Thursday, 03 September 2015 01:30

Ericsson unlocks LTE-U and better wireless indoor performance

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Ericsson’s new major software release, Networks Software 16A, features new LTE software upgrades targeting the indoor space, boosting network uplink and download speeds massively and adding LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U).

Promising ‘hundreds of new and enhanced software feature options in Network Software 16A, the new suite’s features big advances in uplink and downlink performance with network uplink speeds boosted by up to 200%, downlink speeds by up to 30% using 256 QAM encoding and adding LTE Unlicensed (LTE-U), the first commercial step in Licensed Assisted Access - as well as features to support greater energy efficiency of small cells.

Ericsson says it has been working with leading customers on lab tests and trial activities to achieve these impressive gains, with Telstra one of Ericsson’s test partners.

Ericsson noted that in a live demonstration, Telstra ‘achieved the world's first download peak rates of 600 Mbps using this new feature’.

Devices that support these advances will become available this year, in line with the commercial availability of the Ericsson Networks Software 16A.

These advances are needed because we’ve moved from the ‘laptop era’ into a ‘fully mobile era’, with people expected to have 4.3 devices each by 2020 (according to Strategy Analytics in a 2014 report).

I already have more than 4.3 connected devices with me virtually at all times so it’s no major surprise that this will become the norm for many more people come 2020 - which is the timeframe that 5G connectivity will start being rolled out, and probably not a minute too soon!

There’s also the issue of the coming growth in the Internet of Things or IoT, expected to be up to 26 billion devices by 2020, too - thus providing solid indoor coverage to indoor spaces is going to become a greater challenge, although I’d imagine most of those devices will connect via Wi-Fi and not their own 4G connectivity - with a comment from Ovum in the third paragraph below noting why Wi-Fi won’t be enough.

Even so, there will be a lot of M2M devices out there and gadgets vastly more advanced than what we are used to today, and Ericsson is ensuring its networks are able to handle it, via Ericsson Networks Software 16A.

Mike Sapien, Principal Analyst Enterprise Services, Ovum, says: "While operators have understood that they need to design mobile networks for increasing amounts of data now, Wi-Fi networks have traditionally been the solution of choice for indoor connectivity for enterprise customers.

“However, Wi-Fi cannot service the need for reliable and mobile voice services or text messaging, much less handle the business-critical applications that require the app coverage, voice services, and full mobility provided by cellular. Now, as we move toward 5G, both cellular and Wi-Fi will need to work together to offer differentiated and seamless service."

Ericsson points to increases in video and media uploads by businesses and consumers via apps like Instagram and Facebook which call for better uplink speeds, and says that the 16A update ‘includes two uplink enhancements that will enable mobile operators to utilize 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) on uplink to provide 50-percent better peak speeds of 75 Mbps. In addition, it enables uplink carrier aggregation, which can double uplink data speeds. Combined, these improvements provide peak uplink data rates up to 150 Mbps, which is a 200 percent improvement.’

There’s also the inclusion of LTE-U, or LTE-Unlicensed ‘to drive higher performance,’ with LTE-U ‘enabling operators to combine the reliability of licensed spectrum with indoor data speed boosts provided by unlicensed spectrum.’

Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson, says: "To keep pace with mobile broadband demand from both consumers and industry, operators need solutions that deliver both high performance and efficiency. Ericsson's indoor software innovations deliver both. And, these new features combined with Ericsson's end-to-end solutions, flexible go-to-market and business models and proactive relationships with key device ecosystem partners, ensure that our leading operators not only keep pace, but set the pace."

The 16A update also ‘builds on energy-efficiency capabilities in previous releases and now includes Cell Sleep mode. This feature enables individual carriers to automatically switch off during periods of low traffic demand, ensuring greater energy efficiency of small cells.’

Ericsson says that ‘indoor is the new hub of mobile activity and operators will need strategic models and services to cover this huge footprint,’ and is complementing operator efforts by ‘expanding its use of channel partners, such as Anixter and working with leading real estate developers and property managers, including Skanska, helping to create new business opportunities.’

The company is also allowing ‘mobile operators can choose their level of involvement,’ noting that ‘operators who wish to deploy and manage indoor networks themselves’ can use Ericsson’s ‘easy-to-deploy hardware and installation tools.’

For those wanting more, Ericsson notes its Global Services division ‘offers a comprehensive range of small cell services, from strategic network analysis through design, integration, optimization and monitoring, right up to a fully managed Small Cells as a Service (SCaaS) offering. With SCaaS, complete ownership of the hardware and deployment is handled through Ericsson Global Services, allowing for a simple and easy go-to-market model for indoor opportunities.’

More information on Ericsson’s Networks Software 16A update can be found here, while even more information on Ericsson’s IoT initiatives is here

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