Little Leap For LTE and 4G

Long term evolution technology (LTE) took a small but important step forward this week as Motorola completed the first over-the-air data testing sessions in 700 MHz spectrum, an achievement that Motorola said keeps the 4G technology on schedule to arrive in the second half of 2009.

“This testing milestone is proof,” Tom Gruba, senior director, marketing, wireless broadband, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), told Motorola expects to deliver a commercial LTE device for early deployment next year. Next up are device testing trials with carriers and additional field testing, said Motorola.

The news comes as carriers and mobile device makers compete to provide faster and most reliable network speeds for increasing demand of mobile data services. The wireless carrier with the fastest, cheapest and most robust network will pull in more customers, sell more mobile computing devices and reap financial rewards from more innovative mobile applications and services, according to experts.

For players like Motorola, 4G technologies open up new product revenue streams as they hope to sell various types of mobile devices to carrier users for accessing enhanced networks.

LTE is the next generation network technology for carriers currently running GSM/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA and CDMA and EV-DO network technologies. Standards are scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2008 with the initial LTE commercial deployments scheduled for late 2009.

But LTE is still viewed by many as a longshot against competiting 4G technology WiMAX, or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Acces.

Both 4G technologies are akin to having WiFi on steroids — providing always-on connectivity, real-time multimedia experiences and robust applications without the dropped calls, lost data packets and the common dead zone scenario users encounter today.

Leading WiMax supporters Sprint (NYSE: S) and Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) are expecting their $14.5 billion WiMAX joint venture to move forward today following federal agency approval on a merger effort.

Sprint has already deployed its initial WiMax network leg in Baltimore. CEO Dan Hesse told journalists last month that WiMAX network could give Sprint and ClearWire the inside track to beating competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless which are banking on LTE technology.

Motorola’s testing featured prototype LTE devices for both lab-based tests and outdoor location testing.

According to Gruba actual LTE devices remain in development as chip set designs haven’t been completed.

“Once LTE arrives it will provide broadband network capabilities to the masses, not just road warriors,” said Gruba. “It’s the next evolution we’re been looking for.”

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