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Thursday, November 01, 2007

UMB - not dead yet

Lots of people seem to be taking glee in hammering CDMA Rev C / UMB at the moment, prophesying that LTE and/or WiMAX are inevitable winners, and that the CDMA roadmap is looking a bit questionable.

My view is that reports of UMB's demise are over-exaggerated. I think that these things are cyclical, and that over time the weight of opinion will swing the other way again.

Absolutely, there are doubters at the moment. Lots of people seemed to have jumped on Verizon's professed intention to converge with Vodafone's preferred architecture over time. Sprint is deploying WiMAX, which some interpret as kick in the teeth for its parallel CDMA network. Qualcomm obviously hasn't had the easiest year.

....and yet....

LTE is still a long way off from commercial deployment. We might see massmarket services launched in 2011, optimistically. And while the RF bit of the radio part of the standard is progressing, the sister part of the radio access network, SAE, is still mired in politics. Conversely, UMB is pretty well nailed-down and should be deployable in 2009-10.

Secondly, UMB is VoIP-ready, with a roadmap for early mobile VoIP within Rev A/B. If Verizon doesn't get any 700MHz spectrum, it's going to want to husband its existing frequencies more effectively in the medium term. UMB offers the ability to squeeze more voice and/or data into existing spectrum allocations. LTE will do this too, but is further away as already mentioned. Add to this the difficulty of running 2 networks in the interim period, and I see a strong likelihood that Verizon will stop bluffing, go for UMB initially, and hope to finally converge on a single, 4G-based, UMB2/LTE2 hybrid around 2012/2013 instead.

Thirdly, I can't see Sprint being able to push WiMAX down to small, handset-type devices in the near future. Possibly it'll decide that Rev A or B are good enough for phones running on its parallel network. Or possibly it'll decide to upgrade too, especially for reasons like improved voice capacity.

Then there's KDDI, and a bunch of other possibles, including future networks in places like India.

Overall - I'd say UMB doesn't look like the famous Norwegian Blue parrot just yet.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Hi Dean,

And don't forget the 'inhouse' 3GPP HSPA+ competition for LTE: I don't see a huge difference in terms of real life performance in a 5 MHz band.

So while SAE philosopy, LTE hardware development and non availably of LTE handsets at first will hold up the system a bit I think there is enough breadth in HSPA too keep networks kicking for a while.

Makes life for LTE difficult though as HSPA+ will lessen the pressure to deploy LTE in the short term.

Cheers,
Martin