Thursday, October 28, 2010

WiMAX or TD-LTE: Addressing the demand for broadband services through a multi-technology approach

Author: Ashish Sharma, VP of Marketing, Alvarion

For the past couple of years, there has been growing debate in the industry press creating a “WiMAX vs. LTE” perception. This “either-or” narrative is a common phenomenon which makes it easier to conceptualize the market from a technological standpoint, but it is a disservice for service operators. The truth behind the hype is that a multi-technology approach is the most attractive and viable way for operators to grow their markets and grow within their markets.

As the U.S. continues to expand its broadband penetration, it is imperative for operators to evaluate a host of technologies that can provide broadband services throughout the country, including rural areas. Most operators desire for a platform that meets current requirements with the flexibility to accommodate future technologies, so that their investment is protected. WiMAX is already enabling a host of broadband applications for various types of service providers around the world. TD-LTE, on the other hand, is emerging as a new technology that has considerable momentum in a couple of key markets.

Broadband remains a key growth area that will be addressed by multiple wireless technologies including those that are OFDMA-based like WiMAX and LTE technologies. While these two technologies are derived from different ecosystems, there are many similarities in the underlying technologies that enable both standards. The similarities will enable migration, which some service providers are demanding in order to have freedom of choice in the future.

TD-LTE is a standard for TDD (Time Division Duplexing) spectrum and has gained momentum in China over the last year or so. WiMAX is also based on TDD and is very similar to TD-LTE.

WiMAX will continue to be a preferred technology for 4G wireless broadband for many types of service providers due to maturity of available solutions; vibrant ecosystem, including devices; and low IPR costs associated with the technology.

The ability to migrate from WiMAX should also be seen as a point of strength for the technology so that operators can take advantage of the spectrum available today and achieve a significant ROI with WiMAX. There is no doubt that WiMAX will continue to strengthen and grow while the other technologies begin to mature. The prospects for TD-LTE appear to be very positive today, and migration is possible. WiMAX, as a 4G technology for TDD, is also continuing to evolve its own development path to WiMAX 2 with advanced features and functionalities.

Depending on the business model, applications and timeline, operators may have a tendency to prefer one flavor of TDD technology versus another. Eventually both technologies will coexist as they are driven from two separate ecosystems and the demand for broadband services continues to grow around the world.

The bottom line for service providers is that they can quickly and cost-effectively provide 4G services today with WiMAX, with full confidence that regardless of how the market develops, their investment will be protected.

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