Sunday, April 25, 2010

LTE will see larger deployments, higher volumes than WiMAX!

Late last month, I had the pleasure of attending a Maravedis seminar on 4Ggear: Equipment market update and chipset trends.

It also included a market perspective from Sequans Communications, presented by Craig Miller, VP, Marketing & Business Development. This post will highlight Craig’s presentation. Maravedis’ post will follow later.

4G trends: Device volumes and devices
During 2010, WiMAX device shipments are on pace to triple vs. 2009. The volume is well balanced in 2010. Key growth drivers include handset adoption, deployments in India as well as continued growth in US, Japan, SE Asia, and the MEA.

As for 4G devices, in the beginning (ca. 2006‐2008), the device shipments were dominated by fixed broadband CPE. Today, the device ‘mix’ is shifting toward mobile broadband devices, netbooks and mass-market multimode handsets. Tomorrow, we shall witness more mass-market handsets, plus mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and other CE devices, as well as the emergence of M2M applications.

According to Miller, mass-market prices are here now, enabled by low‐cost, high integration chipsets.

Technology trends
Coming to the technology trends, he said that there have been innovations in WiMAX chipset solutions. These include continued cost, size and power reductions. He added that Sequans has pioneered 65nm single‐die BB+RF integration.

Integrated applications processors have been another trend. Here, Sequans pioneered dual-CPU integration. Some other related trends include hostless VoIP, networking stack, CM, security and OMA‐DM.

Improved mobility is another trend, with enhancements such as improved handover performance, and mobile VoIP support. There have been PHY enhancements as well. In fact, Sequans was first to champion 2Tx for the mobile device. This is said to close the uplink vs. downlink budget imbalance. Uplink MIMO (Matrix A) and improved OTA performance: 64QAM UL, Cat 5/6 HARQ, etc., are also among the PHY enhancements.

There is room for improvement! Areas include: RF front‐end — with FEMs (front-end modules) that support 2Tx, improved PA efficiency, and reduced size and cost. Another area is multi‐radio co-existence and interworking. Here, in the WiMAX‐WiFi space, TDM co-existence solutions are required. Also, an improved handover performance is required for 3G + WiMAX.

There is also a need to focus on production test and calibration, with a definite requirement to improve the test and calibration times.

Complex LTE chipsets to come later!
Presenting some thoughts on LTE, Miller said that Sequans is already providing LTE chips to China Mobile for its TD‐LTE activities, as well as to operators in India, Japan, US and Europe. However, industry‐wide, LTE is still a work‐in‐progress.
Here’s why! One, chipsets are numerous, but aren’t optimized. Two, the IOT (interoperability test) is complex and incomplete. Also, devices are currently scarce, and networks are few and far between. Finally, the frequency plans are extremely complex.

Expect the early LTE devices to be data‐centric, he added. These could be LTE ‘thin modems’ or co‐processor designs. The complex 2G/3G/4G chipsets and products will surely come – but later!

Miller added that LTE will eventually see larger operator deployments and higher volumes than WiMAX — something, which is acknowledged. The volume crossover vs. WiMAX will take place in 2012 or 2013.

As of now, WiMAX is ‘mass market’. The volumes are ramping: in the region of well over 10 million units this year. Also, the product mix is shifting away from CPE. Compelling consumer devices are available. Costs too, have fallen significantly. Finally, chips are maturing, and innovations are in the market.

On the other hand, LTE is coming! While it will be a much bigger ecosystem, the volume crossover is not likely until 2012 or later.

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