Wednesday, 22 July 2009

GSMA "LTE Is On Track"

The GSMA says its latest numbers show that the HSPA/LTE technology track is well established and, by implication, that WiMAX is dying.

There's a well-documented trend for consumer technology adoption indicating that each new iteration tends to swing into widespread use significantly faster than the one before - it's as if humans are becoming earlier and earlier adoptors as a sort of evolutionary adaptation. So it's no surprise that the GSMA sees HSPA adoption exhibiting the same characteristics. The organisation says it expects there will be 150 million connections by the end of this summer. GSMA has this morning unleashed a veritable tsunami of statistics including:
  • There are more than 300 networks across 127 countries
  • 1500 HSPA-enabled devices readily available on the market
  • AsiaPac accounts for almost 50 million live HSPA connections today (and will have over 56 million by this September)
  • EMEA HSPA connections will pass the 50 million mark any day now
  • The US currently has almost 32 million HSPA connections (with the number expected to rise to nearly 37 million by this September)
  • The Americas (excluding the US and Canada) will have just over four million connections by the end of September

According to Dan Warren, Director of Technology at the GSMA, it's all about scale and coverage. Once a communications technology like this hits a certain inflection point, there's just no stopping it. "WiMAX will have a small foothold in isolated regions," he says, "but the point is that HSPA covers large geographic areas and you can move from one place to another and still have your device work."And then there's the advantages of sheer manufacturing scale. HSPA and then LTE network equipment and gadgetry is going to be in mass production and that creates its own inevitability - once massive scale is reached there is no way an alternative networking technology, more or less trying to do the same thing, can ever compete. When it comes to LTE, Warren says he expects there to be 87 million users by 2013, with the adoption rate doubling the year after, and so, according to the law of accelerating adoption, that technology will grow even faster than HSPA has done.

Informa's LTE Asia and LTE Americas conferences will be focusing on the ROI of investing in LTE at an early stage before economies of scale brings down the cost of LTE equipment. Should operators really wait to deploy LTE when consumers are expected to adopt LTE quicker than they did HSPA?

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