Monday, December 12, 2011

Hopes of LTE Unifying 4G Slim At Best

Wireless Intelligence GraphJust in case you were wondering, next-gen LTE mobile broadband networks won't be unifying global communications anytime soon, and they may never do so, period. A new Wireless Intelligence report was published on Friday that estimates that over 200 LTE networks will have been launched around the world by the year 2015 (that is, of course, if the 2012 doomsday doesn't kill us first).

This may seem like fantastic news at first, but then you realize that your LTE device will be incapable of working on all of them. It is also estimated that a total of 38 frequencies are expected to be on these networks as well. Looking at the Wireless Intelligence chart may put some people at ease due to the fact that a majority of the LTE networks will be using the 700MHz spectrum. Unfortunately, there are two problems.

The first problem is that 67% of LTE networks are using 700MHz is for this year (2011). Looking at the inner ring of the chart shows that 700MHz is still currently the preferred frequency for networks running in 2015 but only 16% for the operators. The second problem is that even within range of a like spectrum, carriers can still use slightly different frequencies. This effectively removes the ability to move a device from one network to another.

Fragmentation of this sort is already visible in the U.S. LTE networks currently in development. AT&T, as well as Verizon, are both using 700MHz blocks though with a slight variance. Verizon's network will use 746 to 787MHz while AT&T's will use 704 to 746MHz.

Making sure that every country in the world is on the same spectrum is beyond impossible, especially considering the regions that have been using certain frequencies for years now. It may not even be possible to do so at this point anyway which is especially disappointing considering the fact that mobile internet is starting to empower users to think on a more global scale.

Source: Gigaom - With 38 frequency flavors, LTE won't unify 4G

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