Global roaming SIM card users hoping to get their feet wet in 4G LTE ponds will not be able to do so without more work according to Qualcomm’s CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs at a recent press event.
4G LTE roaming has been under the radar for quite some time now. U.S. networks T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T all have LTE plans, though they do not necessarily include roaming deals.
In the U.K., plans are equally underway to launch next generation wireless networks, although Her Majesty’s backyard is having a few hiccups on the matter. Australia also recently announced a goal for a 2013 sale of spectrum to be used for its own LTE networks.
The problem with LTE is fragmentation. There are even more bands (or radio frequencies) being used for LTE than 3G networks because governments worldwide have allocated whatever available spectrum they had, often without any agreement on standard frequencies with other national and international carriers. Even in the U.S, the LTE networks from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint aren’t necessarily compatible, nor will T-Mobile USA’s be when it launches in 2013. The same can be said of carriers in the U.K. and Australia, albeit on a much smaller scale.
International travelers and enterprise consumers are very much concerned about the interoperability of these networks. The question of when we’ll be able to roam on 4G LTE is a reasonable one, and it’s one that Qualcomm’s CEO attempted to tackle at this week’s press event.
The Qualcomm executive says it will be hard to support LTE roaming, but his company is looking at ways to make radios more flexible (to handle more bands), a kind of workaround for the many frequencies being used. Until such a solution to solve this problem worldwide is found, 4G LTE roaming worldwide will simply not be possible for international SIM users, nor for any other users of any other network on Earth.