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Multi-Platform Wireless Solutions on the Horizon

LTE will still become the mainstay 4G mobile network technology, although its universal use is still in the future. According to the latest market assessment by ABI Research, some service providers will benefit from a dual-platform or multi-platform strategy that's initially based on both LTE and WiMAX.

According to ABI research director Philip Solis, "Intel and others are pushing the idea of heterogeneous networks. This is not to deny LTE's long-term position as the leading 4G platform, but to recognize that a small part of the ecosystem will still be characterized by diversity for some time."

Who stands to benefit from that multi-platform scenario?

Some operators, such as Sprint and Clearwire, KDDI and UQ Communications, and KT, will use both technologies for some time.

When asked why network operators would prefer to support multiple technologies, Solis said, "By using both standards, they'll have access to more spectrum, which helps with capacity issues."

Multi-standard base stations now being deployed to support several generations of technologies as well as both 4G standards. Alvarion, Huawei, NEC, NSN, Samsung, and ZTE are some vendors supporting both technologies in the same flexible base station.

There will also be multi-mode 4G chipsets in handsets and other mobile devices.

Prior to its acquisition by Broadcom, Beceem was already planning such chipsets. Chipmaker Sequans recently announced a similar product initiative it calls 4Sight, with software allowing for hand-offs between multiple networks if carriers choose to implement it.

According to Solis, these solutions provide the wireless ecosystem with the design flexibility it needs.

Intel already has combination WiMAX and Wi-Fi chip-sets and in the near future it will focus designs on HSPA+ with LTE. Longer term, it will likely combine those into one solution along with short-range wireless technologies.

Multi-mode chip-sets also benefit mobile device manufacturers interested in reducing the number of their SKUs -- and by creating devices compatible with multiple networks, they ensure product longevity and allow mobile network operators to migrate without stranding their subscribers.

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