LTE Picks up Speed

The US is the world’s largest LTE market, and just two operators, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, account for 35% of global LTE subscriptions.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

VoLTE has been a bit of a laggard, but the technology offers near-instant call connection, High Definition (HD) voice quality, HD video, multi-media calls and enables a seamless exchange of voice calls across 2G, 3G and 4G coverage. VoLTE is crucial, especially if operators want to deliver enhanced communication services that compete with OTT offerings like WhatsApp, Skype, and Google Hangouts. Without VoLTE, the benefits of LTE almost exclusively exist in the mobile data realm.

After many false starts, premature marketing announcements, and “live demos” for years at trade shows, VoLTE is finally going live in the mobile networks of the big dogs. Roughly 15 commercial VoLTE services have been launched in 2014 on mobile networks from companies including AT&T, Verizon, and NTT DOCOMO. According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 21 percent of operators (71 operators in 36 countries) are currently investing in VoLTE deployments, a figure that is expected to double next year.

“The pace of introduction [of VoLTE] is accelerating and several more launches are imminent,” said Alan Hadden, President of the GSA. “We have seen a significant uptake in deployments of VoLTE-enabled HD voice services and LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation systems, and these are the major industry trends worldwide. The LTE Broadcast feature is also gaining industry traction with trials and studies progressing in all regions.”


LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) is moving just as fast, if not faster than VoLTE. It allows content to be broadcast to an unlimited number of users through a single stream of data, freeing up network capacity for general use when launched commercially. Future uses of the broadcast technology, some of which have already been tested, include people listening to live commentary, getting real time match statistics and being able to watch replays and game highlights on their smartphone or tablet.

Facebook is collaborating with Qualcomm to leverage LTE-B to streamline updates to user devices. Jay Parikh, Vice President of infrastructure at Facebook, told Wireless Week that “the two companies have been partners for years and that they’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what can be done with LTE Broadcast".

Telstra recently trialed LTE-B during a soccer match. Mike Wright, Executive Director Networks, said the trial follows successful lab demonstrations and would be one of the first live event LTE-B trials in the world, marking a significant step in developing the technology for commercial use.

“When a large number of people gather in one place we often see a huge spike in the demand for data, which can stretch the capabilities of our network and affect our customers’ experience. This is particularly evident during sporting events with a lot of our customers looking to enhance the live event by accessing commentary or stats online,” said Mr. Wright.

“LTE-B offers us the ability to deliver content more effectively and provide all users the same high quality service using one single stream of data. This streamlined process frees up the rest of the network to carry other data, voice and text messages," Wright added.


The hottest developments, especially with regard to speed, are happening on the front lines of LTE with LTE-Advanced (LTE-A). Early in the year, companies like Nokia Networks, Huawei, and Ericsson demonstrated LTE-Advanced in live networks. SK Telecom actually launched its LTE-A network commercially in 2013. According to an estimate by ABI Research, there were 60 LTE-A networks worldwide either in the form of commitments, trials or commercial deployment at the end of the first quarter of 2014. Since then, many LTE-A networks have gone live, from Vodafone Australia to Magyar Telecom in Hungary to LMT in Latvia.


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