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TD-LTE Heats Up – How Vendors Can Attack the Space

| Dec 10, 2012 | Mobile Access Infrastructure
| Analyst: Ed Gubbins, Senior Analysts, Mobile Access Infrastructure

As the ongoing land-grab of the global LTE infrastructure market matures, equipment vendors are paying increased attention to a subset of this market known as TD-LTE in anticipation of deployments ramping up in 2013 and beyond. Time-Division LTE (also called LTE-TDD for Time-Division Duplex) contrasts with FD-LTE (LTE-FDD) mainly in that TD-LTE uses unpaired spectrum, which allows operators to adjust the uplink and downlink bandwidth allotments, while FD-LTE uses paired spectrum separated by a guard band. The market for TD-LTE infrastructure solutions is much smaller, and slower to develop, than that for FD-LTE (as of November 2012 the GSA estimated TD-LTE accounted for just 11 of the world’s 113 commercial LTE services).

Nonetheless, deployments are expected to ramp up, driven more than anything by China Mobile’s plans to roll out 200,000 sites in 2013. While all major vendors (and then some) are chasing that particular deployment, the resulting development of the TD-LTE ecosystem should goose existing activity in other geographies (beyond Softbank’s rollout in Japan, Clearwire’s plans for the U.S. and Reliance Infotel’s plans in India, for example). It’s not yet clear how far TD-LTE’s increasing popularity will ultimately rise. Its large swaths of efficiently used spectrum already give it impressive speeds, and as uplink traffic volumes increase, TD-LTE’s flexibility could grow even more appealing.

In any case, vendors are already demonstrating a universal desire to compete in this market today, finding ways to differentiate around the technology’s unique characteristics and use cases. In this report we look at some of the ways vendors have distinguished themselves in the space so far, the opportunities for them to stand out and the challenges they face in doing so.

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