If you were in attendance at last week’s Mobile World Congress by now you’ve hopefully recovered from the experience. Hopefully. Even for the initiated, MWC is a daunting prospect: a sprawling mass of buzzing, active halls, along with many sections of somewhat less travelled areas. It’s a small moon of a show. No wonder the brands such as Fitbit were all over it – the miles you are a likely to walk each day are prime way of demonstrating their fitness tracking technologies. If there’s was one motto your likely to take away from the show it’s that ‘there is no such thing as lunch’.

Well that’s not entirely true. I did make it to a Fierce Wireless lunch briefing on the subject of LTE Advanced attended by a stage full of telecoms luminaries including SK Telecom, AT&T, Intel, Qualcomm and 4G Americas.

Alex Jinsung Choi, executive vice president and head of ICT R&D Division at SK Telecom; Kris Rinne, SVP of network architecture and planning at AT&T;  Aicha Evans, VP of the Platform Engineering Group at Intel;  Chris Pearson, president of 4G Americas; and Rasmus Hellberg, senior director of technical marketing at Qualcomm.

Alex Jinsung Choi, executive vice president and head of ICT R&D Division at SK Telecom;
Kris Rinne, SVP of network architecture and planning at AT&T;
Aicha Evans, VP of the Platform Engineering Group at Intel;
Chris Pearson, president of 4G Americas;
and Rasmus Hellberg, senior director of technical marketing at Qualcomm.

Here we learnt from Alex Jinsung Choi, executive vice president and head of the ICT R&D Division at SK Telecom that the carrier has found that LTE Advanced has in the main consists of carrier aggregation

However, AT&T is clearly looking to do things its own way, and Kris Rinne, its SVP of network architecture and planning said that it would lean on LTE Advanced merely to maintain the user experience, and keep speeds up, rather than offering any significant speed increase or indeed offer any major new services. This was in contrast to SK Telecom and Choi said that LTE-A had opened up new business opportunities for it. “If you don’t provide something new it’s difficult to justify your investment,” he said.

With a nerdy tech hat on, AT&T’s approach is a little disappointing to hear, as indeed it must be for the AT&T marketing department as surely it will have nothing solid really to get their hands on here for next gen. Still, I don’t suppose that will stop them promising the Earth.

Speaking of next gen, 5G did crop up at the talk and the most significant comment came from AT&T’s Rinne, who said that while 5G hasn’t been defined, it may focus entirely on the core network architecture and that the air interface may remain LTE-based. Again, if so, that will make it difficult to spin to consumers.

In terms of 5G something practical will have to be put in place though by 2020 as Choi told the audience that South Korean government had tasked ST Telecom to implement some kind of 5G in time for the Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang in 2018. So no pressure then.

Elsewhere at the show, Ericsson demoed LTE-Advanced at speeds of up to 450Mbps, using Carrier Aggregation and Coordinated Radio Access, as well as a demo of practical uses for LTE Broadcast, sending video to digital signage.

We also spoke to NTT Docomo who told me that its customers would be able to roam to 10 different locations in the “next couple of months.  Arranging LTE roaming is a complicated affair but it seems it’s easier when operators are using the same IPX network provider. When they’re not, peering arrangement between them have to made, and that adds cost and complexity, which are bad things – though not insurmountable. AT&T also made a number of announcements regarding LTE roaming.

We also had a chat at the show with the likes of Radisys and JDSU, who told us about how they were helping operators get ready to move to an all-IP IMS-based architecture that would herald the arrival of VoLTE – another area that SK Telecom is also well ahead on.

World Summit 2014

For more hands on, practical advice on these topics, from the companies that have already been there and done it, you’ll want to make sure you in attendance at the LTE World Summit, which is coming up in June this year. Check out the list of great speakers, as well as the full brochure.

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