LTE is about lowering costs for operators and enabling new service innovation, says SmarTone CEO Douglas Li. "At the end of the day, it's not about speed. Capacity is actually more important than speed - it's the rationale for LTE."
Because SmarTone had new spectrum, by installing the next-generation technology "we could double our capacity overnight."
Li says SmarTone moved to LTE because over the long term, after the wide adoption of LTE, its cost base is going to come down. "The cost of equipment is going to come down, the cost of devices is going to come down and new service innovation will be more likely because everybody is moving to it."
He says he's worried that by touting the superior speeds of LTE customers could be disappointed when they find that many apps only run slightly faster. "There should be little or no difference in the customer experience for most use cases between 3G and 4G - except for large file downloads and speed tests."
He asks, do operators really want phones to indicate 3G and 4G? Because operators won't tear down their 3G networks anytime soon, he suggests moving to stating simply "narrowband" or "broadband", noting that the intention from the start was for 3G and 4G to work together interchangeably.
"Actually, I've told my team that we will continue investing in HSPA to make sure the gap between the two isn't material in terms of the customer experience in most use cases. Why? Because I intend to use that full capacity since users won't be on 4G all the time."
Depending on the LTE spectrum band deployed, many operators need to continue to boost their in-building coverage with 3G.