Steven J. Crowley, P.E.
Archive for the ‘LTE’ Category
Google filed an application at the FCC last week seeking permission to conduct testing of an experimental radio system. Portions of the application and accompanying exhibits have been designated confidential and are thus not available to the public. Even the request for confidential treatment has been redacted. Let’s try to infer what’s happening from the information available.
In the first of a series of webinars, Qualcomm today began reporting on the results of its “1000x Data Challenge,” an initiative to meet what it sees as the need, someday, to increase mobile capacity 1000-times. The webinar, conducted by Rasmus Hellberg, Qualcomm’s Senior Director of Technical Marketing, was an overview. He discussed spectrum, small cells, and other techniques to increase capacity. More-detailed webinars on each of these are forthcoming: spectrum initiatives on September 18, small cells and heterogeneous networks on October 18, and more efficient networks, applications, and devices on November 14. Today’s webinar should be posted tomorrow, and a white paper should appear in about a week.
4G Americas, a wireless industry trade association representing the 3GPP family of technologies, has released a report looking at broadband devices and applications, and their impact on HSPA and LTE networks. There’s quite a bit of interesting information; here I highlight the discussion on mobile broadband offload and mobile data growth.
In a recent blog post, CTIA compares some measures of the U.S. wireless industry to those in nine other countries. The purpose is two-fold; to show the U.S. is a leader in number of subscribers, lowest cost per voice minute, and spectrum efficiency, and to argue the need for getting more mobile broadband spectrum in the “pipeline.” These goals are somewhat at odds, and the spectrum-efficiency argument I don’t get, as I’ll explain, but within the constraints of a blog post I think CTIA makes the case that the U.S. is a clear leader in some areas, and that the prospects for more mobile spectrum in the U.S. are fuzzier than they should be today.
The following is my response to a query on LTE versus wired, and the user experience. It capsulizes my current thinking, which evolves.
To your point, I don’t see LTE being competitive with wired in terms of speed or reliability today or in the future. You take the hit there for the convenience of mobile or portable operation. There’s a notion that if we just add enough base stations and repurpose enough spectrum to LTE, we can replicate the home wired experience in the mobile environment, but I don’t think that’s practical. The throughput from an LTE sector is divided among all users in the sector. If everyone wants to watch the Super Bowl at once on LTE, forget it (unless the LTE broadcasting standard is implemented, which let’s everyone watch the same channel like today’s TV (cough)). On FIOS or cable, the Super Bowl is no problem.
A couple of days ago the Mobile Future coalition posted a short video on YouTube advocating the allocation of more spectrum for mobile broadband. As evidence of the need, it says that, compared to feature phones, smartphones use 24 times the spectrum and tablets 120 times the spectrum.
Recent contributions to the mobile broadband spectrum debate are reports from NAB and CTIA. I envisioned a “dueling reports” piece, but they mostly complement each other. Below I walk through the main points, adding some of my own views.
One of AT&T’s non-redacted arguments in support of its acquisition of T-Mobile USA is that data usage on AT&T’s network is projected to “skyrocket by a factor of eight to ten” over the next five years due in part to streaming HD video. AT&T’s vision is that T-Mobile’s resources would be used to relieve resulting capacity restraints.
Enabling an HD streaming service will be challenging because of the relatively-high and somewhat-constant bit rates required in a fading radio environment. Wondering how practical this is, I recalled a paper Motorola prepared last year reporting some of its simulation results on mobile broadband streaming video.
The FCC relies on Cisco’s forecast of mobile-broadband data demand as a basis for spectrum policy. Called the Visual Networking Index, it comes up many times in the National Broadband Plan, in other documents, and in speeches.
The debate won’t end but the volume is dropping on the what-is-4G controversy. Previously, I’ve written about the ITU’s characterization of 4G as only applying to the two radio technologies it has designated as IMT-Advanced: LTE-Advanced and WirelessMAN-Advanced (the latest version of WiMAX).
Most cellular operators are beginning the transition from 3G technologies to 4G LTE. That will mainly be for high-speed data and not voice, support for which will come years later. Communications engineer Jim Murphy describes some of the networking issues that make voice impractical on LTE on day one. To his comments I’d add that the preferred LTE voice solution is VoIP on the IP Multimedia System (IMS) framework, which has had slow adoption in the mobile community.
Jim’s example is from the 3GPP family of technologies, of which LTE is part. Most 3GPP2 operators, such as Verizon Wireless, are also planning a migration to LTE. They migrate from a different family of technologies, those specified in 3GPP2 and which include cdma2000 developed largely by Qualcomm. In Verizon’s transition, high-speed data on cdma2000 networks, now provided by EV-DO, will migrate to LTE. Voice will stay on cdma2000 1x for several years. That’s not a problem, because that technology keeps improving. The latest version, called cdma2000 1x Advanced, has achieved a 50x increase in voice capacity over the predecessor IS-95 system launched in 1993.
Both 3GPP and 3GPP2 3G voice feature a soft-handover (make-before-break) scheme that allows for, essentially, a circuit-switched connection. Yes, you’ll be able to run Skype and other VoIP services on 4G LTE data networks, if you want. In terms of the total user experience, however, most will prefer the seamlessness of standards-based integrated voice capability.
VoIP is the future. For 4G voice, though, it’s just great in theory at this time.