As LTE Rolls Out

The Wireless History Foundation Dinner to induct four more industry leaders into the Wireless Hall of Fame was held the evening prior to the show.

CTIA’s fall show, which was held in San Francisco the week of October 4, is the smaller of the two CTIA shows, with the spring show being the largest. The fall show has once again been renamed and is now entitled “CTIA Enterprise & Applications.” This is the third renaming of the show that was originally intended to focus on IT professionals interested in wireless services for their companies that was later renamed to include an entertainment element. Now it is back to its roots. When conceived by the then CEO of CTIA and myself, we believed we needed a show to promote wireless within corporate America. Turns out we were ahead of our time and now that wireless broadband is available, the show has taken on a new name and new and different types of attendees.

Our Wireless University was held the day prior to the show, as it has been for the past 16 years, and the Wireless History Foundation Dinner to induct four more industry leaders into the Wireless Hall of Fame was held that evening. The dinner was well attended and walking around the reception area was like taking a walk back into the history of wireless. Many of the founding fathers of paging systems, cellular systems, Nextel, and those who played an important part in the growth of land mobile radio were there. For a few minutes there was a heightened buzz at the reception as Steve Jobs made his way into the room to congratulate Stan Sigman, who while at AT&T had worked closely with Jobs on the development and rollout of the first iPhone.

The other three inducted into the hall of fame were Edward “Ted” Rogers, Jr. (posthumously), the guiding light behind the Rogers wireless, broadcast, and cable empire in Canada; LeRoy Carlson; and Raymond Trott. It was great to see so many of those responsible for the growth of the wireless industry and many who have followed in their footsteps and will make up the next generation of Hall of Fame inductees. The Wireless History Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that the deep and rich history of the wireless industry is chronicled and preserved. The organization has 501(c) 3 status as a non-profit so donations to the events and the History Foundation itself are tax deductible. I hope this event is repeated every year going forward; there are still many people who deserve recognition and should be in the Wireless Hall of Fame.

The Show

The show was active, the keynotes lively, and the crowd, as reported by CTIA, was about 10% larger than last year. The exhibit hall was smaller, I believe, and there were a number of companies missing. It is interesting to me that Apple doesn’t show up at events that are not Apple-centric. This has been a long-standing policy within Apple, but since it is now deeply entrenched in the world of wireless, you would think that it is time for Apple to revisit its position and to take part in the major wireless shows.

I, for one, was glad not to see any demonstrations of LTE on the show floor—you know, the ones where vendors are touting 50 Mbps connections over LTE. Verizon did not have a booth but it did have a presence and announced it will roll out LTE in 38 areas of the country by the end of the year; and it is still realistic about the data speeds it is promising. Verizon states that on a loaded network, customers will experience between 5 and 12 Mbps downlink speeds (down to the device) and between 2 and 5 Mbps for the uplink. All of my information tells me that these data speeds are realistic for a 10X10 MHz system and that by setting these expectations realistically, Verizon’s customers will be satisfied with the results. Verizon is also making it clear that LTE is not only about speed but also about reduced latency, which will result in more multi-player games, faster real-time stock trades, and any number of applications that require fast, low latency connections.

One section of the show floor was devoted to Machine-to-Machine communications (M2M). Many companies were displaying their modems and devices and it is clear that the wireless industry has finally reached the conclusion that M2M will be a large segment of the wireless data market moving forward. There are more machines in the world than people, and while the ARPU for devices is lower than the ARPU for humans, the result is a very nice monthly recurring income and most M2M devices will be using small amounts of data so they will be easier to manage.

The atmosphere at the show was upbeat, and the upcoming LTE launches could be considered a rebirth of the wireless industry. There will be new devices, new infrastructure, new types of backhaul (fiber and microwave to handle the data traffic), and more and different types of applications. During the show, Alvarion, which did not have a presence on the show floor but was one of our Wireless University sponsors, issued a press release about a new $75 million award for a wireless broadband network in Canada. This in itself may not seem like a big deal, but the wording of the press release was very telling. It never once mentioned that the new network would be WiMAX, only that it would evolve to TD-LTE moving forward. This is a major shift for Alvarion, which has been a leader in WiMAX base and device equipment for many years, and is indicative to me that many of the WiMAX companies will be following the same route, evolving their networks to Time Division LTE. Qualcomm’s recent LTE chip announcements confirm that its chipsets are designed to support both Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and TD-LTE.

All in all, it was a good show with many meetings, exciting new applications on display, and realistic discussions concerning how wireless broadband will continue to grow rapidly. This renewed demand for data will put some strains on the various networks, and while LTE will certainly have more capacity than the existing 3G networks, all wireless broadband systems are shared systems. There is still the issue of data hogs and how to handle their heavy data use across networks. We don’t know what Verizon’s pricing models will be out of the gate when it announces the launch of its LTE systems, but I am certain that the plans will be fair to all concerned though more expensive for those who seem to believe that wireless broadband has the same characteristics as the wired Internet and that they should be able to drink all they want from the fire hose.

The spring CTIA show, the big one, will be held in Orlando next year. By then we will have LTE up and running in many different cities and we will know for sure how well it works and what it will cost us to move up to LTE. Before then, I expect to see Verizon making a big push at CES in January where there will be a wireless pavilion and, as you might know, we will be hosting our 21st Annual Wireless Dinner. We still have a few more sponsorships available for this Dinner, which has become THE place to be.

Andrew M. Seybold

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