4G Americas is an industry trade organization composed of many leading companies in the world of wireless communication. Their stated goal is to promote 4G adoption throughout North, Central and South America, by pushing the 3GPP agenda, doing advocacy and education about new 4G technologies. Their president, Chris Pearson, spoke about the growing implementation of LTE in this region of the world.
First, he believes that LTE is an important technology, providing high speed and low latency communication for data when using mobile devices. There’s no question that the demand for such high speed services is growing. However, LTE isn’t the only answer. He says: “LTE isn’t a destination; it is part of the continuing evolution of technology that occurs in wireless, and that evolution will lead to new 3GPP network technologies in the future such as LTE-Advanced.”
Indeed, LTE-Advanced adds a number of useful features to the current LTE spec, such as scalable bandwidth, autonomous network configuration, and enhanced error correction. This new technology is expected to be standardized soon by the 3GPP, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, and make its way into current networks. Currently, there are 30 commercial deployments of LTE in the region, and 75 more expected to be implemented by the end of 2012. Over 160 LTE devices have been introduced so far, he says, which exemplifies the momentum of LTE.
As for helping to solve actual problems like the lack of bandwidth, Pearson says LTE helps because it is a more efficient protocol, but only the addition of more spectrum can end the data crunch. LTE is just one part of the solution, and both governments and the industry must work together to solve mobile issues. Right now, frequencies are varied around the world, which is why a phone in the US may not work in Europe or Asia, because they use different frequencies. Pearson doesn’t see it as a huge issue, but would like the spectrum to be unified at least by region. HSPA+ can be used for roaming instead.
One added benefit of LTE is something called VoLTE, or Voice over LTE, which allows voice to be sent as data. However, according to Pearson, while voice certainly is growing in demand, data is growing much faster, and LTE is much more useful to solve data issues. UMTS, the typical way voice is sent over the wireless channel, is actually quite efficient for analog talk: “Voice service in most countries throughout the Americas is still growing, but the biggest demands on the network are from increased data usage.”
Finally, when discussing the future, he says the industry must work closely together to solve these issues. LTE is not an end but a mean to reach better and higher speed data connections in the cellphone market, and through a cooperative effort, the services offered will grow and become more useful to customers. With added innovation in the wireless industry, society will keep growing and innovating.