So that was the week that was. I managed to make it to Mobile World Congress this week for the first time, and though I was only able to do so for a little over one day it was a pretty interesting experience.
If you’ve ever been to any kind of large industry trade show you’ll know that they can be pretty intense affairs. MWC though has to be on another level – it’s nuts and probably only outdone by CES – but then that’s in Las Vegas so there you go.
Everyone who is everyone is there at MWC, so much so that to really make a statement, you have to not be there – but be big enough for people to notice. So that’s Apple then.
In terms of LTE MWC afforded me the opportunity to actually pick up and hold my first LTE enabled phone: and would you believe it, they feel much the same as 3G phones. That said the phone in question was the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is about the size of a small Galaxy, so well named in that regard.
LTE wise one of the most interesting things I heard was a comparison between the performance of FDD LTE and TD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplex vs Time-Divison). This was conducted in the field by 3 Sweden, which has just launched its LTE service. Jorgen Askeroth, CTO of 3 Sweden said that as a company they had no religious bias towards one technology or another, it was more a case of spectrum availability. It just wanted to offer the best service to its customers – which is refreshing to hear. But some operators might be ‘afraid’ of bidding for the more affordable and more widely available TDD spectrum, when it fact it would be a great choice, as Sweden UK’s testing proves.
Askeroth said that every site had both LTE and TD and has separate antennas for LTE on order to maintain a good 3G experience for its customers. In its comparison tests, FDD was better in 28 locations but TDD was better in 20 locations. Latency in particular was comparable. When you take into account the fact that TD-LTE spectrum used was 20MHz compared to 40MHz for the FDD, Askeroth said that there was no doubt that, as often assumed but not often proven, TDD offers much greater spectrum efficiency than FDD. Askeroth was happy to state that with an equal amount of spectrum to throw at it, TDD would be “materially better”.
In the same session, the rather quirky chief strategist of Dutch operator KPN, Erik Hooving stepped up to say that LTE was being marketed entirely wrong – starting with the name as it was entirely meaningless to most consumers. However, his argument would be negated by the fact that in reality LTE will simply be sold at ‘4G’, which is a clear enough message for most. Hooving admitted that in Holland, KPN’s HSPA network would be sufficient to deliver what its customers actually needed in terms of bandwidth, but said that it was important to get on the LTE bus now, simply to be ready. His key message to operators – don’t build for coverage – build for capacity. There’s little point having 99 per cent coverage is 99 per cent of the time no one can adequately use the network.
It’s a good point, and one I hope to hear more of at the LTE World Summit in May.