Although it currently lags FDD-LTE in popularity, the TD-LTE variant will make up 25 percent of all LTE connections by 2016 as it gains more market acceptance, according to a new report from research firm Ovum.
The report noted that TD-LTE has already moved beyond being a technology specific to the Chinese market, and that operators in Japan, the Middle East and Europe have expressed support for the technology. In the United States the most prominent backer of TD-LTE is Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), which plans to deploy a TD-LTE network covering 5,000 base stations by June 2013.
According to the Ovum report, operators as diverse as Softbank in Japan, Optus in Australia, STC in Saudi Arabia and Hi3G in Sweden and Denmark have deployed or will deploy multi-mode LTE FDD/TDD as part of their existing GSM and WCDMA/HSPA networks. Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said that mobile broadband services will be the biggest use of TD-LTE, but that the technology may also be deployed for fixed wireless broadband or small cell backhaul.
"As LTE TDD becomes more common with mobile operators, a vendor's 2G, 3G, and LTE FDD success is just as important as that vendor's early LTE TDD deployments," he said in a statement. "Thanks to multi-standard base stations, mobile operators will look to the same vendors that deployed their 2G/3G and LTE FDD networks to deploy their LTE TDD networks."
Earlier this week at the GSMA Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai, China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua said that his company's TD-LTE trial is going smoothly and that the real bottleneck for deployment will be getting enough devices made (according to Ovum, there are around 60 commercial TD-LTE devices available now). "If we have enough devices, we can build the base stations in a short period of time; we can upgrade our current technology to TD-LTE in a short period of time," he said.
Clearwire has been working with a range of partners, including China Mobile, to develop the TD-LTE ecosystem and ensure that TD-LTE chipsets will be compatible with FDD LTE networks so that its network and devices are not orphaned as more carriers move to LTE and the market matures.
In May, Clearwire and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) announced that Qualcomm had agreed to add support for Clearwire's TD-LTE frequency to its multi-mode LTE chipsets.
Qualcomm said it will support the frequency by adding the 3GPP's Band 41 (B41) radio frequency to its line of multi-mode LTE chips. The silicon vendor said LTE chipsets supporting the B41 band in combination with other LTE FDD/TDD bands are scheduled for commercial availability later this year.
- see this release
- see this Bloomberg article
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