LAS VEGAS -- LTE has exploded at this week's Consumer Electronics Show, where the three top U.S. wireless carriers and dozens of other vendors are showing off how they plan to use the high-speed technology with new smartphones, tablets and even ATM's.
Alcatel-Lucent, which supplies LTE switches to the carriers, manned a booth showing several high-tech examples of how LTE wireless technology can support consumers, industry and government, such as providing police departments with the ability to transmit high definition, real-time video and data on crime suspects to officers in patrol cars.
The company also showed how video cameras installed inside police vehicles and connected by LTE to a cloud data respository can scan a crowd of people with facial recognition software or target license plates to identify car owners.
Alcatel-Lucent also displayed a utility vehicle, called Striker1, that was equipped with wireless bridging equipment designed to help police and fire personnel using different different radio frequencies frequencies to communicate with each other as well as with smartphones and tablets over IP, said Wayne Eveland, an Alcatel-Lucent engineer and former captain in the New Jersey State Police.
The Paris-based telecommunications firm also showed how inexpensive (compared to ruggedized laptops) Android tablets mounted inside a vehicle can use LTE to be a primary interface to the cloud. A plumber or utility worker could transmit to a remote expert a video image of a utility switching box and highlight with a finger or stylus where trouble had occurred.
Jason Collins, vice president of emerging technology at Alcatel Lucent, said Striker1 and other technologies displayed in its booth are designed to show how carriers and third party vendors can use LTE technology to improve practical applications.
The demonstrations were created based on the work of Alcatel-Lucent's NG Connect Program, a collaboration of 125 companies.
Much of the LTE news at CES centered on how well the carriers and infrastructure providers are working with a wide variety of partners to show potential users the benefist of faster wireless connections, especially for video communications and fast transfer of rich data content.
Of the three biggest U.S. carriers, Verizon Wireless has the biggest head start with 4G LTE networks operating in some 200 cities. The LTE networks offer average download speeds of more than 10Mbps, or about 10 times faster than predecessor 3G speeds.
Verizon's booth offered CES attendees a look at many demonstrations, including a Diebold ATM machine that uses bandwidth-rich LTE to send and receive live video, along with features that can help reduce theft and better help out customers.
Wayne Eveland of Alcatel-Lucent shows off Striker1 vehicle that police offciers could use to to access cloud-based video and data over LTE.
Verizon and Samsung also jointly announced at CES that the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs over the Verizon 4G LTE network, has been certified that it meets Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) specifications, opening its use to financial professionals and government workers whose work requires the FIPS security gold star.
In a panel discussion on wireless innovation, John Stratton, president of Verizon's Enterprise Solutions Group, said that independent developers are working with Verizon's innovation centers in San Francisco and near Boston to develop new mobile applications.
AT&T, which runs LTE networks in 26 cities, announced five Android smartphones and a tablet that use LTE, as well as two Windows Phone 7.5-based smartphones at CES. AT&T also set up an Application Programming Interface platform with tools for independent developers.
Sprint, the first carrier to launch a 4G wireless technology on Wimax, said it will have LTE networks in 11 cities by mid-year.
Sprint also announced at CES that it plans to offer 15 devices, including the Android 4.0-based Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, for its LTE networks. The Sprint devices will include particulars such as a Google Wallet application that works in point-of-sale applications with Near Field Communication technology.
Verizon Wireless sells the Galaxy Nexus with NFC but Google Wallet point-of-sales purchasing does not function over that network.
Sprint product managers were quick to acknowledge that while they lag behind Verizon and AT&T on LTE rollouts, its suppport for Google Wallet and other features, and its unique applications will give it a quick edge with consumers.
Fareed Adib, vice president of product development at Sprint, contended that the company can match Verizon and AT&T in innovation and support of independent developers.
"We've got one of the oldest carrier-developer communities, but now the focus has shifted and is really about getting apps to market faster with tools to support that," Adib said.
T-Mobile USA, which lost momentum when its planned $39 billion merger with AT&T collapsed in December under the weight of government concerns, has focused on continuing to build out its 4G HSPA+ network.
T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm told reporters at a CES gathering that "T-Mobile is back," though analysts said the future of the carrier will ultimately depend on what parent firm Deustche Telekom wants to do with the U.S. subsidiary.
Some observers have speculated for months that T-Mobile will still be be sold off.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .
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