|Issue:||North America 2010|
|Topic:||LTE leads to a connected world|
Chris Pearson, President of 4G Americas, is responsible for the strategic planning of the organization. Mr. Pearson has more than 23 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. Prior to its name change to 4G Americas, Mr. Pearson served as the President of 3G Americas, LLC. Chris Pearson earned a Master of Business Administration degree from The Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University and a Bachelor of Arts degree with emphasis in Marketing and Finance from the University of Washington.
The connected world today spans just about every digital device imaginable. The 3GPP family of wireless technologies is at the heart of this connected world, transforming communications for people, businesses and societies throughout the Americas.
What do a tablet PC, security camera, bandage, digital photo frame and video advertising display have in common? Two things: They’re all examples of how our world is increasingly connected, and they’re all existing or potential users of broadband wireless technologies. This connected world spans just about every digital device imaginable, including smartphones, Internet-ready TVs, residential thermostats and appliances, infotainment systems in automobiles and traffic sensors, to name just a few existing examples. Far more are in development. All of this adds up to what some analysts refer to as a ‘third wave’ of Internet connectivity. It’s more like a tsunami: By 2020, the number of connected devices will top 22 billion worldwide, according to IMS Research. That’s an average of roughly three connected devices for every person. A half-billion connections The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) family of wireless technologies is at the heart of today’s and tomorrow’s connected world. This family includes the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA/HSPA+) technology, which already supports more than a half-billion connected devices worldwide. This mobile broadband technology is especially popular in the Americas. “The Americas was the world’s fastest-growing region for UMTS-HSPA subscriptions in the year ending June 2010 and helped the technology break through the half-billion milestone to reach 535 million subscriptions worldwide during the second quarter,” said Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. This success will continue with the debut of Long Term Evolution (LTE), which more than 250 operators worldwide are expected to launch over the coming years. A handful of Asian and European LTE networks are already in commercial service, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless are among the carriers that plan to launch service in the Americas by the end of 2011. The HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE launches and commitments are good news for end users, application developers, content providers and others that can benefit from peak theoretical upload and download speeds of more than 80 Mbps and 300 Mbps, respectively. Today, a typical user can expect download speeds of 1.9 Mbps to 8.8 Mbps on a HSPA+ network that uses 2x5 MHz of spectrum and 5.9 to 21.5 Mbps on an LTE network that uses spectrum in a 2x10 MHz spectrum deployment. LTE also is fast in terms of latency: about ten milliseconds. That’s ideal for delay-sensitive applications such as video telephony and video surveillance. Just as important, those benefits don’t come at the expense of battery life. Long battery life is key for achieving the vision of a connected world because users don’t have to worry about running out of power prematurely. To understand LTE’s benefits, it helps to look at how the technology works. For example, LTE uses Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna technology and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). These make LTE signals highly resistant to interference and other environmental factors that can adversely affect some other mobile wireless technologies. This dependability is optimal for mission-critical services, such as a video telemedicine system that uses LTE to connect health clinics to specialists, or patients in their homes to their physicians. If their wireless connection were vulnerable to interference, patients and physicians would become frustrated by issues such as frozen or pixilated video. At the very least, that frustration could force them to schedule an office visit that otherwise could have been avoided. At the very worst, video problems could distract the physician from noticing a subtle but potentially fatal change in the patient’s condition. More than speed A global cost structure is another reason why HSPA and LTE will enable a world of connected devices. Both technologies are members of the 3GPP family, which currently has 90 percent of the global wireless market, according to Informa Telecoms & Media, an independent research firm. Meanwhile, several leading CDMA and WiMAX operators have announced plans to migrate to LTE because they want to leverage LTE’s global economies of scale and technological benefits. All of these deployments and commitments add up to enormous volumes of HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE user devices and network equipment. This scale is key for driving down costs, making HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE affordable for more consumers and businesses. For example, GPRS is one of the world's most widely used mobile technologies for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications – such as utility meter reading and asset tracking – largely because its hardware costs are so low, many analysts say. That's a major advantage in the highly price-sensitive M2M market, and HSPA and LTE could possibly offer the same advantages as their volumes ramp up over the next decade. Many future LTE operators have also cited LTE also potentially reducing the carrier's cost of delivering service. For example, LTE has an all-IP network architecture, which is far more efficient than traditional circuit-switched telephony systems. LTE also is more efficient in the way it uses spectrum, which is one of a carrier's biggest investments. LTE carriers potentially can pass on those savings to customers. That's key for making a connected world available to the mass market, instead of just upscale demographics and large enterprises. Mobile broadband can transform society and be a key factor for applications such as health care, where the ability to bring telemedicine to underserved areas often hinges on the affordability of devices and connectivity. Although LTE's high throughput is ideal for bandwidth-intensive applications such as video backhaul for digital signage advertising and security cameras, it eventually will become an attractive choice for low-bandwidth applications, too. For example, smart utility grid devices typically send and receive only a few kilobytes of data per month. These devices don't each need smartphone-style rate plans of several megabytes. LTE's improved efficiency of delivering service enables carriers to appeal to a larger mass market of users. Yet another benefit is worldwide coverage. Like GSM, GPRS and EDGE, LTE’s eventual global footprint means M2M applications can use a single technology worldwide. That's far less expensive than using M2M hardware that supports multiple, disparate technologies just to ensure seamless, global coverage. The future of M2M Although GPRS and EDGE are popular choices in M2M because of their affordability and extensive geographic coverage, many M2M developers and end users are already planning to upgrade to mobile broadband technologies. Longevity is one motivation: Some M2M modules remain in the field for a decade or longer, as in the case of automotive and utilities. By deploying mobile broadband modules today, M2M developers and end users are essentially future-proofing their investments because they can be confident that those networks will still be in wide commercial use throughout their devices’ lifespan. Wireless carriers that use the 3GPP family of technologies historically have been among the most aggressive in pursuing the M2M opportunity. For example, between first quarter 2009 and first quarter 2010, AT&T doubled the amount of M2M connections on its network. Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA’s M2M business unit has grown 100 percent each of the past four years. This momentum will continue as carriers add HSPA and LTE to their M2M solutions portfolio. Although HSPA and LTE typically are thought of as mobile technologies, they’re equally useful for fixed applications. Smart grids are one example, but others include: • Providing the broadband connectivity necessary for telemedicine applications in both rural and urban areas. This market includes home health care, where M2M devices such as digital bandages use wireless to keep physicians apprised of their patients’ condition. • Bringing broadband access to schools, medical clinics and other public facilities. • Bridging the digital divide by providing broadband to homes and businesses in areas where DSL, cable or fiber are cost-prohibitive to install or use. New name for a new world To reflect this generational technology shift – which is as revolutionary as it is evolutionary – 3G Americas recently changed its name to 4G Americas (www.4gamericas.org). The organization is not abandoning its roots, but embracing a broader mission that recognizes the transformational effect of HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE mobile broadband technologies on many areas of society. 4G Americas will continue to support 2G and 3G GSM-HSPA technologies, which will be used by a majority of subscribers in the Americas and worldwide for many years to come. The new name reflects the industry’s evolution. Building upon the current strength and outstanding reputation and work of 3G Americas, the association and its board members will work to create a mobile broadband community using the 3GPP family of technologies to transform communications for people, businesses and societies throughout the Americas. Under its new 4G Americas name, the organization will build on the monumental success of 3G Americas’ work to promote, facilitate and advocate for the deployment and adoption of 3GPP mobile broadband technologies throughout the Americas region. This role includes leadership in bringing another new technology to the Americas: LTE-Advanced, whose specifications are on track to be finalized by March 2011, with initial commercial deployments possible as early as 2012. Expected to be the world’s first IMT-Advanced technology, LTE-Advanced will support peak speeds of more than 1 Gbps. For end users, that means their connected worlds will get even faster.