Motorola network marketing director Tom Gruba admits the company’s 3G portfolio was “light” but says the company is moving aggressively in the TD-LTE space.
The company recently launched a TD-LTE network for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, which is expected to draw up to 70 million visitors from across China and around the world between May 1 and Oct. 31. The network is considered to be the first large-scale deployment of the TD-LTE standard, which has been adopted by several major markets, including China.
Motorola provided indoor coverage for the event and Huawei provided outdoor coverage.
Wireless Week recently spoke with Gruba about the company’s Shanghai Expo deployment, business strategy and how it competes against the likes of Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. Here are excerpts from the discussion.
Wireless Week: What’s Motorola’s involvement with the Shanghai Expo?
Tom Gruba: We were selected to be the primary indoor coverage provider. Indoor coverage is much more difficult than outdoor coverage. When you put antennas inside a building, you get all kinds of reflections, like signals bouncing off walls. It’s a very challenging environment and we’re proud to be the vendor of choice for the indoor deployments in the pavilions.
WW: Is this the first TD-LTE network that’s been deployed?
Gruba: We did one for China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC) during ITU Telecom World last year but it was set up and torn down in just a couple of weeks because it was launched specifically for that event. This is the largest TD-LTE deployment so far and probably the first commercial deployment, as opposed to a live drive-through demonstration.
WW: Just how different are TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, the standard that Verizon Wireless and AT&T are using?
Gruba: It’s really about the spectrum. FDD is paired spectrum: The talk/transmit path is on one band and the listen/receive path is on another band. With TD, there is only one swath of spectrum. Operators will talk and listen on the same band, just like on a walkie talkie – but it does it really fast so that it transmits and receives in fractions of seconds.
WW: Why would an operator go with TD-LTE over FDD-LTE?
Gruba: It’s really the availability of spectrum. TD gives you more options so that you can divide the up/down ratio any way you want. Fortunately, the standards have been written so that TD-LTE and FDD-LTE are interoperable. You can roam across them.
WW: How does the TD-LTE deployment at Shanghai Expo fit into Motorola’s overall business strategy? Are you trying to tap the market in the Asia Pacific region?
Gruba: Our first win for FDD-LTE was with KDDI in Japan and we have another FDD-LTE win in the Middle East with Zain. At Shanghai Expo for CMCC, this is the largest TD-LTE deployment so far. China will be deploying TD-LTE, so this is very important for us. TD-LTE is a technology where Motorola is positioned well because of the work we’ve done with WiMAX.
If you look at areas like Europe where there’s a lot of FDD spectrum and some TD spectrum, there are many existing operators who are incumbent with vendors. We don’t have an advantage with an FDD solution there. When it comes down to TDD, our experience, expertise and the fact that other vendors don’t have relevant experience in TD positions us well [in that market.] It’s very important to our strategy as we’re moving forward. On our 3G side, we kind of had a “3G Light” portfolio: EV-DO for CDMA with a relationship with Huawei for the GSM side. We put all our investment in 4G.
Getting on that path early was a tremendous advantage and our stake in WiMAX, which is a TD technology, was a tremendous strength as we go into TD-LTE. The world will recognize that one technology for all this data demand is not going to satisfy the insatiable needs of consumers. It’s going to take a combination of WiMAX, LTE, TD-LTE, Wi-Fi and alternative networks to provide enough capacity to meet the needs of end users.
WW: Motorola faces pretty steep competition from the likes of Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. How do you differentiate your products?
Gruba: When you look at our TD portfolio, all the things that we’ve learned in TD-LTE, WiMAX and even FDD-LTE use OFDM. It’s a very new modulation scheme and no one has any experience in it. Another important component is the scheduler, a resource manager that determines how to handle people at the edge of a cell versus closer to the cell. We’ve been able to tweak that scheduler for the best performance through our in-field testing with customers on the WiMAX side. We take that algorithm knowledge into LTE.
Also, our RF heritage is very strong. Things like receive sensitivity and understanding the uses of antenna technology are at the top of our game. If you look at LTE deployments, many operators have decided to be their own system integrators. The RFPs aren’t coming out for the whole system; they’re coming out separately for the core, RF and other parts. People want best-in-class RF and that’s what we do.
WW: I recently asked an analyst the same question and he said one of the benefits that Motorola has is more of a willingness to work with smaller operators on deployments that companies like Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent would pass by as not being large enough. Do you agree with his comments?
Gruba: For WiMAX, we’ve added additional products to our portfolio that allow us to serve the needs of smaller, more regional customers as opposed to our first products, which were geared toward large-scale deployments like Clear, Axtel and Wateen.
With LTE, we’re being very selective on where we go. We’re going where we have strength and a better chance of winning; we’re not going to try to blanket the world with LTE for everybody. We’re going to be very selective with who we pursue. Our work with Zain and KDDI was a good fit in both cases.
WW: How are you going to parlay your experience with the Shanghai Expo into future 4G deployments?
Gruba: If you look at what we’ve done from an engineering perspective, we’ve leveraged our experience from WiMAX into LTE. The things you learn in WiMAX you pass on to LTE so we’ve had tremendous gains there. The success of our deployment with CMCC is partially driven by our expertise with WiMAX. As we do LTE deployments and put additional vendors and dongles onto the network, it will lead us forward with TD-specific expertise.