Alan Weissberger

ITU-R Progresses LTE Advanced and WiMax 2.0 as 4G RAN standards


Did you think the version of LTE being deployed this year and next (3GPP Release-8) and Mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e-2005) were 4G technologies?  They're actually both 3G technologies which are included in ITU-R M.1457-9 Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000).

In reality, it's the ITU-R's IMT Advanced family of recommendations that will actually specify 4G radio access technologies.  Some of the key features of IMT-Advanced will be:

  • Worldwide functionality & roaming
  • Compatibility of services
  • Interworking with other radio access systems
  • Enhanced peak data rates to support advanced services and applications (100 Mbit/s for high and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility)

LTE Advanced and WiMAX 2.0 on the 4G Standards Track  

At it's just completed standards meeting in Chongqing, China, ITU-R Working Party 5D has selected two of six candidate Radio Access Network (RAN) proposals as IMT-Advanced technologies.  The two are:

  • LTE-Advanced” developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)- Release 10 and
  • WirelessMAN-Advanced”, developed by IEEE 802.16 Working Group (actually the 802.16m Task Force)

In addition, both “LTE-Advanced” and “WirelessMAN-Advanced” were accepted for inclusion in the standardization phase of the IMT-Advanced process.  The liaison document also announces the availability of Report ITU-R M.[IMT.RADIO] and information on Step 8 of the IMT-Advanced development process.  The "Liaison Statement on IMT-Advanced Development":is available at:

The document notes that:

  • the basis for specifying the “LTE-Advanced” technology in Step 8 is Document IMTADV/8, which is technically identical to IMT-ADV/6 and IMT-ADV/9 (except that IMT-ADV/9 contains only the TDD RIT component); and
  • the basis for specifying the “WirelessMAN-Advanced” technology in Step 8 is Document IMTADV/4, which is technically identical to IMT-ADV/5 and IMT-ADV/7.

Those that have an ITU TIES account may refer to the document at the ITU-R IMT-Advanced web page.   Final ratification of the full IMT-Advanced technology family will occur at the ITU-R Study Group 5 meeting in November 2010.

3GPP and IEEE 802.16

3GPP develops technical specifications on 3G and beyond mobile communication systems.  The 3GPP "LTE Advanced"
was made jointly in the name of the Partnerships' Organizational Partners: ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TTA and TTC, which represent the North American, European and Asian regions and make 3GPP a truly global initiative. In the final steps of the ITU-R IMT-Advanced process, 3GPP in conjunction with its Organizational Partners will provide the detailed technical specifications and standards to the ITU-R by 2011, for inclusion in the Recommendation ITU-R M.[RSPEC].

In an email today, IEEE 802.16 WG Chair Roger Marks wrote, "The 802.16 WG needs to rapidly move forward with the development of its final submission, due in late March, toward the IMT-Advanced Recommendation. The WG's ITU-R Liaison Group will take the lead on developing the draft. However, it will work closely with TGm as the 802.16m draft is concluded in timely fashion."

Comment:    With almost all tier one mobile operators proceeding with LTE and (later) LTE Advanced, we wonder which operators will actually deploy IEEE 802.16m (AKA WiMAX 2.0 and WirelessMAN-Advanced?  In the U.S, we need to watch what Sprint and Clearwire do.       

Author Alan Weissberger

By Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger is a renowned researcher in the telecommunications field. Having consulted for telcos, equipment manufacturers, semiconductor companies, large end users, venture capitalists and market research firms, we are fortunate to have his critical eye examining new technologies.

13 replies on “ITU-R Progresses LTE Advanced and WiMax 2.0 as 4G RAN standards”

We wonder which, if any, semiconductor company will make WiMax 2.0 compatible chips.  Without off the shelf silicon, WiMAX 2.0 equipment and device costs will be high and won't ride the volume/cost curve down.

Here's a related cut and paste from the IEEE ComSocSCV Discussion Group:

1.  Broadcom buys 4G chip maker for $316 million 

Broadcom announced today that it plans to acquire 4G chip maker Beceem Communications for $316 million in cash as it tries to get a leg up on supplying the next generation of wireless technology to companies making wireless infrastructure products as well as those making cell phones, computers, and other consumer electronics.

Broadcom said that the acquisition would accelerate its "time-to-market in 4G by adding a talented team" of engineers. Broadcom already offers chips that enable several types of network connectivity technology, including 2G/3G cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Ethernet switching. Adding Beceem's 4G technology will allow the company to offer a full suite of products including the next generation of wireless technology to device manufacturers and infrastructure providers, which will hopefully lead to better integration and lower costs.

"Fourth generation" wireless technology is the next evolution in wireless that today is based on two major technology types: Long Term Evolution, or LTE, and WiMax. Many wireless operators throughout the world are already on a path to deploy one of these technologies. LTE is likely to be the dominant technology used throughout the world with 132 operators in 56 countries already investing in or committed to deploying LTE. Verizon Wireless is the first major carrier in the U.S. to deploy the technology. It's expected to launch its network that will cover more than a 110 million people in 38 markets by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, WiMax is another technology that is being used to bring broadband-like speeds to wireless networks. More than 550 networks in 148 countries have already been built using WiMax. Sprint Nextel, through its partnership with Clearwire, is building a nationwide 4G network using WiMax. It is already in more than 55 markets in the U.S.

Opinion:  I;m surprised Broadcom did not pay more for the world's leading WiMAX chip maker.  Beceem has also announced a combo WiMAX/LTE chip which must've been appealing to Broadcom.  The acquisition broadens Broadcom's reach from WiFi/ Bluetooth to broadband wireless access networks based on WiMax and LTE.
2. Clearwire Said to Seek Up to $5 Billion in Spectrum Auction (VZW won't bid)
  • Bloomberg News 
Clearwire Corp., the high-speed wireless carrier, is seeking to raise $2.5 billion to $5 billion in a wireless-spectrum auction that has attracted telephone and cable companies, said people with direct knowledge of the sale.
AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Deutsche Telekom AG, Time Warner Cable Inc. and Clearwire’s majority owner, Sprint Nextel Corp., are among potential buyers of the spectrum, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public. The bidding is in its second round and being managed by Deutsche Bank AG, they said. Clearwire shares surged as much as 11 percent.
The company said last month it is looking for additional funds to fuel expansion, and has had discussions with potential investors, including Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. wireless unit, T- Mobile USA Inc. Clearwire will need about $2 billion by the fourth quarter to fund its network construction early next year, said John Hodulik, an analyst at UBS AG in New York.
“There are big ramifications from this from a funding standpoint,” said Hodulik, who has a “neutral” rating on Clearwire. “If they get $5 billion, they could fund the business without raising any extra capital.”
The sale may increase Clearwire’s independence from Sprint, reducing a funding gap that some analysts put at about $2 billion going into next year. Sprint could use the cash it would have invested in its unprofitable partner to pay down its own debt, Fritzsche said in the note.
Clearwire got $1.56 billion from Sprint and other investors in 2009 to expand its high-speed network to 120 million people by the end of this year. The company’s other shareholders include Google Inc., Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp.
Clearwire may be giving up some of its competitive advantage in the sale, Hodulik said. The company will be parting with spectrum holdings, which can determine call quality, coverage and data speeds for customers. Clearwire may also hurt its bargaining position with Sprint, should the larger company want to increase its Clearwire stake.
“Sprint is the logical buyer of these assets, and if you sell them a big chunk of spectrum, your leverage decreases when you get to the negotiating table,” Hodulik said.

Analysis:  Clearwire is forced to part with a portion of its "crown jewels" (spectrum) to get the funds to build out its network in more U.S. cities.  They were looking at all sorts of fund raising schemes, includiing vendor financing, but none of them worked out.  Evidently their investors, including Sprint,Intel, and Google don't want to fork  over any  more dough.
Clearwire had previously touted its spectrum holdings in major markets as a key advantage over LTE competitors, but is willing to lose it inorder to complete its WiMAX buildout in the absence of any additional investment in the company.  It was evidently a Hobsian choice, but likely the right one.
Other opinions? 

We re-iterate that the LTE that will soon be deployed is NOT a 4G technology, but a 3G technology (3GPP Release-8) that is included in ITU-R M.1457-9 Detailed specifications of the terrestrial radio interfaces of International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000 recommendation for 3G RANs).  We are worn out by all the 4G hype over LTE and Mobile WiMAX and feel compelled to set the record straight.  No, 4G is not a technology that's faster than the initial 3G RANs. ITU-R defines the criteria for 3G and 4G and we wonder why so many pundits make up their own definition.

Motivation of LTE Release 8 (soon to be deployed)

Need to ensure the continuity of competitiveness of 3G systems for the future
-User demand for higher data rates and quality of services
-Public Safety optimized system
-Continued demand for cost reduction (CAPEX and OPEX)
-Low complexity
-Avoid unnecessary fragmentation of technologies for paired and unpaired band operation

LTE Release 8 Key Features:

High spectral efficiency
• OFDM in Downlink
• Robust against multipath interference
• High affinity to advanced techniques
– Frequency domain channel-dependent scheduling
• DFTS-OFDM(“Single-Carrier FDMA”) in Uplink
• Low PAPR
• User orthogonality in frequency domain
• Multi-antenna application
Very low latency
• Short setup time & Short transfer delay
• Short HO latency and interruption time
• Short TTI
• RRC procedure
• Simple RRC states
• Support of variable bandwidth
• 1.4, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz

• Simple protocol architecture
• Shared channel based
• PS mode only with VoIP capability
• Smaller number of RAN interfaces
• Compatibility and inter-working with earlier 3GPP Releases
• Inter-working with other systems, e.g. cdma2000
• FDD and TDD within a single radio access technology
• Efficient Multicast/Broadcast
• Single frequency network by OFDM
• Support of Self-Organising Network (SON) operation

­The 3GPP candidate technology submission for IMT-Advanced (4G) is 3GPP Release 10 & Beyond (LTE-Advanced) has been accepted as a 4G technology at the Chongqing meeting of ITU-R Working Party 5D, having successfully completed Steps 4 through 7 of the IMT-Advanced process in ITU-R, complying with or exceeding the ITU established criteria in all aspects.




I have a feeling WiMAX 2.0 isn't going to make it. Clearwire has already discussed plans to migrate to TD-LTE and has even lobbied 3GPP for extra TD-LTE spectrum. If WiMAX has a market, it's probably for backhaul or supplementing rural connectivity.

Echoing what Jane said above, I don't think WiMAX 2.0 will make it.  But that is totally different from the market for "mobile WiMAX"  (IEEE 802.16e-2005) that Sprint and Clearwire erroneously refer to as 4G.  That market may emerge as a nomadic service that provides connectivity for multiple devices/PCs via fixed or personal WiFi hot spots.  That is, WiMAX backhauls traffic from WiFi connected devices.
Thanks for a great article, but thought there'd be a lot more comments by now!

Was hoping to have gotten comments on the future of LTE Advanced, considering that LTE is not yet deployed except by Telia in Sweden.  How many years away is it from being a commercial reality?  If LTE is delayed, what will be the effect on LTE Advanced?

For several years, I've been pounding the nomenclature table, stating vehemently that mobile WiMAX and LTE were not 4G RAN technologies as per the organization that defines them- ITU-R.  Here is an article I wrote that goes into much more depth of what the 4G era will bring.  I wrote this article in July 2009 for

4G Ecosystem Delivers New Capabilities, Devices & Participants

You can read all articles I wrote for at:



ITU global standard for international mobile telecommunications ´IMT-Advanced´
Key features of ´IMT-Advanced´

-a high degree of commonality of functionality worldwide while retaining the flexibility to support a wide range of services and applications in a cost efficient manner;
-compatibility of services within IMT and with fixed networks;
-capability of interworking with other radio access systems;
-high quality mobile services;
-user equipment suitable for worldwide use;
-user-friendly applications, services and equipment;
-worldwide roaming capability; and,
-enhanced peak data rates to support advanced services and applications (100 Mbit/s for high and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility were established as targets for research).

These features enable IMT-Advanced to address evolving user needs and the capabilities of IMT-Advanced systems are being continuously enhanced in line with user trends and technology developments.

At his Oct 27 Sprint Developers Conference keynote, CEO Dan Hesse was asked about Sprint's plans for LTE.  He answered that Sprint and Clearwire collectively have enough spectrum to support both from the same cell tower.  In other words, the existing or soon to be "4G" (Mobile WiMAX) customers would not be abandoned.  However, Mr. Hesse did not address the need for Mobile WiMAX to LTE interoperability and coverage.  In particular, will new buildouts be WiMAX, WiMAX and LTE, or LTE only.  If they are anything but WiMAX/LTE, then dual mode devices will be necessary to access the broadband wireless network.

Despite many articles like this one – pointing out that IEEE 802.16e-2005 is NOT 4G- all the head honcho Sprint speakers referred to their mobile WIMAX service as "4G."  Dan Hesse said yesterday, "We were the first carrier to roll out 4G service in 2008."    At an earlier session, I asked a question referring to Mobile WiMAX rather than 4G, the Sprint presenter said, "Oh, you're using the trade name for our 4G service."  I had to bite my tongue to remain silent.

Another issue is that Sprint does not give Clearwire credit for building out their "4G" network.  At this conference, CLRW was seldom mentioned in the "4G" Sesssions or in general sessions where "4G" was discussed.

When the ITU-R 4G RAN interfaces= WiMAX 2.0 and LTE Advanced- are ready for deployment, will Sprint refer to those as "5G?"

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