T-Mobile to skip HSPA+, jump to LTE

T-Mobile has become the latest operator to announce plans to skip HSPA+ and transition straight to LTE, prompting concerns for the future of the HSPA+ and Mobile Wimax standards.

A number of major operators such as Verizon Wireless and NTT DoCoMo have already elected to skip straight to LTE, with US operator Clearwire the only remaining large-scale operator to pin its hopes on Wimax.

Ovum predicts that by 2013 there will be almost as many LTE connections as Wimax connections worldwide, with 37.8 million LTE subscribers versus 42.4 million Wimax subscribers, despite Wimax enjoying a two-year head start.

"We predict that after the end of the forecast period, LTE connections will rapidly surpass mobile WiMAX,"  Ovum analyst Steven Hartley. "The window of opportunity for mobile WiMAX is closing rapidly."

On the other hand, Hartley is quick to stress that there are still applications for Wimax, and viewing the conflict as LTE versus Wimax is oversimplistic.

He suggests operators will likely follow the leads of Telenor, which plans to use Wimax to provide services to rural communities not served by DSL, or Scartel, which recently launched a dual-mode GSM-Wimax device developed by HTC.

And HSPA will dominate the wireless sector over the next five years - with 79% of high-speed connections being HSPA by 2013 - until LTE becomes a credible threat.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm has announced it intends to stop investing in the development of Ultra Mobile Broadband [UMB], which had been envisioned as a competitor to LTE.

According to Ovum analyst Julien Grivolas, Qualcomm has made this decision due to a lack of traction behind the technology.

"Now it's official - UMB is dead," Grivolas said. "The "˜death' of UMB is not a surprise in itself. Even the CDMA Development Group recently recognised that market traction was behind LTE and mobile WiMAX, not UMB."