ITU Anoints LTE And WiMax as ‘True’ 4G Technologies


The ITU’s final choice of ”true’ 4G technology is no surprise – its the next versions of LTE and WiMAX

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has finalised what can be correctly deemed ‘true’ 4G technology, anointing the expected candidates – the next versions of LTE and WiMax.

The ITU working party responsible for the designation, namely the ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), has completed the assessment of six candidate submissions for the global 4G mobile wireless broadband technology, otherwise known as ‘IMT-Advanced.’

4G Known As ‘IMT Advanced’ – Catchy

It said that “harmonisation among these proposals has resulted in two technologies, ‘LTE-Advanced1’ and ‘WirelessMAN-Advanced2’ being accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced, qualifying them as true 4G technologies.”

“In the ITU-R Report, which will be published shortly, the LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced technologies were each determined to have successfully met all of the criteria established by ITU-R for the first release of IMT-Advanced.”

“The Report is expected to be approved by ITU Member States at the ITU-R Study Group 5 meeting in Geneva in late November 2010,” it added.

“ICTs and broadband networks have become vital national infrastructure – similar to transport, energy and water networks – but with an impact that promises to be even more powerful and far-reaching,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré. “These key enhancements in wireless broadband can drive social and economic development, and accelerate progress towards achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs.”

“While the goals set for IMT-Advanced were considered by some to be very high, I am very pleased to see that all stakeholders in the mobile wireless industry have risen to meet the challenge,” said Valery Timofeev, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. “I look forward to the ITU-R Recommendation for IMT-Advanced that will have a profound effect on the development of state-of-the-art technologies for 4G mobile broadband.”


It seems that many people currently mistakenly believe that the current versions of LTE and WiMAX classify as 4G technologies. In order to classify as ‘real’ 4G, the technology must be capable of download speeds of at least 100Mbit/s and satisfy a set of other features as well.

However the current version of LTE (3GPP Release-8) and Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e-2005) are in actual fact glorified 3G technologies included in ITU-R M.1457-9 detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000).

However the next generation of LTE and WiMAX, (namely LTE Advanced and WiMax 2.0 which is also known within the ITU as WirelessMAN) do qualify as pucker 4G technologies.

This raises something of an interesting point for mobile operators and the ITU in general. First, do mobile operators proceed with rolling out current versions of LTE or Mobile WiMAX, or do they wait for LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN? And secondly, should the ITU accept that current versions of WiMAX and LTE are already perceived as 4G, and therefore for purely marketing purposes, think about rebranding ‘IMT-Advanced’ as a 5G technology?

US Leading The Way?

In Europe, the rollout of wireless mobile broadband technologies has been somewhat limited when compared to the United State. In America for example, it had been thought that the $7.2 billion (£4.6 billion) US broadband stimulus program largely favoured fibre last mile projects over wireless technology. However it turns out that the program does actual provide a significant investment boost for wireless technologies, with WiMAX companies set to receive $504 million for last mile projects.

Companies such as Clearwire are offering wireless networks in certain US cities. And last month MetroPCS Communications activated a LTE network in Las Vegas, which plans to extend it to other US cities. Verizon also plans to launch its own 4G LTE service in 30 US cities by the end of 2010.

US mobile operator Sprint meanwhile has backed WiMAX but admits that LTE will be bigger.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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