4G is here – and it’s fast

The arrival of LTE will boost the speed of mobile networks

[Article written by Nick Booth published in the Review]

The next generation of mobile networks will support ultra-fast multimedia and data applications. No wonder the technology is called Long Term Evolution.

Although second generation (2G) networks still account for the majority of the world’s mobile connections, the appetite for mobile data continues to grow exponentially. Today’s iPhones, Android devices and tablet PCs are more powerful than desktop PCs were five years ago, and they could not have existed without the infrastructure provided by third generation (3G) networks.

But the massive worldwide uptake of 3G merely whetted the appetite for even faster speeds. Imagine the possibilities if these devices could be connected to the internet at speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) – much faster than your home broadband. This is now becoming possible through fourth generation (4G) networking technology such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), which is starting to gain momentum around the world.

Like its 4G sibling WiMAX, LTE is an Internet Protocol (IP) based technology, which sets it apart from previous generations of mobile signaling. The designers of LTE re-engineered the way that multiplexing (dividing up the time and frequency parameters of a signal) is used, in order to pack more data across a connection. As a result, LTE currently achieves download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and uplink speeds of more than 50Mbps. (Source: 4G Americas.)

Compare that with your home broadband service, which, if you’re lucky, gives you 10Mbps, and you can appreciate the quantum leap that LTE represents. Consumers will appreciate the difference when they see how well films, video conferences and presentations work on their future smartphones using LTE connections.

A global standard

This new technology offers the promise of being the first truly global wireless standard,” says Dan Warren, Director of Technology at the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide.

LTE takes advantage of the scalability of internet architectures and combines it with the security of the GSM family of networks based on smart cards. Its IP framework gives it significantly higher capacity, which in turn offers economies of scale. This capacity means that LTE will support voice, video, text, web, email and gaming to the same standard as, if not better than, a cabled network. It also creates the potential for more location-based services and presence applications that take advantage of the user’s mobility.

The significance of this becomes clear when you consider that mobile broadband subscribers will grow by 1,000% by 2014 and that there will be more than 2 billion mobile broadband users, generating annual revenues of US$137 billion. (Source: Ovum Research.)

The GSMA expects LTE to grow from 4.2 million connections in 24 countries by the end of 2011 to almost 300 million in 55 countries by 2015. “Mobile network operators around the world are investing in mobile broadband infrastructure and network upgrades,” Warren explains, “and this is paving the way for LTE to gain real traction.”

A harmonious LTE rollout will generate the momentum that drives the cost of everything, from bandwidth to handsets. Today there are 21 live commercial LTE networks in 13 countries, with the US and Japan leading the way and Austria, Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden blazing a trail in Europe.

However, some countries, such as the UK and France, have not even released the required spectrum yet. Other markets that would benefit hugely from mobile broadband, notably emerging countries such as India and Indonesia, have also been slow in releasing the new spectrum. So these countries will have to wait longer for the economic benefits of mobile broadband, and especially LTE.

In countries where LTE is available, users are already spoilt for choice as to how they exploit its potential. Smartphones will have massive significance, but it’s not just about iPhones and Android devices. Tablets, laptops, desktop PCs and Macs will all get access to this fast wireless, using USB keys, femtocells and a range of gadgets. Wireless Intelligence says that 104 LTE-ready devices are already available from 33 vendors.
 

Benefits for operators

With today’s mobile handsets packing more computing power than NASA used to put a man on the moon, and with LTE offering instant access to every application you could possibly need, the benefits to consumers are obvious. But what’s in it for mobile network operators?

The simple answer is that the number of channels now available for making voice calls (internet telephony services such as Skype, for example) means that mobile operators can’t make big profits by selling phone calls. However, 3G turns them into data service providers and LTE gives them an even better bottom line: its efficient infrastructure makes for lower operating costs, so data services are cheaper to provide and more tempting to the consumer.

Whether that makes the operators the new kings of content or just mobile advertisers is a moot point. Many predict that the major players in the digital world – the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon – will be the real kings of content and the mobile operators their servants.

But no single company can drive this market on its own. Initiatives already in progress are galvanising stakeholders into creating and securing the necessary infrastructure. For example, Gemalto is helping to secure Japan’s first commercial LTE rollout in partnership with NTT DOCOMO, which trialed a prototype 4G system as long ago as 2007.

Over the next few years, collaborations such as this will help to create ultra-high-speed networks that will make even 3G look snail-like by comparison.

Gemalto at the forefront

18 Advanced OTA Platforms deployed since 2011 including Verizon, NTT Docomo and Metro PCS
Multi-award LTE technology in 2011-2013

LTE Awards

Gemalto is leading the way in several commercial LTE deployments and through its work with the LTE Work Group in the SIMalliance. It is helping mobile network operators – such as NTT DOCOMO in Japan and Verizon Wireless in the US – deploy new value-added services using ultra-high-speed data access and IP connectivity.

Its LTE solutions include the LTE Full-IP Over-The-Air platform, which enables operators to instantly activate the end-user’s subscriptions, manage user rights and securely deliver a reliable data connection over their LTE network. Meanwhile, the LTE Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) provides the reassurance of business continuity with state-of-the-art security and connectivity.

Gemalto won the “Best LTE Security Product Award” at the LTE World Summit 2013. The award recognizes the best-in-class security delivered by Gemalto’s Advanced Connectivity solution, which combines the LinqUs™ Advanced OTA platform with the UpTeq™ LTE UICC card. This end-to-end solution creates a
fast and secure connectivity layer, on top of which mobile operators and service providers can deploy new value added services such as LTE subscription activation, payment applications, multimedia distribution and machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity.
Know more about Gemalto LTE awards.
To find out more, go to Gemalto’s Advanced Connectivity solution.

Go to Gemalto Blog

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