US regulators give green light to first LTE handset

A Samsung mobile called the SCH-R900 has been approved by the FCC, meaning it could be the first commercial 4G handset to launch in the US
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

A handset featuring LTE technology has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, paving the way for its planned launch in the US later in the year.

Manufactured by Samsung, the handset approved on Thursday is known formally as the SCH-R900. Its FCC filing includes few specifications, but does indicate that the handset will arrive with dual-mode CDMA/LTE capability, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

The R900 was announced at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas in March. At the time, Samsung said that it will launch on the MetroPCS network in the US in the second half of 2010.

LTE, or the long-term evolution of 3G, is widely seen as the successor to current 3G mobile technology. In theory, it can provide download speeds of up to 100Mbps and uploads of 50Mbps, making it about 10 times faster than its predecessor. Manufacturers have focused on releasing modem dongles that use the technology.

In November last year, a consortium of mobile operators and telecoms equipment manufacturers agreed on a voice standard for the technology, removing a hurdle to LTE handsets. Japanese manufacturer NEC has demonstrated an LTE phone, and LG and Nokia are also working on handsets based on the technology.

LTE will allow the Samsung phone to tap into "services such as real-time streaming video on demand (VOD), music downloads and enhanced web-browsing capabilities at high download speeds", said MetroPCS in a statement at the handset's debut.

Separately, Mobile TeleSystem announced on Wednesday that it has started up a commercial LTE broadband network in Tashkent. The move makes Uzbekistan the fourth country to have an operational 4G LTE network after Norway, Sweden and Finland, where TeleSonera has begun offering services.

"The introduction of LTE in Uzbekistan will allow [Mobile TeleSystem] to gain valuable insight from this unique experience and eventually apply it to other markets of operation in the future," Оleg Raspopov, a foreign subsidiaries vice president at the company, said in a statement.

In the UK, Clear Mobitel said earlier in July that it will begin trials to provide high-speed internet to residents of a village in Cornwall using LTE technology on the 800MHz frequency. However, telecoms analyst Ovum predicted in May that a delay in spectrum auction could hold up the roll-out of 4G mobile networks in the UK until 2013.

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