LTE wireless to launch 2015 or later: Analyst

Now that all major Canadian wireless carriers are using High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), it will be another five years before North American cellular phone companies migrate to Long Term Evolution (LTE), the fourth-generation wireless standard, an industry analyst predicts.

“We probably won’t see any migration of 2G or 3G traffic to LTE at least until 2015,” said James Brehm, senior consultant for mobility and unwired experience at Frost & Sullivan, a San Antonio, Tex.-based market research firm.  “Some things need to happen in order to ratify LTE.”

For example, he said, manufacturers will need to ship wireless devices that work on the LTE networks and can allow voice calls from one carrier to another.

LTE refers to technology that can transmit data and packetized content over wireless cellular networks at speeds approaching 100 megabits per second (Mbps). Current HSPA networks are capable of transmitting at up to 7 Mbps, though HSPA+ has a theoretical maximum speed of 21 Mbps.

Brehm, who is scheduled to speak at a panel discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show, made his comments in an interview with Network World Canada.

He said some devices showcased at CES will spur demand for LTE wireless. One example is Ingersoll Rand Co.’s Schlage LiNK, a door lock with Z-Wave wireless capability.

“Your cell phone could become the key to your house,” Brehm said.

Electronic readers will also drive demand for LTE upgrades, he added.

“They are all mostly black and white text, but if we start seeing periodical coming out on the e-readers, the advertisers will want colour,” he said. “The number bits that go through the pipe will grow exponentially.”

LTE networks will support corporate and government applications, including training and telemedicine, Brehm said.

“The number one use of video is not the motion picture industry or the television industry,” he said. “It’s corporate for training purposes. You can foresee a day where an automobile dealer’s employees are being trained on their own handsets right on their lot instead of having to waste time going to a full blown training session.”

Telemedicine applications will include glucose meters that measure people’s blood sugar and send the results to their doctors over wireless networks, plus heart monitors.

“We will see first responders take advantage of high resolution cameras on devices and transmitting that image back to the trauma centre,” Brehm said. “The trauma centre’s getting prepared for surgery or whatever needs to happen.”

Canadian carriers have yet to specify their LTE upgrade plans. At the Canadian Telecom Summit last June, Rogers Communications Inc. chief executive officer Nadir Mohamed said the upgrade to LTE is still at least a few years away.

North American carriers will need to upgrade to LTE eventually due to network congestion, Brehm said.

“We’re at 80 per cent (wireless) device penetration in North America,” he said. “Some countries in Europe are already at 120 to 140 per cent penetration of devices so people have more than one device. If we get to that point, we’re really in trouble if we don’t change the networks.”

He added American carriers will move faster to LTE due to the larger population.

“There’s a tremendous cost to upgrade and expand to LTE,” he said, adding carriers have collaborated on building networks in the past.

He cited Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. and Telus Corp., which joined forces to overlay their code division multiple access (CDMA) network with HSPA so they could offer the same handsets available to Rogers customers, such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone.


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