The roadmap to LTE Advanced
LTE Advanced, or Release 10, is the next step in the wireless network evolution and while most operators do not view it as a major network overhaul, it is an important step because many of the components of LTE-Advanced will improve the customer experience and make new applications possible.
Operators are already prepping for LTE Advanced and some experts believe elements of Release 10 technology will begin to appear later this year. For example, small cells, which are a component of HetNets, are being deployed today. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has said it will deploy more than 40,000 small cells by the end of 2015, and operators such as Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) are also deploying the technology.
Separately, carrier aggregation technology, which is being used by operators to combine their fragmented spectrum holdings so they can boost their data capacity, is also starting to see the light. Most experts believe commercial carrier aggregation technology will launch later this year--but compatible devices might not hit the market until 2014.
But will customers notice improvements when their operator migrates from LTE to LTE Advanced? Some believe the improvements will be noticeable in terms of the new applications that are enabled by LTE Advanced. Depending on what the operator decides to do, those improvements could come in the form of HD audio, video conferencing, video streaming multimedia applications and more.
Others believe that LTE Advanced will be noticeable in the form of good, reliable data service. Data speeds may increase substantially on both the downlink and the uplink.
Of course, the big question is whether operators will market their LTE Advanced improvements to consumers. Will LTE Advanced be labeled "5G" by the marketing folks and hyped the way 4G was? Analysts are hoping that won't be the case.