2008 Year in Review: LTE gains significant momentum

LTE (Long Term Evolution) was supposed to significantly lag behind WiMAX, but the technology gained significant momentum in 2008. The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has completed the majority of specifications for standardization of LTE next-generation technology, meaning the full Release 8 standard is on track for completion by March. And a number of operators, including Verizon, T-Mobile and China Telecom, are champing at the bit to deploy LTE. Verizon Wireless has indicated it will have LTE up and running by the end of 2009. And what became extremely significant for the technology was the fact that a number of CDMA operators, including Verizon and Bell Canada, are moving to LTE, which is supposed to be the technology path for the GSM community.

Vendors continue to announce their momentum with trials. Motorola recently announced it conducted the first over-the-air data sessions for LTE technology in the 700 MHz spectrum in an outdoor field test that included mobile video streaming and other data-heavy applications.

Meanwhile, while we won't likely see a merger between WiMAX and LTE, Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff recently told reporters that while Clearwire is committed to WiMAX, it wound consider LTE in the future "if it makes sense for us to do so several years from now when LTE becomes commercially available."

The bottom line: LTE deployments will likely happen in the U.S. market on a significant basis first because of the amount of spectrum license holders have in the 700 MHz band. Elsewhere, large swaths of spectrum are hard to come by for significant deployments of LTE.