LTE has always been envisioned by some in the mobile sector not only as a data-only play, but also a potential substitute for fixed-line broadband. However, while most mobile players agree that LTE's promised broadband speeds will leave fixed-line ADSL in the dust, there's far less agreement on how it would fare against fiber-to-the-home.
Yet Japanese cellco eMobile is banking its business model on it.
Eric Gan, president and COO of eMobile, says his company sees mobile broadband "as a continuation of ADSL, not FTTH", and is building its LTE strategy on that premise.
eMobile, which is the mobile arm of broadband operator eAccess, has built a base of 1.8 million subscribers over the last couple of years selling mostly HSPA data-card services rather than voice-centric mobile. The cellco launched HSPA+ services in July, and intends to launch commercial LTE services in September 2010.
Gan said in a keynote speech at an LTE forum in Hong Kong last month that mobile broadband was already a suitable substitute for ADSL services, and that LTE would allow eMobile to compete even against Japan's growing FTTH market.
"We have performed tests with LTE, and the speeds are getting closer to fiber speeds," he said. "That's why we believe LTE will cannibalize the fiber market."
Takehiro Nakamura, director at rival cellco NTT DoCoMo and RAN chairman for the 3GPP, was dismissive of the idea that LTE could compete with FTTH in Japan.
"Optical fiber is already rather widely deployed in Japan, and most people use it and like it," he says.