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Report Questions Future Of Qualcomm's 4G Wireless

Ultra Mobile Broadband is expected to go commercial in mid-2009, but none of the carriers has announced plans to test or deploy the technology.

Ultra Mobile Broadband, a fourth-generation cellular technology backed by Qualcomm, is not likely to be widely adopted as it becomes commercially available, according to a report released by ABI Research on Friday.

UMB is expected to go commercial in mid-2009, but none of the carriers has announced plans to test or deploy the technology, ABI Research analyst Nadine Manjaro said in the report.

"While Qualcomm has made many significant contributions to mobile communications, in this case we just have to be realistic. Vendors need to step up and say that they aren't going to invest any more resources in developing this technology, since there is virtually no demand for it," Manjaro said.

Instead, ABI suggests the 4G technology of choice will be Long Term Evolution, which in November was picked by the GSM Association, a global trade association representing more than 700 GSM mobile phone operators, as the preferred standard over WiMax and UMB.

LTE is a high-speed cellular technology developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project standards organization, known as 3GPP, and is capable of global roaming and reaching peak data rates of up to 100 Mbps. LTE is an upgrade to High Speed Downlink Packet Access, a GSM implementation of a 3G cellular technology.

UMB, also developed by 3GPP and backed by Qualcomm, is a successor to Evolution Data Optimized, a CDMA implementation of a 3G cellular technology. It promises peak data rates of up to 280 Mbps.

Unlike UMB, LTE has won support from Vodafone and Verizon.

Verizon recently disclosed plans to roll out its 4G mobile broadband network using LTE, while also adopting a common access platform with Vodafone to provide services worldwide based on the technology. Verizon and Vodafone, the joint owners of U.S. cellular carrier Verizon Wireless, will begin testing LTE starting next year.

It's estimated by Juniper Research that nearly 24 million subscribers worldwide will be using services based on LTE by 2012.

The other 4G technology under consideration worldwide is WiMax, which has more than 50 commercial deployments under way, said Manjaro. WiMax will take off commercially within the next year or two, and LTE is about four years away from being commercially deployed.

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