Mobile World Congress Highlights LTE Advances

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Two years ago at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Verizon Wireless announced its intent to join ranks with AT&T in the North American market in rolling out LTE.

Last year, the company not only reiterated its intent to roll out LTE, but said it was accelerating plans.

"Since Verizon Wireless first announced our LTE plans here at Mobile World Congress," said Dick Lynch, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Verizon, "LTE has quickly become the global technology choice for 4G."

By late 2010, the company had launched LTE-based mobile data modems for Windows-based computers, beating AT&T to the punch for US first-mover advantage. The company says it intends to offer the same modems for Macintosh computers in early 2011 after drivers are released.

At last month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Verizon also showed off several handsets that used LTE for data alongside its third-generation CDMA technology for voice calls. The company says it plans to offer voice-and-data-LTE-equipped devices by year's end, hoping to outrun AT&T in the race for a unified North American LTE service to match those already rolling out in other parts of the world.

Verizon's rapid alignment to a compatible platform helps address the shortcoming it faced with business customers who travel abroad on a frequent basis. While the company used CDMA in its home market, it ended up creating dual CDMA-GSM phones to enable these customers to use Verizon partner services abroad, where the vast majority of phones are based on the GSM technology used by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S. market.

The primary driver for all of this long-term focus on mobile broadband is heavy media consumption.

Vidyo, a videoconferencing hardware/software manufacturer, showcased its HD videoconferencing products over LTE in a variety of ways. The most novel was a demonstration of a videoconference from Barcelona to a vehicle driving around the United States-in the dark, during initial demonstrations-thanks to a combined effort in LTE between Alcatel-Lucent and Verizon Wireless.

Closer to home, Vidyo's product was also used via the higher-speed TD-LTE to "a brand new Audi A8 automobile wired for broadband with LTE, cruising the neighborhood around the Arts Hotel in Barcelona" as viewers watched from the LTE International Summit inside the same hotel.

For those who didn't want to watch someone drive around on either continent, Intel showed off multiparty HD videoconferencing, connecting three Windows 7-based tablets connected at various locations around the exhibit hall, linked together via WiMAX and LTE.

Finally, the other driver of mobile data is the slew of apps in the Android Marketplace, iTunes Store, and a number of other application stores.

In a nod to Apple's size and strength in the U.S. market, with the iPhone and iPad tablet, the GSMA for the first year hosted an iOS-centric event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress. The Macworld Mobile conference is now part of GSMA's lineup, renamed the Macworld Mobile iOS Developer Conference. Held on February 17, the one-day event is geared toward technical sessions and training for those targeting the iOS device platform.

Yet, even as we move forward on the application front, the specter of HTML5 comes back to haunt.

Netbiscuits, a software service geared toward cross-platform development for mobile sites and apps, pulled a quick media sleight-of-hand by announcing its "HTML5+" framework.

Except we no longer have HTML5, based on a recent W3C decision to drop the "5" in favor of just referring to the upgraded HTML specification as, well, HTML.

Don't tell that to Netbiscuits, though.

"The term 'HTML5+' is our way of defining our approach towards upcoming new technologies in the mobile space", said Michael Neidhöfer, CEO of Netbiscuits, of his company's rich user interface (UI) development framework. "We believe that HTML5 as a technology is a great step forward in the creation of mobile web applications which feel like native apps. But HTML5 is not an approved standard, yet. Consequently, developers will face fragmentation problems resulting from inconsistent HMTL5 implementations on the various mobile software platforms for years to come."

Two steps forward, one step back, as they say. Mobile World Congress continues through Thursday at the Fira de Barcelona.

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