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Moto targets US, Europe for LTE
By Kevin Fitchard

Jun 10, 2008 3:40 PM

Vendor plans to release LTE kit in 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz to support 4G rollouts on both sides of the Atlantic

Motorola said today it plans to initially build its Long Term Evolution platform for the 700-MHz and 2.6-GHz frequencies, targeting spectrum held by major US and European cellular operators. Moto additionally pledged to pursue both paired and non-paired spectrum versions for its commercial LTE kit, which it plans to release in 2009.

As are the other major vendors, Motorola is squaring LTE with the needs of the world’s major mobile incumbents, in contrast to its WiMAX portfolio, which—with the exception of Sprint—it has sold to non-traditional wireless telcos, broadband ISPs and wireline operators. The 700 MHz space is where both AT&T and Verizon Wireless plan to launch their LTE networks after winning the winter spectrum auction. Motorola has been working to court CDMA providers like Verizon in particular, touting its recent development work in CDMA-to-LTE hand-off.

The 700 MHz band has been cited for possible WiMAX deployments. The WiMAX Forum even announced it would certify products at those frequencies. But since none of the major winners have announced WiMAX plans, 700 MHz as a WiMAX band has been nullified—at least until other countries figure out what to do with their UHF TV spectrum.

The real battle between WiMAX and LTE will be at 2.6 GHz, which European governments as well as the International Telecommunication Union have identified as broadband wireless bands. Sweden has already auctioned off its 2.6 GHz spectrum, and the UK, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands are planning auctions this year, though there may be delays. While 3G mobile operators are expected to win and deploy LTE over that spectrum, several non-wireless companies are looking at 2.6 GHz as a new window into the wireless biz. BT in particular is considering a broadband wireless bid, and it’s considering doing so with WiMAX. Because of WiMAX’s time-to-market advantage, BT could beat the UK’s 3G operators to market by years.

No traditional 3G operator appears to be in a hurry to deploy 4G—again the exception would be Sprint—preferring instead to build out the capacity of, and pay back the capital investment for, their 3G networks. That fits in well with LTE’s evolution: The first commercial networks won’t appear until 2010 at the earliest, but if more major operators start deploying WiMAX, they may place competitive pressures on the 3G operators, forcing them to launch 4G sooner than planned. Consequently the industry has begun ramping up LTE development. At Mobile World Congress and CTIA this year, vendors made a slew of LTE announcements, all aimed at bringing LTE to market more quickly.

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