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FCC Gives Thumbs-Up To First LTE Phone

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the wait-how-many-g-is-this-one dept.

Cellphones 42

eagledck tips news that the FCC has "finally approved the first 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) phone for sale in the US." The Samsung device will use MetroPCS as a carrier, but tech specs, software details and a launch timetable are still uncertain. Meanwhile, Verizon is ramping up testing of their own LTE infrastructure, hoping to launch in 25 to 30 markets by the end of the year. An anonymous reader notes that LTE rollouts could be hampered by a confused and conflicted patent situation. "It is impossible to know where all the patents are but we have identified more than 60 companies holding essential patents. It is a very large landscape and fragmented. If there was one major patent pool and a handful of individual companies to deal with, that would be possible. But signing license deals with 40 plus [entities] is not. A unified patent pool is best," said a representative for one of three patent pool organizations trying to accomplish that.

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Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (0, Flamebait)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091704)

Makes me skeptical of the coverage and reliability they will be able to provide for 4G but I dunno.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33091744)

LTE means a new infrastructure. I would expect a lot of carriers that don't have yet a 3G network to just skip 3G and do LTE.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091872)

Actually China Telecom is pouring billions of yuan into expanding their 3G network across as much as China as possible. 4G equipment is currently much more expensive than 3G. Not to mention LTE's ecosystem must still develop before smaller carriers will make the jump.

Another problem is that providing backhaul for 4G can be difficult. For example over 90% of AT&T's towers are still currently served by T1s. I foresee several smaller carriers remaining on 3G for at least a few more years.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (3, Informative)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091852)

Well Verizon's 4G will be on the 700 MHz band, which allows for deep penetration of thick walls and extremely long distances. Unfortunately for them they only have 20 MHz in that band, so caps will be a must. If I recall they plan on selling "buckets" of data. Don't see that working out too well in the face of Clear's capless 4G however.

Interestingly, I'm typing this out on an uncapped 4G WiMAX connection in Nagasaki, Japan. I download hundreds of gigabytes a month while paying $50/month. It's quite fun actually. I get approximately 5/.5 mbps international and 110 ms ping.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092058)

(1) No doubt this is why Verizon ATT and others want to kill-off TV channels 25 through 51 --- so they can expand that 10 megahertz to 170 megahertz worth of cellphone spectrum.

(2) $50 a month sounds like a ripoff, especially considering I'm only paying $15 here in the US. Of course my connection is wired not wireless, but I'm okay with that. It's not a limitation for me.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092222)

"(2) $50 a month sounds like a ripoff, especially considering I'm only paying $15 here in the US."

What ISP are you using, and how widespread is their availability?
Also, what is your down/up rate and overall ping?

I'm paying $30/month for what used to be decent Time Warner Cable service, but now it seems worse, and they want me to pay +$4/month.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092996)

Really 5/.5 mbps for $15? Which ISP is that? I would switch in a heartbeat if it were available in my city!

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 4 years ago | (#33093722)

I would MOVE to that city!

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33095428)

>>>Really 5/.5 mbps for $15?

I assume that's down/up speed. That level costs $35. My current $15 service only gives 1 Mbit/s (and I'm okay with that). I've never paid more than $19 for internet and see no reason to start now.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

Kumiorava (95318) | more than 4 years ago | (#33095502)

Hmm... seems that Japan is not that advanced after all. Most of Finland has HSPA 3G network with 14.4mbps theoretical maximum for 14€/month uncapped for your phone with secondary data SIM and extra included USB data stick. Realistic rate is 6mbps/1mbps and 100+ms ping. I'm typing this using exactly that HSPA 3G connection, closest shop is 10 miles away and nearest city is 20 miles away. No wired or cable services available at all, only electricity line is coming to the edge of the property.

Here are speedtests for Helsinki (200 miles away in fact), London and San Diego... taken at 6pm, which is heavy usage time here. [] [] []

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092846)

MetroPCS is only 3G. They use CDMA.

Re:Strange, MetroPCS has no 3G network (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 4 years ago | (#33093346)

I worked for a local metroPCS retailer in the Philadelphia market about a year ago. I know the landscape has changed drastically(they got their first 2 "smartphones" right before i quit) in such a short time, but i really dont see how they could be a player in the 4G market at all. The infrastructure here could barely support the EDGE service. Voice quality was hit and miss most of the time, let alone trying to use any sort of data. I do have to give it up to them for having cheap "all you can eat" plans though. You get what you pay for though

What is LTE? (1, Interesting)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091708)

What is an "LTE" phone? Google is not helping me find an answer.

Does it come with the bigger GBs?

Re:What is LTE? (2, Informative)

Nimloth (704789) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091736)

Long-Term Evolution is the name given to the 4G successor to HS(D)PA networks.

Re:What is LTE? (1)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091774)

I know it means Long-Term Evolution, but what are the practical benefits? I read the wikipedia article [] but, not being a telecom engineer, I don't understand much of it. What benefits will an LTE phone provide over existing phones?

Re:What is LTE? (2, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091814)

It go fast.

Re:What is LTE? (2, Informative)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091896)

LTE is a 3.9G technology, faster than current 3G technologies employed by most carriers worldwide. With an LTE phone you'll manage speeds of 5-12 mbps down/2-5 mbps up. Battery life will probably be a bit of an issue though.

Re:What is LTE? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092140)

If you had RTFA (instead of googling), you'd know what LTE is. It's basically the same speed as 3G, but with 1/4 as much latency for VOIP, online gaminng, and such. []

Re:What is LTE? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33095452)

OH and it's a wideband technology (width equal to two TV channels), so each tower can handle lots and lots of people at the same time.

Re:What is LTE? (1)

MrZilla (682337) | more than 4 years ago | (#33093878)

Currently means a theoretical top speed of 150Mbps in the downlink, actual field speed here in Stockholm have been measured at ~60Mbps (but I think 30Mbps is more common, always depends on radio conditions and cell usage). Currently work is ongoing to reach 1Gpbs theoretical top speed.

The big thing I think is the reduced latency. For HSPA type technologies you typically end up with 80 - 120 ms latency added from the packets trip trough the Radio Access Network (RAN) and Packet Core networks. For LTE, the specification states that the combined latency of the RAN and PC should be around 5ms.

That being said, having LTE on a phone isn't really that necessary, at least for the immediate future (unless you want to use your phone as a modem). LTE was developed with mobile data in mind, and primary target consumers are laptop users and IPTV consumers (no that there are very many yet). Yes, you can use it on your smartphone, but the advantages will be very slim over 3G.

Re:What is LTE? (2, Interesting)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33094574)

Another thing is that LTE, like wimax, uses TCP/IP rather then some custom package protocol (that then again carries TCP/IP if one use the mobile network to access the internet). This turns any phone into a voip device from day one. It also means that rather then using UMTS or EVDO to carry TCP/IP, one can use TCP/IP to carry UMTS or EVDO. This means that LTE is a potential upgrade path for either of the major global 3G networks (and why your seeing companies like verizon going LTE, even tho its a GSM related standard).

Re:What is LTE? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092248)

I'm hoping 'long term evolution' does not mean an absence of intelligent design.

4G Phone for white people? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33091726)

Gee, this seems like a sweet phone, and 4G nonetheless, but isn't MetroPCS ... I dunno ... kinda for ... like, black people that don't have dependable income and can't stick to a standard cell phone contract? I'm just sayin' ...

Re:4G Phone for white people? (1)

Zebai (979227) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091994)

That statement would of been far more civil if you replaced black or white with a blank character.

And pretending that racist and or bigot did not type that above statement, Metro PCS is a much more friendly company than any of the major carriers, and is probably a superior product if you have no need to travel.

Re:4G Phone for white people? (1, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092010)

MetroPCS is the perfect company to start with, it doesn't have national coverage and it's located in only a few of the highly dense metropolitan areas (and surrounding vacation spots). 4G will probably much easier to roll out if they don't try to roll it out all at once nationwide.

And no, MetroPCS is not just for low-income people that can't get credit. MetroPCS is one of the very few companies that doesn't try to rip off its customers (whether be it overages, roaming, or international calls). I highly recommend them if they're in your area. If anything, MetroPCS is in it for the long-haul, think of them like Southwest. Southwest does attract some of the most budget-conscious customers, and also Southwest is by no means perfect, but it still is one of the better airlines out there (that's assuming they cover your area and where you actually need to go).

Re:4G Phone for white people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092296)

What's wrong with saving money? $100/month phone plans are really quite expensive, and if you can get phone service for $40, couldn't you find something better to do with the remaining $680 per year? That's like getting a free computer. Every year.

"A single patent pool is best.... (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091980)

as long as I control it."

Re:"A single patent pool is best.... (1)

brianosaurus (48471) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092602)

Yeah. WTF?

Is a "patent pool organization" kind of like an ASCAP or RIAA or MPAA, but for patents? Gee. I can't imagine how that might go wrong.

Doesn't matter if plans suck (3, Insightful)

Kumiorava (95318) | more than 4 years ago | (#33091984)

LTE or no LTE doesn't matter as long as the data plans in US are as horrible as they are now. LTE can be useful if the operator somehow enables tethering, secondary data line, or other ways to use the fast data connection. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to pay close to $50/month to get LTE/3G data connection with restricted data usage via tethering, or $10-30/month if you want to use data just on your mobile phone, or both if you want LTE/3G usb data stick + data on your mobile.

This obscene pricing for data is holding back any real breakthrough in wireless data market in US. When comparing that to current prices in Finland the difference is huge. Currently operators are offering up to 14.4mbit/sec 3.5G (HSPA) data line for 14€/month. The plan includes data for your mobile phone + USB data stick for your computer with secondary SIM without data usage restrictions. Both data connections will work simultaneously and use the same phone number, secondary SIM doesn't receive text messages otherwise it's identical to primary SIM.

The result of such pricing scheme in Finland is that many families have several high speed internet connections at their disposal. Surprisingly telcos are quite profitable and have been able to offset the declining revenue in fixed line business with new wireless services.

Re:Doesn't matter if plans suck (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092668)

Why is it cheaper? After all Finland has the same celltower installation costs that we have in the US. Are the costs subsidized by taxpayers?

Also what is the typical cost for a "14.4mbit/sec 3.5G (HSPA) data line" when you look at the EU taken as a whole?

Re:Doesn't matter if plans suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092992)

Why is it cheaper? After all Finland has the same celltower installation costs that we have in the US. Are the costs subsidized by taxpayers?

The key here is competition. Costs are not subsidized by taxpayers. Without proper competition the prices will be much higher than the real costs are. Thus ISPs will be getting a lot of profit.

As for baseline, virtually all wired connections in Finland are with unlimited usage. So, no annoying 5 GB/month or such usage limits, and only factor for cost is the connection speed. Thus the fixed cost mobile connections also started without usage limits. It was already some 3-4 years ago that 384 kbps unlimited usage 3G could be bought with 10 euro a month, more for faster speeds.

Given such good start, the mobile internet have gotten popular in Finland and as such the costs for ISPs have also lowered. Given the unlimited data usage, the early adopters who are willing to pay the most will also be using the connection a lot. But as the competition has forced the prices down, people without that much need will also get the mobile internet driving the average usage down. Combining the large user base with the lowering average usage, the cost of single user to ISP has gotten dramatically lower. Thus, the competition has driven the prices even further down.

In addition to the previously mentioned unrated (upto 14.4 Mbps supported currently) mobile internet being 14 euro a month, the basic plan is limited to 1 Mbps speed with 10 euro a month. Without a plan the costs are based on usage amount, so that is only viable for very low usage.

Re:Doesn't matter if plans suck (1)

Kumiorava (95318) | more than 4 years ago | (#33094558)

I doubt that Finland is less expensive per capita to build and/or operate a mobile network. The cost is not subsidized directly by tax payers. I would say Finnish telcos are less subsidized than the US telcos.

I suspect that it's cheaper because of strong competition among telcos. Regulation plays huge part in that. Phone subsidy is separated by law from the service contract. Meaning that subsidized phone must be priced separately and service must be provided without phone itself. This regulation gives the consumer ability to determine best deal for phone and best deal for service separately. Also changing plans to more suitable one is easy when contract can be changed to other provider without any strings attached. Phone will work across providers.

Universal phone service requirement change also cut costs on phone service side. Wireless service is counted as a phone service so long and expensive phone lines are cut down from all over Finland and replaced with cell towers that are located in accessible main roads. I believe that subsidy towards rural customers is one cost increasing factor in both US and Finland.

Taxpayer money? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33091998)

I wonder how many taxpayer-funded subsidies were given to the telecom companies to develop LTE, just so we can get soaked again on our monthly bill to pay the patent royalties on technology we already paid once to develop.

Long-Term Evolution? (2, Interesting)

Xamindar (533756) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092002)

Long-Term Evolution, so does that mean all carriers and phones are going to be using the same frequencies so that I can use my phone with whatever carrier I want?

Long Term Evolution... (2, Funny)

TheUni (1007895) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092076)

I'd rather have an long term infrastructure with intelligent design.

Re:Long Term Evolution... (1)

CoonAss56 (927862) | more than 4 years ago | (#33094884)

Funny stuff there son! I think this went way over the heads of most Slashdotters heads.

Infrastructure (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33092560)

There's only so much a user would want to do with a phone, even with the extra bandwidth. You can stream a movie perhaps but the inevitable trend towards usage caps all but eliminates that fantasy. What's more interesting here is the infrastructure. More bandwidth means more devices can be supported, such as laptops as TFA mentions. Bona fide ISPs can be built on LTE, so the possible availability of alternate internet services is something to look forward to.

Boring! (1)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092682)

Wake me up when they approve an FTL phone!

A unified patent pool is best (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 4 years ago | (#33092792)

No, ablution of patents is best. Many proponents of patents have stated how important patents are to innovation, but where are the economics studies supporting this? While a number of economics studies [] have concluded there are negative impacts of patents, where are those that claim there are positive impacts? As noted in Ars technica's article Study: free markets superior to patent monopolies [] the debate has made it's way to Science magazine. To cite one example, in The Patent Paradox Revisited: An Empirical Study of Patenting in the U.S. Semiconductor Industry, 1979-1995 [] , in "Rand Journal of Economics, Vol. 32, 2001", based on studies by Yale and Carnegie Mellon "R&D managers in semiconductors consistently reported that patents were among the least effective mechanisms for appropriating returns to R&D investments".


Re:A unified patent pool is best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33095444)

"No, ablution of patents is best."

You really should learn what words mean before you use them in
a pathetic attempt to appear intelligent.

Ablution = washing one's body.

The word you should have used is :

Abolition. As in : abolish.

As in : get rid of.

One of the first signs that someone is pretentious is when they use
larger words when smaller words will convey meaning quite well.

Do try to improve your writing.

The real story is LightSquared (1)

wh1pp3t (1286918) | more than 4 years ago | (#33095714)

MetroPCS is not going to launch their own 4G network.

Read up on the wholesale LTE network LightSquared [] is contracting Nokia Siemens to build ($7 Billion contract). This is the main reason Nokia Siemens is in the process of buying the Motorola infrastructure division.
I'm surprised this hasn't been on Slashdot already.

LTE is going to be a big let down (1)

netw3rx (1868036) | more than 4 years ago | (#33101648)

HSPA+ that T-Mobile USA has launched 21 megabits/sec today. I have seen 10meg peaks on it myself
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