Pipeline had a chance to sit down for an energetic discussion with Alepo's John Kim, V.P. of Business Development, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to discuss 4G technologies and the B/OSS vendors who are developing solutions to support the transition to next gen networks. Alepo provides control plane and business management solutions across 4G services and technologies for major service providers. John is a recognized thought leader on the subject of 4G, and was recently a keynote speaker on the subject at WiMAX Forum Asia Congress in Taipei.
Pipeline: Who are the competitors in the 4G world?
John Kim: The two main competing technologies are LTE and WiMAX.
Pipeline: Is there a superior 4G technology?
John Kim: When you talk about LTE versus WiMAX, they both have a place in the world. LTE will become the more popular, especially when it comes to the first world, the western nations, strictly because of devices-only because of devices. Devices drive consumers, consumers want sleek and sexy devices, and there are more device manufacturers in the LTE space than there will be in WiMAX.
Now, the disadvantage of LTE is that it is 3GPP, which means that Qualcomm owns a bunch of patents on it. So for every device that you make, you have to pay [Qualcomm] royalties. That ultimately means that an LTE device will end up costing more than a WiMAX device. That's why Qualcomm is buying up spectrum in places like India, not because they'll make money off the spectrum, but off their royalties inherent to the LTE standard.
So just like we saw with GSMA and CDMA, devices drive the market, so LTE will predominate, but WiMAX still has a place in the more price-conscious or emerging marketplaces.
Pipeline: Besides device proliferation, what else has boosted LTE's popularity?
John Kim: What LTE did very well was standardize voice very early-voice over LTE came very quickly, where WVS, WiMAX Voice Service, was just standardized relatively recently, even as WiMAX has been around for a much longer time.
Pipeline: Which technologies meet the true definition of 4G?
John Kim: Based on the 4G standard, WiMAX is typically considered to be 3.5G, and LTE is 3.9G.
16M WiMAX technology, and then LTE Advanced-those two will be the first true 4G technologies that meet the definition. HSPA+ as 4G is just marketing.
Pipeline: What are the specific challenges to B/OSS vendors regarding the switch to 4G?
John Kim: There are challenges from the vendor perspective that need to be solved whenever there is a change to a new technology.
The major challenge I see in LTE is going to be roaming. You have just four bands on GSM, and quad-band phones used to be a big deal; there are trials going on with 12 bands, and LTE is possible across 40 different bands. That's definitely the biggest challenge in LTE.
--Jesse Cryderman, Associate Editor