Room for everyone in the House of 4G

Bruce Brda, Motorola
Wireless Asia

When mobile Wimax first arrived on the scene about five years ago, it boasted a first-to-market advantage in providing a technology that would help operators meet the growing demand for wireless broadband far more cost-effectively than existing 3G technologies. And then a curious thing happened. Mobile Wimax proved to be a disruptive force in the telecommunications industry, unwittingly helping to quicken the arrival of LTE.

With both of these next-generation technologies on the horizon, an industry debate over which was the superior technology - and if Wimax would survive - began to ensue. Soon, the various camps had lined up behind each of the nascent technologies.

But as the number of mobile Wimax networks continued to grow and the world's first commercial LTE networks were set to debut in late 2009, it became obvious that there are two correct answers - Wimax and LTE - to the question of which 4G technology is best suited to help operators as they struggle to meet consumers' seemingly insatiable appetite for data on the go.

Both Wimax and LTE will in fact, live in the same "4G House". Wimax and LTE will not only co-exist within markets, but also complement one another and work in tandem for operators to provide the most advantageous mix of technologies and best use of licensed and unlicensed spectrum to meet their particular business needs and provide the bandwidth consumers need. It's a matter of survival.

Mix and match

Both Wimax and LTE are all-IP technologies based on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM). These technologies shift the fundamental architecture from a circuit to a packet-based world. That's important as they both will deliver the lowest cost per bit for operators.

Today's demands to deliver mobile broadband data - from video to social media, to navigational and location-based services - make it far more complex for operators than in the past. They are challenged by the needs for more speed, spectrum, capacity and coverage - all at a time when the impact of flat-rate data plans and tough economic times are complicating their financial picture.

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