LTE is All About Balancing Cost & Capacity

Bernard Breton
Jun. 11 2010

By Bernard Breton, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Infovista

The availability of data hungry devices, like the iPhone and USB data cards for laptops, along with flat-rate data packages, has led to a massive increase in the data traffic carried by wireless networks. Unfortunately, this is also creating a fracture between the revenue and the demand, with demand growing at a much faster pace than revenue. Not all operators are there yet but ultimately, all operators will face this issue.

Today's data-heavy devices are ingrained into every aspect of our lives both at home and at work which has led to over-burdened mobile networks. The demand is steadily increasing and operators can either ignore the trends and risk losing market share to the competition or adapt in order to remain competitive and find ways to remain profitable. When looking at an increase of wireless data traffic, two aspects are of particular importance: The spectral efficiency of the solution and the cost-per-bit. LTE certainly offers the promise to improve both.

Boost Spectral Efficiency with Better Planning
LTE release 8 uses several technological evolutions that make it possible to extract more capacity out of the wireless channel. Of particular interest is the use of OFDMA. It facilitates the implementation of MIMO and provides an improved multi-user scheduler performance with the use of scheduling in both the frequency and time domain. Comparing LTE to HSPA release 6 shows an increased spectral efficiency of 2-3 times over a 5MHz channel. Like any technology, it is possible to substantially increase the spectral efficiency of LTE through better network planning. As we say at Mentum, better design leads to a better network. In an LTE world, a better network is one that can carry more traffic and reduce the average cost-per-bit delivered.

Invest in the Future of Your Network
The cost of a delivered bit of LTE is lower than previous technologies thanks to its simplified architecture (flat RAN with IP core) and indeed of its increased spectral efficiency. Nevertheless, there is a cost to achieving this lower cost-per-bit. New eNodeBs must be deployed and in many cases, several other aspects of the network must be improved or transformed (backhaul, IP core, antenna systems, etc.). Each operator therefore faces a barrier to entry and will need to make a substantial upfront investment in their network.

As we say at Mentum, doing things right at the beginning paves the way for optimal network performance in the future. In order for an operator to protect their investment, it is important to roll-out the network in an optimal manner where the demand and competitive landscape are both considered as driving forces for the deployment. Creating a strategic plan upfront that outlines goals and objectives, along with the operator's technical and financial parameters, is key to successfully overlaying LTE onto an existing network.

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