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Qualcomm May Slow Verizon's LTE Plans

Verizon (s VZ) has been aggressively pushing its fourth generation wireless network plans, which would bring Long Term Evolution, or LTE, to 20-35 markets by the end of 2010. But in the interconnected world of telecommunications, the desires of a vendor can be waylaid if all the pieces of the puzzle aren’t there in time. And for Verizon, Qualcomm’s (s QCOM) pieces may be showing up late. Its LTE chips for data cards won’t be generally available until the second half of next year, and chips for handsets might not be available until well into 2011, according to an industry analyst.

That means Verizon won’t make its plan to have LTE handsets in 2011, and it will likely struggle to launch its network in 2010 with many devices capable of using the speedy new network. According to a report issued by Deutsche Bank this morning:

“We found a slide in their booth nailing down Qualcomm’s LTE roadmap. They will sample their first LTE chips in the middle of this year. This should make them ready to ship in commercial product by roughly the second half of next year. Their first two chips are the MDM 9200 and MDM 9600. The MDM moniker means they are suitable for data cards. The 9200 will have LTE and HSPA, the 9600 will be tri-mode with LTE, HSPA and EV-DO Rev. B. Qualcomm expects to sample its first chip for LTE handsets in the middle of next year.”

Qualcomm’s intellectual property is in all of Verizon’s devices (handsets or data cards), because Qualcomm controls the IP around CDMA networks. So, until Qualcomm gets an LTE/CMDA combo chip out, Verizon would either have to source the LTE radio chips from a different vendor or wait to provide devices that can travel from 4G to 3G networks. With a limited deployment at first, an LTE-only device would have limited appeal.

Once the chips are out, device makers need to build them into phones, a process than has taken up to 18 months (although, with PC makers getting involved, it may take less time). There’s also Verizon’s rigorous testing of devices for its network, which could slow handsets down even more. So while I’m still hoping that Verizon’s LTE network is up and running in certain places in 2010, I’m not going to hold out for LTE handsets in the 2011 time frame. Data cards will come sooner, but may still lag the network buildout by a few months.

10 Responses to “Qualcomm May Slow Verizon's LTE Plans”

  1. Robert White

    So Verizon must feel the same way about Qualcomm that I feel about AT&T. To do CDMA they need Qualcomm and to do the iPhone, I need AT&T…

    • you really need to re-read the article. it is not about the standard but about supplying chips and qualcomm is a key supplier to many handset makers who do business with verizon, the leading proponent of LTE in the US.

  2. That would be a pity; LTE promises to make convergence a reality, along with the promise of a really unified communications network. OK, getting the entire network to use the IP protocol is probably more important, but LTE provides the bandwidth as well as the backwards compatibility.
    It is not the technology itself that is really interesting, mind. At least not to my non-tech thinking. It is what this can mean for the way we communicate and therefore the opportunities we can create and the things we can do.
    Excuse a bit of fluff, but it is a fact that human achievement has been underpinned by communications and IT developments right from the emergence of our species. Think of the dramatic influence the development of language must have been, or the development of writing systems – you do not need to look only to computers.
    Freeing communications completely would give an economic boost to the world at a time when it needs it most. This is why, to me, delays in getting LTE together are unfortunate.

    • Neil Frohm

      Why wait for LTE? WiMax via Clearwire/Sprint 4G is available today in Baltimore and is planned to cover about 60-80 million people by the end of the year. Nothing unfortunate here–it’s here today. Other cities they say will launch this year:

      “Sprint plans to deploy Sprint 4G service in many markets in 2009, including:

      Atlanta, Honolulu, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Portland, Fort Worth, Seattle

      Sprint also expects to launch service in multiple markets in 2010 including Boston, Houston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.”

      Looks from their site that there are about a dozen laptops already available with WiMax chips inside in addition to desktop and mobile modems.

      • Omar Moya

        Convergence is the key word, as mentioned in the previous post. WiMAX is not compatible with anything at the moment. Laying on a 2.6GHz network, and growing slowly city by city.

        As for the U.S. this can be an option, as the deployment is being done, and the service started to be available. However, LTE represents a continuous service with handovers defined to HSPA, 3G Rel99, EDGE and even GPRS. Continuity with standarized interworking with existing networks, and quick deployment is what LTE offers.

        WiMAX is very good, but as long as it is working by itself, in its own frequency, will most probably be adopted in certain markets only, and mightl never be a worldwide technology. While LTE chips will support all technologies (HSPA, EDGE) and will have continuous service.