LTE Carrier Aggregation--Meeting the Challenges of the 'Need for Speed' and Capacity

Next Generation Communications Blog

LTE Carrier Aggregation--Meeting the Challenges of the 'Need for Speed' and Capacity

By: Peter Bernstein, TMC Senior Editor

In business as well as our personal lives there are finite resources that gate our activities. The big one that covers both is time which we cannot create more of and hopefully optimize for obvious reasons.  In mobile communications the issue is getting the most out of not just the finite but scarce radio frequency (RF) spectrum allocated for service provider networks. 

Realities are that in most parts of the world mobile service providers have access to different frequency bands as a result of things like auctions and mergers. Thus, they have a need to mesh their various spectrum assets (i.e., bands and associated carriers) in general. They also must optimize them to meet the insatiable appetite of customers for bandwidth-hungry services such as real-time and streamed video where Quality of Experience (QoE). Indeed, QoE and its extensibility to cover anywhere a customer is located is now foundational for attracting and keeping customers. 

The challenges of creating fatter pipes that can deliver the bandwidth the tsunami of traffic headed operators’ ways are daunting to say the least.  It is one of the reasons why records continue to be broken at auctions for the spectrum that is being freed up by policy makers.  To say the least, getting more bandwidth and extending it closer to the customers has critical competitive implications, and this has become a paramount concern specifically in the now hot race to deploy 4G LTE and now 4G LTE-A (Advanced) services.  In fact, there is a need for speed by customers, and a need for speed to deploy mobile broadband services for consumers and enterprises at express speeds ASAP.

A recent TechZine posting, LTE carrier aggregation and the massive capacity challenge, by Hector Menendez, Senior Marketing Manager, Wireless Solutions Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent, as the title says highlight how LTE carrier aggregation (CA) can help mobile service providers optimize the bandwidth they have to meet growing traffic demands and provide the QoE required to be competitive. 

 As Mendendez explains, “CA lets operators aggregate these disparate chunks of spectrum spanning across different bands by supporting inter-band CA.” This is the most common use for CA as most spectral assets that operators own have been acquired piecemeal over time.”  He adds that, “In some markets, many operators are also turning to LTE-TDD as a way of further augmenting capacity of existing LTE-FDD networks…and can use intra-band CA to combine several carriers to achieve higher speeds as a way of differentiating their services.”

Additional Carrier Aggregation Benefits

You might think that on the basis of creating more bandwidth alone that CA would be attractive, but there is more.  CA also enables operators to make better use of network resources through load balancing, and as pointed out in the posting can reduce interference and improve network performance via intelligence allocation of resources.

In fact, in many ways CA is like a Swiss Army knife, as the graphic below shows. 


Source:  Alcatel-Lucent

Menendez concludes that:  “Carrier Aggregation represents one of the most cost-effective and efficient way of addressing the capacity challenge and could be the biggest success of all LTE-A features. All indications are that we will see CA go mainstream in the not too distant future giving operators a truly valuable tool.”  

That might sound like hyperbole, but given the scarcity of spectrum, the unusual mix of radio assets in most operators’ footprints, the need for speed to satisfy traffic demands in general and customer expectations, and the need to be competitive, Menendez is more than directionally correct.  Mobile service providers have a growing sense of urgency to be fast-to-market, fast-in-the-market and best in market and certainly when it comes to getting LTE-A, and other advanced forms of wireless technology into the hands of customers ASAP, CA is going to be a critical part of the equation.  

Related Articles to 'LTE Carrier Aggregation--Meeting the Challenges of the 'Need for Speed' and Capacity '

Featured Events