convergence of lte & wimax

Table of Contents
Executive Summary 03
Wireless Broadband Landscape 04
Present Wireless Broadband Ecosystem 05
Adoption of WiMAX/LTE 06
Need for Convergence 06
Are WiMAX and LTE really moving towards convergence? 07
How can WiMAX and LTE complement each other? 08
Operator Perspective 08
Implications for Operators 09
Conclusion 10
Table of Figures
Figure 1: Mobile Crossover 03
Figure 2: WiMAX Vs LTE 04
Figure 3: Wireless Broadband Ecosystem 05
Figure 4: 4G Subscribers Forecast 06
Figure 5: Advantages of Convergence 06
Figure 6: Growing Support for Convergence 07
Figure 7: Similarities 07
Convergence of LTE & WiMAX
Executive Summary
Figure 1: Mobile Crossover
In an increasingly interconnected world, consumers demand
anytime, anywhere, any device access to web/data and provide better
communication capabilities. In fact, digital convergence, an outcome of
this technology evolution, is revolutionizing the way data is delivered
Subscriptions (millions)
spawned off next generation networking technologies that offer
The Mobile Crossover!
high speed communication, ease of access and flexibility. This has
Mobile Broadband
Fixed Broadband
and consumed. However, the challenge here is to track evolving
consumer demands and meet the expectations for faster and more
sophisticated capabilities.
Source: OVUM
Fourth Generation (4G) wireless networks are set to transform the
This paper explores the need for convergence of LTE and WiMAX,
telecom sector with their promise of providing greater speed and
factors driving it, stakeholder efforts underway to actualize it and the
handling higher volumes – a priority for most enterprises today. Long
best strategy operators can adopt to capitalize on this union. The
Term Evolution (LTE) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave
paper ends with recommendations for operators on the path to take,
Access (WiMAX) are the two wireless broadband technologies poised
the high potential sectors and applications for 4G networks and a
to dominate next generation networks. These technologies were
study of emerging markets from this perspective.
developed in response to market demand for interoperability across
networks and integration of earlier wireless network technologies.
Earlier perceived as competing technologies, LTE and WiMAX
are increasingly viewed as capable of complementing each other.
Therefore, an appropriate question today is how much and how soon
they will converge.
Wireless Broadband Landscape
Much has been written about the exacting requirements in a
highly connected world and changes triggered subsequently in
the communications network landscape. Some of the key changes
witnessed are:
Recent data from mobile service
providers shows that the growth of
packet data has surpassed voice data
• High demand for wireless multimedia services such as data, voice
and video has ensured widespread growth of broadband wireless
networks. This is further spurred by advancements in standards
and technologies. The growth of wireless broadband networks is
expected to gradually outpace Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line
(ADSL) connections.
• Mobile operators today are addressing exponential growth in traffic
with the help of packet evaluation for Third Generation (3G) and all
Internet Protocol (IP) from 4G.
Figure 2: WiMAX Vs LTE
While 3G technology delivers much higher bitrates, there is still a need
for wireless operators to address the growing demand for “wireless
broadband”, lower latency and multi-megabit throughput. Consequently,
this spells out a new revenue opportunity from a growing pool of
Backed by
Intel, Cisco, Google
untapped consumers, enterprises and retail businesses that can only
be satisfied with next generation networks, i.e 4G. LTE and WiMAX
Equipment vendors and
handset manufacturers
Vodafone, Ericsson,
are enhanced versions of high-speed 3G wireless networks and are
considered to be 4th generation technologies.
The wireless broadband ecosystem comprising of equipment
manufacturers, operators, developer and users, drives a positively
correlated cycle attracting new users and increasing usage of
broadband services.
Present Wireless Broadband Ecosystem
The wireless broadband ecosystem comprising of equipment
manufacturers, operators, developer and users, drives a positively
correlated cycle attracting more new users and increasing usage of
broadband services.
Figure 3: Wireless Broadband Ecosystem
Network Operators
• Fast & reliable
VoIP traffic forecasted to be 0.4% of all mobile data traffic in 2015.
Source: Cisco VNI Mobile 2011
End Users
• New online users
• Increased use by
existing users
• More capable and
powerful devices
Innovators and
• Compelling content
and applications
Some of the key trends that are altering the wireless broadband
ecosystem and reinforcing the case for LTE and WiMAX adoption are:
1. Commoditization of voice services combined with the proliferation
Source: Cisco VNI Mobile 2011
of technologies such as VoIP and universal WiFi is leading to declining
voice revenues. Network connectivity and data transmission/
services are expected to boost data revenues. Mobile video will
generate much of the mobile traffic growth through 2015. It is
estimated that 66.4 percentage of the mobile network traffic will
be video traffic by 2015.
2. Laptops, notebooks, smart devices and smart phones will continue
to lead mobile data traffic growth. New device categories such as
M2M and tablets will begin to account for a significant portion of
the traffic by 2015.
3. CDMA as a technology can migrate seamlessly to LTE. Therefore,
leading CDMA players would be in the best position to launch LTE
based services before anyone else.
4. It is predicted that wireless broadband connections will account
for 43% of the total broadband market by 2015. A technology-wise
break-up is shown in the graph here.
Source: Wireless Intelligence
Adoption of WiMAX/LTE
Need for Convergence
Given the various propelling factors discussed earlier, WiMAX and LTE
networks are fast gaining momentum across the world. Large operators
are launching commercial services using these technologies. Europe is
While LTE and WiMAX exist independently today, there is a valid case
mostly LTE-centric. On the other hand, there is an increasing demand
for converging them. The union of the two technologies is expected
for WiMAX in Taiwan and in many emerging countries, especially the
to allow operators the flexibility to deploy multi-mode networks
Middle East, Africa, and India.
according to different scenarios.
Figure 4: 4G Subscribers Forecast
In essence, a converged WiMAX/LTE solution is desirable to operators
as it will enable them to take advantage of the relative strengths of each
technology while downplaying its weakness.
WiMAX still enjoys a slight edge for now as LTE is relatively new.
However, it is expected that the adoption of LTE will surpass it
sometime next year mainly because LTE is backward compatible
with existing GSM and HSPA networks. This allows mobile operators
deploying LTE to continue to provide a seamless service across LTE
and existing deployed networks.
Figure 5: Advantages of Convergence
LTE advantages
High throughput
Low latency
Advantages of convergence
Best of both worlds
Select the most suitable solution and technology for each situation
Plug and play
Improved end-user
experience & easier
voice transport
FDD and TDD on the
same platform
Simple architecture
resulting in low
operating costs
WiMAX advantages
WiMAX for true mobile broadband experience and LTE for Voice
Allows to meet data needs while protecting QoS of voice network; no excessive
operational expenses
Increase opportunities
Consider more variables such as environment topography
Greater coverage
High speed of
Better equipped to
handle data with larger
packet sizes
Reduce the multi-technology deployment risk
Protect operators’ investments
Are WiMAX and LTE really moving towards convergence?
WiMAX and LTE are expected to converge on several levels as they
Much of the technology used for LTE is similar to that chosen for
have many common characteristics and deliver similar performances. In
WiMAX even though they have both evolved from two different
addition, several stakeholders are taking steps to accelerate this union.
standards, i.e 3GPP and IEEE802.16 respectively:
Figure 6: Growing Support for Convergence
Figure 7 : Similarities
Strong Support from the Ecosystem for Convergence
Industry alliances and supply
• Intel and Nokia; Ericsson
and Sprint; the IEEE,
3GPP and other SSOs;
and common proposals by
WiMAX and LTE vendors
for IMT-Advanced
• ETF - new internet
protocols are well suited
for wireless intertechnology applications
• The IEEE 802.21
- access-networkindependent abstraction of
inter-technology handover
that could be used
with any pair of access
network types
Moving from Nokia’s Flexi
to software-defined radio
platforms that will support
both WiMAX and LTE
• Nortel, Alcatel, Alvarion,
and Motorola
Telecom equipment vendors
are offering RF base
stations that are software
upgradeable to other 4G
technologies such as LTE
• Motorola
Orthogonal Frequency
Division Multiplex (OFDM)
This is the most important similarity
between LTE and WiMAX
Similar architecture and
common gateways
This commonality enables IPTV, VoIP,
and other IP/SIP communications
Data driven services
Both WiMAX and LTE are data-driven
services and rely on a VoIP style
connection rather than a voice network
These commonalities and developments make the merger of WiMAX
and LTE a certainty in the near future. As the rollout of LTE begins, base
stations, handsets, and CPE equipment will be built using baseband and
RF devices that support WiMAX and LTE.
Baseband and integrated
chip suppliers are supplying
commercially available ICs
and board level products that
combine WiMAX and LTE
• Broadcom, Beceem
Initially, these and other wireless networks will converge in devices
on a service level through multi-mode device integration, which
are expected to be much simpler and more effective in supporting
seamless handoff of sessions. It is believed that both WiMAX and LTE
will co-exist in certain regions, and that operators will use WiMAX for
one set of applications and LTE for another.
How can WiMAX and LTE complement each other?
Overlaying a LTE network to complement existing WiMAX networks
will allow bundling of services and dual-mode devices. This will help
increase an operator’s subscriber base. Achieving this is not difficult
• An LTE overlay on WiMAX would not require additional towers
• The wired network infrastructure is mostly common between
First major operator support - Sprint
Nextel Corp’s “Network Vision” plan
which supports the LTE and WiMAX
Operator Perspective
systems and network management, back-office accounting,
operations and billing
• Other functions will also be common (operator dependent)
Operators believe that convergent end-to-end solutions can avoid the
risks of technology choice and network evolution, maximize the value of
key assets, release the pressure from increase of mobile broadband traffic
Until LTE is rolled out,WiMAX will deliver data for 3G networks where
and help realize business success. The WiMAX/LTE network decision
3G’s speeds are inadequate, while the cellular network continues to
will be less complex if multimode devices are available and there is a
handle voice. It is thus easy to see why and how the two technologies
migration path for the operator.The decision process may still be unclear,
could coexist in the near future and provide valuable high-speed
but it gives them the flexibility, so that it does not matter so much.
services to their mutual customers.
Initially, since LTE focused more on frequency division duplexing (FDD)
Although they offer similar standards, WiMAX and LTE require
spectrum and WiMAX on time division multiplexing (TDD) spectrum,
different technology to be deployed and this comes with its own set
their parallel existence seemed suitable to meet the market demand.
of challenges such as:
However, two developments have changed this, forcing WiMAX
• Operators are likely to run up significant costs
operators to reexamine their long term plans for WiMAX:
• Manufacturing cost – effective dual-radio handsets capable of
1. The increasing support for a TDD-version of LTE, known as time-
supporting a convergent solution
division LTE (TD-LTE), thereby competing with WiMAX directly.
• Phone and chipset manufacturers would have to develop
2. A powerful LTE ecosystem with a greater choice of subscriber
products with the capability of supporting both technologies at
devices and competitive equipment prices is rapidly emerging,
a reasonable cost
driven by a growing market and increasing commitment from most
• Taking a decision on the timing and modalities of migrating device
tier-one mobile operators.
markets to multi-mode capabilities
Most WiMAX operators today are therefore exploring the
However, some progress has been made on this front with Huawei
opportunities that LTE offers—either as a complementary technology
already launching multiple convergent LTE/WiMAX offerings. The
or as an alternative to WiMAX.
operators’ thoughts on the convergence of the two technologies and
the options available follow.
With more reliable convergent mobile broadband networks and
increased adoption of multi-mode devices, the industry is likely to
switch to a combined WiMAX- LTE network. The main issue remains
the financial difficulty of hosting these two different wireless standards
and the sufficiency of resources to support both networks.
Implications for Operators
Operators are in an excellent position to leverage the combined
• For new operators: For those with plans to deploy immediately or
power of today’s widely deployed WiMAX and emerging LTE
over the next two years,WiMAX is the best option.The chief reason
standards to deliver anywhere, anytime wireless broadband
is that the WiMAX ecosystem is well established with low/declining
communications bolstered by a sound ecosystem and economies of
costs of infrastructure and devices. This will hold true in cases
scale. A convergent WiMAX/LTE approach improves flexibility as well
where mobility is not a primary factor.Where mobility is important,
as the bottom-line while allowing operators to migrate seamlessly to
TD-LTE may be the better option to pursue than WiMAX.
future technologies and protect their investment.
However, despite the success of recent operator trials, a commercially
viable TD-LTE ecosystem is still several years away.Therefore, the two
most important factors for operators planning to deploy WiMAX or
TD-LTE, are their business model and the timing of implementation.
• For existing WiMAX operators: Continuing on the same path while
incorporating new upcoming features from enhanced versions and
ensuring continuity of service is likely to be a successful strategy.
This is most appropriate for operators who own 3.5GHz spectrum
since it is not well suited for complete mobility and does not have
defined TD-LTE spectrum profiles yet.
It can be concluded that only the combined power of WiMAX and LTE will be able to handle the growing demand for broadband services. Each of
these technologies comes with its own strengths that are further enhanced by strong independent ecosystems. Hence, the way forward for those
interested in developing their 4G footprint, is to look at how these two technologies can converge and how the combined capabilities can be best
capitalized on.To maximize revenue, vendors must be flexible and deliver cost-effective solutions today that can scale to support a mix of WiMAX and
LTE tomorrow. The LTE market is expected to be at least five times the size of the WiMAX market in the coming years, and vendors cannot afford
to miss this opportunity.
This whitepaper was authored by Padman Kumar, Senior Manager - Business Transformation Practice, at
Wipro Consulting Services. He is based in Bangalore and can be reached at [email protected]
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