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Uncovering More of the LTE-A Smorgasbord
Danny Dicks | Analyst
As Release 10 and 11 of the 3GPP's LTE standards are being turned on, operators are seeking features that offer the biggest bang for their buck.

From the smorgasbord of technologies considered and standardized by 3GPP, various forms of carrier aggregation will be the most significant over the next year or two.
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LTE-A: State of the Market
Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a set of standards defined by the 3GPP. Most commercial LTE networks use equipment and devices built around Releases 8/9 of the standards. As of April 2014, the latest agreed release is Release 11 ("functionally frozen" in December 2012), with Release 12 scheduled for freezing in September 2014. Many network equipment providers' LTE hardware and software can already offer features complying with the relevant parts of the standards for Release 10 and above, though they do not necessarily support every feature defined by those standards.

Pretty much all vendors, analysts and operators agree that Release 10 could be called LTE-Advanced, or LTE-A. Some would say that subsequent releases of the 3GPP standards would also be LTE-A. However, some are using other terms, such as LTE-B, for features that will be implemented in Releases 11 and 12.

There is some confusion about how the term LTE-A applies to specific networks or services. This is because not all features defined by Releases 10 and above will be deployed by all operators: they will not all be needed in all cases. It's better to think of LTE-A as a toolkit of enhancements for LTE from which operators can pick and choose to suit their specific needs. (Though commercial services are being branded in several ways, such as "4G+.")

In this report, we define LTE-A as "a broad and developing set of features of LTE networks, codified in 3GPP Release 10 and subsequent releases, to enhance the speed and performance of LTE networks."

The set of features that will be deployed in LTE-A networks is starting to become clearer: they will be those features that, for any specific operator, enable efficient use of spectrum assets for maximum capacity and coverage, and those that improve the user experience of mobile data wherever they are in the network (including at the cell edge).

Operators are looking for those features that give them the biggest improvement at lowest cost and easiest deployment. From the smorgasbord of technologies considered and standardized by 3GPP in Releases 10 and above of LTE, various forms of carrier aggregation, including multi-mode, more than two carriers, dual connectivity and possibly use of unlicensed spectrum, will be the most significant over the next year or two. Devices using chipsets supporting Cat 6 data rates will increasingly be available to help operators make the most of the increased speeds they can offer to subscribers.

LTE-A: State of the Market looks at the state of the market for LTE-A networks and services. It reviews those features of the 3GPP specifications for Release 10 and beyond, and examines why some of them are being deployed and trialed by operators around the world while others are likely to remain unrealized for some time. It also looks at the availability of chipsets and devices supporting LTE-A features. Finally, it gives the perspectives on LTE-A market development of eight leading vendors of LTE-A network infrastructure.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei0614_toc_2.pdf)
Every operator deploying LTE-A features is likely to pick and choose those features to suit its specific circumstances. The decision drivers will relate to competitive pressures, spectrum holdings (and strategy), current capacity of the RAN, backhaul and core networks, service mix and customer base and incumbent equipment vendors' solution roadmaps. The most significant features that operators will be looking to deploy to achieve capacity and network densification aims, and the likely timetable for their implementation, are shown in the following excerpt.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies profiled in this report include: Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRO); Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.; NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNF); Nokia Networks, a division of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK); Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS); and ZTE Corp. (Nasdaq: ZTCOF).
Total pages: 18
JUNE 2014
Carrier Wi-Fi Roaming: Old Dog, New Tricks
This report identifies and analyzes key issues driving and inhibiting the market for carrier Wi-Fi roaming. The report is based on interviews with a representative sample of companies in the ecosystem.
READ SUMMARY
Including table of contents, executive summary, and financial metrics
FEBRUARY 2014
5G Development Plans Begin to Take Shape
This report presents the 5G visions from operators, vendors and research groups. Some of the ideas may not ever see the light of day in a commercial network. But from these visions, there will one day emerge a workable 5G wireless system.
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Including table of contents, executive summary, and financial metrics
DECEMBER 2013
Mobile Call Quality: Does Better Really Matter?
This report identifies and analyzes key issues affecting the market for mobile voice products and services, including handsets, infrastructure and HD Voice licenses. The report is based on interviews with a representative sample of companies.
READ SUMMARY
Including table of contents, executive summary, and financial metrics
"I love the attitude. Keep it up!"
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- Cliff Arellano, President, Com-munications Products, Inc.
CONTRIBUTING ANALYST
Danny Dicks
Danny is an analyst and consultant with over 20 years' experience in technology markets who contributes regularly to Heavy Reading Insider.
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Danny Dicks
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ANALYST
Tim Kridel
Tim writes for both Mobile Networks Insider and Cable Industry Insider. He has previously covered the wireless and cable industries for a number of research firms, including Heavy Reading.
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Tim Kridel
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ANALYST
Tim Sanders
Tim, president of The Final Mile Inc., is a frequent author, analyst, and industry speaker.
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Tim Sanders
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