In the space of less than two years Mobile Broadband services, delivered by each of the country’s (UK) five main cellular mobile phone network operators (O2 , T-Mobile, Vodafone, Three (3) and Orange), have gone from being slow and costly business-only services to an affordable product with mass market appeal – fast wireless broadband Internet access wherever you want it.Article Index:
This radical change is due in no small part to the advent of High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology, an enhancement to existing 3rd Generation (3G) mobile networks. HSPA can deliver download speeds almost on-par with existing land-line based broadband services and is thus often referred to as a 3.5G or 3G+ technology. Theoretically HSPA can deliver download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps (5.8Mbps upstream), rising to 42Mbps (22Mbps upstream) with HSPA+ technology.
However for all its many improvements HSPA is still a deeply imperfect technology. It has problems with latency times (low latency is crucial for fast and effective VoIP and multiplayer gaming), connection reliability, capacity management and rarely delivers upon its advertised speeds (an average of just 1 to 2Mbps is common place for real-world performance).
Say hello to the next generation.. LTE
Long Term Evolution (LTE) is essentially the next step up in cellular mobile network technology from HSPA and is able to deliver peak download speeds of at least 100Mbps (50Mbps upload), though it should be able to hit 600Mbps (real world performance will be slower as it must be shared between many users). LTE will also bring with it significantly faster latency times and better capacity management, which will allow it to handle more users with fewer reliability problems.
Interestingly, and despite what some of the marketing may say, LTE is not technically a true next generation 4G technology, though neither is it a 3G one either; in fact it sits somewhere in-between (not to be confused with HSPA, which is often dubbed 3.5G). Only the more distant Advanced LTE, which can deliver speeds of up to 1Gbps (1000Mbps), actually meets the specification for true 4G.
Unfortunately mobile operators have a history of promising a lot and then delivering very little, thus the big question is – what does this all mean for ordinary consumers? What real-world speeds will LTE bring? Will we all need to buy new USB Mobile Broadband modems (dongles) for it to work? How much will it cost and so forth.
To answer these questions and more ISPreview.co.uk has hooked-up with John Cunliffe, Ericsson’s (http://www.ericsson.com) Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the UK and Ireland. Founded in 1876, Ericsson is a leading provider of communications networks, related services and handset technology platforms. They are also helping to build LTE technology for UK operators’, which makes John an excellent source of information for our exclusive interview.
1. Existing HSPA (3G) based Mobile Broadband services are theoretically capable of delivering download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps or 42Mbps with HSPA+. By contrast the first generation of LTE (4G) from Ericsson is initially targeting download speeds of 150Mbps. Can you tell us a bit about how LTE operates and achieves this?