LTE, or Long Term Evolution, sounds like a refinement of Darwin's theories to me. But it's the next generation of wireless networks to follow 3G – although,according to Wikipedia, the first implementations may be considered 3.9G rather than 4G.
Plus, I read on Nortel's site, it uses a new modulation technique (OFDM) and a new antenna technology (MIMO) and...
And who cares??
I had a chance to talk with Steve West, VP of Emerging Technology and Media for Alcatel-Lucent, at the GigaOm Mobilize conference last week, and asked him to give me the short version of what's important about LTE.
“In the simplest terms, LTE is the first all-IP mobile network,” he said. “It was designed to be a broadband data network.”
Ah, that's good. It uses Internet Protocol standards, so that it can transmit both voice and data seamlessly, the way the Internet can transmit both data and voice. Mobile networks until now were designed with voice transmission in mind first; data was an add-on. Reverse that and you increase efficiency (the Internet can already do voice.)
Wireless and apps companies can now develop a total package to suit user's needs. Instead of one data plan for the home and one for the phone, it can all come together. “We don't have two separate networks any more,” says West.
And, of course, the network will be fast. “LTE was designed to give the types of bandwidth you would get from fiberoptics to the home,” says West. Theoretically, that means up to 80 megabits per second, both upstream and down.
Right now, the average wired connection speed from the home is 4.7 megabits per second in the U.S. South Korea is fastest, with about 10 megabits per second.
It will take a while to get to that kind of speed. In its LTE tests, Verizon Wireless is getting a maximum of 40 to 50 megabits per second for downloads and 20 to 25 megabits per second for uploads. But in the real world, that will be 5-12 Mbps down and 2-5 Mbps up when it launches, according to FierceWireless.
LTE is barely starting to roll out. Metro PCS just launched its LTE network (it skipped over 3G to get a head start on the competition) in the last couple weeks. Verizon Wireless is aiming for the end of 2010, and AT&T for mid-2011, according to ars technica.
Final advantage to LTE: It's being adopted in both the U.S. and Europe. Take your LTE phone to Europe and it will work.
LTE summary: Internet-compatible, fast, universal. Nuff said.
Til next time, when I'll talk about what it means for mobile apps.