Telrad focused on its TD-LTE future but still sees WiMAX demand

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTech

Telrad, which bought Alvarion's WiMAX business about 14 months ago, is gearing up to sell production TD-LTE networks soon. But a company executive contends many of Telrad's customers are actually in no rush to deploy TD-LTE.

The company, which acquired Alvarion's WiMAX business in February 2013, is involved in "closely monitored" TD-LTE conversions and trials with operator customers and will have production LTE networks "in the next few months," said Chris Daniels, Telrad's general manager for North America.

I recently talked with Daniels, who told me Telrad is already running 3GPP Release 9 on the BreezeCompact base stations it inherited from Alvarion. Release 10, enabling LTE Advanced features, is pegged for availability next year. The equipment line works in the 2.x GHz and 3.x GHz bands.

Some leading WiMAX operators are quickly shifting to TD-LTE. A recent report from Signals Research observed that this transition will take several years for some operators while others are literally ripping out their mobile WiMAX networks and switching everything to TD-LTE.

However, Daniels contends that many of Telrad's WiMAX customers--both existing operators as well as Greenfield operators--have been content to wait for the arrival of production TD-LTE capability. "It frankly surprised me that our customers didn't push us to put LTE into our production networks more quickly," he said.

But Telrad's customers have instead been more concerned about "not investing in a technology that's dead," meaning they want to ensure they can upgrade from WiMAX to TD-LTE as needed, Daniels explained. "The overwhelming message from our customers is that they're more interested today in what's stable and what they can deploy and make money off of, as long as they're not buying dead technology," he added.

Telrad has been able to answer that call with its flagship product, the BreezeCompact, which is based on software-defined radio using FPGA technology rather than on a particular chipset. "We can make any type of OFDM platform run on that radio," Daniels said. "Initially it was built to run WiMAX, but the goal was always to have an LTE solution down the road."

In the past year, Telrad has focused heavily on getting that platform to where Alvarion itself intended to take it by demonstrating TD-LTE and the ability to go between WiMAX and TD-LTE with software upgrades. That includes using software to switch a live WiMAX base station to TD-LTE but also to switch it back to WiMAX from TD-LTE. "We've demonstrated it. It works very well, and we're shipping it," Daniels said.

Some of Alvarion's legacy WiMAX equipment, particularly that which is chip-based, has a different path. To get those to TD-LTE, "we have another pizza-box unit that will be installed with the indoor unit to do the LTE piece," Daniels said.

He said some carriers continue considering WiMAX over TD-LTE because TD-LTE networks remain cost prohibitive in comparison to WiMAX. Those TD-LTE solutions also tend to be chipset-based, making them impossible to upgrade via software. Further, the TD-LTE ecosystem has only recently started coming together, particularly in the fixed space, Daniels said.

Telrad has two other subsidiaries: Magalcom, which builds data centers, IT infrastructure, control rooms and homeland security solutions, and systems integrator Oasis, which focuses on data systems infrastructure, communication networks optimization and data security.  However, the former Alvarion BWA business unit is now Telrad's biggest focus.

Looking forward, Telrad is diligently working on its Release 10 products. "The focus is to get to an LTE release that offers some major benefits over WiMAX [802.16e]," Daniels said.

In addition, Telrad is closely watching U.S. regulatory developments focused on opening up the 3.5 GHz band. Daniels said the software-defined technology used in the BreezeCompact line, which works from 3.4-3.8 GHz, would position the equipment to use shared spectrum that would be managed by a dynamic database.

"Our customers would be able to deploy LTE Advanced using 20 or 40 MHz channels, for example, to get much higher capacity," Daniels said.--Tammy

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