|Topic:||HSPA and LTE: Enabling a connected world|
Chris Pearson is the President of 4G Americas and represents 4G Americas’ Market Representation interests within the 3rd Generation Partnership Program. Mr. Pearson was previously Executive Vice President at the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium.
Chris Pearson earned a Master of Business Administration degree from The Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University and a Bachelor of Arts degree with emphasis in Marketing and Finance from the University of Washington.
What will it be like to live, work and play in tomorrow’s connected world? Products and services already available today provide the clue. The capabilities and global reach of 3GPP technologies are forming the foundation for the future for both enterprise and consumer applications. But without the supply of suitable additional spectrum the benefits of the new broadband economy will be slow to materialize.
Imagine a day that begins with dropping off your children at school on your way to work. You drive a car which includes a Wi-Fi hotspot so they can use their tablets to finish their homework. As a real estate agent, your day starts at a new property, where you use your sleek connected tablet to conduct a video call with a prospective buyer that includes a virtual walkthrough. You can be comfortable with the safety of your children later in the day after school, as your home security system notifies you when they unlock the door and a review of the video surveillance camera in your home shows they are now doing their schoolwork, with your dog close by, and they don’t have additional friends in the house.
That evening, you use your iPad for a video chat with your parents now that they’re comfortable with the 4G-enabled tablet you gave them for Christmas. They’re diabetic, in their 80s and don’t have fixed broadband, but you don’t have to worry: Their glucometer and scale use cellular technology to automatically send you and their physicians an alert if their biometrics go out of range.
But there’s no need to imagine this kind of day. You can live it now because these are all real-world products and services. They’re also just a preview of what it will be like to live, work and play in tomorrow’s connected world.
The 3GPP advantage
The key to this future is the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of technologies, including High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE), as the most capable mobile technologies supporting the explosive growth of connected devices for consumers and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications across vertical industries. These technologies exceed the requirements of M2M, providing scale, scope and performance – the combination of global roaming and technological flexibility that enables a superior user experience. No other mobile wireless network standard boasts the same global scale; an estimated 87 percent of mobile broadband connections will use 3GPP technologies by 2015. By 2017 there will be four billion HSPA connections and in 2018 LTE will reach one billion connections.
Some enterprise applications require a connection nearly anywhere on the planet. The 3GPP family of technologies is available worldwide and even in the middle of oceans. That global coverage is ideal for M2M applications such as tracking high-value assets in a shipping container every step of the journey from train to ship to shore to truck. But even for less critical applications, such as consumer video chat services, the 3GPP family of technologies provides the kind of global coverage that makes those services something users know they can depend on whether they’re traveling around a country, continent or the globe.
For mobile M2M applications, HSPA is widely deployed on more than 500 networks in more than 188 countries. Although LTE is fairly new to the market, it has become the next-generation technology platform of choice for all service providers worldwide. At the end of 1Q 2013, LTE was commercially deployed on more than 150 networks, with a total of 230 LTE commercial networks expected by the end of 2013. HSPA and LTE can both be used to access video calling applications and, depending on where you’re traveling, there’s a good chance that Wi-Fi will be available, such as in cafés and airports. If your LTE operator works with hotspot providers, it might connect your device almost effortlessly to its partner’s Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi interoperability is addressed as part of the LTE standard to give operators flexibility, such as offloading traffic, to ensure that the cellular network always has enough capacity to support customers who aren’t in range of a hotspot.
Additionally, LTE ensures coverage and capacity by using Self-Organizing and Self-Optimizing Networks (SON) technology. SON automatically configures and reconfigures base stations, femtocells and other infrastructure to accommodate changes in customer usage. By shifting resources to where they’re needed when they’re needed, all in real time, SON enables LTE to provide the kind of consistently reliable, high-performance connection necessary for video applications, m-medicine, m-education and other mission-critical business applications.
Today, 91 percent of consumer and enterprise mobile devices use the 3GPP family of technologies. This market share benefits end users, mobile operators and device vendors in a variety of ways. For example, it produces an enormous economy of scale that enables vendors to create devices for each market and differentiated demographic.
Those benefits are already extending to LTE even though it’s a relatively new technology. For example, a Heavy Reading Insider report recently found that some M2M applications and users are already migrating to LTE. One reason is because virtually all mobile operators worldwide are deploying or plan to deploy LTE. Another reason is that LTE has a clear roadmap to future versions. As a result, companies whose M2M devices need to remain in service for ten, 15 or even 20 years – such as in-vehicle infotainment – see LTE as the ideal way to future proof against the cost of having to replace modules later on when operators phase out their legacy 2G networks.
The Heavy Reading Insider report also said the cost efficiency of LTE is significant to the business case for LTE modules, in both M2M and consumer devices, including reduced operational costs. The research showed that several factors make LTE intriguing for M2M applications. One factor is that its spectral efficiency and other attributes reduce the operator’s cost of delivering service below that of incumbent technologies. LTE has the highest spectral efficiency of any mobile broadband standard and offers scalability to operate in bandwidths from 1.4 MHz to 20 MHz along with reduced latency to ten milliseconds round-trip time between user equipment and the base station, and to less than 100 milliseconds transition time from inactive to active. Another factor is that LTE’s flat IP architecture leads to a lower deployment cost-per-megabyte, better spectrum management and efficient scalability for further economic benefits.
An additional reason is that companies using M2M find that LTE enables them to future-proof their business models. For example, many utility companies currently use 2G GPRS meter-reading applications, which don’t require speeds above 40 kbps. But they might choose to begin migrating to LTE now because its speeds lay the groundwork for future high-bandwidth applications, such as residential energy management and video surveillance security services.
The opportunities for all industries are limitless for M2M applications and services. In fact, Ericsson forecasts 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Machina Research reported that global M2M connections will increase from two billion at the end of 2011 to 18 billion at the end of 2022, with connections dominated by two sectors: consumer electronics including cameras, music players and TVs and intelligent buildings (e.g., security and HVAC systems). Machina further breaks down connections by technology category, with short-range technology on over 70 percent of M2M devices, mostly Wi-Fi. Cellular/wireless wide area network (WWAN) connections will grow from 146 million at the end of 2011 to 2.6 billion in 2022.
This connected device technology segment has been promising growth for a number of years, and now it is believed by the industry that the time for explosive growth has arrived. The impact of billions of connected devices will be significant – and in more than just a lifestyle and work style imprint. It will create enormous data traffic on already burdened networks.
More spectrum is key
One thing stands between us and tomorrow’s connected world: an insufficient supply of spectrum, which is the lifeblood of every mobile service. Each generation of the 3GPP family uses spectrum more efficiently than its predecessor (GPRS-EDGE-HSPA-LTE). For example, the version of LTE that’s in commercial service today is more efficient than HSPA, and future LTE releases will be even thriftier.
But even the best technology can shoehorn only so many calls, videos, messages and songs into a slice of spectrum. Eventually governments will have to free up additional spectrum to accommodate skyrocketing mobile usage. Consider that from 3Q 2011 to 3Q 2012, global mobile total traffic almost doubled from 600 petabytes to 1100 petabytes per month, Ericsson reports.
In the Americas, most operators have embraced new technologies such as HSPA and LTE, squeezed several technologies into their existing spectrum allocations, re-farmed spectrum and are doing a tremendous job in re-using spectrum efficiently. However, technological advancements are not enough and more spectrum is needed. That’s why a May 2012 Inter-American Development Bank study urges Latin American and Caribbean regulators to immediately auction at least 500 MHz of new spectrum so that 4G can develop rapidly in the region. In the U.S., the FCC recommends allocating an additional 300 MHz by 2015 and a total of 500 MHz by 2020.
When a government frees up spectrum, it’s an investment in its economy. For example, Recon Analytics released a report in May 2012 detailing the impact of 500 MHz of new spectrum in the U.S. The additional 500 MHz of spectrum would:
• Increase GDP by US$166 billion
• Create at least 350,000 jobs
• Provide a boost of US$36.7 billion in government revenue
• Drive an additional US$13.1 billion in wireless applications and content sales
But not just any band will do. Instead, regulators in the Americas should focus on ensuring that 700, 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 1900/2100, 2300 MHz and 2500-2600 MHz are available throughout the Americas. This set of core bands will enable economies of scale and region-wide roaming. The availability of ample 700 MHz spectrum also will make it cost-effective to provide LTE services in sparsely populated areas, ensuring that consumers, schools and businesses there can benefit from the new broadband economy.
Today’s connected world is impressive, but tomorrow’s will be amazingly mind-bending. More spectrum, combined with technology evolution, will ensure that everyone has a chance to prosper in that connected future.