LTE momentum 'considerable', says industry

Handsets supporting long-term evolution (LTE) are growing, mobile chipmaker notes, while South Korean players say 4G allows for new, better apps and services over 3G networks.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

The availability of handsets supporting 4G or long-term evolution (LTE) networks is gaining momentum, said a Qualcomm executive who added the devices will be faster and drive innovation of new applications and services.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Mantosh Malhotra, regional head for Qualcomm in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, said the company believes that "there is considerable momentum with LTE, including LTE handsets". Citing statistics from the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), he said 26 LTE multimode devices have been launched "with many more on the way".

GSA's July report listed eight smartphones, 10 mobile computers and eight media tablets as among the LTE products commercially available. However, the majority of LTE hardware out in the market still falls under three non-personal computing categories: routers, dongles and modules.

That said, the 161 LTE-enabled equipment represents a growth of 155 percent compared with an earlier GSA report published in early February 2011. The association also noted in September 2011 that 237 operators in 85 countries are investing in LTE.

Malhotra's reply was in response to a lament by the chief marketing officer of Hong Kong-based carrier CSL, who said handset makers are not making 4G handsets their top priority.

When queried by ZDNet Asia, a Motorola Mobility spokesperson reported that the company works "very closely" with its distributors and carriers in each market to assess which devices to launch based on customer interest and network availability.

The phone maker's LTE handsets have been released in the United States since 4G networks were up and running in the country, he said in an e-mail.

South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that it launched the Galaxy S II LTE and Galaxy S II HD LTE in its home market on Sep. 26, 2011.

"Samsung expects the demand for LTE smartphones to increase next year and is therefore committed to providing a diverse range of products to meet consumers' needs in the near future," said the Singapore-based spokesperson.

LTE to drive new apps, services
Qualcomm's Malhotra noted that instead of replacing its predecessor, LTE leverages on 3G's ecosystem and voice and data coverage. Thus, both technologies are "parallel evolution paths" and will continue to evolve for years to come.

The executive pointed out that functions and features on 4G devices are dependent on product strategies of the handset makers and not the radio technology, but added that LTE handsets would be able to run applications and services at a faster connection speed. According to him, this will drive new apps and services as well as the adoption of technologies such as mobile video conferencing.

Samsung noted that its Galaxy S II LTE supports the next-generation wireless network with a transmission speed that is up to 5 times faster than 3G, "allowing users to download 138 files, 110 e-books and six high-definition games in a minute".

South Korean operator SK Telecom also pointed to new offerings for its LTE service, which it commercialized in July this year with two data modem devices. The operator followed up by launching its 4G price plans with Samsung's Galaxy S II LTE smartphone late last month, and targets to bring into its fold seven LTE smartphones and one tablet computer by end-2011.

Jang Dong-Hyun, chief marketing officer of SK Telecom, said in a September statement that the company will be releasing services such as video communication services, multi-networking games and mobile cloud services. The speed for video calls on LTE smartphones, he noted, is enhanced from 3G network's 64Kbps to over 500Kbps. Video calls on LTE networks also provide image quality that is eight times better than a WCDMA video call, he added.

Jang also believes that massive multiplayer online games on mobile devices will become widespread with LTE. These games require "quick switch of screens and constant data transmission and reception" which can be handled by LTE's fast data speed.

The operator will also rely on its LTE network to boost its mobile cloud services. Jang said existing mobile cloud services have mainly been used for storage and transmission of small-volume data including photos, address book and text messages.

However, with LTE, SK Telecom will launch "T Cloud" which will offer mass data storage and transmission, a multi-screen personal media service called n-screen, and a social-networking-site-based cloud service at a speed matching that of fixed-line networks, said Jang.

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