LTE-WiMAX wars ignite

* Competitive pressure stimulates both technologies

Lately, the spotlight has swung toward Long-Term Evolution (LTE), the so-called fourth-generation mobile broadband technology descended from GSM cellular protocols. CDMA veteran Verizon Wireless, for example, has switched to LTE as its future mobile service delivery platform. GSM-based AT&T is, unsurprisingly headed that way, too. And recently, mobile base station maker Nortel dumped its WiMAX product development in deference to LTE.

Still, LTE is currently little more than a spec on paper. By contrast, early commercial mobile WiMAX services are due in the U.S. this year from the Sprint-Clearwire WiMAX joint venture, with nationwide service expected across 100 major metro areas in late 2010. Globally, there are 305 service providers deploying WiMAX services in 118 countries, according to the WiMAX Forum, which last week certified 10 initial mobile WiMAX products in the 2.5GHz worldwide spectrum for interoperability. The forum expects to certify 100 mobile WiMAX products by year-end (Compare WiMAX products).

And so it goes, pro and con. There are likely years of LTE-vs.-WiMAX technology arguments ahead. After all, the U.S. networking industry gets disconcerted if there isn’t at least one “which-technology-will-win?” debate raging at all times, even when it becomes clear that multiple technologies can persevere.

In the meantime, there are legitimate reasons to be interested in the progress of both LTE and WiMAX, each slated to eventually yield data rates of up to 100Mbps. The telecom industry, wireless and wired, is on a consolidation roll. You could end up relying on a single carrier partner for a much bigger bundle of services than you might have if there were more players. Consequently, you need a peek at that carrier’s roadmap so you can choose wisely and build a well-informed mobility roadmap of your own.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.