Quietly, LTE-Advanced Advances

Carl Weinschenk
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We haven’t seen a lot of headlines, but the next, and very potent, form of LTE is making good progress. Perhaps if they had given the standard a fresher name it would be generating more attention. LTE Advanced (LTE-A) sounds more like a tweak than a theoretic doubling of capacity.

Two bookends must be in place for LTE-A to be available to subscribers: Networks must be upgraded and mobile devices capable of supporting the standard must be produced and made available. Currently, a relatively small handful of both networks and endpoints support LTE-A.

But progress is being made.  ZDNet’s Jo Best reports that this week Bouygues Telecom (France) and Swisscom (Switzerland) said that they are launching LTE-A, which she writes also is known as 4G+, this year. Bouygues already has rolled out in seven towns and cities and will add 16 in autumn. In the initial areas, only one hotspot and one gateway are now capable of using the LTE-A services. Mobile devices will follow next month.

A similar approach is being used by Swisscom, though the wait for devices will be a bit longer.

Equipment news is also being made. CNET reports that the version of the Galaxy S5 Prime on South Korea’s SK Telecom will support LTE-A. That network maxes out at 225 Megabits per second (Mbps), which is about triple the speed of most LTE networks.

Other equipment news is filtering out. Korea Times reports that LG Electronics is expected to release a LTE-A-capable phone and VentureBeat notes that the iPhone 6 is expected to offer 300 Mbps via an LTE Category 6 radio. That, the report says, is an interim step on the road to LTE-A.

The number of people with access to LTE-A still is small. But it is growing. FierceWireless offers a take on worldwide penetration of LTE-A. The nine commercial deployments will reach 40 by year’s end. In the U.S., AT&T offers LTE-A today. The other three major carriers will follow suit this year and next.

The difference between the speeds offered by the “real” LTE and the “real” LTE-A remain to be seen. It undoubtedly will differ greatly. The main takeaway, however, is that during the next couple of years, carriers’ marketing departments will make an increasingly big deal about the new iteration of LTE.

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