4. LTE and LTE-A
There is growing interest in the 3GPP study item "License Assisted Access" - whereby a primary cell transmitting on a LTE carrier in licensed spectrum is complemented with an additional carrier in the unlicensed 5GHz band in a carrier aggregation (CA) configuration.
Because all signalling and control information is sent on the primary cell, an ongoing data transfer can rapidly handoff from an LAA-LTE back to the primary carrier when the unlicensed signal deteriorates. This could present an elastic capacity function for sports stadiums or help load level during flash crowd environments.
I am interested to see how this same technology could be used to test 5G architectural concepts, such as using a primary cell operating in the licensed spectrum is used as an overlay macro cell and secondary cells unsung unlicensed spectrum is transmitted from a small cell.
This would allow ease of setup for the unlicensed small cell at a capacity limited site, given the access point would not have to be registered as a cellular transmitter - it would be equivalent to installing a Wi-Fi access point.
A second area of interest is in LTE-Broadcast. It is predicted that video will comprise over 69% of mobile data traffic in 2018, much of which will be driven by a growing segment of tablet users watching videos over cellular. Historically, mobile networks have been optimised for voice, text and data - but with video growing as a percentage, we need to evolve towards a media distribution network.
Telstra's network already supports LTE-Broadcast, at MWC I will be looking to meet and partner with other operators and providers intent on building the LTE-Broadcast ecosystems.
While 5G is still at least five years away from deployment, technology foundations are being developed today. I am interested to understand the trends around how NFV and SDN design patterns can be applied to the radio access network architecture, as well as how millimetre wave technologies can unlock new spectrum for higher bandwidth services.
A key question is whether we can dynamically 'slice' the radio network for different services (such as a high bandwidth, low latency service for video and a low-power, low bandwidth service for IoT sensors) or will we need separate networks to economically serve distinct service needs? Of equal concern is whether we, as an industry, can wait five years for low-power wide area networks to power the IoT.
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