In the face of estimates that mobile data volumes are likely to increase 25 times or more by 2016, network operator Telefónica in Spain is under no illusions that mobile data can do anything but expand dramatically. In fact, as Enrique Blanco, chief technology officer (CTO) of Telefónica noted in a recent Alcatel-Lucent Enriching Communications article, his company’s solution in wide scale deployment of 4G LTE (News - Alert) with increased reliance on small cell technology.
“LTE is key to our mobile broadband strategy,” wrote Blanco. “We believe that LTE is essential to address the dramatic increases in traffic, in particular the video traffic, forecasted by all major mobile industry analysts,” he added.
Tackling the problem, Telefónica has rolled out successful LTE services in Barcelona and Madrid as pilot programs and collaborated with Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) on ways to make its 4G LTE network the fastest possible.
At the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Telefónica demonstrated the fruit of this year-long Alcatel-Lucent partnership with what it calls the “world’s smartest 4G network,” according to Blanco. The LTE network demoed at the show highlighted the significant improvements in coverage and speed that small base stations can achieve as was experienced first-hand by those at the conference site.
What made the 4G network different was that it brought conventional remote radio head base stations together with 4G metro cells. Those small base stations incorporated antennas and radios, and all the components operated on the same 2.6 GHz frequency without interference. This was achieved using Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio technology.
The result was a 400 percent increase in capacity compared with conventional network designs, according to tests conducted during the Congress. In addition, the tests showed that denser metro network design can yield significant capacity gain, according to Blanco. The setup yielded download speeds of 100 Mb/s, upload speeds of 40–60 Mb/s and latency times of 20–25 milliseconds.
“This blend of higher speed and lower latency creates opportunities to develop new mobile broadband services with capabilities tailored to particular applications,” explained Blanco. He included in his list such services as video on demand, video conferencing, enhanced advertising, mobile gaming, fast file transfer, mobile Internet applications and cloud computing applications.
Blanco and Telefónica are bullish on the role that small cell can play in delivering mobile data that meets the growing needs. He noted that: “Small cells offer the most viable means of supporting traffic growth in peak areas. They are unobtrusive, inexpensive and easy to deploy…They can be placed on a lamppost, on a wall, on the side of a building. This flexibility ensures coverage in more locations. It also saves money, because it reduces reliance on costly macro base stations.”
Blanco concluded with the observation that Telefónica plans to develop its LTE offering in phases as spectrum availability and handset portfolio growth allows. He expects LTE to become the mainstream mobile data standard in Spain by 2015.
Edited by Peter Bernstein