4G race – Is LTE taking the lead

4G race – Is LTE taking the lead

Om Malik does a status update on the 4G discussion so far.

He quotes from our recent CTIA roundup.

Our favorite wireless data analyst, Chetan Sharma, did the rounds at CTIA and his conclusion about LTE concurred with our reporting. “Without a doubt the operator community is rallying behind LTE, and there might be an opportunity to finally converge to a single standard,” he says.

Sharma points out that single standards, while nice and dandy, will soon become a thing of the past thanks to “advances in silicon” that now make it possible “to integrate multiple radios” on single chip. Of course, the potential of software-defined radios are finally beginning to be realized as well; Huawei, for example, will be using SDRs in its 700 MHz gear.

So what about WiMAX? Well in the U.S., things aren’t looking so good. Sprint’s Xohm Network has hit some snags and Clearwire is riding rough seas. A rescue in the form of a new, megabillion-dollar funding for a new WiMAX operator might emerge, but we’ll have to wait and see.

As Sharma notes, “WiMAX has forced acceleration of the LTE standardization process but is starting to lose its time (and cost) advantage.” From what I have been able to learn, WiMAX is the technology of choice in the emerging telecom economies. In India for instance, Tata and Reliance, two giant telecom operators, are spending a ton of cash on WiMAX, as is the incumbent Indian incumbent, BSNL.

Charlie Martin, CTO of wireless for Huawei, in an interview with Fierce Broadband Wireless, said, “We view WiMAX as different from CDMA and LTE in terms of the fact that WiMAX is a good alternative for emerging markets and alternative operators.” If there is one company that knows emerging markets, it is Huawei, so I give Martin’s comments a lot of credence.

That last point about Charlie is spot on. The infrastructure business is going to get a shake-up from the Asian vendors in the coming years.