Interesting story in today's Fierce Wireless that apparently LTE is needed urgently in 2010 to avert a capacity crunch for mobile broadband.
Well, I guess that means we're on for a crunch, then. I'm not expecting to see any major deployments of LTE in Europe until 2012, with no real massmarket availability of devices and coverage until 2014-2015.
In practical terms, the lack of devices, lack of spectrum auctions and early-stage nature of the network technology (plus the perennial "what about voice?" question) means that:
- Expect to see even more emphasis on offload to Wifi and femtocells (I'm currently working with Telco 2.0 on a specific and detailed look at managed offload, more details to come soon)
- Some operators are going to start giving serious consideration to putting HSPA/HSPA+ in 2.6GHz instead of waiting for LTE and/or will be pushing harder on 900MHz refarming. Places like Germany even have spare 1800MHz around.
- Lots of opportunities for HSPA optimisation in terms of radio network planning and tweaking
- Various attempts to keep a lid on traffic volumes, with new tariff plans based around time-of-day and so forth.
- More sensible pricing for data tariffs that aren't based solely on marginal costs
- Possibly some more opportunities for WiMAX in those tempting unused bits of TDD spectrum
- Some interesting stuff around sideloading, in an effort to get people to use local content rather than the web... maybe "free 8GB of movies on a memory card with this phone"
- Various attempts to compress web images and other traffic from the Novarra's of this world. All great, but unless you have a robust solution on the client side as well as the server (and that means PCs) it's just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
We'll also hear a lot of talk about application-level filtering ("you can't do video over 3G") instead of flatrate plans, but frankly a lot of that is just hot air. It's rather tricky to go to market with a proposition which states "it's just like ADSL. But you can't look at that funny clip that your friend has posted on Facebook".
The fact remains that most of the 3G traffic in Europe still comes from PCs and iPhones, neither of which the operators have any real control over in terms of application or, critically, user expectation of openness.