - Ericsson View
Ericsson’s Chief Technology Officer, Håkan Eriksson, has been named one of the most influential people of 2008 by a leading industry publication, Telephony Online, for his steadfast advocacy of the LTE standard.
February 4, 2009
We asked Håkan Eriksson three questions about why he stood behind the 3GPP-based Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard when others were touting WiMAX technology, and why he believes LTE will lead the way to the 4G future.
What was the argument you presented that helped to deflate the hype surrounding WiMAX? In this industry, there are 30 mobile handsets sold every second. It does not matter if you think one technology is better than another, because the sheer economy of scale becomes the most important factor. We already have more than 300 million subscriptions on the WCDMA/HSPA standard – a 3GPP track that will lead to LTE. Mobile WiMAX subscriptions are estimated to reach 100 million by 2013. By then, the estimate is that there will be 1.2 billion WCDMA/HSPA subscribers. That is more than a tenfold scale advantage. What’s more, WiMAX’s performance cannot match the capacity of HSPA. So not only is WiMAX’s market share smaller, it loses in terms of performance also.
How is LTE gaining momentum among carriers? We see a constant momentum of LTE uptake. We have those carriers, like Verizon, operating on the CDMA track – making up 11 to 13 percent of the market – realizing this standardization track is simply too small to survive. Operators such as China Mobile that have been awarded a TD-SCDMA license are showing interest in upgrading to LTE. The third group that we see making the move to LTE includes traditional GSM/WCDMA/HSPA players such as TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, and Vodafone. While these players do not have an urgency to upgrade at the moment because they are currently operating on high-performing HSPA, they will still need new spectrum in the future to meet their capacity needs. They will then deploy LTE to be able to offer the even higher speeds of that standard. The fourth group, those operating on WiMAX, have also expressed a readiness to move to LTE in case WiMAX does not develop according to their plans, a scenario that looks more likely as time passes.
How long will it take for LTE to become the mainstream 4G standard? The first generation of mobile telephony saw six different standards, and during the second generation there were four. Today, there are only two standards, HSPA and CDMA. In the future, there will be one mainstream standard – LTE – delivering a ‘killer experience’ with coverage and speed that will be available anywhere in the world. But we have to remember that every generation so far has taken 10 years to evolve. We have already learned a lot when it comes to HSPA, and we cannot skip this generation just because LTE seems to be right around the corner.