Timescales for LTE devices on the slide

With LTE commercial deployments planned for later this year, operators are making public their concerns over the timely availability of LTE modems and handsets. Reports from last week's ITU Telecom World event would indicate that no device will ship this year, while AT&T, NTT DoCoMo and Telefónica voiced concerns in a panel session about their ability to have devices ready for subscribers by the end of next year.

ZTE, one of the pioneers of LTE modems, has published the most detailed specs of its LTE modem, but its CTO, Xiaodong Zhu, admitted in Geneva that the company was still waiting for Qualcomm to start shipping the commercial LTE chipsets. However, ZTE confirmed that it was hopeful of shipping modems before the end of this year.

Responding to these worries, Vieri Vanghi, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm, said that chip vendors were doing their best to ease the concern of the operators, and Qualcomm and its partners would have products ready for the early launches of LTE handsets by the end of 2010.

Another major silicon provider, ST-Ericsson, reported it was making positive progress. "We are in a phase where we have all the hardware available and we're working on integrating it with the software," said Jörgen Lantto, executive VP and CTO at ST-Ericsson, who said that products will be ready during the second half of next year.

However, Lantto admitted that 1st generation LTE handsets would face the challenges that have been seen before with 3G handsets: power consumption, size and price. Also, to get all the performance that LTE can offer requires advanced antenna constructions, he added.

Speaking at the event, Kristin Rinne, senior VP of architecture and planning at the US operator, said that the availability of devices was one of the reasons AT&T has decided to launch LTE in 2011. "It is much more reasonable to launch during 2011, because then there will be a variety of devices."

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