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8/27/2008
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Nortel Demo Puts 4G Wireless One Step Closer

The company demonstrates the first live Long Term Evolution handoff between cell sites, but data speeds were lower than what's been promised.

Nortel Networks said it has achieved the first live Long Term Evolution handoff between cell sites, an important step for the 4G technology.

During a recent test at a development center in Ottawa, the company was able to maintain a high-definition video stream to a handset while a car - going about 62 miles per hour - traveled between cell sites. The company used Nortel LTE radio, network gear, and a prototype 4G LG Electronics handset to demonstrate the handoff.

One of the biggest draws of LTE is a theoretical 100 Mbps download speed. But Nortel's test saw an average of 10 Mbps over the 10 MHZ channel in Canada's Advanced Wireless Services band.

"We've demonstrated far greater speeds in the past but in a non-handoff environment," said Danny Locklear, Nortel VP of marketing for carrier networks, to reporters.

In June, the company was able demonstrate data speeds of 50 Mbps in a car travelling about 62 miles per hour, but that was within one cell site. It's still too early to judge the technology, Nortel said, and a fully deployed robust network would provide higher download speeds through multiple handoffs. But, as with 3G networks, real-world LTE speeds will vary from the theoretical limits.

Nortel and LG are on track to produce trial LTE gear for early 2009, and commercial equipment may come as early as 2010.

While many are predicting that LTE will be the dominant form of next-generation mobile broadband, time to market could be an important factor because Sprint and Clearwire are set to launch rival technology WiMax in September.

To help further understand the factors contributing to next-generation wireless technologies, InformationWeek has published an analysis of the 4G landscape. Download the report here (registration required).

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