I just got back from Dallas where the annual LTE North America conference was held this week. This is a conflation of telecom industry people that contribute hardware, software and services to the wireless industry–from CEOs to lowly analysts. Attendance was up from last year, when LTE networks weren’t even born yet. So the industry is certainly gearing itself up for this new wireless network technology. Some takeaways and thoughts from the show:
- Everyone is real excited about the new possibilities that LTE may bring, it’s just that no one knows what they may be yet! I led a table discussion on future LTE applications, and it was packed. But there were no real conclusions over what apps will drive LTE adoption. There was consensus on one point though: network providers will add value when scale is needed, otherwise they will lose on the app market.
- Verizon Wireless currently has the biggest LTE network in the world, covering almost 200 million POPs in the US. It has been, by far, the most aggressive in launching this new technology. Yet–it had virtually no presence at the conference and it didn’t really share very much beyond its (politically influenced) initiatives in the rural markets. Huh? Come and share what you have learned being a leader. It’s good for the whole industry. Maybe it was afraid it would have to discuss the outage that happened in the Spring.
- New to the conference this year was Sprint. Its CTO Stephen Bye did a nice job of explaining its position on LTE. It said that LTE is going to be a global technology and they wanted to be a part of that. Sounded like something I told them four years ago before they chased the WiMAX dog. To be honest, I had a hard time listening though when in the first part of his speech he claimed that the Nextel acquisition went well. Huh? So all that loss of customers was a good thing? One more thing here too–no mention of WiFi as a strategy, which I think, again is a miss.
- AT&T probably had the biggest “announcement” claiming it was going to launch the next version of LTE, LTE-Advanced in 2013. LTE-Advanced calls for mobile speeds up to 500 mbps. This was surprising to hear, but don’t be surprised if this doesn’t get pushed out a year or two.
There’s no doubt that LTE is a big step forward in service capability. But the industry has a long way to success here, and really needs to dig deep on differentiating the service beyond speeds and to think of new business models. Currently LTE is sold the same way as 3G services are, nothing new here. There was some talk of change, but there’s still a long way to go for sure.
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