Guang Yang is a Senior Analyst in wireless operator strategies for Strategy Analytics and is moderating the panel session entitled, “How Can a Converged, Dual Mode FD and TD Network Most Effectively Work?”, taking place on Day One of the TD-LTE Summit, taking place on the 8th-9th April 2014 at the Fairmont Singapore Hotel, Singapore. Click here to download a brochure.
In this interview we catch up with him to get a insightful overview into TD-LTE and 4G in general in 2014. He explains how ending roaming charges could be a game changer for Europe, discussed the introduction of LTE Broadcast and the effects of China’s 4G roll-out could have on the TD-LTE eco-system.
Roaming, especially within Europe is a high on the EU digital agenda. Is the lowering of roaming pricing through regulation a threat or an opportunity for operators?
The latest EU roaming regulation is potentially a game changer for roaming business in Europe. Many options for technical and commercial models may rise with the regulatory update. Although there are a lot of uncertainties and challenges in the roaming market, the data roaming should be an opportunity for mobile operators. Regulation has turned Europe into an innovative market for roaming products, in many cases with pricing already significantly below the regulated ceiling. Currently, 90 per cent of data roaming traffic in the EU is on Wi-Fi rather than cellular networks, so there is a real opportunity there for operators to grow, despite the pressure on pricing.
TD-LTE is praised technically for its efficiency for data on the downlink. How can that translate into monetisation?
The focus of LTE competition is moving from network coverage to data speed and capacity. Tiered data speed plan is a new approach for LTE monetisation. TD-LTE can become a booster to mobile network speed, particularly for those operators with plenty unpaired spectrum. Sprint Spark is the case for using TDD to boost data speeds. Softbank also demonstrated TD-LTE carrier aggregation to support a peak download speed of 770 Mbps. With more unpaired spectrum available (e.g. 3.5GHz band), the role of TD-LTE in the competition for speed and capacity will become more important.
Unpaired spectrum also has good potential to support broadcasting services. Operators in the US and Australia are launching video broadcast service over LTE network. TD-LTE running in unpaired spectrum is a good candidate for the downlink only broadcast service. On the other side, the flexible asymmetric characteristics of TD-LTE can also support an uplink only usage to carrier live video stream from scenes to TV centres. China Mobile has already demonstrated such application in its TD-LTE network.
China Mobile’s launching TD-LTE is expected to have an impact on TD-LTE. How do you expect the eco-system to change over the next 12 months?
TD-LTE device shipments are set to explode in China next year. China Mobile plans to purchase 50 million TD-LTE devices and targets to lower the retail price of TD-LTE smart phones to the range of RMB1000 (~USD150) in 2014. All device makers that are serious about China must have a credible TD-LTE portfolio to offer China Mobile next year. TD-LTE operators out of China will benefit from this movement in term of the availability and cost of TD-LTE devices.
Sprint’s TD-LTE rollout will be another boost to TD-LTE ecosystem. Its tri-band hybrid LTE FDD and TDD network could be a good reference for those operators owning both paired and unpaired spectrum. China’s regulator also allowed China Telecom and China Unicom to perform trials for this kind of hybrid LTE FDD and TDD network.
So, I expect to see TD-LTE ecosystem moves on two major directions in 2014. The scale of economy will be improved significantly by the massive deployment in China. Meanwhile, the integration between TDD and FDD will be tightened further.
What are the major topics that you feel will dominate the TD-LTE agenda in 2014?
The commercial deployment of TD-LTE in China will be an absolutely major topic for TD-LTE in 2014. China Mobile’s TD-LTE go-to-market strategies, service offer roadmap and network expansion plan will be on the top line of TD-LTE industry’s agenda. With the technology and device matured, Voice over TD-LTE and TD-LTE Carrier Aggregation would emerge in the second half of 2014. Another interesting point for TD-LTE in China is how China Telecom and China Unicom will position TD-LTE in their networks. Will they use TD-LTE just as a complement to their FDD networks or make TD-LTE as the core of their 4G portfolios?
As I mentioned above, Sprint’s hybrid LTE FDD and TDD network is also a hot spot of TD-LTE industry. Sprint Spark is expected to reach 100 million Americans by the end of 2014. It would show the industry how TD-LTE could be integrated with LTE FDD. This will be another major topic in TD-LTE agenda in 2014.
What do you predict will be the most exciting or significant LTE related technology development in 2014?
Carrier Aggregation and Small Cell will gain their momentum in real network deployment to improve LTE data speed and network capacity in 2014. Load balancing and traffic steering in heterogeneous network environment would emerge as innovative solutions.
In longer term, 3GPP RAN will complete LTE Release 12 standardization in 2014. Release 12 will be an enhancement on LTE-Advanced and could also be a starting point of the journey toward beyond 4G or even 5G. The enhancement in Release 12 will focus on the cooperation between different components, e.g. cooperation between different basestations, different network layers (macro and small cell) and different modes (FDD and TDD). These enhancements will make LTE radio network more intelligent and more efficient.
Why is the TD-LTE conference an important date in your diary?
TD-LTE Summit, and the broader LTE World Series, is a great opportunity to meet with industry leaders and discuss the hot topics of the day. 2014 will be an important year for TD-LTE industry. The event will be a great platform for TD-LTE players to exchange ideas and outlook the future development.