LTE networks still years away

The adoption of 4G wireless and Long Term Evolution (LTE) network technology is a long way off and will probably not be adopted on a large scale by network operators until around 2015, according to the host and panel participants at Andrew Seybold's Wireless University, a co-located conference held in conjunction with the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference in San Francisco. 

Andrew Seybold, along with panelists Vicki Livingston, the head of communications for 3G Americas, and Joe Lawrence, the VP of marketing for the CDMA Development Group, said that LTE will not be a common data standard for years to come and that 3G technology still has a lot of life left. 

If LTE technology does come online, Seybold said, it will be at hotspots where there is an incredibly high demand for data, pointing out repeatedly that for carriers voice services still pay the bills and data does not. 

Lawrence emphasized that market forces and demand would determine whether LTE is implemented on a large scale, and Livingston said there was no need to rush to LTE.

Though LTE may provide 30 percent to 40 percent greater network efficiency in a 10 MHz spectrum over HSPA and EV-DO technology, Lawrence questioned whether or not that was sufficiently efficient to justify a multi-billion dollar investment in an entirely new network when 3G technology is just hitting its stride.

Seybold said that just like projections for the next generation of 3G technologies -- 1X Advanced and EVDO-Advanced--LTE download speeds of 71-143 Mbps are entirely theoretical lab tests and will be considerably slower if, and when, they are applied to the real world.

Seybold also said although handset and chip-makers are pushing LTE,  there remains a great deal of uncertainty over where and when LTE will be adopted. "If you say there are four things that can happen," he said, "what will happen is the fifth thing."

Click here to see the Andrew Seybold Wireless University photos...