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ITU confirms official 'true 4G' standards

LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced will be the only platforms for the next generation of mobile broadband


Published: 23 January, 2012

READ MORE: Standards | LTE | WiMAX

While operators race to launch '4G' services based on LTE or even HSPA, the standards bodies remain more conservative on their labelling. 'True 4G' is supposed to support gigabit speeds when stationary as well as 100Mbps peak mobile data rates, ultra-low latency and channels of up to 100MHz. No current 4G offering can claim that, but some vendors, and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) believe it will be achieved with the next wave of wireless standards, notably LTE-Advanced. That system is one of the standards agreed by the ITU last week as the official platforms for 'IMT-Advanced' mobile networks.

No fewer than four US carriers have pledged to start LTE-Advanced deployments from next year - no doubt marketed as '5G' - and the standard will certainly be the key driver of the next generation of mobile broadband services (and fixed broadband in many regions). In contrast with the first days of '4G', which were initially led by WiMAX, there is no credible contender for the support of mainstream operators, promising a unified global platform at last - however fragmented it may be in terms of spectrum bands.

WiMAX lives on, however, mainly in industrial sectors such as smart grid and defence, and its underlying standard, WirelessMAN-Advanced, from the IEEE 802.16 effort, is also included in the ITU approved list, as ratified at a Radiocommunication Assembly meeting in Geneva. The meeting was told that candidates to be official IMT-Advanced offerings had been selected after evaluation against "stringent technical and operational criteria".

ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré said the announcement was "a huge leap forward in state of the art technologies, which will make the present day smartphone feel like an old dial-up internet connection".

"IMT-Advanced would be like putting a fiber optic broadband connection on your mobile phone, making your phone at least 500 times faster than today's 3G smartphones," added the director of the ITU's Radiocommunication Bureau, François Rancy.

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