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LTE is not enough, says KDDI chairman

26 ноября 2010

The wireless industry loves a fight to the death, but most of its battles have not ended in a knock-out blow. CDMA survived the huge expansion of GSM, and Wi-Fi, much reviled by cellcos a few years ago, is now an essential part of the strategies of many. The same is true of WiMAX versus LTE.

For some vendors this is a clear either/or situation, but for most carriers and their suppliers, one network will not be enough to satisfy all the varying revenue streams, spectrum bands and data demands they will need to address over the coming years.

Japan, always a blueprint for the rest of the mobile world, offers a clear example in the form of its second cellco, KDDI, which will be running no fewer than five networks to support the needs of all its potential customers and partners. LTE will be one of them, but as the carrier’s chairman Tadashi Onodera put it, “LTE alone will not be enough”.

KDDI already supports CDMA, carrier Wi-Fi and, via its UQ Communications joint venture, WiMAX, and will add EV-DO Rev B and LTE. Like many European operators, it will not rush into an early, ‘big bang’ deployment of LTE, like arch-rival NTT DoCoMo, but will use expansion of its existing systems to delay the 4G hour. Most cellcos are spreading their capex burden by eking every bit of performance and spectral efficiency out of HSPA+, and KDDI will do the same using EV-DO, as one of only a handful of operators deploying the technology’s Rev B generation rather than leaping straight from Rev A to LTE, like Verizon.

Onodera, in a keynote speech at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress, pointed out that mobile data traffic in Japan would grow by 15 times over just five years, and said this was a “big problem” for all the operators. He said KDDI will implement LTE from 2012 and this will double its network capacity, as its network will go into additional spectrum, recently earmarked for the carrier. It also aims to improve capacity by a further 10 times, by increasing site density, using smaller cells.

However, these parallel measures will still be inadequate for the growth in data usage within existing services and for new revenue streams. “LTE will not be sufficient to cope with such huge data demands so we also need to use other technologies such as WiMAX and Wi-Fi,” he said. These comments chime in with those from Japan’s third cellco, Softbank, which also has a strategy of investing in multiple spectrum bands and networks. As well as HSPA+, early stage LTE and Wi-Fi, Softbank bought the 2.3GHz licenses of failed carrier Willcom, and could implement TD-LTE there.

KDDI is also mirroring the strategy of Sprint, which is poised to award a multibillion dollar contract for network modernization, which revolves around flexible architectures to support several technologies and spectrum bands, plus integration with its WiMAX joint venture Clearwire. And Korea Telecom and SKT, also players in a hugely advanced mobile and broadband economy, are expanding the ‘3W’ strategy - W-CDMA, WiMAX and Wi-Fi - as well as supporting existing CDMA systems and looking towards LTE from 2011.

KDDI plans to deploy LTE initially in the 800MHz band and later using 1.5GHz spectrum and will make heavy use of picocells and femtocells, and of remote radio heads, which add flexibility in design and technology choice (these are also a key feature of DoCoMo’s 4G plans). Onodera said the 800MHz band will be used for nationwide coverage, while 1.5GHz will be used for capacity, only in densely populated centers.

Like Verizon, KDDI will also integrate LTE with its existing CDMA networks, to enable wide area roaming and voice.

Its strategy - and those of many other operators that are drawing Wi-Fi into the heart of their data strategies or partnering with WiMAX carriers - demonstrates that the mobile world has changed. In the age of software defined base stations, multimode devices and flexible network topologies, the old fear of having to support many platforms is fading, overshadowed by the fear of running out of capacity for the new data floods. A multi-network patchwork will develop and Japan, as so often, will point the way.



Источник: 4G Trends

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