Why the rush to LTE?

3G was a huge disappointment for customers. It took seven to eight years for what many operators are calling the "true 3G experience" to be delivered via HSPA+. Two upgrades later. And what happened to video telephony, promoted as a key capability of "3's" first 3G models back in 2004.
 
The iPhone homepage states prominently that "video calling is a reality" with FaceView. But not with 3G! Read the fine print -- that of course is over Wi-Fi. So there's still a ways to go there.
 
It's hard not to get that "oh, here we go again" feeling as operators rush toward LTE.
 
Adrian Scrase from the 3GPP said yesterday at the LTE Asia conference in Hong Kong that 22 operators are due to launch commercial LTE networks by the end of the year. With only three rolled out to date, that's 19 in less than 17 weeks.
 
At lot of it is about being first in a market. But that doesn't make for a very good business case.
 
Voice-centric LTE handsets are still two years away, according to Ovum's consulting director for Asia Pacific, CW Cheung.
 
3G device shipments are now just starting to surpass those of 2G.
 
Lars Bandelind, Huawei's VP of wireless marketing, asked the audience: "Why launch if there are no handsets?"
 
 
He said two years from now 3G devices will still dominate, noting it will take five years for significant numbers to be available. But once out there, "we'll see more LTE devices than we ever saw with 3G because the market is now unified."
 
CSL CTO Christian Daignaeult, who wouldn't confirm when the Hong Kong cellco would move to LTE but suggested it would be later in the year, said there would be no voice for two years. And when it was available it would likely fall back to the 3G network.
 
There’s little doubt Telstra-owned CSL wants to be first in Hong Kong after chalking up a number of firsts over the past 18 months and who sees the network as a key differentiator.
 
The lessons from the first LTE commercial rollouts should perhaps be focused not just on consumer satisfaction – what's there not to like about 40-50 Mbps access via a dongle – but on successes in monetizing the network investment.
 
Shareholders will like that more than being "first with 4G in Sweden."

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