The LTEdge (Part 2)

4/11/2013 3:17:52 PM

Global LTE Device Availability


Spectrum/ Number of devices

·         700 MHz: 142

·         800 MHz: 52

·         1800 MHz: 50

·         2600 MHz: 65

·         800/1800/2600 MHz: 43


Spectrum/ Number of devices

·         2300 MHz: 36

·         2600 MHz: 41

Worldwide LTE scenario

Radio spectrum is the lifeblood of a mobile operator and has emerged as a very precious resource that is high in demand and low in supply. Hence regulators across the globe are look­ing to release new spectrum in order to enable broadband services at all levels. Spectrum in the 2.6GHz band is of interest across Europe. A big chunk, i.e., 140 megahertz of the spectrum (2x70 MHz), will be deployed for FDD services like LTE, while another 50 megahertz for the unpaired TDD band will most likely be used for WiMAX services. The 2.6GHz spectrum has the potential for higher-capacity and lower-frequency communications, enables better propagation and is a good choice for facilitating hotspots.

Radio spectrum is the lifeblood of a mobile operator and has emerged as a very precious resource that is high in demand and low in supply.

Radio spectrum is the lifeblood of a mobile operator and has emerged as a very precious resource that is high in demand and low in supply.

LTE is also being associated with GSM900 and GSM1800 bands, which are the most omnipresent and har­monized wireless spectrums available at global level. These also provide the benefit of increased coverage and subsequent reduction in network de­ployment costs compared to deploy­ments at higher frequencies. Moreover, 900MHz offers better building penetra­tion and is better suited for rural areas.

In some markets, operators could choose to migrate subscribers from their GSM frequency bands to UMTS (which uses wideband CDMA or WCDMA), easing the stress on their GSM networks and freeing up some spectrum capacity on the band. On the other hand, certain operators may like to deploy LTE in their 1800MHz frequency band and let the GSM network remain as it is, since GSM networks worldwide have been comprehensively optimized.

Altair’s LTE chipset used in Lantiq’s network processors, speeding development of LTE-ready home gateways

Altair’s LTE chipset used in Lantiq’s network processors, speeding development of LTE-ready home gateways

The subscriber migration from GSM to UMTS is taking place in over 150 countries worldwide. With enhanced spectrum efficiency, LTE deployment in the 900MHz band would bring the highest capacity benefit and also provide Tel­cos the ability to deploy an LTE network with greater coverage at a much lower investment vis-a-vis the higher-frequency spectrum. Moreover, the advantage of Re-farming the 900MHz spectrum for LTE over using WCDMA spectrum lies in the fact that LTE can be deployed in chan­nel widths as small as 1.4 megahertz, enabling operators to grow the network as the demand for GSM services falls. In contrast, WCDMA networks ideally require a complete 5MHz contiguous channel width.

Way forward

In India, small and medium-size busi­nesses starved of high-speed Internet are being looked upon as the lower hanging fruit in terms of LTE demand market. To start with, LTE would be used mostly via dongles (fitted with an LTE chipset) plugged into laptops and desktops. Lack of compatible devices is the biggest challenge to fast penetration of TDD-LTE in India. As of now, there is perhaps no smartphone or tablet form factor that supports this technology.

LTE is expected to be first deployed in the metros (cities with population of over four million), then percolate down to tier-1 towns (1.1-4 million population towns). However, rural India in the first place can benefit a lot from this technology.

LTE rollout on 700MHz band due to lower frequencies propagates and pen­etrates better than LTE base on 2.3 GHz. While LTE base on 2.3 GHz can cover around 2-5km radius area, LTE base on 700 MHz can cover up to 15km radius area. Also, cost of its rollout is one-third that of LTE on 2.3 GHz. This makes LTE on 700 MHz a better choice for providing wireless broadband in rural areas.

Wireless broadband would be a boon for rural areas in terms of last- mile connectivity since the existing physical infrastructure in terms of DSL is highly inadequate and the installa­tion would require heavy investments and time. The quality of life of millions of rural citizens can be immensely improved by services such as telemedi­cine and e-education that will reach them with broadband proliferation. Hence the government should urgently investigate options for allowing more spectrum to be allocated for BWA ser­vices in 700MHz band.

The ability to reap benefits of new spectrum allocations and the opportu­nity to potentially re-farm existing GSM spectrum are the two main factors that will drive LTE deployments. Enhancing network capabilities presents new de­ployment opportunities with economies of scale and opens up markets that were previously untouchable. LTE will con­siderably improve end-user throughputs to deliver a significantly improved user experience across the globe.

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