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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Multiple Options but No Clear Winner for Voice and SMS over LTE, Finds Frost & Sullivan

Source: Frost & Sullivan
Despite the fact that data traffic is growing exponentially, mobile operators are witnessing a divergence of data revenues and traffic load curves due to flat rate price models. Thus, network efficiency must improve in order to ensure that the cost-per-bit to deliver a service is attained at a bare minimum in comparison to the existing cellular technologies. Many opine that the next generation long term evolution (LTE) technology can achieve these goals, with the technology currently being trialled by several operators worldwide.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Multiple Options but No Clear Winner for Voice and SMS over LTE, notes that due to the economic crisis, many operators are currently unwilling to deploy LTE that is service-limited – in particular on services that are cash cows i.e. voice and short message services (SMS). Hence, the value of deploying LTE and then limiting the users to basic 2G/3G services is pointless.


Sami said...

Frost & Sullivan concludes that "the lack of consensus could be an impediment to the large-scale roll out of LTE, thereby allowing alternative technologies such as Mobile WiMAX to take advantage of the situation, and significantly penetrate the European market."

However, some of their claims and facts do not really hold, and actually raise several questions that really should be answered by Frost & Sullivan.

Claim #1 incremental costs for backhaul capacity to support LTE data traffic
Backhaul capacity for sure is an issue to be considered. However, this same challenge must be faced no matter what technology is used at the air interface. Some carriers are already struggling even with HSPA traffic. Or perhaps F&S considers that backhaul for WiMAX is cheaper or easier to arrange?

Claim #2 lack of sufficient spectrum allocation (a minimum of 20 MHz)
There is no minimum requirement of 20 MHz. In fact LTE is far more flexible than any other cellular standard. LTE can be deployed starting with 1.4 MHz allocation. LTE is defined also for 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz bandwidths. Mobile WiMAX profile defines only 5, 8.75 and 10 MHz alternatives, and can be used only on TDD bands.

Claim #3 globally harmonised frequency band for LTE deployment
None of the existing cellular technologies has that. There is no globally harmonised frequency band for WiMAX either.
2600 MHz is available, or will become available in large parts of Europe, Middle-East, Asia and Africa and will be used for LTE, providing wide coverage for LTE roaming.
The Americas have always used different bands, and apparently the same continues here.

Claim #4 EU regulations for SMS requirements for roaming and to support customer-based service messages to avoid "Bill Shock"
I don't think EU regulations specifically mention SMS as the only means to inform customers of roaming charges. If there was such requirement, how is SMS implemented in WiMAX?

Claim #5 lack of support for voice
LTE does support operator voice service i.e. IMS voice as described in One Voice. In addition, any VoIP application could be used on top of LTE. What is the widely accepted solution for _operator_ voice service over WiMAX? How does WiMAX provide interoperability with GSM and WCDMA circuit switched voice services?

As you may know, I work for Nokia, but the opinions above are mine.

gustavmahler said...

Dear Sami,

Thanks for the comprehensive feedback in response to the article. I think you point out very important aspects.