LTE Progression

The A, B, C of LTE is about more than definitions. As well as a deepening technical direction LTE is moving to a role as a service platform, ripe for development and extensions.

Just over a year ago 3GPP, the body that standardises technical developments in mobile network architecture and networks, took the rather unusual step of releasing a statement asking the industry to quit referring to upcoming technical features in shorthand terms such as LTE-A, LTE-B, LTE-C.

3GPP was worried that the shorthand adoption of LTE-A for LTE-Advanced features was in turn leading to the creeping use of terms such as LTE-B and LTE-C to describe technologies specified beyond the current R10 and R11 timeframe.

The 3GPP statement said:
“3GPP recognises that in the marketplace a number of differing terms related to LTE are appearing. 3GPP reaffirms that the naming for the technology family and its evolution continues to be covered by the term LTE-Advanced, which remains the correct description for specifications currently being defined – from Release 10 onwards, including 3GPP Release 12.”

The idea was that the market would be confused by creeping use of shorthand to describe something that goes beyond LTE-Advanced as it is currently understood. This was not helped by some people using LTE-B to refer to LTE Broadcast, or LTE-D to stand for LTE-Direct. Far easier to keep everything within the LTE-Advanced umbrella.

Of course, the market looked on the 3GPP’s works, shrugged, and moved on to defining the post-LTE-Advanced world as 5G, thereby opening up a whole can of confusion.

But although the 3GPP strives for purity of definition, which is understandable as that is its whole raison d’etre, the important thing about what’s coming next in LTE is not what we call it, but what is actually coming next. Our following features look at some crucial issues and features relating to the development of LTE networks. We look at Het Net Co-Ordination, and at Cloud-Ran architectures including how that relates to small cells deployments. We also look at the enablement of a critical service within LTE – voice and VoLTE.

Horizontal LTE

As well as these features, many of which are designed to deepen capacity and widen the scope and availability high speeds in terms of cell edge and cell range, LTE as a technology is also travelling in another direction. If the “more features enabling more bandwidth” path represents a vertical deepening of LTE’s capabilities, you might call this other direction a horizontal expansion. That is because this direction of travel sees LTE radio technology being used for something other than increased cellular capacities, but instead utilises (in the proper meaning of that word) LTE for a wider range of applications. Although these may be niche use cases, I think they are interesting to keep an eye on for three main reasons.

  1. They offer a chance for operators to make more money from an asset they have already deployed (the LTE network). For little extra outlay operators have a chance to open up new revenue opportunities.
  2. They offer a chance for operators to genuinely work in “partnership” with other players from within the tech/mobile industry. Win-win partnerships with developers/ content owners etc is a topic that we hear a lot about but so far with little evidence of progress.
  3. They could offer a “defensive” play against what carriers see as encroachment on their service repertoire, or allow certain carriers to “disrupt” their competitors in fixed and mobile.

The LTE expansion technologies that I think are interesting are these…

Interested to read more. Read the complete feature in our digital issue.