08 Jun 2010
4G long-term evolution (LTE) is front and center in terms of telecom industry buzz, but finding out where the market stands is like playing a game of telephone. It's hard to figure out what's fact and what's fiction.
To level-set LTE migration progress, we opted for a sanity check with ACG Research principal analyst Bill Rubino about all things LTE, who gave us the low-down on which 4G LTE vendors are on the scoreboard, developing an evolved packet core (EPC) technology, where LTE equipment mergers and acquisitions might happen, and operator deployments of LTE networks.
In terms of what's really going on, which carriers are on the map with LTE network deployment?
Bill Rubino: The big thing right now is that Scandinavian carrier TeliaSonera has the only official commercially deployed LTE network. Its deployments are in only two cities -- Oslo, Norway, and Stockholm Sweden -- although that will be expanded to a few more markets. The carrier is using Ericsson and Nokia Siemens equipment, although Huawei will maintain a portion of the network in Oslo. Even though it was included in the LTE trials, Huawei will have very limited involvement there.
Which carriers are out there with bigger deployments?
Rubino: Verizon is the biggest carrier that has put a stake in the ground, saying it will have a commercial LTE network available before the end of 2010. Verizon Wireless will initially roll out services in 25 to 30 metro areas, but it will take time. Verizon is using Alcatel-Lucent equipment for its network trial.
With the cost of migrating 3G networks to 4G, what are the actual advantages of LTE for carriers?
Rubino: Operators will have a lot more bandwidth with 4G. For the customer, that means a bigger and fatter pipe to access content that the typical cell phone can't access. Customers will have access to more applications, especially almost HD-quality video to the laptop, which will drive this migration.
In addition to network efficiencies, will carriers be able to charge more for LTE voice and data services?
Rubino: Carriers will take a close look at how they charge for data because right now plans are unlimited. Once you allow a service like that, it's tough to go back and charge differently. But operators will probably offer evolved packet core (EPC) is one piece of LTE technology, and a few players already have an advantage. If you look at Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson, they're really good with both radios and have some IP expertise. They can build equipment for EPCs, and they can build things on the radio side with antennas and the radio access network. But because this is an all-IP network, other companies like Cisco and Juniper with tremendous IP experience can take advantage of adding a lot of expertise to the evolved packet core because of their footprint in the carrier IP networks.