There's no question that in the long term LTE will become the mainstay 4G network technology, although its universal use is still in the future. Until then, says ABI Research, some service providers will benefit from a dual-platform strategy based on both LTE and WiMAX.
According to research director Philip Solis, "Intel and others are pushing the idea of heterogeneous networks. This is not to deny LTE's long-term position as the leading 4G platform, but to recognize that a small part of the ecosystem will still be characterized by diversity for some time."
Who stands to benefit?
Some operators, such as Sprint and Clearwire, KDDI and UQ Communications, and KT, will use both technologies for some time. Says Solis, "By using both standards, they'll have access to more spectrum, which helps with capacity issues."
Multi-standard base stations now being deployed support several generations of technologies as well as both 4G standards. Alvarion, Huawei, NEC, NSN, Samsung, and ZTE are some vendors supporting both technologies in the same flexible base station.
There will also be multimode 4G chipsets in devices. Prior to its acquisition by Broadcom, Beceem was already planning such chipsets. Chipmaker Sequans recently announced a similar product initiative it calls 4Sight, with software allowing for handoffs between multiple networks if carriers choose to implement it. According to Solis, these solutions "provide the ecosystem with the flexibility it needs."
Intel already has WiMAX/Wi-Fi chipsets and in the near future it will focus designs on HSPA+/LTE. Longer term, it will likely combine those into one solution along with short-range wireless technologies.
Multi-mode chipsets also benefit mobile device manufacturers interested in reducing the number of their SKUs; and by creating devices compatible with multiple networks, they ensure product longevity and allow MNOs to migrate without stranding their subscribers.
New data on these and other 4G topics are presented in ABI Research's "4G Subscriber, Device, and Networks Market Data" which contains regional and selected country-level segmentation for the mobile WiMAX and LTE markets.
It is part of the firm's 4G Research Service.