By: Rafael Andrade

The technical challenges to shifting from 3G to LTE are stiff. However, the shift is inevitable — traffic volume is rapidly increasing, and exacting users will migrate to other providers if speed and Quality of Service (QoS) standards aren’t met. How do carriers meet the challenges of monitoring and troubleshooting LTE services while minimizing capital expenditures and operating costs? How do they retain customer loyalty and strengthen their brand for the long term?

The answer is the adoption of efficient LTE test solutions that enable both effective trials and the ability to maintain high QoS over the long term.

LTE is quickly gaining ground

Although the actual number of current LTE subscribers is low, this number will change drastically very soon. In Europe and the U.S., 17 commercial LTE networks are online and 73 more will be operating by the start of 20131. Additionally, 140 carriers are committed to LTE deployment and 56 have pilots underway. The competitive pressures driving the upgrade are much greater than when 3G technology was deployed and the increasing demand for bandwidth is continuing unabated.

LTE offers significant performance gains thanks to major changes to the existing radio-access and core networks relative to previous-generation CDMA and 3GPP deployments. These changes include the replacement of base station by the new eNodeB and the replacement of the core network by a new evolved packet core (EPC). The downlink uses orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) radio access while the uplink uses signal-carrier frequency-division multiple access (SCFDMA). Both the uplink and the downlink use multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technology.

Other important LTE capabilities include:

  • peak downlink data rates up to 326 Mbps with 20 MHz bandwidth
  • peak uplink data rates up to 86.4 Mbps with 20 MHz bandwidth
  • time-division duplex (TDD) and frequency-division duplex (FDD) operation modes
  • scalable bandwidth covering 1.4, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz
  • increased spectral efficiency of between two and four to one relative to HSPA
  • no more than 10 milliseconds round-trip latency between user equipment and the base station
Service providers are striving to be first-to-market, but several factors make time-compressed LTE deployments complex. First adopters tend to have exacting QoS demands, requiring more troubleshooting and issue management. There are more test points requiring monitoring and huge volumes of data that need to be correlated across the network. For more interfaces must be tapped, and the signaling that goes with service delivery is much more complex.

1Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)

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