As demand for data and faster speeds continues to rise, mobile operators must adapt to keep up. While LTE was a complete network evolution from 3G, one could look at LTE-Advanced as a “grab bag of capabilities” for existing LTE. LTE-Advanced Release 10 offers a variety of improvements over LTE that mobile operators can “grab” and implement to add needed capacity and coverage without purchasing expensive new spectrum.
This grab bag includes:
- Carrier aggregation. As the name indicates, carrier aggregation aggregates mobile operators’ existing 3G spectrum that has been freed up with LTE spectrum and LTE-Advanced’s additional spectrum to enable increased throughput. A recent development in this space is the addition of unlicensed spectrum to the mix, or LTE-Unlicensed. Mobile operators are beginning to access this unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band to add even more bandwidth, while ensuring they remain good neighbors with existing Wi-Fi that uses the band. (See our eBook with Fierce Wireless on LTE-Unlicensed for more details.) This approach is generally the first capability that mobile operators grab.
- Enhanced Inter-cell Interference Coordination (eICIC). eICIC works as the interference manager for small cells as part of a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet). It uses advanced time domain scheduling techniques to reduce radio interference and increase the coordination between network cells to ensure a streamlined flow of information.
- Multiple Input and Multiple-Output (MIMO). This approach serves to increase efficiency across the spectrum by leveraging smart antenna technology which analyzes how base stations, antennas and user equipment communicate.
- Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP). These techniques ensure that even greater performance is achieved at the edge of the network, by increasing coordination between small cells, and between small cells and macro cells.
- Relay Nodes. These low-power base stations were added to the LTE Release 10 specification. These nodes reduce the site-to-site distance in the macro-network, but they represent a substantial change in the network architecture. Given the complexity involved, we anticipate that mobile operators will role this feature out in a later phase of their LTE-Advanced deployments.
- Self-organizing Networks (SON). This approach gives operators real-time control to mitigate interference and manage optimizations. Last year, we announced an Integrated SON Solution with AirHop and Broadcom to allow mobile operators to quickly deploy interference management functionality across a broad customer base, giving them a time-to-market advantage over competitors.
We are seeing the tiered rollout of LTE-Advanced, as operators grab capabilities to best meet their needs. By combining small cells with LTE-Advanced techniques, mobile operators have a powerful combination to support capacity and coverage gains. Additional operator benefits include increased network efficiency and improved customer satisfaction. Our TOTALeNodeB™ LTE small cell software supports LTE-Advanced deployments. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to learn more about any of these capabilities.