In spite of the popularity of LTE technology, it will take a few years to fully adopt LTE – especially in developing countries and regions. In Europe and North America, the transition to fully mobile LTE systems is moving at a fairly rapid rate; however, in less developed regions, the existing infrastructure, topology and economics do not yet support a transition to an LTE platform. Operators in these regions are left with the question, “What do we do in the meantime”?
Waiting for LTE to address their needs is simply not realistic. These operators need broadband, and they need it today. This is where WiMAX Advanced and its dual-mode approach enter. The question is no longer, “WiMAX or LTE?” – since we all know LTE is the goal. However, operators around the world need help to migrate to LTE at a rate that supports their business models.
Manufacturers like us have been working with the WiMAX Forum to establish a standard that incorporates LTE into the mature WiMAX product lines, and enables operators to run both WiMAX and LTE concurrently. Now Greenfield operators, as well as established WiMAX operators, can offer broadband services using the WiMAX platform, and introduce LTE slowly, (or quickly) – as the ecosystem matures and offers fixed and mobile devices to support their subscriber base.
One may think that LTE may only be a challenge for a few, small operators. Looking at the millions of current WiMAX users globally, a clear picture emerges of the cost and time it would take these operators to transition to LTE.
Several operators are actively exploring scenarios to evolve their mature WiMAX networks to LTE, without losing any of the advantages of their fixed wireless offerings to their client base – consisting mostly of enterprises, SMEs and high-residential users. Their primary concern related to this evolution is the ability to migrate in the most non-disruptive and affordable manner possible. Despite the rapid growth in urban fiber deployment, fixed wireless access is still recognized as one of the most efficient and reliable methods to meet the growing business demand for quality broadband services. The winning scenario would be to gradually evolve to an LTE network that supports their existing enterprise/SMB users, while expanding into a data-hungry mobile/residential market.
Over the next few years, the wireless industry will continue to see a rapid evolution of LTE technology. In addition to the mobile ecosystem, more and more fixed devices will be added – addressing the connectivity needs of many rural and developing areas where fiber is not a feasible option. Until then, many operators will leverage a converged approach, which capitalizes on both WiMAX and LTE and a “Fixed Mobile Convergence” (FMC) model. Both technologies are – for the time being – the only approach to bridge the gap between fixed and mobile technologies, enabling operators to run an effective and cost-efficient network with a seamless LTE migration path. A dual mode LTE and WiMAX integrated system supports both mobile and fixed 4G services, saving operator current networks and future-proofing operator investments.