Redefine LTE: Finding the Next 20 Golden Years - Mobile World Live

Redefine LTE: Finding the Next 20 Golden Years

10 JAN 2018

PRESS RELEASE: LTE, which stands for “Long Term Evolution”, is an interesting name. Since Release 8 was first introduced in 2009, LTE has been the foundation of modern wireless networks and has been continuing its evolution. In the past 20 years, telecom operators have acquired huge revenue from voice and data service, enabling some of them stand in the Fortune Global 500 for a long time. In 2017, we witnessed LTE surpass traditional individual voice and data towards Gigabit experience and full service capabilities, based on which telecom operators have explored new growth poles in revenue by establishing commercial cooperation with vertical industries. It is no surprise that LTE & its evolution will prosper for another 20 years.

LTE connections have accounted for more than 30% of all mobile subscriptions globally and it is expected to overtake GSM to be the most subscribed mobile technology in 2018, as reported in GSMA Mobile Economy 2017. LTE’s dominance is even more convincing in terms of its data offloading ratio, which was 69% by 2016 and is expected to hit 79% according to Cisco’s forecast.

Individual Voice: Right time for refarming from 2G/3G to LTE
After a long dominance in voice stemming from the 1990s, voice refarming to LTE is currently faster than ever. According to the GSA, there have been more than 1400 types of VoLTE terminals up until last December. In 2017, India and Thailand announced 20 USD low-end VoLTE capable feature phones. 100 million of such phones will be shipped this year, which will boost the refarming process from 2G/3G to 4G LTE. VoLTE is not only for higher spectrum efficiency in voice as well as data, but also for a more simplified network. Moreover, Huawei’s VoLTE solution can bring better network coverage and user experience. With a mature ecosystem and LTE’s decent coverage, VoLTE will be the dominant voice solution in 5G era.

Individual Data: Gigabit is becoming the new benchmark
Gigabit LTE, Gigabit Society, Gigabit 4G and similar terms are stating the same concept. Last October, UK mobile giant EE announced the fastest peak data rate of 970Mbps in their commercial LTE network on a single smartphone using 4×4 MIMO and carrier aggregation. Massive MIMO itself has experienced an impressive achievement: more than 10K modules of Massive MIMO have been commercially deployed in over 40 LTE networks around the world. The cell peak data rate can even reach 1Gbps with only 20MHz TDD spectrum. Such high spectrum efficiency can even match ITU-T’s 5G requirements. With a series of new evolutions, LTE can perfectly meet users’ higher experience requirement for HD video and other services.

As recent as last December, the US’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the “net neutrality” rules. This action gave operators the opportunity to monetize the quality of services provided. Short transmission time interval (TTI), introduced in 3GPP Rel-14, is one of most appealing aspects of LTE technology to provide differentiated service quality. It is estimated that a decrease of about 83% in E2E user plane latency and a gain of more than 50% in user experience can be had by short TTI. The industry is actively pushing short TTI forward into commercialization by 2019.

As it stands, LTE is no longer only about individual voice and data. In fact, many operators have started to benefit from LTE-cultivated new services:

Home Broadband: Wireless household subscriptions vs. Wired reached 1:1 in Globe Telecom Philippines
“Wireless Broadband, an Important Ingredient of National Broadband”, is a clear viewpoint from the ITU as published in the report, “The State of Broadband 2017”[1]. “Wireless broadband combines advantages from traditional fixed wireless solutions (such as rapid and flexible deployment and low costs), with fixed broadband-class bandwidth and quality, which should enable wireless broadband to accelerate in the household market segment. Nowadays, recognizing the value of bandwidth, a growing number of countries are formulating their national Internet and Broadband Plans to include wireless broadband.” Globe Telecom is a trend setter with remarkable success in the wireless broadband business and incorporating 5G oriented technologies such as Massive MIMO. By the end of 2017, the wireless-connected household number has been over 600,000, a ratio of approximately 1:1 as with wire-connected, which resulted in a home broadband revenue increase of 29% from 2015 to 2016.

Smart Society: IoT connections exceeded mobile in Yingtan China
By now, there have been nearly 30 NB-IoT commercial networks in the world. Especially in China, there have been 150 thousand NB-IoT connections, bringing convenience and intelligence to people’s daily life. Yingtan China, as a pioneer in IoT area, has been actively developing NB-IoT applications based on its LTE network, building up China’s 1st city-wide NB-IoT network and applying new intelligent applications on water metering, street lamps, car parking lots, etc. In the official report from China Mobile Yingtan, the number of IoT connections has achieved 663K as of last December, which has exceeded the mobile connections and helped the operator excavate new business territory in vertical industries with its LTE network.

Public Safety: Upgrade traditional proprietary solutions with LTE based mission critical applications
Nowadays, public safety is increasingly becoming an important service concern for governments. It demands a high coverage ratio, and enables new multi-media use cases such as Push-to-Video. Case in point, UK Home Office clearly states that Emergency Services Network (ESN) shall provide integrated broadband data services at 98% in building coverage by population, and 90% geographic coverage. Fortunately, the 3GPP has enabled LTE with such capabilities as “Mission Critical Services” since Rel-13. With the well-optimized LTE coverage and new mission critical capabilities, it will save a lot of time and money to establish a modern public safety network.

Connected Vehicles: accelerated in LTE standard and ecosystem, and planned for commercial launch in 2019
Connected vehicle is one of the hottest topics when it comes to the vision for new wireless services, with LTE being the most feasible technology to fulfill these requirements. Up until 2016, Europe, United States and China have selected 5.9GHz as side link spectrum. In mid-2017, the LTE-V standard was frozen in 3GPP Rel-14. Chinese government are very positive in pushing LTE-V2X progress by issuing regulations and spectrum resources. Recently in Wuxi city all the stakeholders including vehicle manufactures, telecom industry, public safety, transportation, original and after-market device manufacturers were aggregated in forming an open platform. This platform has agreed standard connection for traffic lights which are the most important node of V2I. Moreover, public traffic information and regulations are also open to the industry for more innovations. With all these efforts, E2E solutions will be accelerated from chipset, network to management platform. Until now, China and Germany have finished the open road LTE-V trial in 2017. With further ambitions, China will perform field trials in large cities in 2018, and start commercial launch in 2019.

Conclusion
During the RAN plenary meeting in Lisbon last December, the 3GPP approved the first Non-standalone 5G NR specification. In this NSA architecture, LTE serves as the anchor point of 5G NR. 3GPP has also approved the submission of LTE evolution + NR to the ITU as primary 5G candidates. This is a clear message to the industry that LTE evolution will still serve as a key component in the 5G era. Reinvigorated by Gigabit speed, massive connections and short TTI, LTE shows more and more vitality for almost all the foreseeable services. It is in the best interest of all the major wireless operators to protect their investment in LTE. Prepare yourself and embrace the dawn of full services principle network empowered by LTE.

[1] “The State of Broadband 2017”, from the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, at: http://broadbandcommission.org/publications/Pages/SOB-2017.aspx

[2] Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2016–2021 White Paper at https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collateral/service-provider/visual-networking-index-vni/mobile-white-paper-c11-520862.html

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