Motorola (s MOT) today said it has demonstrated data transmissions in the recently auctioned 700 MHz spectrum using equipment based on the LTE next-generation wireless protocol. The equipment will be ready for limited network deployments in 2009. This puts Motorola ahead of other vendors such as Ericsson (s ERIC), which has demonstrated LTE equipment in the lab on different spectrum bands, and will launch LTE equipment for the 700 MHz spectrum in mid 2009.
The 700 MHz auction earlier this year netted the FCC $19.59 billion. LTE is the next-generation wireless networking standard with the potential for speeds of up to 150 Mbps downlink — although likely speeds are about 20 Mbps downlink because of backhaul contraints. Likely first customers for the Motorola LTE equipment include Verizon (s VZ), which has a block of 700 MHz spectrum and plans to move quickly to LTE. The other large buyer of 700 MHz spectrum in the U.S., AT&T, doesn’t plan to deploy LTE until 2012. Europe will auction off its 700 MHz spectrum after it completes its transition from analog to digital television in the 2009-2012 time frame.
Motorola trumpets this news as the precursor for getting HD video streaming on mobile handsets, but while that’s theoretically possible, it isn’t likely. As mentioned, real-world network speeds will likely be around 20 Mbps. Put that on a wireless network shared among dozens of people and the data rates shrink to a point where the 6 Mbps required for HD video look pretty difficult to come by. So the equipment will be deployed, but HD video on mobiles may not be. Getting carriers to raise their data caps, improve their backhaul and embrace HD video on wireless networks is something I will have to see to believe.