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LTE For PCs Near, Handsets Lagging

The first five years of Long-Term Evolution deployment will focus on PC data cards, says a market research firm.

Wireless carriers around the world are rushing to roll out Long-Term Evolution networks, but when the ultra-high-speed wireless technology makes its major debut next year, there likely won't be any handsets. Rather, initial LTE deployments will be provided on PC data cards, according to a report by Infonetics Research.

In an interview Wednesday, the market research firm's Stephane Teral said that chipsets for data cards will be available before chipsets for handsets. "PCs will be first," he said. "I expect to see data cards and plug-ins for PCs first, then smartphones."

Teral, Infonetics' principal analyst for mobile and fixed mobile convergence, said he expects the first five years of LTE deployment to be predominantly "PC-based," and doesn't expect LTE smartphones to hit the market in force until 2011. He spelled out some of the conclusions in a report on LTE that Infonetics released this week. Teral said he interviewed a wide variety of companies involved in LTE deployments.

Noting that global carriers are rushing to sign up to deliver LTE, he predicted that LTE service subscribers will exceed 72 million by 2013.

"The gloomy economic environment has not adversely affected service provider LTE plans and commitments," he said. "In fact, the number of commercial LTE launches scheduled for 2010 has risen from 10 in March to 14 now." Verizon Wireless is in the vanguard of LTE and plans to begin trials in the Boston and Seattle areas later this year, with a major consumer launch in as many as 30 U.S. cities planned for 2010.

Teral said Infonetics expects the LTE infrastructure market to exceed $5 billion by 2013. In addition to Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS, Canada's Telus, and Bell Canada have announced plans to be in the vanguard of LTE deployment in North America. Another early LTE rollout is underway in Japan by NTT DoCoMo.

In August, Verizon Wireless said it successfully tested LG and Samsung devices on trial installations in the Boston and Seattle areas. At the time, the carrier noted that ST-Ericsson, Motorola, and Qualcomm were also working on LTE devices.

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