SAN FRANCISCO-Sony Ericsson's new CTO, Jan Uddenfeldt, told a group of industry executives June 3 that the 4G mobile broadband market is "exploding" at this time and that the powerful protocol will be in regular use worldwide sooner than many people think.
Uddenfelt, named to the job June 2 after spending more than 20 years with Ericsson in other capacities, made his remarks at the 4G Summit & Open Mobile Summit at the Parc 55 Hotel here. Uddenfeldt will be based in Redwood City, Calif.
"In just a few years, there will be more broadband connections than there are people [on Earth]," Uddenfeldt said, citing market projections compiled by the industry. "Right now, there are about 500 million mobile devices in use, with about 10 percent being 4G. By 2014, there will be 5 billion, and by 2020, we expect to have 50 billion devices being used in the world-with 50 percent of them being mobile broadband."
As of June 4, the human population of the world is estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 6.8 billion.
4G mobile broadband refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. The first generational move was from 1981 analog (1G) to digital (2G) transmission in 1992.
This was followed in 2002 by 3G multimedia support, spread spectrum transmission and speeds of at least 200K bps.
4G is a converged protocol that refers to all-IP-packet-switched networks, mobile ultrabroadband (gigabit speed) access and multicarrier transmission. Mobile WiMax and first-release 3G LTE (Long Term Evolution), which are pre-4G technologies, have been available on the market since 2005 and 2009, respectively.
Sprint Nextel has announced that it will be using WiMax and branded it as a 4G network. Vodafone, Qualcomm and Verizon Communications have said they will be using LTE as the basis for their 4G networks, due to be launched later in 2010.
An advanced LTE protocol system, owned by TeliaSonera, first went online as a 4G system in Stockholm and Oslo on Dec. 14, 2009, with Ericsson providing the core network. Both Sweden and Norway have adopted LTE as their 4G standard; LTE is being considered for an international standard by a working group of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standards organization.
TeliaSonera, with about 106 million mobile customers, is the largest telephone company and mobile network operator in Sweden and Finland. It recently launched a fiber broadband network in Denmark and has users in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Spain.
"4G mobile broadband is built on LTE/IP," Uddenfeldt said. "Mobile data traffic is growing at about 175 to 200 percent per year and will pass up voice traffic in a few years. Sixty-four operators in 31 countries thus far have committed to launching 4G/LTE networks; 22 will come online this year, and we'll have 39 networks by the end of 2012."
4G/LTE is another iteration in the computer industry's continual march toward bigger, faster and better. Bigger, meaning more bandwidth and data storage capacity; faster, meaning the movement of more bits from place to place in shorter time frames; and better, meaning that all these improvements serve the customer-and the enterprise-more effectively.
4G/LTE has a theoretical net bit rate capacity of up to 100M bps in the downlink and 50M bps in the uplink, Uddenfeldt said.
But the industry still has a lot of work to do, he said, to make 4G/LTE the best communications protocol ever created.
"We need smarter pipes built everywhere. So much more needs to be converged; convergence requires both throughput and signaling scale," Uddenfeldt said. "The radio and packet parts of the network need to be combined and optimized.
"All IP networks and end-to-end deployments are not so much converged yet. We use the same core routers, but edge routers are different. We also think that there will be converged services, and they should be the same type of full-fledged Web services hat are being used now," Uddenfeldt said.
"Smart phones and iPads are changing everything. A mobile device just isn't a Web browser anymore."