opinion


LTE World Summit: a plan comes together

The two companies offer complimentary optimisation solutions

Last week I attended the LTE World Summit, the seventh annual event of its kind. The event promised to be bigger and better than ever and it certainly did not disappoint at more than double the size of the previous gathering with over 1750 attendees. There were speakers from every continent, and more than 160 operators were represented from around the world.

The strength and confidence the industry now has in LTE as a standard was underlined by the fact that a WiMAX and TDD networks conference was collocated, while those that wanted to know more about LTE in depth could attend the LTE master classes.

The topics under discussion at the World Summit took in the broader picture around the need for LTE as well as sessions dealing with specifics such as business models, and policy issues around spectrum.

Fast adoption

The event started out with the thoughts of Adrian Scrase, VP of the international partnership projects for the 3GPP. As he pointed out, just a few years ago the issue was whether LTE, WiMAX or even UMB would succeed 3G – now it is not even a question. Indeed, he highlighted the astonishing pace of the development of LTE pointing out that there are over 200 operators now fully committed to rolling out LTE, and 20 networks already launched making it the fastest growing mobile technology ever. This was all the more impressive considering that a year ago TeliaSonera stood alone in having rolled out LTE.

In his keynote, Ying Weimin, president of LTE Business Group for Huawei said that the vendor had more than 40 LTE contracts worldwide and that ten of these had gone live – and that this was just the beginning.

Deluge of Data

One of the opening keynote speakers, Bart Weijermars, the MD of T-Mobile in the Netherlands, dealt with meeting the challenge of the data deluge that will be heading our way in the not too distant future.

Data use will be fuelled by the further proliferation of appealing devices and to prove his point Weijermars noted that the data use of an iPhone 4 was some 780 per cent more than that consumed by the original 2G only iPhone, while an iPad 3G used 990 per cent more. Weijermars challenged the audience by asking them how networks would cope if all its users as the same time wanted to do the activities that are commonly predicted, such as intensively using smartphones and tablets, accessing cloud content, streaming video, roamed and spoke via VoIP – all at the same time. Making this possible was he said the mission for the industry and referred to it as “surfing the Gigabit wave”.

Christopher Kimm, from Verizon Wireless added that it took the first ten billion tweets took four years, while the next five billon were sent in just five months. While Verizon launched LTE in the US to cover 110 million people, the aim by 2015 was to cover 290 million.

Ying Weimin, president of LTE Business Group for Huawei pointed out that there are 200 million YouTube video views a day on mobile devices, and over a third of Facebook’s 600 million users access the site via mobile versions, while half of Twitter’s 165 million users also access it via mobile interfaces.

Tommy Ljunggren from TeliaSonera, explained how LTE was being used for high bandwidth applications such as TV, with the Royal Wedding in Stockholm in 2010 being streamed from six cameras without needed a satellite, and transmitting the Nobel Peace prize live from Sweden to Tokyo.

In terms of devices, Weimin predicted that Pocket Wifi (Mifi type devices) would be a ‘killer’ device for LTE expansion – no doubt as many legacy devices without integrated LTE will be able to access LTE speeds via an initial wifi connection.

Spectrum

For Weimin and Weijermars, spectrum was the number one concern – with a wide number of frequencies required to cover all eventualities from 700MHz, 800MHZ for rural, 1800MHz, 2100MHz for suburban, and 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6GHz for hot spots. Naturally, network deployments are all highly dependent on national spectrum auctions.

At the conference, Orange, TeliaSonera and T-Mobile joined forces to announce an initiative to use 1800MHz as a best compromise between coverage and capacity in order to roll out mobile broadband worldwide – either using LTE or even HSPA, depending on the local situation.

Speed

Another topic covered at the summit was the simple issue of speed. Hartmut Kremling, CTO of Vodafone D2 in Germany highlighted it as a major factir for LTE. With real world speeds of 5-6Mbps on the downlink, even on busy loaded cells, along with low latency, the benefits of LTE were much appreciated by its customers he said.

Business models

Naturally, many of the discussions were on business models for LTE services – whether to offer caps, or even to introduce usage packages for the types of activities used, such as browsing YouTube and accessing social networks. Seizo Onoe, managing director of R&D Strategy at NTT DoCoMo said he did not believe LTE as a technology cannot generate new revenues – but the services around it could.

Overview

In general, from Telecoms.com’s own discussions and interviews, the outlook at the show was overwhelmingly positive, with satisfaction at the accomplishments made so far, and confidence that future issues would be resolved. While there was general agreement that a lack of LTE smartphones was a concern, there was a strong belief they would come in solid numbers by the end of the year. While battery life is a noted issue, equally the ease of roaming was raised, as with the lack of spectrum harmonisation it is very unlikely a single device will compatible in many regions. It could be said that the focus on most operators was to get their own LTE house in order, and that either the market will naturally point towards a agreed roaming spectrum, as the 1800Mhz alliance is suggesting, or a technological solution will come along to solve the issue. Whether this heads down approach is a mistake is something that we will be in a good position to judge at next year’s European summit, due to be held in Barcelona.

As for the future, Adrian Scrase of the 3GGP said that even though we had not yet reached LTE Advanced, it was even time to start thinking about LTE Advanced, though he did express concerns over how it would be marketed, staring that he was worried, “people will call it 5G or something abhorrent. Let’s hope they call it Super Whizz LTE or something similar!”

The next date in the diary is LTE Asia 2011, due to be held in Singapore on 6-7 September.


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