- With nearly every network vendor gathered in one place, Mobile World Congress represents the best opportunity for operators to track network R&D evolutions
- As LTE-A moves into a commercial phase, operators need to pay special attention to vendor messaging
- Regardless of the themes dominating LTE-A messaging, operators need to track platform evolutions, how high-order MIMO will get deployed and the integration of Het Net and small cell messaging
In the run-up to Mobile World Congress, we’ve already seen a good deal of vendor messaging; to get ahead of all the press release noise (and legitimate messaging) that will bombard us in just over a week, vendors are trying to get their launches and strategic initiatives out early. It’s something we’ve recommended for years. If nothing else, it provides carriers with an opportunity to plan their MWC time better.
“Oh, it looks like vendor X will be showing off some new base station features. I sure want to go check those out!”
For the most part, it seems like LTE-Advanced has been left out of this push. Yes, NSN talked up its LTE-A carrier aggregation and Het Het “advancements.” And LTE-A was included in Ericsson’s “Networks Software 14B” launch. Still, the pre-show buzz is much more muted than we might expect in a year when LTE-A features should start getting commercially deployed. That doesn’t mean LTE-A won’t be a major part of vendor demonstrations and MWC floor space; we’ll doubtless see at least one or two new “speed records” thanks to carrier aggregation or high-order MIMO, for example. Ultimately, however, operators looking to understand how LTE-A will actually impact them in 2014 need to focus on a few questions.
- Platform Evolution. For some time, vendors have promised that their flagship LTE RAN platforms will support LTE-A. Now, operators need to move them beyond vague claims. Which features will be supported? On which models? Will upgrades impact base station capacity? How much?
- MIMO in the Real World. Alongside carrier aggregation, high-order MIMO has been heralded as a way for LTE-A to deliver major data rate bumps over the plain old LTE we know and love. Yet, getting all of those antennas onto a tower (much less into a device) is no easy task. Last year we saw some launches around compact 8×8 antenna designs. Look for more this year if high-order MIMO is to become more than just an academic exercise.
- Het Nets vs. Small Cells. LTE-A’s Het Net features are supposed to support small cell launches – think something like eICIC. Strangely, however, we often see small cell messaging as distinct from LTE-A messaging. We should see these connections more clearly called out at MWC this year. As LTE-A moves forward, operators need to make sure that small cell products are incorporating (or can incorporate) the requisite LTE-A features to deliver on the synergy promises.
- LTE-A vs. 5G. As a go forward technology, LTE-A will need to compete with the hype surrounding 5G. A suggestion: ignore the hype around 5G. While it’s good for carriers to know that their vendor partners are investing in 5G, there’s no use in getting pre-occupied with a technology that isn’t well-defined and won’t be commercial for years.