vacancies advertise contact news tip The Vault
facebook rss twitter

LTE inflection point expected late 2012

by Scott Bicheno on 21 February 2011, 14:59

Tags: Altair Semiconductor

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa4pd

Add to My Vault: x

Oh to be 4G

As we saw at CES 2011, 4G has moved very much into the mainstream. On one level it's easy to understand: 3G is what we currently use for mobile data, so 4G must be one better. If only it were that simple.

It's precisely because 4G is such a simple, easy to understand concept that marketing people have latched onto it like a thirsty leech. But within that term are a bunch of technologies, standards and levels of performance. We've seen HSPA+ described as 4G, but most people seems to agree the term starts at LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution.

That name itself belies what a vague standard it is. There are at least three evolutions of LTE, and that's before you get to LTE advanced, which isn't expected to arrive before 2014. We first used the slide below in a story about ARM's new Cortex R series and, as you can see, ARM doesn't reckon the term 4G is accurate before you get to LTE-A.

 

 

So to try to wade through some of this arcane murk, we spoke to Siegmund Redl, GM for Europe at Altair Semiconductor - a specialist in LTE chips. He concurred that there is a lot of conflicting messaging around 4G right now, but insisted there are a lot of real-world uses for the technology right now.

Currently Altair ships a lot of its chips in LTE USB dongles, as illustrated below. As well as the radio IC, Altair also provides the baseband processor, which ARM must be miffed to see is based on MIPS architecture. Redl reckons the market for such products is around two million units worldwide.

But that's set to accelerate rapidly, and Redl predicted that the inflection point - when LTE will become a realistic mass-market proposition - will come towards the end of 2012. While a lot of the requisite testing, etc has already been done, the automatic transition to and from LTE to older mobile technologies remains a major obstacle to be overcome.

For 4G chips to appear embedded in more devices, the multimode (2/3/4G) challenge needs to be overcome. In the meantime, another niche use for LTE, due to its greater range, is rural mobile ‘white spots' where there's no mobile coverage.

 

Click for more from MWC 2011

Click for more from MWC 2011

 



HEXUS Forums :: 4 Comments

Login with Forum Account

Don't have an account? Register today!
LTE is pointless unless they work on the capacity and backhaul… I have NEVER seen anywhere close to 14Mbps on 3.5G, it's barely better than 3G in most areas of London.

My 2Mbps (yes 2, in London, pathetic) ADSL2+ line is always better than 3.5G on my phone.
The mobile communications god is turning in his grave now that the marketting men have finally got their way and the terms 2.5G/3.5G/3.9G are receiving widespread adoption even on technical forums.

:(
ajones
The mobile communications god is turning in his grave now that the marketting men have finally got their way and the terms 2.5G/3.5G/3.9G are receiving widespread adoption even on technical forums.

:(

Better that than confusion between totally different ‘4G’ speeds/technologies all sharing the same name.
miniyazz
Better that than confusion between totally different ‘4G’ speeds/technologies all sharing the same name.

/rant

Actually, I'd argue the opposite. 3GPP specs make it perfectly clear what the differences are in the technology, but the marketting folks “don't need to understand the technicalities” so just want some terms that show the difference using a bigger number.

It used to be that neither the initial LTE or WiMAX solutions could be considered 4G because of the definitions specified in the 3GPP specs. 3.5G is UMTS (that's 3G) with support for enhanced capacity, new codecs, new radio channels etc… in other words, a feature set, not a new release. This is the same distinction as the addition of the GPRS to GSM (that turned 2G into 2.5…., but it's still GSM!). These are all clearly defined in 3GPP releases.

OK, changes to release naming convention didn't help matters, eg 3GPP release 4 was produced after release 99 and after GSM phase 2…. But the bottom line is that WiMAX is a completely difference technology from 3GPP, just as the US CDMA networks were completley different to our GSM networks.

Now though, both can be termed 4G and not work with each other without changes to the network architecture. We've enough on our plate with mobile convergence without having the add-men involved.

My point is that it's sad that these terms are being used now by the suppliers of the technology because of marketting , and are themselves making a distinction that does not exist in order to make things easier for them to understand.

/rant off

4G is a massive change for the networks, but how much of that impacts the end user will require work to the transmission backbone in order to handle the capacity. My mentor when I first started in the business once said to me “Telecoms is all about getting something for nothing”…