LTE – technology of high-speed mobile data transmission which is developed by several large carriers in the world - is burdened by a number of points at issue, which may influence its future. In Russian realia the most influence regarding this case can be exered by problems with radio frequencies and equipment.
The aim of 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) is data transmission modernization via cellular networks of the third generation. Thus, according to a standard specification, users will be able to upload data at a speed up to 326,4 Mbit/s, and to download – at 172,8 Mbit/s. Capacity improvement (there is a 50-time surplus in comparison with an average WCDMA network speed) is reasoned by the use of better technology of multi-input multi-output (MIMO), similar to the one used in Wi-Fi 802 11n standard. Due to this fact network latency decreases (up to 10 msec) that will give an opportunity to develop within LTE networks different mobile services particular about IP traffic delay (like HD-quality video calls or network computer games.)
Where will LTE equipment appear from?
The main LTE advantage in comparison with another solution for high-speed internet access via mobile devices – WiMax – is that LTE-networks are built on the basis of existing equipment with rather easy 2G and 3G integration. However, situation with equipment producers is still complex. Thus, basic stations, switchers, maintenance and management system for the first LTE-network in Stockholm, launched in December, 2009, were developed by Ericcson company with Samsung ad Telia Sonera participation.
Another telecommunication equipment producer – Nokia – last year signed a contract with Infineon for LTE-chips supply, appealing to the fact, that this technology would get a dominant position in the world by 2015. Other large foreign carriers (Verizon Wireless, Telefonica, Orange, ChinaMobile, SingTel) are already testing technologies mentioned with the leading LTE-equipmet producer Alcatel-Lucent. Further, ZTE and Huawei equipment is presented on the market either.
Considering that the main emphasis is laid on data, not voice transmission, we can conclude, that the main terminal equipment with this technology supply probably will be internet- pads, USB-modems or implemented solutions. Gulnara Khasyanova, Sky Link CEO agrees, that in the nearest years we will notice growth of terminal equipment within notebooks segment instead of smartphones and communicators, and the main stake will be maid on a modem internet access instead of voice transmission.
Regulators can bring LTE appearance to a halt
Telecommunication market experts notice one of the key features of transferring to a new standard, concerning frequency band assignment for such data transmission protocol, for example 700-900 Mhz, 2300-2300 Mhz, 2500-2700 Mhz, but it is still an open issue. Thus on State Commission for Radio Frequencies agenda, which will occur on may, 28, 2010, approving of list of regions for their use as technology testing pilot zones for broadband mobile 4G access and issue concerning frequencies reassignment within 2500-2700 Mhz band according to the relevancy of 4G technology, including LTE, implementation, were raised. Regulator marks, that nowadays this frequency range is occupied by WiMax and MMDS).
However, Maxim Ikonnikov, Director for wireless communication systems Department, Alcatel-Lucent, calls LTE transport subsystem a "bottle neck" for national carriers, because its demands are ten times higher than within 2G/3G networks. According to his words, it is worth speaking about the transport channel to the base station at a level of hundreds Mbit/sec, which organization may become a serious problem for the operators. However, there is an opinion, that Russian market regulators believe they are technologically neutral. It is confirmed by tender documentation – there is no word concerning neither WiMax, nor LTE, but it contains a statement for broadband mobile access.
Let us notice, that abroad the question concerning frequencies assignment is solved a little in another way. According to Svetlana Skvortsova, the senior marketing manager, Ericcsson, due to the fact, that 3GPP has approved the whole list of possible frequency rates for LTE, the carriers will have an opportunity to develop networks in order to use the features of certain range in the most effective way. "Features of signaling in low ranges make LTE networks construction in distinct and rural area more effective alternative to 3G networks deployment within 2.1 Ghz band".
There is an undivided opinion on the mobile communications market, that 800 Mhz and 2.6 Ghz ranges are complementary for the carriers, building mobile broadband networks on the basis of LTE technology. 2.6 Ghz gives high capacity and density for urban area covering, and 800 Mhz provides wide covering and filling of white spots. Such combination of ranges creates an ideal conjunction of the imposed networks for optimization of capacity and covering ", - she notices. As an example she gives Vodafone’s solution in Germany concerning the use of spectrum within the spectrum of "digital dividend" (791-862 Mhz) for a covering of " white spots » in rural areas of the country where broadband services are generally inaccessible.
LTE is out of competition
Experts of the telecommunication market do not agree that LTE can somehow compete with existing solutions in the field of mobile broadband access, particularly, 3G and mobile WiMAX. Sergey Portnoj, the regional director of a WiMAX-forum in Russia, believes, that on the one hand, 3G and WiMAX will compete among themselves, because the both are the mobile internet technologies. Nevertheless, on the other hand, they possess different client bases and various tariff rates.
Moreover, 3G-networks capacity is lower – each of operators of "the big three" has 15-Mhz band with the lower frequency effectiveness. The conclusion can be made that "Comstar" and "Yota" capacity is 5 times higher than 3G one.
Similar ideas are also stated by Igor Torgov, Yota vice-president. He says that comparing WiMAX 16Е and LTE release 8 (which is accessible for commercial use at networks geployment) it is found out, that LTE spectral opportunities are 15-20 % more, hence, LTE economics is 15-20 % higher, because it enables to serve more subscribers. But, nevertheless, in his opinion, this distinction is insignificant.