New research from the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, suggests that the next generation of mobile technology will deliver more than 200 per cent of the capacity of existing 3G technologies, but that will not be enough to match demand for mobile data.
The research, conducted on Ofcom's behalf by Real Wireless, looked primarily at looked at LTE and later generations of LTE, which are still in development, such as LTE Advanced. It also considered emerging and later generations of WiMAX
Intended to inform Ofcom's future spectrum management and planning, the results indicated that early 4G mobile networks (LTE) with standard configurations will be 3.3 times (230 per cent) more spectrally efficient than today's standard 3G networks. Dr Stephen Unger, chief technology officer at Ofcom, said in a statement: "To put this in context, a user on an early 4G network will be able to download a video in around a third of the time it takes today on a 3G network." He further claimed that spectral efficiency would increase to approximately 5.5 times (450 per cent) current 3G levels by 2020."
However, for those worried that these results would make Ofcom less willing to make more spectrum available, the research also revealed that the capacity gains from the increased spectral efficiency will not on their own be sufficient to meet the expected growth in demand for mobile data.
The possible shortfall between capacity supply and demand was further highlighted by a new report from the UMTS Forum, which predicted that voice and data traffic on mobile networks will grow more than 30-fold during the decade ahead.
It suggests that total annual traffic on mobile networks globally will reach 127 exabytes in 2020. This represents a 33x increase compared with the 2010 figure. The report also predicts that growth will be stronger still in Europe. During the same period, it estimates that mobile traffic in a typical Western European country will grow by 67x from 186 terabytes to 12,540 terabytes daily, double the corresponding growth globally.
Mallinson: Why is LTE still delayed in most of Europe?
Maravedis: Achieving capital, spectral efficiency beyond '4G'
Ofcom imposes spectrum caps for LTE auction, splitting operators