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Special Report: The Evolution of LTE

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Exclusive Video Feature

Change is coming for the mobile industry; 5G is on the horizon, along with key enabling technologies such as NFV and edge computing. So is this the end of the line for LTE, or does the 4G technology have more to offer?

The Internet of Things is an obvious growth market for LTE, especially as operators need to drastically increase their current share of IoT connections from alternative low-power wireless technologies. As is VoLTE – another potential growth area, yet there’s been plenty of talk about it over the years with precious little to show. Meanwhile, LTE is threatening to push out into unlicenced spectrum bands with LTE-U, currently the preserve of WiFi.

As the lifecycle of LTE will overlap with the emergence of 5G networks in 2020, this transition will enable operators to introduce 5G-type services ahead of commercial launch.

Don’t write off LTE just yet.

Featuring interviews with:

  • Mansoor Hanif, Director of Radio Access Networks, EE
  • Jan Johansson, Expert Radio Access Technologies, ZTE
  • Chris King, Senior Director Product Marketing, Network Cloud & Analytics, Oracle
  • Frank Yue, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, F5 Networks
  • Mark Windle, Head of Marketing, OpenCloud
  • Joe Barrett, President, GSA
  • Alan Hadden, VP Research, GSA
  • Samuel Oakley, Events Director, Informa Telecoms & Media

Filmed at: LTE World Summit, Amsterdam, 24th June 2015


In related news today, at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai event, Nokia has announced the launch of its new LTE-M solution for IoT applications.

  • New LTE-M solution from Nokia
  • Includes Nokia’s Core for IoT and enhanced Smart Scheduler for LTE radio
  • GSMA says 1bn cellular connections needed for IoT by 2020
  • LTE will be the “technology of choice for M2M and IoT applications”

Mobile operators face a huge challenge with using LTE to attract IoT and M2M business, as discussed in our exclusive video feature. The main problem is that the LTE architecture needs to be scaled down – they need much cheaper LTE modules with dramatically reduced power consumption and improved latency.

The IoT market is forecast to reach the tens of billions of connected devices by 2020, yet cellular is currently only going to account for less than one per cent of this total – low power WAN alternatives are here now, performing well, and doing the job required. To address the problem, the 3GPP is standardising LTE-M as part of Rel-13, but even so LTE is going to have its work cut out if it is going to compete with LPWAN.

"LTE will be the technology of choice for M2M and IoT applications, as it provides the robust connectivity and flexibility to support the mix of high and low data rates needed for M2M and IoT traffic,” said Dustin Kehoe, Head of Telecom Research and Practice Lead at research firm IDC.

Really? Will it? That’s a bold claim, given the vast gulf in numbers between projected non-cellular connections and connected ones. The cellular technology of choice, maybe.

The GSMA estimates indicate that there will be at least 1 billion cellular M2M connections needed for the IoT by 2020. But here’s a sobering alternative: ABI Research estimates that total cellular M2M module volumes will be around 200 million units by 2020. LTE-M needs to be an incredible success if it is to make up the missing 800 million.

Nokia Networks says operators can follow “an easy 3-step approach” to smoothly migrate their LTE core network to IoT overlay. Starting with subscriber data management they can move on to gateways and mobility management. This stepwise approach, it says, allows them to flexibly migrate their core domains so they can tackle the mix of mobile broadband and M2M traffic in a cost efficient way while keeping operational impact to a minimum.

Nokia’s new IoT connectivity solution consists of two elements: Nokia's Core for IoT and an enhanced Smart Scheduler for LTE radio. It claims its Core for IoT will improve operational efficiency by about 35 per cent compared to legacy networks. It also features open APIs allow for real-time data mining, service control and integration. It Smart Scheduler reduces signalling load in the network, enhances responsiveness of the service and lowers power consumption of the IoT modem.

"Nokia's IoT connectivity solution is a key building block required to efficiently manage the related M2M traffic,” said Michael Clever, Head of Mobile Broadband Core Cluster at Nokia Networks. “A secure connectivity layer will then open up further opportunities for management and application platforms, as well as analytics and user services."

Nokia goes on to state that LTE-M modules will be 80 per cent less complex than standard LTE modules, and therefore cost competitive when connecting devices with battery lives of more than 10 years. It adds that LTE-M will enable “a myriad of use cases that no other pre-5G technology can match” – although we are unsure what other specific pre-5G technologies are claiming to compete against LTE-M…

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