Last month's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gave us the biggest news so far in 4G realm. Verizon Wireless successfully built up the suspense of announcing its infrastructure vendor selections for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson will work to roll out the network on a commercial basis by 2010. Even the vendors didn't know before Verizon Communications' executive vice president and CTO Dick Lynch made the announcement during a keynote session, which made certain vendor executives downright giddy.
Will that type of excitement over LTE spill over to this year's CTIA trade show? It's highly unlikely. AT&T is currently in its RFP process to choose vendors for its anticipated rollout in 2011. Perhaps CenturyTel or MetroPCS will give us some more details?
Based on the types of embargoed announcements coming into the inboxes of FierceWireless editors, it appears the news pertaining to LTE will have to do with things like building ecosystems, migrating from 3G to LTE, device management and incorporating existing services such as SMS into LTE's all-IP network. Of course, all of these are critical factors in the rollout of the next generation of technology, but they just aren't as exciting as, say, a major infrastructure award that could have a significant impact on the future of certain vendors (think Nortel).
What's in store for the WiMAX message at CTIA? Peter Jarich, principal analyst with Current Analysis puts it this way: "This year will be very Monty Python-esque for WiMAX. You know, 'I'm not dead yet.' All the hype on LTE has people thinking WiMAX had gone away. It hasn't, of course, but that message needs to get out there."
Expect the WiMAX Forum to remind us of the momentum the technology has taken on around the world, especially now that Clearwire has solidified its rollout plans for this year and the next. Leading WiMAX vendor Alvarion promises to make some announcements too.
Of course, WiMAX and LTE will be in the limelight at FierceMarkets "Path to 4G" co-located special interest seminar April 1 at CTIA. All the top operators will be speaking at that event, including Barry West, president of Clearwire; Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T; Anthony Lewis, vice president, open development at Verizon; Todd Rowley, vice president of 4G at Sprint; and more.
Also expect significant news and discussion around the broadband stimulus bill, which is allocating $7 billion in funds for broadband deployments to areas that don't have broadband or are underserved by broadband. Already, a host of companies are issuing press releases that advertise their equipment as being "stimulus ready."
Don't forget WiFi either. The technology is making significant inroads now that key devices such as the iPhone and BlackBerry Bold feature embedded WiFi capabilities. A plethora of dual-mode WiFi/cellular devices are expected to come to market in 2009, especially as AT&T, which recently acquired Wayport, uses WiFi as the cornerstone of its wireless data strategy.