8:00 AM -- You may have only just got your head around what 4G actually is, but the latest thing in boosting data speeds is coming in 2013 in the form of LTE-Advanced.
LTE-Advanced will be one of the 4G buzzwords of 2013 as carriers around the world start to upgrade and deploy the next evolution in networks. Here's what you need to know:
LTE-Advanced is laid out in the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) release 10 of the LTE specification. The updated specification focuses on using technology and tweaks at the basestation and handset to increase the transmission speeds and spectral efficiency of 4G.
The spec is aiming for maximum download rates of 3Gbit/s and uploads of 1.5Gbit/s. These speeds will be less, however, when deployed on real networks outside of the lab.
LTE-Advanced will offer a data speed increase over current LTE networks by deploying upgrades at the radio access network (RAN) and handset. These include "carrier aggregation" techniques that bond together two or more separate radio channels to get faster data speeds, two-by-two smart antenna arrays [also known as 2x2 (or more) multiple input, multiple output (MIMO)] for faster uplink and downlinks. Relay nodes -- low power radios that will provide improved coverage and capacity at the cell edge -- will help speed up the network, too.
Some of these upgrades will help boost speeds on existing LTE devices. Taking full advantage of LTE-Advanced will, however, require a new device with more antennas onboard.
Watch and learn
If you prefer to watch, there's plenty of video on LTE-Advanced to help you learn. Here's a selection.
Ericsson AB has put out this concise six-minute video that runs you through the major differences of Release 10, LTE-Advanced over current LTE networks:
The NIWeek Conference talks about how 8x8 MIMO anntennas can help achieve 1-Gbit/s download rates:
Here's a useful talk on small cells and self-organizing networks from CTTC:
The spectrum gap
I should note that, if you look into LTE-Advanced, it becomes clear why so many carriers are so hot on the trail of fresh spectrum to use. LTE-Advanced is a hungry beast and can use up to 100MHz with bonded channels. It seems unlikely at the moment that any carrier will be able to free up that amount of spectrum in the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless, it is clear that LTE-Advanced is going to highlight spectrum-haves and have-nots around the world. Expect to hear a lot more belly-aching from wireless executives about spectrum in the years to come.
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