As we hit the end of the calendar year, we take a look into the crystal ball to see what’s ahead for LTE in 2014.
- LTE-A (Wide commercial LTE Advanced deployment)
The number one prediction for LTE in 2014 is something of a ‘no brainer’, as Kevin Bacon would say. – LTE Advanced will become a commercial reality in several networks. LTE Advanced consists of several improvements over standard LTE, but the key one is carrier aggregation, enabling different frequencies to be combined and treated as one channel of bandwidth, delivering great performance. Demos have shown speeds of up to 300Mbps – doubling existing speeds.Not surprisingly, the South Korean’s are ahead of the game and deployed LTE Advanced back in June, with a special variant of the Galaxy S4 as the supported handset.In the UK, EE is trialling LTE-A in ‘Tech City’ in central London, with an aim to wider deployment in mid-2014. In Australia Telstra is also trialling, as is its sister company CSL in Hong Kong. US networks have been more coy about revealing an LTE Advanced timetable, but progress is to be certainly to be expected next year. In the world where there’s an ever increasing insatiable demand for data, LTE Advanced will provide a timely performance boost for networks.
- LTE-B (LTE Broadcast)
One interesting use of LTE that is looking like coming to the fore in 2014 is Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS), more commonly known as LTE Broadcast. This is a method of serving multiple users with one video stream and should provide a much better video experience to LTE enabled handsets than conventional video streams. Rather than sending out a different stream to everyone on the cell tower of the same thing, the technology makes it possible for all users on the cell to tap into the same stream of data. It could be used for live concerts, sports events and when the world and its dog are downloading the latest iOS update.Verizon Wireless has already made noises that it is looking to use the 2014 Super Bowl as a test run, and Telsta is also talking about trialling it. Big players such as Ericsson and Qualcomm have also been playing up LTE Broadcast. The technology makes a lot of sense to us and we’re keen to see it implemented will in 2014.
- LTE – Big in Europe
LTE has been big in Japan, in the US, and of course in South Korea, but having the first commercially LTE network launch in December 2009, Europe has generally been slow on the LTE uptake. However, that’s set to change in 2014, with consultancy Northstream predicting a 50 per cent subscriber uptake in of LTE. A lot of this will have to do with the fact that much of the digital dividend 800MHz spectrum will finally have been released, and major auctions have also brought a lot of 2600MHz into play too. Big pushes such as Vodafone “Project Spring”, which will see $9 billion spent over three years, will push competition in 4G. With handset support now much more widespread operators are ready to launch LTE and make appealing service offerings, enabling LTE to move from becoming a niche to a mainstream offering in many leading European markets.
- TD-LTE – Big in China
There’s no doubt that anything the China does these days has a huge effect globally, due to sheer weight of numbers. China Mobile had an eye wateringly large 755 million subscribers as of September 2013, according to WCIS stats, and China Telecom and Unicom account for over 450 million more. Reports suggest that over 100 million 4G handsets will be sold in China in 2014, and with China Mobile going with TD-LTE, it’s naturally going to prove an immense boost on the TD-LTE eco-system. On that basis, the estimate from Morgan Stanley that Apple will ship 12 million additional iPhones in China in 2014 somehow doesn’t seem that impressive. It’s not all about China of course, and Sprint is going to be a big TD-LTE player thanks to its purchase of Clearwire, while many Asian operators such as Packet One in Malaysia, and Sazz in Azerbaijan and going with TD-LTE. It certainly performs too, with this report suggesting that Optus in Australia has combined TD-LTE and carrier aggregation to achieve 520Mbps download speeds. Wow.
- Small cells go large
Small cells have been a buzz word for the last couple of years, but 2014 is the year we will see them widely deployed on major networks around the world as an integral part of their strategy. AT&T in the US is probably one of the highest profile examples of this. The benefits of small cells are clear. In November, Gordon Mansfield, chairman of the Small Cells Forum and AVP Small Cell Solutions, AT&T told us that, “small cells yield noticeable benefits for the macro network; a 2012 Forum study showed that by placing four small cells within one macro, not only is data offload of over 50 per cent achieved, the macro network performance is improved by 315 per cent.” Those are impressive numbers in anyone’s book.They can also be used very efficiently, with Cisco trialling use of multimode small cells, that enable use of 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi in one little box, enabling a smooth technology migration and the best use of spectrum. The plug and play nature of small cells will also come to the fore, through technologies such as SON, enabling the network itself to make the best use of the capacity.Small cell backhaul will be high on the agenda for 2014, but consumers are soon likely to see the real-world benefits of these discreetly mountable base stations in terms of better indoor and congested area performance.
Are there any other technologies that you think should have made the Top 5 for 2014, or any others bubbling under. How about noticeable omissions? We’ll start you off with one – VoLTE. Why have we left this one off the list? Feel free to let us know your thoughts below.