The Difference Between The Early Years of UMTS And LTE

Back last month I was musing about how 2G we still were only 10 years ago which makes it even more amazing what has happened since in the mobile domain. When looking at UMTS and LTE and how they were used in their early years I see a striking difference. When UMTS first launched it took quite a while for devices to actually become available and even longer before there was a general take-up. For quite a number of years, UMTS base stations were just sitting there producing heat but were actually little used.There were probably a number of reasons for this. One was certainly that mobile Internet access was a novelty and only used by few. In addition, content readable on small screens was even scarcer. And on top, screens were tiny by today's standards and devices were bulky. Not a good mixture for fast take-up.

With LTE the story is quite different. There was perhaps a time span of one year after the launch of networks during which networks were mostly used with LTE capable USB data sticks. The situation changed quite quickly, however, due to devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S-III and the iPhone becoming LTE capable. Yes, there were certainly other LTE smartphones available before those two but those still seemed to have something of an experimental character to me and probably weren't sold in high volumes. And LTE had the invaluable advantage that by the time the networks were launched, mobile Internet access had become mainstream, devices thin and screens large enough for enjoyable media consumption.

And here's my personal LTE timeline:

  • 2009: Lot's of talk about it, but nothing commercially deployed
  • 2010: Experimental network deployments
  • 2011: Mass rollout of networks
  • 2012: First LTE capable smartphones that could actually be bought became available
  • 2013: Real LTE usage with the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S-III



One thought on “The Difference Between The Early Years of UMTS And LTE”

  1. I suggest that a major difference is the commercial environment: when LTE was launched, operators

    1) knew what people/developers wanted to do with those new efficient data channels and therefore knew how to promote them; at 3G, they only had had the disappointing experience of WAP1;
    2) operators had learned the hard way how to price data services acceptably (I do _not_ say cheaply); again, many people had been deterred from using those 2G and WAP1 services because of their horrendous pricing and were wary of 3G and WAP2;
    3) by LTE launch, service providers (airlines, news, retail, etc) had been rolling out mobile services as a matter of fact, and people had had experience with downloading content from Amazon (e-books) and Apple (i-Tunes).

    Having just gone through a laborious technological cycle or through a successful one makes a lot of difference in the uptake of the next technological generation.

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