Ericsson demonstrates LTE Advanced to regulators

The demonstration used three times as much spectrum as current systems to reach over 900M bps

Using commercial hardware, telecommunications equipment vendor Ericsson demonstrated LTE Advanced to regulators in Stockholm on Tuesday.

The demonstration was the first time Ericsson has showcased key LTE Advanced functionality such as carrier aggregation over the air, using spectrum it had borrowed from the Swedish regulator PTS, in a mobile environment, the company said.

The easiest way to increase mobile broadband speeds is to use wider channels. But spectrum is a limited resource, so the telecom industry has had to come up with a solution that circumvents that reality, and that is carrier aggregation. The technology allows operators to bunch together spectrum in different bands and use them as one data link.

The Ericsson demonstration used three channels at 20MHz each and recorded download speeds at up to about 940M bps (bits per second). That is three times as much spectrum as the current generation of LTE needs to perform at its best, which is about 80M bps. A recent test of TeliaSonera's network in Stockholm topped out at 84.5M bps.

Ericsson invited regulators to show what is possible when enough spectrum is made available and also to highlight the need for spectrum harmonization, the company said.

Swedish regulator PTS wants to encourage local operators to use carrier aggregation, which it has done by making spectrum licenses neutral, according to Urban Landmark, head of its spectrum department and one of the attendees at Ericsson's demonstration. The Swedish government wants 85 percent to 90 percent of all households and businesses to have access to at least 100M bps by 2020 and that won't be possible unless operators can use technologies such as carrier aggregations, Landmark said.

However, just using carrier aggregation isn't enough to get mobile network download speeds close to 1,000M bps. The Ericsson demonstration also used multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) functionality, a technology that increases download speeds by sending data using multiple antenna -- in this case, eight antennas in both the base station and on the user equipment. To what extent vendors are able to implement that on devices remains to be seen, but it will be easier on tablets and laptops compared to smartphones because of the increased real estate.

Ericsson expects the first stages of LTE Advanced to be in commercial operation in 2013.

LTE is still very much in its infancy, but it is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association). So far, commercial networks have been launched in Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Lithuania, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, the U.S. and Uzbekistan, it said in a report published last month. The GSA expects that at least 81 networks will be in service by the end of the year and 154 firm deployments are in progress or planned in 60 countries, it said.

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