Motorola continues to push forward in the wireless space despite struggling in the handset business. Motorola’s Home & Networks Mobility business recently landed a deal to build out KDDI’s LTE network and is maneuvering for more deals.
Wireless Week Associate Editor Maisie Ramsay recently spoke with the division’s senior vice president, Bruce Brda, who drives Motorola’s 4G efforts while managing its legacy GSM, CDMA and iDEN technologies. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation. For a longer version of this interview, visit www.wirelessweek.com.
WW: It’s looking like LTE and WiMAX will be close neighbors in the United States. There’s the deployment of Clearwire’s WiMAX network, Verizon’s upcoming launch of its LTE network and all the federal funds that may go toward mobile WiMAX deployment in rural areas. How do you see these two technologies co-existing?
Brda: I believe the technologies will compete side by side in the long term – they are two very viable choices for carriers. By now, carriers have lined up very clearly for either LTE or WIMAX. The traditional mobile carriers – the Verizons and AT&Ts of North America – have lined up for LTE.
The greenfield operators have really lined up for WiMAX because of its time-to-market head start, which is fairly consistent across the globe. WiMAX has a 24-month head start over LTE, and for new carriers entering the marketplace, that time is critical. While LTE and WiMAX provide largely the same capabilities, in this instance, we have a bias towards WiMAX based on the different backgrounds and business goals of new entrants and incumbent carriers.
WW: Do you ever see LTE and WiMAX converging?
Brda: I believe that they will remain side by side. WiMAX deployments have reached a very meaningful scale, not only with Clearwire but with other carriers around the world. WiMAX carriers have established a great business and there’s not only promise in the infrastructure but in the business case as well. I just don’t think it would be feasible for that to evolve into a converged model with LTE.
WW: WiMAX is being commonly deployed in greenfield markets while LTE is being adopted by established carriers. Given this disparity, in what ways do you see the technologies competing?
Brda: Right now, WiMAX deployments are targeted primarily at fixed and nomadic. Given the heritage of incumbent mobile carriers, I believe their initial focus is going to be on mobility.
I think what you’ll see over time is that WiMAX carriers will evolve their services into the mobile environment, while the LTE carriers will see the success of WiMAX’s fixed and nomadic services and move to encroach on that turf. Of course, we’re talking hypothetically because LTE is not yet deployed, but when it is deployed, I believe it will be predominantly targeted at mobility. I think you’ll see the line between LTE and WiMAX get very blurry as the technologies mature and the businesses ramp up.
WW: There has been a lot of anticipation about what the ecosystem around LTE and WiMAX will look like. Can you talk about what types of devices you expect to see being rolled out for LTE and WiMAX from your perspective in the home and networks mobility business?
Brda: Consumers will start to see a more complete portfolio of infrastructure equipment and dongles, not just from Motorola but from our competitors as well. From that point, there will be a fairly rapid evolution into more traditional electronic devices like phones and portable media players. Because LTE technology lags behind WiMAX, I think initially you’ll see fairly straight forward, single-mode dongles come to market. As 2010 continues, expect to see a more complete set of devices with multimode capabilities – LTE/UMTS and LTE/EV-DO. I’d expect as we move to 2011, the industry will see the same kind of convergence into mobile electronics devices.
WW: Motorola dabbles in both LTE and WiMAX. Can you give me some color as to your current business mix?
Brda: We don’t break down numbers to that level, but we’ve had a significant investment in WiMAX for years. During the last few years, we’ve invested in LTE as well. That’s the way we’ve architected our solution: an investment in one largely means an investment in both. We’re about 70 percent leveraged between the two technologies from an R&D perspective.
In 2009, a significant portion of our total networks revenue comes from WiMAX. It’s a very meaningful portion of our revenue stream this year and we expect WiMAX sales to grow as we go into 2010.
Because of the stage LTE technology is at, we don’t have a revenue stream this year but expect it to begin in 2010. Overall, we expect WiMAX to grow and LTE to ramp over the next year.
WW: What is Motorola’s message at 4G World?
Bruce Brda: We are committed to both WiMAX and LTE. We have a leadership position today in WiMAX, which means we have a leadership position today in 4G because WiMAX is the only 4G technology commercially deployed today. Because of the way we’ve architected our solution, the investment we’ve made to date in WiMAX is fully leverage-able as we commercialize and deploy LTE solutions.
WW: At last year’s WiMAX World, Motorola presented a vision of the connected home. How far away is that vision from reality?
Brda: I believe we’re delivering the majority of that capability today through our commercial WiMAX deployments. Right now, our network and CPE devices are enabling our carrier partners to provide a full suite of voice and data services to their customers with Motorola equipment. We have WiMAX systems throughout the world, and we’re delivering both voice and data services over the majority of those networks.