LTE-Advanced: Coming to a Cellular Provider Near You

Carl Weinschenk
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Like painting the Golden Gate or the George Washington bridges, the rebuilding of the cellular network is a never-ending cycle. Once the end is reached, a new upgrade begins. Some of the upgrades – from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G, for instance – are dramatic. Some are a bit less so.

A less than overwhelming but still very important transition in cellular networking is getting under way. GigaOm and other sites report that AT&T has put its toe in the water on LTE-Advanced (LTE-A).

The technique improves performance by aggregating capacity together and thereby increasing throughput. Though it isn’t the newsmaker that other upgrades are, it is important and is being phased in slowly. GigaOm’s Kevin Fitchard says that AT&T is the first user of LTE-A in the U.S. It is deploying LTE-A in Chicago and perhaps other places. It is filtering in from Asia, where it has more than a toehold. Fitchard adds that the other major carriers have it in their roadmap. More information on carrier plans for LTE-A is available from Rohde & Schwarz.


London also is getting into the LTE-A game. The Register reports that EE is planning to roll out the service in south London and subsequently to the rest of the city. The story fills in some of the names in Fitchard’s point about usage in the Pacific. Also, SK Telecom and LG U Plus are offering LTE-A in South Korea.

A faster network is useless unless infrastructure, up to and including devices, is available to take advantage of it. CIOL reports that at Mobile World Congress last month in Spain, Qualcomm, Samsung, SK Telecom and KT demonstrated LTE-A category 6 connectivity. That level of LTE-A has a potential capacity of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps). The equipment lineup for the demonstration included a modified Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone and a Snapdragon 805 processor and Gobi 9x35 modem from Qualcomm.

Last week, Fudzilla discussed the landscape for the rollout of LTE-A. Fuad Abazovic wrote that U.S. carriers had been considering use of lower levels of LTE-A, but now Intel and others are discussing LTE-A Category 6:

LTE Cat 6 is a new technology that uses 2x20 MHz channels and can reach the speeds of 300Mbits download and 50Mbit upload. These actual speeds are unlikely to ever happen in your mobile device anytime soon, but this is the theoretical peak bandwidth.

LTE-A is a new chapter, or subchapter, if the somewhat less dramatic nature of the rollout is considered, of cellular technology. It appears to be a standard with tremendous flexibility, hence the six versions, and may be something that a newcomer, such as Dish Network, could use.



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