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China Mobile "most ready" for LTE, while T-Mobile counts costs


Published: 20 November, 2008

READ MORE: China Mobile | T-Mobile | LTE

Conventional wisdom might assume that an economic downturn would postpone major operator investment in new technologies like LTE, but several cellcos remain determined to be the first to benefit from the capacity and efficiencies of a next generation network. Last week T-Mobile said it would skip HSPA+ and go straight to LTE in its European territories; Japan's NTT DoCoMo is already working on advanced trials; and now China Mobile claims to be the "most ready" operator for LTE.

Chinese politics mean that the country's largest cellco has been late to roll out 3G and is stuck with the homegrown technology, TD-SCDMA, which has less performance, track record and device choices than W-CDMA or CDMA2000. This has made Mobile keen to make up for the inadequacies of its 3G platform by racing towards LTE as quickly as possible.

It will also have two major advantages in LTE over more established 3G players. First, it can plan its TD-SCDMA roll-out in such a way that cell sites and many other elements can be reused for LTE; and second, it is conducting trials and, presumably, procurement negotiations in partnership with Vodafone and Verizon Wireless, and so will benefit from the scale and market experience of that triumvirate.

Like DoCoMo and Verizon, Mobile plans to have first deployments of LTE in 2010, with field trials running early next year and large pre-commercial trials later in 2009. CEO Wang Jianzhou told the GSMA Asia Congress in Macau this week that the original plan to build a standalone TD-SCDMA network has been replaced with a new plan to bridge the TD-SCDMA RAN to the core GSM network, so both can share the base station controller, the OSS and other core network components. This will ease migration for GSM users straight to LTE.

Meanwhile, Frank Meywerk, senior VP of radio networks at T-Mobile, has issued one of the first sets of technical and cost requirements that he believes are critical for LTE to be adopted.

Reasonable cost is number one, of course, and Meywerk told an LTE conference in London this week that "LTE can be successful if production costs per Mbps decreases significantly, by more than a factor of 10." Self-organizing networks and upgrade paths that rely mainly on software will also be important to future cost efficiency, and a combination of software programmable systems and femtocells should allow capacity to be increased scalably and cost effectively, he added.

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