posted on June 01, 2010 01:10
Yota’s announcement that they will be deploying an LTE network has sparkled much debate. It was the first WiMAX operator to my knowledge to announce a firm plan for LTE. Yota is unusually (but understandably) tight-lipped on this topic, but there are some interesting open questions on how the transition from WiMAX to LTE will take place.
Of course Yota will not be dropping WiMAX in the short term. It would be extremely difficult–not to mention disruptive–to move its current 500,000 subscribers overnight to LTE. Yota’s plan is to initially deploy LTE in a few second-tier cities. This will give them the opportunity to test the technology in markets that are not crucial to their growth. In 2011, Yota plans to launch LTE push in their core markets (Moscow and St Petersburg).
What will happen to the WiMAX network? Will WiMAX and LTE coexist side-to-side?
In the short term, Yota said that the two networks will coexist. Initially there will be no problem, since LTE will be deployed in cities where WiMAX has not been rolled out. According to Denis Sverdlov, Yota’s CEO, their spectrum allocation is technology neutral (i.e., they can deploy LTE if they wish). However as they move to Moscow and St Petersburg, Yota original spectrum allocation of 40 MHz is not sufficient to add an LTE overlay. A full transition to LTE, even if it is LTE FDD, is probably premature in 2011, so this may indicate that Yota may have access to additional spectrum and this will enable them to run two networks concurrently.
While this is a necessary approach to ensure a smooth transition, WiMAX and LTE are unlikely to coexist in the long term. Having two overlapping networks would require substantially more funding, reduce spectrum efficiency (unless all devices support both WiMAX and LTE) and it would bring no obvious advantage to subscribers.