Friday, 26 February 2010

Lack of LTE Devices, Still a Worry?

At this years Mobile World Congress, vendors were announcing LTE devices of all shapes and sizes. Besides modems, vendors showed netbooks and portable Wi-Fi hotspots that are compatible with LTE.

Perhaps the most impressive of the devices was the E398 modem unveiled by Huawei. The E398 is the world’s first triple-mode LTE modem compatible with all three major network standards: LTE, UMTS, and GSM. The triple-mode modem is based on Qualcomm's MDM9200TM chipset and will enable end users to seamlessly switch from LTE to either UMTS or GSM. The modem also supports multiple mainstream LTE frequencies.

The Huawei E398 modem will be initially launched in the world's first LTE/GSM shared network in Sweden operated by Net4Mobility, a joint infrastructure venture between Tele2 Sweden and Telenor Sweden.

Toshiba at the Mobile World Congress show this week showed off its Satellite T130 notebook PC with an integrated LTE network module from Sony Ericsson. During demonstrations at MWC the PC-maker demonstrated data download speeds of up to 16Mbps. This is significant as the PC is one of the first few with the high-speed connection option.

The AL600 from ZTE is being developed for the North American market and will operate in the 700MHz band, which Verizon will use in its upcoming network. The modem will also operate LTE in the 2.6GHz band,to cater for European operators.
ZTE is also working on a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that lets users share an LTE connection using Wi-Fi.

Samsung’s new LTE netbook, bolstered with the presence of its own in-house designed LTE modem chipset Kalmia has been dubbed the world’s first LTE netbook PC. The device was also demonstrated at the MWC. Kalmia, which enables the development of a small form factor netbook with LTE capability, was brought to the fore by way of a live video streaming via the company’s own LTE network equipment on the Samsung netbook N150.

LG announced its LD100, a LTE data card, at CES in January. Anritsu demonstrated data throughput
of up to 100 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink speeds on the LG device at MWC. LG also demonstrated handover between LTE and CDMA with their VD13 device. The company came up with a device for the Handover back in August, the M13, but the VD13 is an even slimmer device!

Perhaps less well known is that Ericsson is also working on integrating LTE into laptops and notebooks. The company is most known for its mobile networks, but it also sells modules for integrating mobile broadband into laptops and netbooks. Ericsson's module will operate in multiple frequency bands for LTE and HSPA. But it won't start shipping the module until LTE has become a "mass market" technology, and that won't happen until the beginning of 2012, according to Ericsson.

Huawei and ZTE will ship its modems -- the E398 and the AL600 or AL620, respectively -- by the end of the year. Samsung promises to ship its modem during the first half of 2010, according to a spokesman. But operators only expect to get their hands on a limited number of modems, with volume shipments starting in the beginning of 2011, according to Magnus Zetterberg, CTO at Telenor Sweden.

One of the things vendors have to think about more about when designing products for LTE is which frequencies they will operate on as operators will be using various frequency bands for LTE. LTE pioneers Verizon Wireless, NTT DoCoMo and TeliaSonera will all use different frequency bands for their respective LTE network. So for roaming in the U.S, Japan and Europe to work, modems will have to support 700MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz with more bands likely to be needed in the future.

With the GSMA focusing its efforts on roaming for LTE, this should help to encourage device manufacturers that there is sufficient momentum and demand for LTE devices. It should also make operators that think that LTE is not ready, think again...