Alltel hops aboard the LTE bandwagon

Company joins Verizon, AT&T in choosing LTE over WiMAX for 4G

Alltel announced during an earnings report conference call this week that it has selected Long-Term Evolution (LTE) as its 4G wireless broadband technology.

While taking questions from analysts during Alltel's first-quarter 2008 earnings call Thursday, Alltel CEO Scott Ford said Alltel plans on moving toward LTE "within a three-to-five-year time frame," but added that any migration toward LTE was still in the very early planning stages. Alltel CFO Jeffrey Cox said during the call that the company does not have enough money in its cash flows to invest heavily in a 4G transition in the near future, and that investors and customers "should not expect to see us talking about 4G any time" in 2008.

When asked later in the call whether Alltel needed to purchase more spectrum rights in order to effectively deploy LTE in the future, Fox said that he was confident the company had sufficient spectrum in its portfolio to handle the 4G technology.

"Strategically, you will note, we went to the [recently concluded 700MHz] auction and looked to see if there was some complementary 700MHz spectrum," Ford explained. "And as with everybody in this industry, we will continue to look strategically to see if a good spectrum to complement our current position is available. But we have no near-term needs."

LTE, considered by many analysts to be the next big wave in 4G technology, is expected to be widely launched as a technology in 2010, roughly two years after WiMAX's big commercial launch slated for later this year. Specifically, LTE is a modulation technique designed for GSM/UMTS-based technology that uses OFDM and MIMO. Trial runs suggest that it is going to deliver very fast mobile broadband. During last month's CTIA Wireless conference, Japanese wireless carrier DoCoMo announced that its trial LTE system reached download speeds of up to 250Mbps. Previous LTE trial runs had achieved download speeds ranging from 45M to 144Mbps.

Even though WiMAX will have a two-year time-to-market advantage over any other 4G technologies, most of the big wireless carriers in the US, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, have chosen LTE as their preferred 4G technology.

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