Nokia has announced today that is creating demonstration devices for TD-LTE, the Chinese version of LTE which is attracting major attention from operators around the world. We take a look at the background of TD-LTE, and what Nokia has planned.
Almost everyone will have heard of LTE by now – the planned replacement for 3G mobile networks is being touted as the savior of mobile networks in the new data-heavy market. But TD-LTE, initially pushed by China Mobile, has some intriguing differences to LTE that could make it a much more disruptive force in the networks of the future. I’ll keep this brief, and list the most important points in bullet-point:
• LTE and TD-LTE are so similar that they can be accessed by the same chipset – this makes it easier for handset manufacturers, who won’t have to choose between the two.
• They run across different bands of the wireless spectrum. The TDD spectrum, which is where TD-LTE would be carried, is generally cheaper to access and has much less traffic on it already. In fact, one of the few things that does occupy that spectrum is WiMAX. That means that TD-LTE could interfere with WiMAX networks – but it also means that WiMAX networks can be easily upgraded to TD-LTE; there are more complex compatibility issues when it comes to plain LTE.
• TD-LTE networks both upload and download data over a single channel – and it boosts the capacity of either channel depending on demand
There is a serious level of interest in TD-LTE globally. Not only is the spectrum cheaper, but the shared channel is better for mobile internet use. It means that you can’t upload and download at the same time (but who does, on a mobile?), but since the channel will be dedicated to one or the other at a time, it will run faster.
What’s Nokia up to?
In co-operation with ST-Ericsson, Nokia is developing TD-LTE demonstration devices for China Mobile. ST-Ericsson is providing the LTE modems, which are being fitted into Nokia devices. The plan is to show just how fast multimedia can be over mobile, by showcasing high-def video streaming, conferencing, gaming, file transfers, etc.
This isn’t the first time ST-Ericsson and Nokia have joined forces. They got together in 2009 to launch devices for the Chinese TD-SCDMA 3G network standard.
What we think?
The confusion over the difference between various 4G standards can be pretty intense – and there’s even confusion about what 4G actually is. It seems that certain releases of LTE itself won’t qualify as 4G. But all in all, I think it’s a good thing that there are competing standards of LTE. Sub-families of LTE won’t lead to device fragmentation, because they can all be accessed by the same chips anyway. At the same time, competition in a marketplace generally leads to better value and better choice for customers; even if those customers are, in this case, almost certainly going to be massive mobile operators.