Insight: LTE Market Check-In

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Tuesday, April 07, 2015 with No comments

What technologies and techniques are available to mobile operators seeking to meet demands for reliable, fast, stable broadband services? The key lies in intelligently increasing network capacity. Traditionally, that capacity came from three places, said Kevin Linehan, CTO at CommScope, in a recent Telecoms Tech article: more efficient use of spectrum, expanded spectrum, and adding cells to existing networks.


Nowadays, achieving maximum throughput means minimizing noise and maximizing interference suppression in the RF path, Linehan elaborated. Three techniques and technologies are often used to do that:

  1. Sector sculpting, or replacing old antennas with new ones designed to maximize energy radiated inside the cell and minimize energy radiated outside the cell.
  2. Multi-beam antennas, which can be a cost effective way to increase the number of sectors at a site, thereby increasing capacity.
  3. HetNets, using a diverse combination of macro and small cells sites to collectively increase both wide area and targeted area coverage. 
Most of these involve, one way or another, investing in new infrastructure. And, operators are heavily investing in their networks--with much of that investment being focused on LTE. In fact, Infonetics recently reported that, during 2014, LTE alone drove worldwide mobile infrastructure revenue up by 10% year-on-year. That's expected to drop between 2014 and 2019, as macrocell mobile deployments are maxed out. 

Another area where mobile operators are experimenting with LTE is broadcast--albeit on a limited basis, as with Verizon and AT&T in the U.S. Some people worry LTE broadcast will favor some customers at the expense of others, potentially violating the FCC's net neutrality principles. 

Phil Goldstein, FierceWireless editor, disagrees; he thinks LTE broadcast just won't be used by operators enough or in a way that violates net neutrality. For example, it's designed to be used in congested parts of the network, where it makes transmissions more efficient rather than less so. 

What's the most interesting observation you've made recently about developments in the LTE market? 
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