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LTE: Another Way to Estimate when It Will Be Real

Hardly a week goes by without a press release touting how soon we’ll be using a Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless network. Verizon has promised a major commercial launch in 2010 and a two-city trial before the end of 2009.

Let me show you a little chart I put together for my 3G Tutorial and have repeatedly updated (e.g. for my 3G / 4G Tutorial and for the cellular wireless history “Our G-enealogy” presented at 4G Wireless Evolution. This tracks the different releases of wireless specifications by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the body that controls the GSM family of wireless specifications.

ReleaseSpecs completeCommercial deploymentsMajor new features defined
Last purely GSM release
991Q20002003W-CDMA (UMTS) air interface
42Q20012004Softswitching & IP in core network
51Q20022006HSDPA and IMS
64Q20042007HSUPA, MBMS, GAN, PoC & WLAN integration
74Q2007Future (2010 seems likely)HSPA+, Better latency & QoS for VoIP
84Q2008FutureLTE, All-IP

If every other release has taken ~3 years from specs complete to commercial deployments, why is LTE going to be so much faster? Especially when we remember the 3GPP Release 8 specification freeze was .

Based on this chart, an sane person would project LTE in 2011 and wouldn’t be surprised if substantial deployments didn’t begin until 2012.

Now it’s true, I define commercial deployments as at least two operators (somewhere in the world) selling commercial services to the general public who also have access to an assortment of compatible mobile devices. On the other hand, if Verizon has just one or two USB modems that receive data from the LTE network and they deploy that LTE network beyond their first two cities, Verizon will declare they’ve met their plan. So most likely we’ll both be “right.”

By Brough Turner, Founder & CTO at netBlazr

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