LTE-Advanced is a 4G Technology, ITU Says

The ITU has ratified LTE-Advanced as a 4G technology. Still to come, says 4G Americas, is specifying the "in-depth technical standards for these radio technologies."

The International Telecommunication Union, in a meeting in Switzerland this week, ratified 3GPP Release 10 - less cumbersomely known as LTE-Advanced - as a 4G technology, the 4G America wireless industry trade association announced Nov. 23.

"This day is a milestone to remember for mobile broadband connectivity," Chris Pearson, president of 4G Americas, said in a statement. The group expects LTE-Advanced to be the "pre-eminent ITU-sanctioned 4G mobile broadband solution for information, communications and entertainment."

Nine official commercial LTE launches have occurred in 2010, said the group, with 11 more expected before the end of the year. Additionally, more than 250 companies, including Greenfield, CDMA, WiMax and GSM operators, have expressed interested in deploying LTE networks.

"The future for mobile broadband technologies has never been brighter to help progress societies in the Americas and throughout the world," said Pearson.

The next step in the IMT-Advanced-or 4G-process, said the statement, is to specify the "in-depth technical standards for these radio technologies." Preliminary research, the group added on its site, has focused on technologies capable of delivering peak rates of 1Gbps in hotspots and 100Mbps while mobile, being fully IP-based and supporting full network agility handing over between different types of networks, such as 4G, 3G and WLAN.

Strategy Analytics analyst Ken Hyers highlighted this distinction, in noting how 3G varies from 4G. While 3G refers to a certain amount of data throughput at certain speeds, 4G is additionally about incorporating multiple standards and interoperable technologies, Hyers said.

"What that means is that a user can be engaged in a video conference call and as they move from a LTE-A network to a HSPA+ environment to a WiFi environment, etc., their call will be seamlessly handed off from network to network, with the call (or data session) quality dynamically changing based on the network's capacity to handle the data traffic involved," Hyers told eWEEK. "That's 4G - it's not just about raw data speeds, but rather the ability to provide truly interoperable and seamless communications across multiple environments."

In describing 4G, or IMT-Advanced, 4G Americas notes: "Any claim that a particular technology is a so-called -4G technology' prior to an established definition by the ITU is, in reality, simply a marketing spin, creating market confusion and deflating the importance of the telecommunications industry standards."

Still, wireless operators are already offering what they are calling "4G technology." On Nov. 2, T-Mobile - a member of the 4G Americas Board of Governors - rolled out an ad campaign calling itself "America's Largest 4G Network." Given that T-Mobile now runs on HSPA+, and not LTE, some in the industry questioned the validity of the claim, though T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in a statement that the network is capable of reaching theoretical speeds of up to 21Mbps and average download speeds approaching 5Mbps, "with peak speeds of nearly 12Mbps."

Ray added that HSPA+ speeds have been found to "match and often beat WiMAX and are readily comparable to what early LTE will deliver."

In December, Verizon will go live with its LTE network, which it's describing as "the most advanced 4G network in the world." Similarly, the carrier has said it expects downlink speeds up to 12Mbps and uplink speeds up to 5Mbps. By year's end, it says it's on schedule to cover 38 metro areas and 60-plus commercial airports.

According to the 4G Americas site, however, "technologies should be verified against a set of agreed-upon requirements in order to qualify as -4G,' and this will happen in the future when the requirements are outlined by the ITU. Only then will it be understood what is, and can be rightly and credibly called, 4G."

Other members of the 4G Americas board include AT&T, Ericsson, Gemalto (which has recently been in the news for reportedly working with Apple to build a SIM card for the iPhone) Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, and Telef??nica.