Long Term Evolution, or LTE, is gaining steam on the technology-readiness side, and that's good news for those public-safety agencies looking to deploy mobile high-speed data networks in the 700 MHz band.

While Verizon Wireless is the most aggressive on the LTE front, with plans to roll out the technology in 30 markets next year, two other U.S. operators also are moving ahead with LTE. Earlier this month, regional operator MetroPCS announced the selection of Ericsson as its primary infrastructure vendor for the LTE network it plans to launch in 2010. It has one 700 MHz license in Boston and owns spectrum in the 1,900 and 1,700 MHz bands. MetroPCS initially plans to offer a dual-mode LTE/CDMA handset from Samsung.

Last week, during the 4G World Congress in Chicago, AT&T Mobility spelled out a new mobile broadband plan that now includes a faster move to LTE. The operator previously had planned to enhance the data speeds of its existing high speed packet access (HSPA) network up to 21 Mb/s, but now is abandoning those plans, opting to move directly to LTE in the 700 MHz band instead by 2010, not 2011 as the company previously stated.

“Our plans on the infrastructure side focus on LTE rather than HSPA+,” said Kris Rinne, AT&T’s senior vice president of architecture and planning, in a story published by Urgent Communications' sister publication Telephony.

Here is some additional news that is adding to the momentum:

  • Nokia Siemens Networks claims it made the world's first LTE call using commercial base stations and fully standard-compliant software — mandatory preconditions for commercial network rollouts and for subscribers to benefit from a range of LTE devices from different vendors.
  • The Voice over LTE via Generic Access Forum, otherwise known as the VoLGA Forum, announced the publication of its first complete set of specifications for delivering voice and SMS over LTE networks. It's a specification that has been lacking but is needed because LTE, though an all-IP, data-only technology, needs SMS functionality to configure LTE devices. Moreover, true VoIP capabilities are lacking at this early stage, requiring a way to bring circuit-switched voice services over LTE. The forum is backed by 21 companies and the group's specification completion sets up the VoLGA Forum to move forward on getting the technology standardized within the 3GPP, the body that is overseeing the standardization of LTE. Still, there are alternative proposals popping up, and operators have largely remained silent on the issue. They need to start pushing their vendors to ensure the problem is solved when LTE is launched.
Now if public safety could get its hands on spectrum, I'd wager that we'd see some big telecom vendors begin to court the sector as they bid to be the leaders in the LTE game.