LTE to take on FTTH in Japan

John C. Tanner
15 Oct 2009

Whether LTE can hit such lofty heights or not, Ulf Ewaldsson, VP and head of product area radio at Ericsson, is also bullish on mobile broadband as the next major growth market for the overall broadband sector.

"By next year, mobile broadband users will outnumber fixed-line broadband users, and HSPA/LTE will account for 80% of the global broadband market by 2014," Ewaldsson said. "So there will definitely be less need for a wire with broadband services."

However, that's not necessarily a testament to LTE's ability to challenge fiber. For a start, with mobile broadband touted as a viable fixed-broadband substitute in emerging markets with low broadband penetration of any flavor (let alone fixed lines), there may be no fiber to cannibalize in such markets.

Even in urban areas, where FTTH is most common, LTE is unlikely to be a suitable substitute, especially as new bandwidth-intense services start to emerge, says Francesco Masetti-Placci, head of end-to-end LTE and 4G wireless networks at Alcatel-Lucent APAC.

"Fiber gives you enough bandwidth to support services like 3DTV, HDTV and virtual reality games at high quality, which are things we will be seeing in the pipeline," he says.

That said, LTE's viability as a fiber substitute may be only be just another evolution away.

LTE Advanced - which is being developed by the 3GPP to conform with the ITU's IMT Advanced specs tentatively for Release 10 - promises to take LTE's throughput speeds up to 1 Gbps (downstream) and 500 Mbps (upstream), as well as double throughput performance at the cell edge and lower latency on the control plane.

The standard, however, is at least a couple of years away from being finalized in any meaningful form, and commercial deployments after that will depend greatly on LTE's progress. More importantly, as it may rely on carriers as wide as 100 MHz to hit those performance targets, regulators will need to find several hundred MHz worth of spectrum in a harmonized band to set aside for it.


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