4G rollout is good news for OEMs
The introduction of 4G in the UK will transform the mobile and M2M markets and bring exciting opportunities not only to mobile operators but to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), application developers and engineering system designers and integrators, writes By Andrew Green, Sierra Wireless.
With UK operators announcing plans to roll out 4G networks by the end of this year, 4G is already here and is here to stay.
The explosion in mobile data usage and the growing adoption of cloud computing are driving demand for mobile broadband devices that deliver higher speeds, more capacity, lower latency, and a better user experience.
With the introduction of 4G connectivity, mobile computing devices, utility meters, consumer appliances, vehicles, smartphones and many other connected devices will be able to benefit from an improved performance through faster connections to the Internet.
LTE has a lot of advantages to existing connectivity options, including:
• Seamless user experience: LTE capacity and throughput improvements allow operators to offer a superior mobile broadband service to a larger number of customers. End users get a faster, more consistent connection. LTE also provides significantly lower latency than 3G technologies, further enhancing the user experience especially for activities like web browsing or IP voice.
• Flexibility: LTE services can be deployed in existing 2G and 3G bands, in a new spectrum such as 2.6 GHz and in a lower spectrum in many regions. As a result, operators can utilize more of their valuable spectrum assets and shift heavy data users off of the existing 3G network – providing a better experience for both LTE and existing 3G users.
• Lower cost to operate, deploy and maintenance: LTE is more spectrum efficient, enabling operators to serve more data over expensive spectrum. In addition, the IP-based core and transport networks used for LTE are easier to build and maintain. This makes the deployment process not only faster but also less expensive for operators. In addition, the technology’s self-configuration and self-optimisation capabilities will facilitate quick rollout and allow even lower costs per byte of data delivered.
The advantages of 4G are good news for consumers and service providers alike. However, to be able to take advantage of these opportunities, OEMs need to get their products to market as quickly as possible. To achieve that, they need to take into account the complexities of LTE implementation. Failing to do that can result in poor product performance or a reduction in time to market because the product can’t get through the operator’s certification process. To avoid this, LTE device manufacturers need to consider the following LTE requirements:
• Multi-mode operation: Since UK mobile operators are still in the early stages of LTE network deployment, any LTE-enabled device must be able to maintain good performance across different networks, including 2G, 3G, HSPA+ and LTE. Consequently, LTE devices will need to support different radio channel interfaces for 2G, 3G and LTE networks available in multiple combinations of spectrum bands, depending on where the solution will be deployed.
• Better antennas: LTE requires multiple-input multiple output (MIMO) antennas, which are more complicated than those used in 3G or 2G modules and modems. Inadequate design in a MIMO antenna can significantly damage user experience by providing bad connectivity and inconsistent product performance.
• Diverse operating environments: LTE is designed to work on a wide range of spectrum bandwidths and frequencies which creates a lot of variations in how the technology will be deployed by different operators across the world. OEMs, system integrators, and other stakeholders will need to co-operate with LTE suppliers who understand the specifics of each market and have a clear vision on how it will be developing in the foreseeable future.
• Scalability: LTE is a highly scalable technology that supports IPv6 addressing. This will enable more devices to be connected to the Internet turning the vision of ‘The Internet of Things’ into a reality.
• Longevity: LTE is already here and is here to stay. The 4G spectrum auction next year will enable all mobile operators in the UK to roll out LTE, meaning that 2G or 3G services may be phased out in the long term. This will prompt OEMs developing M2M apps with high longevity to weigh the incremental upfront costs of using LTE modules with the investment required for a major field replacement in a few years’ time.
The introduction of 4G in the UK creates a lot of opportunities for all players in the market to deliver innovative products and services that effectively address consumers’ needs.
However, to be able to take advantage of these opportunities OEMs, app developers and device manufacturers will need to address the challenges of a complex ecosystem that needs the co-operation of all participants to be able to grow and evolve in a healthy way.