China Mobile, Vodafone and Verizon - 700 millions subscribers or one third of the world’s mobile phone users – are getting together to run Long-Term Evolution (LTE) trials. They are expected to focus on FDD to enable the exploitation of unpaired spectrum globally. In other words, they are working together on the next generation mobile technology (4G) to adopt a harmonised access platform with global scale.
The trial doesn’t really come as a surprise. Vodafone took a share in China Mobile a few years ago and both operators see themselves as global players – China Mobile still lags behind Vodafone on that count. Two things are really interesting: 1) the move comes from carriers and not, as one would expect, from equipment manufacturers, 2) the carriers are present in Asia, Europe and the United States, the most lucrative or fastest-growing markets.
So, is WiMax (a rival 4G standard) losing out? Not quite. It retains strong backing from Intel, Motorola, KDDI and Samsung. More importantly, WiMax is ready for deployment which gives it an 18 month lead on LTE. Will time-to-market dwarf critical mass?