Next generation networks & the search for spectrum
Next generation mobile networks are set to transform mobile broadband services. Offering new applications such as IP based video streaming and enhanced user experiences through increased speeds, quality and capacity. However, to continue the dramatic growth of 3G, 4G & emerging 5G, Governments need to reallocate spectrum for mobile broadband. One of the main drivers for this is the available spectrum will not be able to provide the capacity to support rising data usage and bandwidth demands. The challenge for mobile operators is to remain responsive to user behaviour and navigate increasing complexities to advance next generation network technologies considering the scarce spectrum.
The CW Mobile Broadband SIG highlighted that spectrum allocations will be negotiated at WRC-15 to determine the future of ubiquitous connectivity. While additional spectrum is essential, mobile network innovations continue to evolve and aim to utilize all available spectrum resources.
To address spectrum constraints, mobile operators are currently implementing LTE-Advanced standard technology to aggregate multiple spectrum bands. LTE brings incremental functionality through capabilities such as carrier aggregation that help alleviate network congestion to efficiently meet widespread demand and improve user experiences with high speed, cost-effective services.
Building on this search for spectrum, wireless communication networks are extending their approach to harness unlicensed spectrum, such as the ISM. ISM (Industry, scientific and medical) radio band is used for various devices such as near field communications, Bluetooth, cordless phones and Wi-Fi. The approach to using the ISM bands involves offloaded LTE mobile traffic to small cell Wi-Fi networks and their supporting cable infrastructure. This is not without technical challenges. ISM devices first detect other devices before communicating with them through listen before talk (LBT). Therefore, LBT devices will require developing a new LTE standard to handle issues such as giving priority to mission critical applications.
Enabling mobile phones to work with small cell Wi-Fi networks is attractive because ISM bands are relatively unutilised and capacity is available in most countries. This solution would also be especially attractive to those mobile operators with existing investment in Wi-Fi infrastructure.
Further insight into the current methods to find additional spectrum resources was provided in the presentations by George Grayland of Nokia Networks, Jonathan Hamill of Sepura plc, Colin Muir of BBC Scotland, Moray Rumney of Keysight Technologies and Janette Stewart of Analysys Mason. Check out some soundbites from the topical event in the simple recording below.
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