The Hidden LTE Story from CES 2012


As the saying goes, you couldn’t swing a dead cat at CES 2012 without hitting a new LTE product! Last year’s trickle of phones for budding LTE networks turned into a flood of products including phones, tablets, cars (yes, cars!) and even storage devices.

Wireless carriers continue to grow their LTE networks with their promise of 10x the data bandwidth of 3G networks. Sitting in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a collegue’s Droid Razr connected to the Verizon network showed a Speedtest result over 15Mbps download performance.  Impressive!  At CES 2012, the major US carriers announced numerous LTE-enabled phones, tablets and mobile hotspot devices to utilize all this bandwidth.

Led by ATT with 8 new products, the new phones include powerful multi-core processors, great screens and most run the Android OS.  ATT also announced the first smartphones to run Windows, the HTC Titan II and the Nokia Lumia 900. Sprint (who hopes to start the rollout of its LTE network mid-2012) said it will announce 15 devices in 2012. Verizon Wireless announced 3 LTE phones (Spectrum by LG, Droid 4, Droid Razr Maxx), a new tablet (Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G) and 2 LTE mobile hotspots call Jetpacks. To make things more interesting, both MetroPCS and ATT announced that they were targeting to offer LTE phones in the $50 – $100 range by the end of the year.

The main LTE story from CES 2012 – phones, phones, tablets and more phones and more tablets.

With the explosion both the number and types of devices, the LTE networks are going to see unprecedented traffic, particularly as more data and video applications become available. Indeed, a great deal of the discussion about the build-out of the LTE infrastructure revolves around the growth in video traffic in particular.

However, there was also another LTE story being told at CES – the new application story. Consider the following demonstrations/presentations from around the CES floor:

  • Alcatel-Lucent
    • A LTE-equipped police car that enables officers to receive high definition real-time video and data on crime suspect
    • Video cameras installed inside police vehicles and connected by LTE to a cloud data repository that could be used to scan a crowd of people or car license plates for identification purposes
    • A utility vehicle equipped with wireless bridging equipment to allow emergency personnel using different radio frequencies to communicate with each other as well as with smartphones and tablets over IP
    • Equip field/mobile personnel with inexpensive tablets to transmit video and data to remote experts to assist in all kinds of situations, emergency or otherwise
  • Verizon demonstrated a Diebold ATM machine using LTE to send/receive live video to assist customers
  • Verizon and Samsung jointly announced a  Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) certified Galaxy Tab 10.1 running over Verizon 4G LTE, enabling financial professionals and government workers whose applications require the FIPS security gold star to use inexpensive tablets in their work
  • Verizone Wireless and Seagate announced 4G LTE-connected Mobile Wireless Storage technology;
  • ATT announced:
    • Plans to offer developers tools to leverage LTE network for new applications
    • Confirmed it has joined OpenStack community and will deliver an open source cloud-based development solutions for businesses
    • Will make available APIs for messaging, speech, location, monetization, contacts, storage as a service applications
  • Audi announced it will start shipping cars with LTE communications capabilities. Their latest models, such as the A3, will feature:
    • In-car systems powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor
    • Audi Connect concept enables vehicles to communicate with the surrounding environment
    • Passengers will be able to connect any smartphone through their cars via Audi’s Phone Box feature
    • Integration of Google Earth and Google Street View to aid navigation;

The takeaway from all of these examples – the hidden LTE story from CES 2012 – LTE enables a great deal more than faster/better smartphones and tablets. I expect CES 2013 to have even more examples of applications like these; we’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg.