LTE: the future of wireless technology

Telecom sector may see a great change if service providers opt for something beyond 3G

A shift from voice to data, including enhanced rich MMS on the mobile environment, is driving the mobile operators to move towards new wireless technologies. These technologies offer new opportunities in service capabilities, significantly improved data rates and latency performance.

3GPP (third generation partnership project) whose organizational partners include standards bodies like ETSI (European telecommunication standards institution), ARIB (Association of radio industries and business of Japan), to name a few have evolved a single common specification for future wireless networks that would also provide default global roaming.

3G in India

The recent introduction of 3G by BSNL and MTNL, initially deploying release 99 specifications and moving over to release 4 and release 5, marks a transition from 2G to 3G and further to more advanced technologies in the coming years. These would add value to mobile networks by increasing data rates with enhanced functionalities like video call etc.

While the proposed spectrum allotment to private operators is expected to accelerate the growth of 3G in India, the scenario may see a great change if service providers opt for something beyond 3G; market may be flooded with lot of high quality and high end data facilities, as witnessed in several other countries including China and Korea, if service providers adopt Long Term Evolution (LTE), rel 8 of 3GPP.

The advantages

LTE is characterized by increased down link and up link data rates of 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps respectively over 3G and also use of scalable channel bandwidth from 1.25/2.5/5/10 MHz. The latency (propagation delay) is reduced to 10 ms from few 100ms in 3G.The most significant feature of LTE is the increase in spectral efficiency (bits/sec/hertz).

The present cost of spectrum for 3G is high compared with 2G and this would force every operator to adopt a scheme where he gets more bits per second per hertz (good spectral efficiency). Naturally the LTE technology is the latest and most favorable one recommended by an official body viz., 3GPP.

Efficient deployment, smooth integration and optimal operations and management execution of LTE would improve business results by providing exciting new services.

Evolutionary step

LTE is an important evolutionary step that builds on GSM/EDGE and WCDMA/HSPA to make higher data rates for mobile broadband services economically viable.

The objectives of LTE is to improve spectral efficiency, lower costs, enhance service provisioning, integrate open standards including those related to IP, and co-exist with legacy standards while evolving to an ‘all-IP e2e Network.'

The technical advantage is leveraged by a new air-interface called OFDMA (orthogonal frequency division multiplex access) in downlink and SC-FDMA (single carrier frequency division multiple access) in the uplink.

These would support multiple input-multiple output (MIMO) antennas to double the peak signal strength at the receiving end. LTE would also have increased IMS (IP multi media services) capable services.

New services in LTE

There are a host of new services that can be expected to become available once LTE is introduced. For instance, e-health services with remote monitoring, diagnostic and imaging capabilities; digital signage; mobile advertising; in-vehicle video and audio services; and personalized services combining location preference, presence and address book information can be expected.

Already in use

The mobile operators who have deployed LTE world over include, Orange, Vodofone, Tmobile, KPN and Telecom Italia in Europe, AT&T and Verizone in the U.S., China Mobile, and Korea Telecom. ABI research estimates 80 per cent of the operators would lap up LTE even as they transit to 4G, which is LTE advanced of 3GPP specification.

The ultimate concept of 4G is that the user has freedom and flexibility to select any desired service with reasonable QoS and affordable price anytime and anywhere.

A. Ganesan

Former Deputy General Manager, BSNL, Chennai