Motorola has launched a LTE (Long Term Evolution) trial network in the UK after opening a testing lab in Swindon, that will allow UK operators to experiment with the 4G technology.
Motorola said that it had conducted a "live, over the air, standards compliant LTE call during which high-speed data services were streamed using Motorola's LTE infrastructure operating in the 2.6 GHz spectrum and a prototype LTE device."
The networking vendor is hoping that the testing lab will encourage UK-based mobile operators to conduct LTE field trials. Additionally, Motorola has said it can host the core elements of the LTE network for operators that require a hosted LTE trial.
"With our latest trial network we look forward to working closely with our customers in EMEA as they transition to LTE during 2009 and beyond," said Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president and general manager, Motorola Home & Networks Mobility, EMEA & Asia Pacific.
Motorola is planning on commercially releasing its LTE solutions later this year, which will include products for the 700MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum bands. It says that it is already dealing with operators in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region for LTE field trial activity.
In the UK, operators are currently using HPSA (High Speed Packet Access) for 3G mobile broadband. A couple of weeks ago Vodafone announced that it had successfully trialled a 3.5G technology, namely HSPA+
LTE is expected to be one of the most likely candidates to replace HSPA as the 4G mobile broadband technology going forward. However, it will be going up against WiMax, which is backed by chip giant Intel.
But a recent report from Infonetics Research predicted that the market for WiMax would decline in 2009, as mobile WiMax would be hit both by the economic squeeze and competition from LTE. Further bad news followed for the WiMax camp after Nokia announced that it would stop making its N810 WiMax Edition handheld computer, after just a few months on sale.
Meanwhile, a bigger question remains over whether mobile operators, who are already under some financial pressure, have the resources to fund network rollouts for LTE or WiMax, despite the popularity of mobile broadband.
Dean Bubley, of Disruptive Wireless, for example pointed to a recent article in the trade magazine, Mobile Today, which said that growth in dongle sales have dropped off since the beginning of the year, which he puts down to a mix of post-Xmas sales lull, coupled with economy-related concerns.