Category Archives: LTE

Cisco Launches Assault on Small Cell Marketplace

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Cisco has been providing a form of small cell using unlicensed spectrum to the enterprise market for more than 10 years, and several years ago it started providing licensed femtocells in residences for AT&T. But it was not until last year, with the purchase of Ubiquisys, Intucell and Broadhop, that it got serious about small cells.

With these companies’ small cell solution portfolios now fully integrated into its product line, Cisco is now rolling out new goodies for the wireless industry to feast its eyes upon, according to Lisa Garza, marketing manager.

Cisco’s Wi-Fi engineers worked with its licensed small cell engineers to see how these radios can be made to play well together, not cause interference and be managed as a whole. As a result, Cisco launched an indoor small cell that integrates LTE and WCDMA coverage with carrier-grade Wi-Fi, using the same footprint.

“Several key operators asked us to integrate Wi-Fi with the 3G/4G small cells, in order to get indoor voice coverage and to improve the coverage of the network overall,” Garza said. “The unit provides carrier-grade Wi-Fi with security and 802.11AC along with 3G/4G. It is a Wi-Fi radio that acts like a small cell radio in that it has self-organizing network capabilities and can do interference management.”

At the Mobile World Congress, Cisco announced products that bring its small cell solutions into the LTE era, such as the USC 5416 small cell, which is the LTE version of the USC 5310 3G small cell introduced a year ago.

The USC 5416 follows the multimode trend because it plugs into Cisco’s Aironet 3700, an 802.11AC Wi-Fi access point, to make a dual mode access point.

“We know there is an installed base of a more than a million Aironet 3600 and 3700 Wi-Fi access points already hanging in enterprises today, so we wanted to allow enterprises to upgrade their networks without going through all the expense of replacing products,” Garza said.

Cisco Quantum SON is now fully integrated with our Universal Small Cell portfolio, which provides resilient, automatic operation, with self-installation, self-optimization, and self-healing, even in shared frequency indoor environments.

“We take the centralized SON at the macrocell layer and integrate it with the SON at the small cell layer,” Garza said. “That is the value of bringing the IntuCell and the Ubiquisys teams together; the promise of SON for HetNet.”

Garza reports that customers are asking for multi-operator small cells. In an in-building deployment, only every fourth Wi-Fi access point needs a small cell integration, so Cisco is trialing a network in which each of four carriers can integrate into a fourth Wi-Fi access node.

Carrier Aggregation to Become a Reality in 2014

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With spectrum and data speed equating to customer retention, channel aggregation must seem like manna from heaven to carriers. Speeds have always been restricted in part by the amount of contiguous spectrum available.

Alex Jinsung Choi, head of ICT R&D Division at SK Telecom, said in a press release that LTE can only offer up to 150 Mbps of speed using a maximum of 20 megahertz of continuous spectrum in one band, while LTE-Advanced can support speeds over 150 Mbps by combining different bands through carrier aggregation.

However, the roll out of Release 10 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s LTE standard changes all that. Now, intra-band, inter-band and non-contiguous spectrum can be aggregated into one virtual pipe, allowing efficient use of fragmented spectrum, and it can be used for both FDD and TDD.

LTE-Advanced, specified in Release 10 of the LTE standard, supports up to five carriers up to total aggregate bandwidth of 100 megahertz of spectrum. Now that’s a big pipe!

SK Telecom Develops LTE-Advanced 3-band Carrier Aggregation

Uber-cutting-edge carrier SK Telecom plans to demonstrate LTE-Advanced by aggregating three bands at Mobile World Congress 2014, Feb. 24-27, in Barcelona, Spain. The carrier aggregation technology demonstration will combine three 20-megahertz channels to offer speeds of up to 450 Mbps.

The Barcelona demonstration is only the latest in a rapid-fire string of new LTE-Advanced features at SK Telecom since last June. On Jan. 20, a wireless system was unveiled by the carrier that aggregates a 20-megahertz band and two 10-megahertz bands and supports speeds of up to 300 Mbps. Once the related chipset and devices are developed, the technology is expected to go commercial by the end of 2014.

In November 2013, SK Telecom demonstrated an LTE-Advanced service that offered up to 225 Mbps by aggregating a bandwidth of 20 megahertz in 1.8 GHz band and a 10-megahertz channel at 800 MHz. It expects to launch a commercial 20+10 system in the second half of 2014.

In August 2013, the carrier was authorized to operate a system using a 20-megahertz downlink and a 15- megahertz uplink in the 1.8 GHz band; and in June, it launched an LTE-Advanced service using a 10-megahertz channel in the 1.8 GHz band and a 10-megahertz channel in the 800 MHz band.

Global LTE Usage Depends on the Region

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By Ernest Worthman…

LTE usage is picking up speed in some places but not others and the mobile data reports point out some interesting discrepancies.

For example, in South Korea, today, one out of every two mobile subscribers now has an LTE device, according to a report from GSMA Intelligence. However, there is an interesting anomaly in this data. As it turns out, only 4G phones are showing an uptick in data usage. In this same report, Korean 4G users have doubled the data usage but 3G data users remain static. This is an interesting statistic. South Korea has 100 percent of its population is under the 4G umbrella. So, why is 3G data flat and not decreasing?

The answer may surprise you. 3G data services do not have nearly the data speed and efficiency of 4G and LTE. 4G is much better at steaming video and other high-bandwidth applications, for example, than 3G. 4G also integrates the latest compression technologies which are much more data friendly and bandwidth efficient, which translates into a much more satisfying customer experience when it comes to data. Some analyst think that the still cumbersome issue of not having seamless, ubiquitous Wi-Fi roaming and slower 3G data rates has 4G users opting for the simpler and seamless data roaming on the 4G network. Similar results are being seen in other countries as well.

That makes sense, but there are some glitches. For example, the U.K and some other European countries aren’t seeing the data rate skyrocket on with 4G devices on their LTE networks. No one is quite sure why, but there seems to be a correlation between data plans and price points. Not every country is in free fall with data plan rates and it seems that some users are choosing to put up with older data plans and some of their short comings to keep the costs down.

But there is traction. In more established markets, LTE operators are starting to reduce the price for existing LTE services to jump start the transition, and start to recover costs. France is leading the charge by pricing its LTE services at the same level as 3G data. Additionally a number of operators, worldwide, have introduced selective price discounts or bundles as part of a LTE promotion.

Examples of LTE promotions include: Paraguay – a 50 percent price reduction in LTE tariffs; Telefonica (Germany) – a 40 percent price reduction for entry level pricing (for the first 12 months of a 24 month contract term); Telekom (Germany) – a discount off the monthly fee plus a three month free period for the music streaming option; Vodafone (UK) – an option to subscribe to either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile with a 4G contract, with a free period ranging from six months up to 24 months (depending on the 4G package subscription).

The Q4-13 Global LTE Pricing Tariff Tracker also segments LTE pricing (for Post Pay LTE for PC or laptop connectivity) into six main geographical regions around the world. It finds that average LTE pricing in the EU is now USD $34.89 per month (with an average monthly data allowance of almost 20 GB) and is the lowest of the six regions surveyed by TCL.

Pricing for LTE services continues to develop rapidly. And operators are now experimenting with the bundling of additional content (e.g. music or mobile TV) with LTE 4G services in order to attract new users as an alternative to price discounting into 2014.

T-Mobile LTE Sweeps the Country

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This was the most dynamic year that T-Mobile has had in a long time, Jim Alling, T-Mobile COO, told the UBS 41st Annual Global Media and Communications Conference, Dec. 11, in New York City.

T-Mobile now covers 203 million pops with LTE, which is an immense change from the start of the year when it could not even be measured.

“We moved from not having a presence in 4G LTE to nationwide coverage by the end of the third quarter,” Alling said. “That was well ahead of our plans. We did not think we could achieve that until the end of this year. We are continuing to build upon that footprint.”

A lot of work was done in 2012 on the quality of T-Mobile’s backhaul, which allowed T-Mobile to move more rapidly with its LTE build out.

“We put ourselves in the position to take advantage of some of the spectrum that we have picked up, as well as pair up the contiguous spectrum that MetroPCS brought to the party,” Alling said.

As 2013 comes to a close, T-Mobile will be operating on 10 megahertz by 10 megahertz spectrum blocks in more than 40 major markets, including New York and Los Angeles. Additionally, more than 250 metro areas will be operational with T-Mobile’s LTE equipment at yearend.

On top of that, T-Mobile has launched 20 megahertz by 20 megahertz LTE on more than 100 sites in North Dallas, portending the roll out of more systems in 2014.

“Customers in this area are seeing fantastic performance, and all LTE devices in customers’ hands today can benefit as we continue to expand 20 megahertz by 20 megahertz LTE,” Alling said. “It’s not like we have covered the market, but where we do have it, we are seeing download speeds of 150 Mbps and uplink speeds of 47 Mbps.”

T-Mobile will be rolling out 20 megahertz by 20 megahertz in 2014, but it must first refarm some of its existing spectrum and some frequencies that it obtained in the MetroPCS deal. Alling expects the carrier to complete the 20 megahertz by 20 megahertz deployment in 2015.

LTE Small Cell Platform

Athena Wireless Communications has launched Pixie, an LTE small cell platform complete with field-proven, fully-functional eNodeB software. The Athena Pixie enables OEMs and system integrators to create differentiated LTE small cell solutions in a shorter time and at a lower cost.

Pixie is available in a 6 inch by 6 inch indoor ceiling-mount package, a rugged 8 inch by 8 inch outdoor case with optional integrated backhaul, or as a 5.4 inch by 5.4 inch by 1.5 inch PCB assembly for integration into OEM products and solutions. The design incorporates independent, pluggable RF modules, providing for output power options from 50 mW to 2 watt, FDD or TDD duplexing, and frequency bands ranging from 700 MHz to 2600 MHz, all with full MIMO support. Ultra low power consumption enables power-over-Ethernet for Enterprise applications, and battery-powered man-packs, vehicles or aircraft for tactical Military applications.

In addition to a complete, fully-functional eNodeB software stack, Pixie also includes well-defined APIs that enable OEMs to easily integrate their existing algorithms, parameters and proprietary interfaces onto the platform. Pixie APIs include interfaces for management (OAM) and self-organizing networks (SON) servers, as well as for customizing key eNodeB parameters such as admission control, scheduler, handovers, quality-of-service (QoS) and more. The result is a differentiated LTE small cell solution that has feature parity and full compatibility with existing OEM macro cell solutions.

Athena has made available a Pilot version of Pixie to several OEM and System Integrator partners since June 2013. The company has also demonstrated over-the-air interoperability with dozens of LTE devices and S1/X2 interoperability, including handovers, with several major Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) vendors.