Gartner Says 4G Is A Technology In Search Of A Business Case

Speaking at the Gartner Mobile and Wireless summit in London, Gartner research vice-president Ian Keene said that five key wireless technologies are likely to emerge in the next five years to make the lives of anyone managing wireless networks even more complicated.

In the personal space, Bluetooth will be joined by Zigbee for low-power telemetry with batteries that last months or years.

Office wireless LANs will finally see 802.11n along side the b, g and sometimes a standards we have today. However, at 300MBPS, Wi-Fi N will require Gigabit Ethernet to the access point and in many cases new Power over Ethernet systems to deliver the increased power requirements needed. For the wide area network, a combination of copper, fibre and WiMAX will be creeping in. “Not WiMAX as mobile, but WiMAX as a fixed solution,” he stressed.

For the mobile arena, today we have moved from GPRS to EDGE to WCDMA, pockets of HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access, sometimes called 3.5G) and the promise of HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access). In some parts of Asia and the United States, companies will also need a CDMA strategy. Then there is the future potential of WiMAX.

Despite the hype, 4G is still not here today and already it is questionable if it makes economic sense to invest in the backhaul for today’s HSDPA and HSUPA mobile broadband.

802.16d fixed WiMAX might well die in the trough of disillusionment and be replaced by mobile WiMAX 802.16e in fixed installations which will deliver greater economies of scale.

Keene said that the entire mobile market was up until now driven by hype. Vendors are pushing new products to operators to invest a lot of money in scared that their competition will invest in it and succeed with something they do not have.

Today, the GSM family together has 79 percent of connections as of the end of 2006. This is significant as these operators will likely evolve with the GSM family to 3G WCDMA, HSPA and to LTE as they will need backward compatibility as their networks evolve.

For 3G, Gartner forecast that the GSM family would capture 89 percent of worldwide connections, some one billion by 2011. Meanwhile pre-3G GSM continues to grow in developing countries and the entire family will reach around four billion user by then.

However, the question is not just GSM versus CDMA, but there are emerging IP-based technologies such as WiMAX, municipal Wi-Fi and other proprietary stuff that is vying for the next 4G standard.


David Rosenberg: A seasoned political journalist, David's blog posts provide insightful commentary on national politics and policy. His extensive knowledge and unbiased reporting make him a valuable contributor to any news outlet.