A short note on 3.9G/4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Mobile broadband networks

Mobile broadband networks are becoming increasingly faster and increasingly more pervasive. In this article, let us have a look at one popular technology – The 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) – 3.9G/4G network which has enabled anytime/ anywhere high capacity mobile broadband access.

If you are looking to upgrade to 4G technology from 3G/3.5G today, think again! 4G technology is not available, yet. What is available in few markets (as 4G) is actually 3.9G LTE – Long Term Evolution Technology. Its also called Pre-4G technology. 4G comes with Long Term Evolution Advanced standard, which will be released shortly.

If you belong to an enterprise company, why bother about this at all – You have a huge fat pipe of Internet Leased Lines from service providers, right? Well, 3G had its share of enterprise applications. With LTE and 4G getting faster and cheaper, there is a good chance that these mobile broadband technologies might have even more applications (at the enterprise level) and replace some fixed line connections – at least in smaller/ remote branches.

So, how fast is LTE? Since this is a Pre-4G standard, the minimum data rates are –  i. 100 Mbps (Downlink peak rate), ii. 50 Mbps (Uplink peak rate). When the 4G Standard comes along (LTE Advanced), there will be data rates up to 1000 Mbps for fixed networks. The RTT (Round Trip Time) for LTE networks is (should be) less than 10 ms. So, low latency based real time applications like video and multimedia are supported on LTE networks.

LTE operates in multiple frequency bands (depending up on the continent). The commonly used frequency bands are 700/900/1800/1900/2600 Mhz. So, if you have a Quad band handset (mobile phone), there is a good chance that 4G will be supported in many countries.

LTE is forward compatible with LTE advanced standard. So, if you buy an LTE enabled mobile phone today, it would work with LTE Advanced networks of tomorrow as well, but with the speeds of LTE network.

One important aspect of an LTE network is the fact that it is an All IP network at both Core and Access levels. Even voice runs as Voice Over IP Protocol (VOIP) on LTE Networks. Because of this, LTE networks have advantages like,

LTE networks uses OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) and MIMO (Multiple In and Multiple Out) technologies to achieve cell coverage areas of around 5 to 100 KM.

LTE is a 3GPP Standard (Third Generation Partnership Project), in which a lot of telecommunications companies around the world, are a part. This enables interoperability and bulk manufacturing which decreases the overall cost of the implementation of technology.

Many devices like netbooks, laptops, tablet computers, gaming devices, etc come (or will come) with integrated LTE modules for easier access of the LTE network. Even otherwise, there are external modems/ USB dongles which can be connected, to enable LTE network access. With some vendors/ operators, it is possible to fall back to 3G/HSPA technologies in areas where there is no coverage for LTE/4G networks.

There are a lot of advantages of mobile broadband networks. Its possible to access the Internet while on the move, or from anywhere there is network coverage. There is no need (or time involved) for laying of cables to the customer premises. But there are some limitations, like the battery power (on mobile phones) that need to be improved drastically to enable prolonged access to Internet. Cost is another factor that needs to be considered – Customers may not pay more for speeds that they don’t need. It takes substantial amount of investment (on service provider side) to introduce LTE over a large area.

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