MONTREAL — Way faster and smoother, too.
High-def streaming of movies, full-screen video chatting and multi-player gaming — all on smartphones, computer tablets and other devices — will be snappier on new wireless network technology when it becomes widely adopted.
Wireless carriers around the world, including Canada’s Rogers, Bell and Telus, are moving toward a technology called Long-Term Evolution, or LTE, that ramps up the speeds and capabilities of their networks.
In 2012, the technology will go mainstream and will provide a wireless Internet experience that’s equivalent to a home Internet experience, said PC Magazine analyst Sascha Segan.
“On the go, you feel it’s just as fast as at home,” said Segan, who’s managing editor of mobile at PC Magazine in New York.
“Gaming is going to be a great LTE experience. High-def streaming of movies on tablets. Think full-screen video conversations using a tablet or a big-screen phone.”
But at this point, devices lag behind the technology.
“At first, we’re going to see its advantages coming out for people who are using PCs with wireless networks,” Segan said. They would use Internet sticks to access the network.
There aren’t any smartphones at this point that use LTE technology, he said, but Samsung’s Craft LTE mobile phone uses the technology. However, they’re coming.
“Samsung will definitely be at the head of the line for LTE phones. Nokia has a big role in LTE technology and you can bet they’re building LTE phones.”
It’s not known when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will introduce an iPhone for the technology, Segan said. He doesn’t expect Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) to have BlackBerrys ready for LTE for a couple of years.
U.S. wireless carrier Verizon has said it will launch six LTE smartphones at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Globally, the networks are just getting started. Sweden has an LTE network and U.S. regional carrier Metro PCS has launched. Verizon will launch its LTE network by the end of the year and AT&T will roll out the technology in 2011.
LTE technology is expected to become the global standard for wireless networks. But it does have a competitor called WiMax that’s being used by Sprint-Clearwire in the United States and WiMax is trying to gain a foothold in other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa.
Bell (TSX:BCE) and Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) have both announced they’re testing LTE. Telus (TSX:T) also said it has been testing the technology and will move to it once it’s commercialized in a few years.
Bell’s Stephen Howe said consumers can expect up to double the speed with LTE, depending on where they are and how it’s used.
Consumers are driving the demand and that means staying at the forefront of technology, said Howe, senior vice-president of Bell’s wireless technology and chief technology officer.
“There’s an insatiable demand for data regardless of the type of user, whether they’re downloading songs or playing video games or whatever the case may be,” said Howe.
But Info-Tech Research Group analyst Mark Tauschek said Canadians might not initially notice much difference when LTE is rolled out in 2012.
Most of Canada’s wireless carriers already have fast, advanced wireless networks, said Tauschek, who is research director at the London, Ont., firm.
“It will probably be less noticeable to us, again in the near term, and will probably be one of those things that will evolve over time,” he said. But he said the LTE experience will be smoother and more seamless.
“For real-time applications, you don’t get that lag, that delay.”
IDC Canada analyst Lawrence Surtees said LTE technology is expected to keep getting even faster in the coming years.
“You can envisage sending files and information that you never thought possible on a smart device or a wireless device,” he said, including medical images.
That means doing this “from your pocket,” said Surtees, who’s IDC’s lead analyst covering Canada’s telecom sector.
“The functionalities of the iPad and many of applications on the iPhone wouldn’t be usable or dreamable without these much higher download speeds.”