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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

UMTS/LTE at 3.5GHz - watch out, WiMAX

One thing that 3GPP has been very good at is rolling out support for new frequency bands - arguably too good, some might say, as the number of available 3G/LTE bands now far outstrips the ability of chipsets to support all of them.

The latest in line is 3500MHz (and also 2300MHz), which until now has been the preserve of WiMAX and other similar fixed-wireless technologies. I suggested last November that this was a likely counter-strike by the invasion of the 2.5/2.6GHz band by WiMAX.

With the continued push towards a TDD profile for LTE, my view is that the WiMAX community is in danger of being further squeezed in some markets in terms of spectrum allocation.

The WiMAX Forum really needs to follow 3GPP's strategy and get profiles sorted for both FDD and TDD, in a broad range of frequency bands, as fast as possible. At the moment it is being extremely slow on this. It also needs to stimulate urgently the development of multi-band chipsets - it is probable that there will be only limited harmonisation at a global level, and even less on an operator-by-operator level. Frequency agility (and the ability to configure devices with different band permutations on the same silicon platform) will be critical for scale economies.

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