Guest post by Bradley Zarich.
The 4G-LTE mania is still alive despite Apple’s silence on the release date of its first 4G-LTE iPhone line (insiders have conflicting statements, some citing the line as iPhone 5, others calling it iPhone 4S, a revamp of the current iPhone 4). The on-going controversies on LightSquared’s nationwide satellite-terrestrial 4G-LTE network will not prevent Apple from rolling out an LTE handset in the near future. However, more tension between LightSquared and dominant mobile phone carriers conflicts with the general interest of end-users in the long-run. The hybrid network will not only bring down the price of mobile phone calls and cellular broadband services, it will also promote Internet neutrality and competition.
Owned by Philip Falcone’s Harbinger hedge fund, LightSquared is one of the largest players in the new LTE market of the U.S. LightSquared’s satellite broadband network is a hybrid of wireless and wired channels designed for wholesale delivery. The broadband will be sold to both wireline and wireless communication service providers, cable operators, device manufacturers and web services and content providers as well.
The FCC first approved the use of 4G-LTE standard in cellphones just last year.The government initially approved the wholesale model for hybrid wireless-wired broadband on the belief that it would promote competition and price levels.
However, the FCC puts a hold on the launching of the network this year until it gets a conclusive report on the implications of using the satellite spectrum in question for GPS communications. The Defense Department, Commerce Department, and the Department of Homeland Security had urged the FCC to disapprove LightSquared’s hybrid satellite broadband network, arguing that the proposed satellite spectrum can interfere with the signals used by GPS receivers, thus causing frequency disruptions that could lead to more casualties in the airline and shipping industries which rely on GPS.
LightSquared accused AT&T and Verizon of conspiring with industry players that want to sabotage the launch of the hybrid satellite network. LightSquared called the GPS interference issues a “misinformed criticism” which is based on the old spectrum that it proposed during the early stage of the project. The company said it would operate on a spectrum far from those used by GPS devices. It also promised that it would invest billions of dollars to solve any possible GPS interference issues.
No one is sure if the next iPhone would already run on 4G-LTE band. An alleged chip yield issue was cited also to be one of the causes of the delay. Some speculates that the next iPhone would be released soon this year minus the 4G-LTE chips, to be followed by a fully 4G-LTE compatible model in 2012.
Recently, there have been rumors and signs that the 4G-LTE iPhone is back on track. AppleInsider reported that developers are getting LTE-supporting firmware, while an Engadget source spotted AT&T staff installing LTE equipment in a major Apple branch to demonstrate to customers how fast LTE connection is.
In line with its LTE plan, Apple is reportedly close to seal a partnership deal with Sprint. In July, the third largest mobile phone carrier signed a 15-year deal with LightSquared which is contingent on the pending decision of the FCC on GPS interference issue.
With or without LightSquared’s satellite broadband network, a 4G-LTE iPhone will likely to hit the market no later than 2012. But the question is not the quality of the LTE subscription plans for AT&T and Verizon iPhones, but the cost.
This was a guest post by Bradley Zarich who keeps an eye on satellite broadband trends and emerging technologies in the wireless communications industry. As a manager for eServe BPO’s web services accounts, he keeps the blogging community updated with the latest developments in satellite communications, consumer electronics and other industries.