Different strokes

While LTE technology is seen as an opportunity to converge wireless operators worldwide on one standardised platform, the actual drivers encouraging carriers to follow this route are wildly different. At the recent LTE World Summit in Amsterdam, we spoke with Stéphane Téral, directing analyst at Infonetics Research and got his thoughts on the matter.

There are different drivers behind LTE adoption in different regions, according to Téral. “In North America if you look at Verizon for example, its main driver to move to LTE is just to get on to the LTE boat, because it’s a GSM world and Verizon needs to be able to roam with the rest of the world,” Téral says. “And it is because of this reason that the Canadians are doing the same.”

But if you move away from North America, there are different motivators in play. In Japan for example, NTT DoCoMo has long been at the forefront of new technology adoption and Téral notes that the operator has the unusual case of such strong traffic growth that in some areas 3G capacity is already becoming exhausted. “It may sound funny to say that 3G is being exhausted already but in Japan they’ve been on 3G since 2001 so it’s pretty obvious that they need to move to LTE now,” Téral said (check out our interview with Seizo Onoe, SVP and managing director of the R&D strategy department at NTT DoCoMo).

Sweden, home of LTE poster child TeliaSonera, is similar to Japan, Téral says, because Scandinavia was one of the first regions in the telecoms sector to be deregulated. “So this area lost fixed access lines and there was strong substitution with mobile, meaning that people started getting their broadband connection via mobile. This is a good driver for LTE and demonstrates that it will be the ultimate universal broadband platform.”

While in China, things are different again. “One year ago it was not clear that TD-LTE had a future, until China Mobile confirmed it was moving away from 3G (TD-SCDMA) anyway,” says Téral.” The thing with TD-SCDMA is that it doesn’t work very well and the Chinese users think it’s too expensive for what they do, so China Mobile really wants to move towards TD-LTE.” But now other operators outside of China are looking at TD-LTE technology and finding some potential. “If you are a mobile operator who is challenging an incumbent you may well not have paired spectrum, and if you want to upgrade unpaired spectrum onto LTE then TDD looks like a very good proposition. So now there is a clear case for TD-LTE everywhere in the world,” Téral says.

But the global upgrade process will still be slow going. “2G does a fantastic job of carrying voice and we are going to have to deal with voice for a very long time. I think in 2020 we will still have 2G networks in the world,” says Téral. “We have a five million basestation footprint in the world at the moment and Ericsson made an estimate that 1.5 million of these basestations need a serious upgrade because they cannot support Edge, they cannot support 3G and forget about a migration to 4G. That will keep the vendors busy for a long time to come.”

Watch Stéphane Téral’s full interview on Telecoms TV


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