EUROPE: New standard for wireless technology

Technology researchers will benefit from a new research investment of EUR18 million (US$26 million) from the European Commission, which is designed to reinforce its support for the LTE (Long Term Evolution) standard for the fourth generation of wireless telecommunications, in preference to the alternative WiMax technology.

Brussels is already heavily engaged in promoting LTE, having provided EUR25 million for research on optimisation and standardisation for future telecommunications between 2004 and 2007.

Both systems are competing to underpin the new fourth generation (4G ) mobile networks which are intended to move beyond today's 3G systems in order to provide better quality services, increased bandwidth and lower costs.

The Commission said that 4G networks would provide mobile internet speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, a hundred times higher than possible under the current infrastructure, so supporting "a range of new bandwidth-hungry high-tech services". Both WiMax and LTE were expected to replace household internet connections by offering "wireless coverage to wide areas or big cities," a Commission paper said.

Detailed discussions on this new round of EU telecommunications research spending will begin this month and involve researchers from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The new projects are expected to start in January 2010.

According to Brussels, "LTE is becoming the industry's first choice for next generation mobile networks." Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for telecoms and media, said "LTE technologies will turn mobile phones into powerful mobile computers. Millions of new users will get ultra high-speed internet access on their portable devices, wherever they are."

A number of leading mobile companies, including Orange, T-Mobile, AT and T, Verizon, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens have committed themselves to using the LTE standard. However WiMax, which is led by the American company Intel, is supported by US Cisco, Clearwire and Sprint and Korea Samsung, and by many Chinese and Japanese operators.