Over the past few months, we have been hearing more and more about LTE Proximity Services and LTE Direct. These discussions are being driven by a handful of key players in the market, in particular Qualcomm and Deutsche Telekom.
But what is LTE Direct? This is Qualcomm’s preferred term for a new and innovative device-to-device technology that will enable users to discover other devices and services within a proximity radius of ~500m.
The intention is to enable consumers to interact with their proximate environment in a spontaneous and direct way using their smartphone, and thus bring about a huge array of benefits for the consumer, for enterprises and in turn, for the operator.
As a value-added-service it could offer huge potential gains for operators. There is the potential of additional ARPU gained from the consumers from access to services; but also from new marketing tools for enterprise customers and opportunities for revenue sharing with third-party’s via developer APIs.
Another major benefit is that it would be the mobile operators who would hold the spectrum that enables this functionality and therefore would act as the gatekeepers controlling access to the services.
All applications wanting to use LTE Direct must go to the MNO, handing the operators an opportunity to work with the wider ecosystem, such as app developers, infrastructure providers, OEMs, system integrators and the various verticals.
Despite the obvious potential benefits and revenue opportunities, it is important to note that many of us are already using similar proximity-based services to some extent through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and/or OTT applications. These have however seen limited mainstream adoption up to now which may be due to the fact that these existing solutions suffer a number of limitations including range and scalability issues; privacy concerns, as well as a huge drain on battery resources, which limit their use by consumers.
Ultimately, LTE Device-to-Device (D2D) will create a host of new service opportunities, while also achieving significant performance and efficiency benefits on the LTE networks. The introduction of LTE D2D will be one of the anticipated highlights of the 3GPP Release 12, planned to be frozen in Q414, but it remains to be seen if this release will overcome the challenges necessary to get LTE proximity services to mass adoption.
At this year’s LTE World Summit, which takes place at the RAI in Amsterdam, LTE Proximity services will be a key topic of discussion particularly as a potential driver on the road to LTE-A and 5G. The event will feature presentations addressing the key opportunities and challenges of LTE Proximity Services including talks from Thomas Henze, Head of Mobile Access Products & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom andMichele Palermo, VP Standards Engagement at Telecom Italia.