|Issue:||Europe I 2009|
|Organisation:||Radio Frequency Systems (RFS)|
Andre Doll is the CTO of Radio Frequency Systems (RFS); he is responsible for the company’s research and development, plus project management resources, worldwide. Mr Doll previously worked at HP in California and with France’s Alcatel, where he worked on emerging laser technology and the TAT-8 transatlantic marine phone cable. At Velec, in France, Mr Doll managed engineering and developed some of the industry’s first GSM repeaters. Mr Doll received the Bell Labs 2008 team Award for development of TV MSL (DVB-SH) – Mobile television via satellite. Andre Doll has an MSc from the University of California at Berkeley.
The need and demand for mobile broadband has grown considerably. Smartphones and PCs designed for mobile data services, such as iPhones and netbooks, are in great demand by consumers and businesses alike. The ability to offer innovative business, entertainment and convenience service to users on the move is expected to attract many new users and drive operator revenue streams. Mobile operators look towards implementing new Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks to deliver the higher speeds and greater spectrum efficiency needed.
It has been 21 years since the world woke up to the reality of being able to make and receive phone calls on an anywhere, anytime (subject to network coverage) basis, but the advances made by the wireless industry in the last five years could not have been foreseen just a decade ago. The prospect of being able to tote a smartphone, PDA or ‘netbook’ PC around the world and surf the Internet at the same speeds as at home or in the office, would have been dismissed as a, ‘it’s a nice idea… a shame about the reality’ topic by almost everyone in the industry. Everyone that is except for those visionaries working on the, then, yet-to-be-ratified IMT-2000 standard, which laid the foundations for what we now know generically as third-generation (3G) cellular Now, almost six years after the world’s first 3G base stations entered public service, the industry is preparing for the introduction of LTE – Long Term Evolution – the next generation of cellular beyond 3G. A ‘must have’ for users and carriers LTE technology will be a must-have for cellular users and carriers alike. With LTE, users will get a better, more innovative, range of services, whilst carriers get improved return on investment (ROI) on their license and network deployment expenditures. Amongst the many benefits that LTE brings users and carriers alike, is much higher network capacities in metro (city) areas. LTE will bring users enhanced Quality of Service (QoS) and bring operators the potential for higher average revenue per user (ARPUs) for all against the backdrop of comparatively lower infrastructure costs. Several carriers around the world are planning to start trials of LTE later this year. LTE network enhancements will come at just the right time as users continue to adopt netbooks and mobile broadband dongles. Improved spectrum efficiency The other major benefit that LTE brings to the cellular table is improved spectrum efficiency for carriers. Better spectrum efficiency lets carriers handle more traffic with the same bandwidth so they can afford to offer innovative mobile data tariffs, even in metro (city) areas where network capacity at peak times has traditionally been an issue. Improved spectrum efficiency is critical to operators’ plans to promote the growing range of non-voice service, especially for business users, who are becoming used to the idea of mobile email and Internet access on the move. The improved spectrum efficiencies that arise from the use of LTE technologies will help to ensure that existing users – both 3G and GSM network customers – will migrate to the new wireless technology much more quickly than they have done with the 2G to 3G transition still taking place. It is quite likely that operators will find it difficult in many areas to find new cell sites for LTE. As a result, it will be necessary for them to reuse existing sites and their associated electronics, including the necessary network backhaul facilities. This is an important consideration, as current plans call for some operators to use part of their existing spectrum for LTE. The problem facing LTE-using carriers, however, is that the frequencies planned for the new wireless services are different from existing GSM and 3G networks. In North America, for example, LTE will operate at around 700 Megahertz (MHz) with the attendant propagation advantages this brings. Elsewhere in the world, meanwhile, LTE is planned to operate initially at 2,600 MHz, meaning that new antennas will be required at most cell sites. In most cases, this means antenna and cell site electronics specialists will have to supply multi-band antennas as a replacement for existing systems antennas, with internal diplexers to keep the number of feeders unchanged. Adding a new frequency will automatically mean more radiating elements on the cell tower, so the challenge for operators will be to make these extra elements invisible. These issues will have to be discussed operator by operator as it depends on the physical site implementation they have defined. Suppliers expect that the systems issues will be very tough for carriers to deal with, as LTE calls for adding a new system with different network planning procedures and little or no flexibility regarding existing site locations. New revenue streams Few network operators, carriers and even mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) will be able to avoid the planning and field trials of LTE wireless technology. If they do, they will miss revenue streams from what is certain to be a potentially boom business. The demand for next-generation non-voice services is seen by the considerable success that operators have enjoyed in the last 18 months with mobile broadband facilities. Even in relatively recent cellular markets such as Poland, we are seeing demand for HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) enabled mobile broadband growing very quickly indeed. With rates of around 10 to 15 euro cents a megabyte for mobile broadband, it comes as no surprise to see that demand for 3G bundled and enabled netbooks – the new generation of smaller and lighter laptops now hitting the market – is really starting to take off, with attendant carrier subsidies becoming the order of the day. LTE will be a topic of great debate at the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2009. Network infrastructure suppliers, operators and anyone associated with the provision of quality wireless services to businesses plus end users, will use the event to plan for what is sure to be a major change in the way the industry views cellular communications. Technology leap We believe that LTE represents a leap of technology that, for the first time, will allow wireless communications to replace fixed line connections as a means of carrying high quality voice and high-speed data into homes and offices. LTE will also serve the needs of all categories of users on the move. It is this flexibility, combined with the fact that existing base stations and cellular antenna arrays can be re-used for the technology – while retaining backwards compatibility services for 2G and 3G legacy networks – that will ensure LTE is firmly at the top of the agenda at this key event in the communications calendar. LTE represents a win-win-win situation for the hardware and systems suppliers, the operators and their users. Everybody benefits.