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Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)

Dan Jones
3/19/2013
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It's Sunday night, Feb. 1, 2015; you're in the Ding Dong Lounge in New York City.

All around you people are hunched over their smartphones and tablets sending out videos, tweets and texts about that Superbowl-winning touchdown. The same scene is playing out in bars and restaurants down the street and across the city.

The 4G network you are connected to, however, doesn't slow down much or fall over with all the additional data being sent over the air.

That is the real promise of LTE-Advanced for carriers and -- eventually -- users too: the ability to offer a more reliable and consistent experience over 4G. It won't come quickly, easily or cheaply though.

The LTE-Advanced specification was fully defined by the 3GPP in April 2011 as part of Release 10 of the 4G spec. Along with WiMAX 2, LTE-Advanced was originally considered the first true fourth generation (4G) by the ITU because, in theory anyway, it met the conditions of maximum downlink speeds of 100Mbit/s when a user is on the move and up to 1Gbit/s for stationary downloads.

Carriers around the world are unlikely to achieve those kinds of speeds even when all the hardware and software pieces are actually in place. This is because achieving these speeds could require up to 100MHz in linked channels, which is just not feasible for many operators round the world.

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 for more speed and capacity
  • Multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna arrays of 2x2 or more on the devices and infrastructure for faster uplink and downlinks
  • Relay nodes, low power radios that will provide improved coverage and capacity at the cell edge of the network

As the 3GPP says LTE-Advanced is about supporting an "increased number of simultaneously active subscribers" on the network as well.

This is important -- consider that IDC predicts that LTE traffic will grow 207 percent in 2013. Factor in all the new smartphones, tablets and machine-to-machine devices coming and you can see that planning ahead for capacity and coverage density is just as important as speed, if not more so.

Hence, carriers like T-Mobile USA are getting in on the ground floor with networks that might be considered LTE-Advanced ready rather than full-blown LTE-Advanced right now.

Vendors like Broadcom Corp. have started to unveil LTE-Advanced modems for phones that support features like carrier aggregation in the last month or so that will go into commercial production in 2014. Though 2x2 MIMO antenna arrays are not uncommon on devices, larger arrays and bigger modems all start to become device size and battery concerns. So like LTE, laptops and data dongles are likely to be the first to get LTE-Advanced capabilities.

As you see, it will likely be sometime next year -- at the earliest -- before we get many affordable devices that can support LTE-Advanced and operators will need to build out network density as part of the march toward Advanced.

This should clue you in to something else as well. LTE-Advanced makes sense in a city where operators are supporting large and sometimes unpredictable flows of users and traffic. It may not make much financial sense to add more density to rural parts of the network.

So, LTE-Advanced probably won't be trickling down to Monowi, Neb. any time soon.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
7/25/2014 | 4:52:15 PM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
Sad news for NYC dive bar fan, Light Reading's Ray Le Maistre, he will never get to see the original Ding Dong longue referenced in this piece:

http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2014/07/upper_west_side_1.html
talking_heads
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talking_heads,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/11/2013 | 1:47:10 PM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
What about new security features in LTE-A?
Renukab
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Renukab,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/25/2013 | 3:56:39 PM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
Commercial
deployments of LTE-A are going to be seen in the market much more quickly than
people think. The big difference with LTE-A, over its predecessor G LTE, is the
way in which it will be rolled out by international operators. As
opposed to a complete network upgrade, operators will deploy LTE-A
incrementally on a feature-by-feature basis. Operators will initially roll
LTE-A features that give them the greatest tactical advantages in the market.
For example, LTE-A features such as carrier aggregation, for contiguous and
non-contiguous spectrum allocations, and radio interference management and
suppression will be the first that operators consider. Operators will also be
very keen to leverage support in LTE-A for increased MIMO G which helps to dramatically
improve spectral efficiency. We at Radisys are very well versed in in all
aspects of LTE-A and see it gaining market traction extremely rapidly. Radisys
recently announced that we are already developing the worldGs first commercial
LTE-A small cell with our partner Mindspeed.
Renukab
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50%
Renukab,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/25/2013 | 3:51:15 PM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
Commercial deployments of LTE-A are going to be seen in the market much more quickly than people think. The big difference with LTE-A, over its predecessor G LTE, is the way in which it will be rolled out by international operators. As opposed to a complete network upgrade, operators will deploy LTE-A incrementally on a feature-by-feature basis. Operators will initially roll LTE-A features that give them the greatest tactical advantages in the market. For example, LTE-A features such as carrier aggregation, for contiguous and non-contiguous spectrum allocations, and radio interference management and suppression will be the first that operators consider. Operators will also be very keen to leverage support in LTE-A for increased MIMO G which helps to dramatically improve spectral efficiency. We at Radisys are very well versed in in all aspects of LTE-A and see it gaining market traction extremely rapidly. Radisys recently announced that we are already developing the worldGs first commercial LTE-A small cell with our partner Mindspeed.
chuckj
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50%
chuckj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/21/2013 | 12:27:42 AM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
The only way LTE Advanced can happen is, they pass a law that if the Ding Dong Lounge (or any customer) buys a small cell on his own and pays for its-back-haul,-then none of the users that hook up to it have to pay for minutes or data to the carrier, but if the carrier puts it in and pays for the-back-haul-then the carrier can charge all of the users for data and minutes. - This way the establishment (or the customer) can do something about customer service because we know Telco's absolutely don't care about customer service, as apparent from ATT's plan to install 40,000 small cells in the next two years for a nation of 300+million, thousands of big and small cities and tens of thousands of small towns and townships and hundreds of thousands of small farms. -The Telco suppliers need to lobby for this with all their might or else they will all be driven to bankruptcy by-their-customers one by one.
DanJones
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50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
3/19/2013 | 9:18:48 PM
re: Why You Should Care About LTE-Advanced (Eventually)
Remember that schedules can really slip on these chip development programs too. We'll se a lot of noise about LTE-Advanced devices this year but I suspect much of it will be hype.
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