4G World Preview: LTE applications, business models still up for debate

Not long ago, LTE was just a vision. Today, due to the commitments of big carriers in North America and Japan, LTE has become a key part of the technology evolution of most GSM and many CDMA operators worldwide.

At the 4G World conference in Chicago next week, there will be lots of discussions about the LTE migration path, technology trials and of course, spectrum management. Tom Jasny, vice president of convergence solutions for wireless/broadband network systems at Samsung, said that regardless of whether carriers choose LTE or WiMAX, there is a consensus that carriers will need more spectrum. "The fundamental issue is that clear spectrum must be available regardless of 4G technology," Jasny said. Spectrum issues will be addressed at 4G World during the Global Deployment: Core and Spectrum Strategies panel on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 2:45 p.m.

Like many vendors, Samsung has turned its attention to helping its customers (the network operators) with applications and 4G business models. "We spend a lot of effort trying to develop 4G use cases and business models with carriers," Jasny said.

Shahid Ahmed, Partner-Network Technology Service Line, AccentureHowever, it remains unclear exactly what applications will be key. Some believe video is the answer. "There is some truth in statements that video will drive the business case for LTE or WiMAX," said Shahid Ahmed, a partner for network technology service line at Accenture.

Like Samsung, Accenture is developing business models, figuring out capacity requirements and modeling network performance for its carrier customers. "I think the discussion on 4G has turned to a reality check discussion," Ahmed said, adding that carriers are now concerned with making their 4G network investments pay off. "In the past, voice was the growth driver from 2G to 3G. But what is going to drive the need for LTE and WiMAX isn't voice," Ahmed said. "It's new data services."

But those new data services will carry a heavy price, particularly on the back-office side of the network. Ahmed said that many operators are counting on machine-to-machine applications such as smart grids to bring recurring revenue to their business plans. But those types of applications don't necessarily need the same billing architecture or back-office protocol as applications using 3G networks.

Of course, not all carriers are ready to talk 4G or LTE. Many want to exploit the benefits of their existing network assets, and are focusing their efforts on evolving to HSPA. "Carriers with existing, mature networks will be migrating to higher performance networks--but the driver is different," Samsung's Jasny said.

4G World Preview:
Reality check - apps and back office are a priority
LTE applications, business models still up for debate
Sword of consolidation hangs over mobile WiMAX vendors
Backhaul to remain a challenge
Solving the femtocell dilemma