QUALCOMM 4G/5G SUMMIT, HONG KONG: Stadium environments are the new test-bed for network engineers to monitor, analyse and prepare for the new traffic demands on mobile networks.

“What happens when you put 100,000 people in a stadium and everyone wants to take pictures, that’s really our crystal ball – that’s how we learn and know what breaks,” said Alex Holcman, SVP of corporate engineering at Qualcomm

He said it’s interesting to look at traffic growth and try to forecast what’s going to happen next year, noting that stadiums offer a great perspective on future capacity challenges.

“A while back people were just taking photos at halftime, now they want to take videos, and that has expanded from one-minute clips to five minutes to 4K,” he said.

Qualcomm, which has consulted and undertaken projects for major sporting events around the world, has deployed mmWave 5G on the 28GHz band in a stadium and achieved a 31-times increase in capacity. The network configuration boosted spectral efficiency threefold using massive-input massive-output (MIMO) and beamforming, he said.

Speaking on ‘Enhancing LTE on the path to 5G’, Holcman said there’s a lot operators can do to boost the performance of their LTE networks long before 5G is available.

“Mobile operators have some breathing space on data with 4G.” This is a great position to be in, he said, as with 3G operators had no choice but to upgrade quickly to 4G because their data capacity was insufficient.

He said both 2G and 3G came at just the right time to allow operators to keep up with rising demand for voice and then data.

Operators have a bit of runway, he said, because they have a variety of tools to enhance their LTE network speeds and capacity. These include carrier aggregation, Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA), massive MIMO as well as beamforming.

He told Mobile World Live that operators won’t have to rush to 5G, and we’ll likely see a more phased rollout of 5G resources, rather than rapid full nationwide deployments.

Dual-band carrier aggregation (CA), for example, can increase web browsing speeds by 50 per cent, make video streaming five times faster and app downloads 57 per cent quicker, and operators are now moving to tri-band CA.

For operators with limited LTE spectrum, he said LAA with Listen Before Talk offers a path to gigabit speeds.