Ubiquitous networks and the path to 4G

Operators are still in the midst of upgrading their networks to 3G but vendors are already touting the benefits of LTE, WiMAX and other 4G-type technologies. In fact, a keynote session on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. will be devoted to "Ubiquitous Networks" and feature speakers such as Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO of Ericsson and Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm.

Last year we heard a lot about WiMAX, which was surprising since this conference was once a GSM-dominated event. This year we expect to hear more on the business case for WiMAX and how the technology is fitting for underserved areas of the world. "There are plenty of parts of the world without broadband," says Scott Wickware, vice president of carrier networks, marketing and strategy at Nortel. "This is a cheaper way to offer broadband."

Of course, LTE will be making headlines. The LTE/SAE Trial initiative (which is made up of key vendors and operators such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Nortel, T-Mobile and Vodafone and others) announced Feb. 5 that it had completed its second round of LTE tests. Findings include field tests on prototype LTE systems show that devices can achieve download speeds exceeding 100 Mbps and high performance systems using 4x4 MIMO antennas can push this to beyond 300 Mbps. Look for vendors and operators to be expanding on the LTE/SAE findings.

Of course, as mobile broadband networks become more widely deployed, we can expect more focus on backhaul. In fact, Wickware says that one of the biggest concerns operators have when it comes to deploying 4G is how to backhaul the traffic. "Backhaul technologies haven't always kept up with the innovation on the radio side. Now many operators are looking at using fiber to their base stations," Wickware says.

Newcomer Exalt Communications announced this week the release of a native TDM and IP licensed backhaul product that company executives believe will be beneficial to operators because it allows them to provision according to what their traffic needs are. Exalt will be talking about their new line of backhaul products at the show.

There is even a session devoted to backhaul technologies. "Beating the Backhaul Challenge" will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 11:40 a.m. and features speakers from Nortel, Alcatel-Lucent, BelAir Networks, Harris Stratex Networks and more.--Sue