The migration to 4G wireless is in full swing. Verizon Wireless has announced their decision to adopt Long Term Evolution (LTE) as their 4G standard. By selecting LTE, Verizon joins their corporate partner Vodaphone who also has announced they intend to pursue the same 4G strategy. Both Verizon and Vodaphone plan to start trialing LTE in 2008. AT&T has hinted they may pursue a LTE strategy as well. Sprint has selected WiMAX, branded as Xohm, for their 4G migration. LTE is being developed by the third generation partnership project (3GPP), a global wireless standards body. The move to 4G promises to bring a true broadband experience to the wireless lifestyle, far surpassing today’s current broadband wireless services experienced through technologies like EV-DO. In theory, LTE is thought to be able to offer 100 Mbps wirelessly, although when it’s brought to market, actual broadband speeds are expected to be significantly lower.
The move illustrates the commitment of carriers to embrace broadband wireless as the future of telecom. The competitive implications are numerous. When 4G comes into prime time, it will certainly pressure wireline broadband (DSL, Cable Modem, etc.) in much the same way wireless voice puts pressure on wireline telephony today. Many subscribers may choose to ditch wireline altogether, choosing 4G for both their broadband and voice needs. Wireline’s saving grace may be video, but that might even be in jeopardy in a true 4G world. Additionally, you have to wonder where cable fits in a 4G world. Cable is already significantly behind telecom in the context of wireless. Meanwhile, developments like this one appear to increase telecom’s lead. Unless cable concedes the wireless business to their telecom competitors, which seems unlikely, they will have to step up their wireless game. Quickly. In fact, I don’t see how cable can build this type of wireless strategy organically. I think acquisition has to be in the forefront of their wireless strategic plan. Otherwise, they will be in constant catch up mode. In today’s rapidly evolving telecom landscape, constantly playing catch up could prove deadly.