LTE: The road ahead

March 07, 2011 // By Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm
LTE: The road ahead
2010 was an exciting year for broadband wireless technologies, particularly LTE. Over 64 operators have committed to supporting LTE in 31 countries and there are 17 LTE networks in operation today.

Significant progress has been made in deploying LTE, but there are still enhancements and innovations needed to help network carriers give their customers a ubiquitous, high quality experience on their LTE-enabled devices no matter where they use them. These enhancements and innovations will not only be beneficial to today’s LTE networks, they are also necessary for LTE to reach the next step in its evolution, such as LTE Advanced.

There are a variety of issues that need to be addressed so network operators and handset OEMs can take full advantage of the performance benefits of LTE both now and in the future. Three issues of particular concern are multi-mode/multi-frequency support, implementing voice over LTE and how networks will handle interference.

First, let’s consider the different ways LTE is being implemented globally and how this will effect device OEMs looking to support the LTE standard. The radio frequencies used on LTE networks vary from region to region; there are currently over 20 different frequencies ranging from 700 MHz to 2.6 GHz that can be used by LTE networks around the world.

In order to ensure that LTE supports global roaming and realizes the scale of a global technology, LTE smart phone and data card OEMs will need access to chipsets with multi-band, multi-mode radios. These same chipsets must also be backward compatible with existing 3G technologies to provide a comparable experience in areas without LTE coverage or ubiquitous 3G. Supporting multiple technologies and frequency bands in a single chipset is hard enough, but making the chipset small enough and making sure the chipset has the right power management capabilities to provide all day operation is a challenge that few mobile chipset providers are prepared to meet.

Another issue to be addressed is LTE support for voice. Today’s LTE networks support data traffic only; smartphones can use LTE for data traffic, but must fall back on

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