With successful LTE projects in two Spanish cities, Telefónica is taking important steps to deliver superfast 4G mobile broadband services to customers in Europe. Our “smarter” 4G network delivers increased capacity in high-traffic areas, superior indoor coverage and greater bandwidth than current LTE networks. In addition, small cell technologies from Alcatel-Lucent are helping us innovate by speeding up network deployment, reducing costs and making more efficient use of spectrum.
Moving toward LTE
In September 2011, Telefónica launched pre-commercial pilot LTE networks in Barcelona and Madrid, bringing the first 4G mobile broadband services to customers in Spain. We used these networks to test a variety of applications and services, and to explore the overall performance and cost advantages of LTE technology.
Through this project, we gained a better understanding of LTE. We also gained some initial experience with heterogeneous networks (HetNets) that integrate multi-layer macro and small cell networks. And, we received valuable feedback from customers on their experiences with LTE. The knowledge acquired through this project is essential as we introduce wider-reaching 4G offerings in Spain and beyond.
A smarter 4G network
In fact, we are already applying knowledge gained through the pilot LTE project. At the 2012 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Telefónica offered the first live experience of the world’s “smartest” 4G network. The product of a year-long collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent, this LTE network greatly improved mobile coverage by bringing small cell base stations close to users at and around the conference site.
The MWC network was innovative because it brought conventional remote radio head base stations together with 4G metro cells. These are small base stations that incorporate antennas and radio. All of the components operated on the same frequency (2.6 GHz) with no interference. The network was supplied by Alcatel-Lucent and backed by the lightRadio™ technology.
Increased speed and capacity create new opportunities
At MWC, we demonstrated the most significant feature of the Telefónica LTE network: dramatically increased capacity. Tests conducted on the network revealed a 400% increase in capacity compared to conventional network designs. In addition, the tests showed that denser metro network design can yield significant capacity gain.
The MWC deployment also showcased the speed of our LTE network. This network is up to 10 times faster than the 3G network, delivering 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 such as:
- Video on demand
- Video conferencing
- Mobile gaming
- Fast file transfer
- Mobile Internet applications
- Cloud computing applications
Together, cloud computing and LTE can support innovative service concepts for vertical markets such as healthcare, finance and insurance. They can also support data and application hosting packages for a broad range of business customers, from small and medium enterprises to large multinationals. With cloud services backed by LTE technologies, user devices become terminals with fast, on-demand access to information stored in the network.
Ultimately, the increased speed and capacity offered by LTE will bring high bit-rate applications within reach of consumers and businesses alike. Everyone will benefit from a wider range of applications and services, and from a more robust ecosystem of devices that target specific industries and vertical markets.
The small cell advantage
For Telefónica, the projects in Barcelona and Madrid are important first steps toward a true LTE HetNet. The company believes that continued innovation is critical to deliver sufficient capacity to address the growing demand for mobile bandwidth.
The combination of improved spectrum efficiency from LTE (3x), extra spectrum (2x) and increased macro cell densification (approximately 2x) will increase network capacity tenfold. But it won’t be enough: we expect capacity requirements to grow by 30x or more.
Small cells offer the most viable means of supporting traffic growth in peak areas. They are unobtrusive, inexpensive and easy to deploy. Small cells can be placed virtually anywhere that customers need mobile broadband access. 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.
Small cells will help LTE deliver on its promise to provide the best possible customer experience. They bring higher speeds and superior performance closer to customers. And their small size means that each cell supports fewer customers. Each customer enjoys a bigger share of overall capacity and, as a result, a better mobile broadband experience.
Network evolution brings new challenges
The shift to LTE presents new business and technical challenges. For example, there is a need to reserve or acquire suitable spectrum for LTE — something not readily available in a majority of markets. In addition, LTE deployments demand increased capacity and coverage. This creates the need to add high-speed backhaul to cell sites.
The shift to LTE also calls for new approaches to innovation and teamwork. We are actively working with Alcatel-Lucent and other vendors to develop economical small cell solutions. We believe collaboration with a broad range of industry players — including vendors and operators — is key to delivering profitable new mobile broadband services.
Success with LTE calls for a complete and cost-effective mobile broadband ecosystem. An approach that combines small cells with economical backhaul solutions and effective site acquisition and build techniques can deliver superior performance while reducing total cost of ownership.
Committed to LTE
LTE is key to our mobile broadband strategy. 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.
We expect LTE will lead the next wave of mobile growth by enabling delivery of a superior customer experience and a rich new set of digital services. With LTE, we will be able to offer high-speed data services more cost effectively than current network technologies. We plan to develop the LTE offer in phases based on spectrum availability and handset portfolio growth.
In the future, all of Telefónica’s mobile businesses will deploy LTE technology. The exact timing of these deployments will depend on local market conditions and spectrum availability. The number and reach of LTE deployments will increase over the next 1 to 3 years, even though 3G will remain the most common and heavily used mobile broadband technology. Beyond 3 years, LTE will be a mainstream mobile technology, with a wide portfolio of exciting and affordable LTE devices driving consumer uptake.
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