The pace of LTE development has been much faster than with 3G. The industry has moved quickly towards LTE-Advanced, two- and three-carrier aggregation as well as LTE Broadcast.
On the latest count, more than 500 operators in 166 countries are investing in LTE, and globally there are 318 commercial LTE networks.
Serge Willenegger, Qualcomm VP of product management, said yesterday a number of factors have fueled this acceleration, which has seen the price of LTE handsets drop rapidly in just a couple of years.
A major influence, he said, was that voice could run on 2G or 3G without impacting the quality of services. “There was this complication [adding voice] with 3G that wasn’t here with 4G.”
This saved a lot of time and headaches.
A second catalyst was that the technology evolved quickly to launch devices for different parts of the world with one module supporting as many as 20 bands.
“The industry didn’t have to wait for regulators to harmonise. Usually for a new system to propagate across the world, you have to have licences issued for a given band in each and every country. That’s what happened with 2G and with 3G,” Willenegger explained.
For LTE there was no single band that could be used anywhere in the world (except for perhaps 1.8GHz). There are some 30 bands and the number is growing.
But on the device side, he said, advancements enabled chipmakers to integrate more bands in the transceiver and the front-end industry to create multi-band modules, supporting as many as 23 bands (iPhone China model).
He said this had nothing to do with LTE, but because the technology evolved it was possible to launch fairly quickly devices that could address different parts of the world with a single SKU.
“So despite the fragmentation, there was no need to wait for the regulators to act – which enabled a huge gain in time to market.”
A footnote to the spectrum challenge, he said was that the 1800MHz band (which an iconic device supported) made a big difference because one device could suddenly go into many markets.
His final point was the fact that China got on board, which was a huge catalyst. “This forced the industry to develop solutions for the lower part of the portfolio faster than normally would have happened if driven only by the mature markets.”