When it comes to the battle for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) contracts, incumbency is thrown out the window. It's a new slate that allows every vendor to compete for business. To wit: China's Huawei just last week snagged a big LTE contract with Norway's Telenor under the noses of Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks.
That's why Motorola is being very strategic about the contracts it goes after, said Bruce Brda, senior vice president and general manager of the vendor's wireless networks business, in an interview with FierceBroadbandWireless.
"We are not trying to go head to head in every part of the globe. We've been selective in our engagements, focusing on the customers that we think we have a higher advantage with," Brda said. "Our initial thrust is in places in Asia where we have a significant competitive advantage." That's why it won an LTE contract with Japan's KDDI, he said, despite the fact 10 vendors in all competed for that business.
Motorola's other sweet spot is the TDD (unpaired spectrum) version of LTE, otherwise known as TD-LTE, a technology China Mobile is keen on deploying. Brda believes that Motorola's OFDM experience with WiMAX coupled with its TDD experience, again with WiMAX, will give Motorola an advantage in China.
TD-LTE, in fact, won't be a niche market, Brda said. "With the demand for data that exists around the world, it will be a solution set that solves the equation, not just FDD, but a series of solutions, and TD-LTE will play in increasingly large role, maybe coexisting in the same network as FDD LTE."
Brda noted that Motorola is talking to a number of European operators that envision TD-LTE and FDD LTE coexisting. "You could have one set of services carried over the TDD network and another set going over FDD," he said. "It's would create a more efficient use of the network, but I also think more and more TDD spectrum is going to be available. It's been kind of ignored around most of the world, but it's much easier to find un unpaired block of spectrum than a paired block."
Another aspect that has been largely ignored is the fact that experience in mobile WiMAX is highly transferable to the LTE world. Motorola, which has constructed about 20 WiMAX networks, and Samsung are now the two major vendors that have stuck with the mobile WiMAX game to a high degree. Many vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks either shunned mobile WiMAX or significantly scaled back on their efforts in favor of LTE.
"As we roll out our first commercial LTE networks, they will be based on the same hardware that our third-generation WiMAX platforms are built on," Brda said. "Those products will have a significant amount of run time on them so they will be field hardened."
Meanwhile, Brda said he can't imagine any WiMAX operator contemplating a change to LTE. Clearwire has hinted in the past that it could flip to LTE if doing so was in the best interest of the company. "Most of the carriers that have chosen WiMAX are Greenfield operators, and they've chosen WiMAX because of the capabilities and time-to-market advantage that WiMAX has over LTE. In terms of doing the job of providing cost-effective data communications, WiMAX and LTE are on parity."
And, of course, the big question on everyone's mind is when will we see mobile WiMAX devices. Brda said Motorola's interoperability lab in Taiwan, established for the purpose of validating competing products on its WiMAX networks, is now testing WiMAX devices. Could we finally see handsets in early 2010?--Lynnette