SAN FRANCISCO – Samsung will ship 25 new phones serving 13 operators of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks this year in an effort to keep its edge as the leader in the latest cellular technology. However Samsung and chip set maker Qualcomm will be somewhat slow off the mark to support the next turn of the crank for LTE, Release 10.
Samsung will not have a handset supporting Rel 10 until the fall of 2013. Qualcomm has sample chip sets supporting some features of the technology but not others.
Handset support is the gating item for the rollout of T-Mobile’s LTE network early next year which aims to be the first to support Rel 10, said Neville Ray, chief technology officer for T-Mobile U.S. in a keynote at last week’s NGMN Alliance conference. Ray said 347 LTE handsets are available today serving 80 working LTE nets.
Release 10 brings two key features to LTE. Carrier aggregation let’s operators pair non-adjacent spectrum bands to create broadband channels as much as 40 MHz wide, enabling greater network capacity and higher peak data rates.
T-Mobile needs that feature because it is saddle with fragmented spectrum bands, and even competitors such as AT&T said it is a key feature due to the general limited availability of spectrum.
Release 10 also has new features to limit inter-cell interference. The capability helps small and large base stations co-exist on a cellular network. Operators want to put in a tier of small cell base stations to extend capacity especially in dense urban areas and need the feature to get those cells to operate smoothly with existing networks of so-called macro base stations.
At the NGMN event, Joon Hoo Park, a senior vice president of standards and technology at Samsung Electronics, said the company will release eight more LTE handsets for Asia and six more for the US this year. This fall it aims to release the first handset to support voice over LTE, a capability T-Mobile is expected to adopt. To date, most LTE networks are geared only for data with voice running on existing 3G or 2G nets.
Samsung also will deliver handsets supporting Rich Content Media, an integrated form of text and instant messaging. It is widely supported by carriers but some critics say it is subpar, compared to services available from third party Web-based applications.
Asked why the Release 10 handsets will come relatively late, Park said it was just a matter of scheduling priorities. Park said Samsung has 66 percent of the market for LTE handsets today. It was among the first to roll out LTE client systems, shipping data modem dongles since June 2010.
Qualcomm demoed at the event sample chip sets supporting the inter-cell interference cancelling features of LTE Release 10. However, it said it does not yet support carrier aggregation in those chips. Among other things, that feature requires filters tuned to receive frequencies on two bands simultaneously.
Also at the event, Mark Ollila, director of portfolio and business management at Nokia, called for carriers to develop new services using the wealth of sensors and the speeds of the latest handsets. He described Nokia’s new Lumia 900 phones that support LTE data rates of up to 100 Mbits/second.