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LTE-Advanced: The Hope Beyond the Hype
Wireless has always been a game of one-upmanship, as operators and vendors look to leapfrog competitors by rolling out a next-generation technology. For example, although most operators have barely begun building Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, a few are planning to launch commercial LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) as early as the first quarter of 2013.

Also known as Release 10 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP R10) family of standards, LTE-A bears watching by pretty much every member of the telecom ecosystem, rather than just wireless vendors and mobile operators.

LTE-A achieves fast throughput largely by combining carriers meaning frequencies, not operators to deliver higher speeds than a single carrier can handle. The more carriers that are combined, the higher the theoretical and real-world speeds. (R10 supports up to five carriers and a total of 100 MHz.) As a result, an LTE-A operator's competitive position is closely linked to its spectrum holdings, because the more it has, the more carriers it can bond together.

Like carrier aggregation, MIMO is also in commercial use but is taken to new extremes by LTE-A. The standard supports a maximum of 8x8 MIMO on the downlink and 4x4 on the uplink. Higher-order MIMO directly improves performance. For example, Ericsson's 2011 drive-around demo used 8x8 MIMO to achieve 1Gbit/s speeds.

Unlike LTE, LTE-A doesn't require network-wide forklift upgrades and wholesale architectural changes. So, in that regard, LTE-A will provide an incremental boost to infrastructure spending through the end of this decade. That's not to say that LTE-A is a small-revenue opportunity. Just the opposite: Eventually the entire mobile ecosystem will migrate to LTE-A.

Although the first commercial networks will launch in 2013, LTE-A is still a few more years from being a major player in the telecom market. "We wouldn't consider LTE-A to be really mainstream much before 2016, just because what little pockets there are of it are not necessarily going to be the kind of things that generate ecosystem economics," says one operator.

LTE-Advanced: The Hope Beyond the Hype identifies and analyzes key issues affecting the LTE-A market. It includes a look at how LTE-A fits in with other technologies and trends, including small cells, Wi-Fi offloading and cloud RAN. This analysis is based on input from a representative sampling of operators, infrastructure vendors, silicon suppliers, trade associations and other ecosystem members. Some sources were willing to go into detail about their R10 and R11 roadmaps on the condition that those plans weren't attributed to them. As a result, many of product availability and network buildout dates discussed in this report are aggregates.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei0412_toc.pdf)
Mobile operators have several options for deploying LTE-A so many, in fact, that it's likely that the technology will fuel yet another round of marketing wars over whose network is truly LTE-A, 4G, 4G+, 5G or whatever the terminology turns out to be. This debate risks creating confusion among end users and, in turn, could make it more expensive and difficult for operators and device vendors to differentiate their LTE-A products and services. The following excerpt summarizes the major differences between LTE and LTE-A.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies mentioned in this report include: Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A); Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Altair Semiconductor Ltd.; Clearwire Corp. (Nasdaq: CLWR); Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Mindspeed Technologies Inc. (formerly picoChip) (Nasdaq: MSPD); Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM); RadiSys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS); Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S); and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN)
Total pages: 12
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