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Speakers’ Corner

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Ahead of the LTE World Summit 2011 we posed a range of questions to a number of our speakers to gain some further insight into the complex world of LTE.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing LTE today?

The thorny issue of spectrum availability was the most commonly mentioned issue highlighted by our speakers, coupled with balancing capital expenditure, as mentioned by Bart Weijermars of Deutsche Telekom. Safdar Imam of Omantel, Oman, raises the concern of affordable terminal devices, while for Thomas Baumgartner of A1 Telekom, Austria, it’s the ensuring smooth operability of LTE with existing 2G and 3G services.

How do you expect LTE to impact traditional carrier business models?

LTE is clearly an exciting opportunity for the industry and the potential for increased revenues was listed by Botha Lebepe, CEO of Wirels Connect, South Africa. Ali Amer of STC, Saudi Arabia meanwhile expects business as usual, due to LTE natural upgrade path from HSPA. Omantel’s Iman sees LTE as a very positive thing for data centric new telcos with no legacy baggage while Deutsche Telekom’s Weijermars thinks that that LTE will help to simplify service to customers.

What applications do you expect LTE to enable?

According to Deutsche Telekom’s Weijermars the larger throughput and lower latency of LTE will open up a wealth of opportunities and lead us towards a ‘Gigabit society’. Innovations in eHealth, energy monitoring, M2M and gaming are all likely, while Baumgartner thinks low latency will enable video conferencing to come to the fore. Bin Aris of Mobily, Saudi Arabia warns though that despite its promise, LTE remains unsuitable for IPTV en masse.

Do you believe it matters that LTE is being marketed as 4G?

There was a general consensus here that as LTE is significantly faster than existing technologies it’s not a problem using the 4G moniker. Indeed the fact that it makes it easier to market is also seen as a bonus.

Network deployments have traditionally been hampered by device availability. Do you see this as a problem with LTE?

Here we saw mixed responses. Safdar Imam of Omantel, Xiaobao Chen of France Telecom and Ali Amer of STC all believed it to be a major issue holding up deployments – yet Weijermar of Deutsche Telekom and A1 Telekom’s Baumgartner thought things were markedly in better shape device wise compared to 10 years ago – a case of Your Mileage May Vary.

What are your expectations for the TDD flavour of LTE?

TDD will not make much impact in Europe, according to Weijermars and Thomas Baumgartner, from A1 Telekom, Austria, with the latter suggesting the spectrum be saved for carrier aggregation in LTE advanced. Singh Nat, of Portugal’s Zapp isn’t convinced either, stating that it will be, “basically like Wimax”. STC’s Amer, expects TDD to make big inroads where there are spectrum issues, and highlights China as a huge potential market. Bin Aris of Mobily, Saudi Arabia suggests it could be a better alternative to GPON fibre rollouts due to lower cost.

How long do you think it will be before LTE Advanced reaches commercial deployment?

Some are happy to pin a date on the roll out of LTE Advanced, with Bin Aris and Singh Nat suggesting it could be here in as little as two years, while some are placing it between 2014 and 2016.  Bart Weijermars suggests that the tech will not be mature until the end of the decade and also tempers others’ enthusiasm with the belief that the industry ought to focus on the here and now. “Before heading for the next technology generation, let’s make LTE happen for our customers. We are doing this for our customers and first of all they need to experience LTE,” he said.

What are the benefits of the flat all-IP architecture that comes with LTE?

Here the responses were unanimous, with simplicity and cost effectiveness universally lauded as the benefits of going all IP. Xiaoabao Chen of France Telecom also highlights performance and scalability improvements, while Omantel’s Imam believes that going all IP will do nothing less than “transform the economics of Telecoms”. Singh Nat from Zapp, Portugal  agrees. “It is a revolution”, he said. As ever, Weijermars provides some balance and referring to the fact that all IP also presents some “interesting challenges”.

Do you expect a worldwide land-grab for LTE spectrum?

While no one expects the auction for spectrum to reach anywhere near the level they did for 3G it’s still very much at a premium. As such several responded in the affirmative to this query as you might expect. However, Singh Nat believes the opposite, due to the fact that the existing incumbents have so much of an advantage it will put new entrants off.

What are the most important benefits delivered by LTE as a technology; is it all about speed?

Straight speed is indeed the key benefit according to Lebepe from Wirels Connect in South Africa and Mobility’s Aris agrees stating that LTE will provide the speed boosts that 21 and 42Mbps HSPA “failed to deliver”. For others though, such as Baumgartner it’s the short set up times and round trip times for data packets – latency in other words. Amer meanwhile highlights the low cost, benefits that both the operator and consumer can enjoy.


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