LTE Modems – A 12-Month Retrospective

It has been a year since the first mobile network offering 3GPP’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband service commenced at TeliaSonera in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. Early modem offerings for LTE networks have been rudimentary at best.

Capability to develop and manufacture LTE modems saw some strategic chess moves in 2010. Nokia sold its LTE modem unit in July to Renesas for $200 million, while 4G chipset up-start Beceem got scooped up by Broadcom. France’s Sequans, backed by Alcatel-Lucent and Motorola, continued its LTE chipset development. And Altair announced it has teamed with IPWireless to develop a range of multi-mode LTE modem products.
Samsung was the early USB modem provider for the TeliaSonera networks. The fledgling Verizon Wireless LTE network in the US offers LG’s VL600 and Pantech’s UML290 USB modem models.
The latest news in LTE modems is the availability of Huawei’s tri-mode E398 GSM/UMTS/LTE USB modem stick originally shown off at Mobile World Congress this past February. The Qualcomm MDM9200-powered modem is immediately availability at LTE operators including Mobilkom Austria (Austria) and Net4Mobility (Sweden). Operators in Denmark, Germany and Norway are expected to join the list during 2011.
Earlier this month, Smith Micro Software announced the company’s connection manager software became available with LTE modem support. Connection management solutions are most recognized as the user interface that gets a computer’s modem connected to the mobile network. More recently, connection management provides a one-stop-shop for operators to deploy a variety of modems across a range of network types. The Smith Micro QuickLink Mobile product enabling the most appropriate network connection depending on the location and navigates between different network architectures including Wi-Fi, 3G cellular and 4G mobile broadband.
A lot has transpired in the first year of LTE network availability, while the real opportunity still remains a part of the future. Aftermarket modems (such as the USB examples provided here) are expected to drive early subscriptions to LTE networks. The year 2010 didn’t turn out to be “the year of LTE”, but 2011 is looking ready to welcome access to faster broadband speeds on the go in more places.