WiMax and LTE will have dual role on road to 100Mbps broadband

17 Dec 2009

The interesting news that Spain’s Telefonica, which owns the O2 mobile network across Europe, is to deploy WiMax suggests that the emerging broadband standard could work in tandem with Long Term Evolution rather than being a competing technology.

Up until now many tech writers, myself included, have portrayed the onset of WiMax, which gives Wi-Fi like connectivity across wide areas and Long Term Evolution, fourth-generation mobile technology that will take over from 3G eventually, as rivals in the old VHS Vs Betamax tradition.

However, in the same way that 3D TV will complement high-definition TV rather than compete against it, both WiMax and LTE may be used by mobile operators and fixed-line operators as a way of deploying a deep network experience.

WiMAX contract

According to reports earlier this week, Spain’s Telefonica has placed a contract with ZTE to build a WiMAX network. The contract value, while not disclosed, is said to be the largest won by ZTE from a European telecoms operator.

The deal, which will see the Telefonica subsidiary Iberbanda operate the network, comes after the Spanish operator had selected Israel’s Alvarion in May 2009 to expand its WiMAX network in Catalonia.

In Ireland Imagine, with the help of Intel and Motorola, is investing €100 million to deploy a nationwide WiMax network.The first phase of the rollout is covering 250,000 homes in Dublin, Wexford and Sligo and will be completed by mid-December 2009.

Each WiMax base station would give Wi-Fi-like coverage of 8Mbps up to 40Mbps and higher over distances of 1.5km in urban areas and 9km in rural areas.

About LTE

LTE, on the other hand, according to mobile network owners in Ireland, requires a software upgrade to be deployable and we may see the onset of the technology in Ireland in the year ahead.

The first commercial deployment of LTE began this week in Scandinavia. At first, the 4G services will only be available in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo, Norway, but TeliaSonera plans to expand to 25 Swedish cities and three more Norwegian ones by the end of 2010, at a cost of roughly US$70 million. The LTE network promises to operate at speeds up to 10 times faster than existing 3G networks.

“Telefonica are already talking about LTE trials for future deployment when the technology is ready but in recognising that LTE is here and now they have just done a major WiMax contract for deployment in their home market of Spain,” Brian O’Donoghue, director of Imagine in Ireland told Siliconrepublic.com.

“The point this really shows is that a global mobile operator like Telefonica believes that WiMax and LTE will sit alongside each other and ultimately they will provide the 4G access network that will give speeds of over 100Mbps within a couple of years,” O’Donoghue said.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Will the onset of WiMax and LTE result in a battle royale or will broadband providers use both technologies for future high-speed internet services?

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years