iGR, a market strategy consultancy firm, has issued a new market research report entitled, “LTE (News - Alert) Carrier Aggregation: The Panacea to the Spectrum (News - Alert) Problem?”
The company’s president and founder, Iain Elliott, speculates that by the end of 2013, the world could have 20 separate and distinct LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) bands operating around the world. However, few of those networks will have 20 MHz of spectrum available.
By the end of 2013, Elliott expects 150 operational LTE-A networks in 70 countries. LTE-A can combine heterogeneous elements, like small and large cells, thanks to relay nodes. Relay nodes are low-power base stations that add extra capacity and coverage at network edges so that remote areas can be connected without fiber.
At the same time as carriers are expanding their networks, manufacturers will be releasing a slew of new LTE-A devices. Elliott fears that the network may not have enough spectrum to support the devices.
Carrier aggregation is one solution to squeeze more spectrum into the network. Essentially, carrier aggregation scoops up small pieces of spectrum that cannot support LTE-A and combines them together to create larger pieces. These larger blocks of spectrum can support LTE-A, combining to create a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz.
LTE-A depends on the aggregation of R8/R9 carriers so that it can maintain backward compatibility with R8 and R9 mobile devices. Unfortunately, Elliott speculates that carrier aggregation will not be totally realized until the end of the current decade.
Somehow, networks have to be expanded to keep up with demands from economic, public safety and healthcare activities, not to mention individual data plans. Last year, Congress authorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) to conduct incentive auctions to free up spectrum.
Incentive auctions persuade licensees to give up spectrum usage rights in exchange for part of the proceeds from the auction of new licenses. The first incentive auction from the FCC will expand broadcast television spectrum.
Is carrier aggregation the solution for everything? It’s one solution, but it’s not enough. Countries have to keep finding other innovative ways to free up spectrum and to expand their network infrastructure for tomorrow’s devices.
Edited by Ashley Caputo