Cox details LTE tests, but highlights limitations

BARCELONA, Spain--Cable vendor Cox Communications tested LTE network technology on both its AWS and 700 MHz spectrum in Phoenix and San Diego, and has recorded peak speeds in the range of 25 Mbps. However, Stephen Bye, Cox's vice president of wireless services, described wireless as "complementary" to the MSO's wired network and explained that LTE will never handle the traffic loads that fully wired Internet users generate.

Cox Stephen ByeCox announced the LTE trials--running on kit from Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei--in January. But during a presentation today here at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Bye offered a far more detailed look at the results of the trial--and highlighted what the findings mean for the cable vendor's efforts to build a wireless component in addition to its wired telecom efforts.

Bye said Cox's LTE trials showed peak speeds of around 25 Mbps with 2x2 MIMO technology over a 2x5 MHz channel in the carrier's AWS spectrum. However, those speeds were for a single user very close to the cell site. On the cell edge, that same single user would only get around 10 Mbps, according to Cox's tests. Multiple users on the cell edge would see far slower speeds.

To put those numbers into perspective, Bye said Cox's wired Internet subscribers average around 8 GB per month of data use, and the top 1 percent carrier's most active wired Internet users access  200 GB of data per month (those users enjoy wired Internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps, he said). Bye said Cox has witnessed a 200 percent growth rate in 12 months in its customers' wired Internet usage.

"There is an insatiable appetite out there" for data, Bye said. "Clearly, there's not a good solution to deliver that capacity to users with wireless."

He added: "At the end of the day, that tonnage has to go over a wired connection."

Cox has so far focused its wireless efforts on the launch of its CDMA EV-DO 3G network, which it has been building out in AWS spectrum. Cox is currently running three test markets that leverage Sprint Nextel's CDMA network. When Cox launches its own network, Sprint will be one of its roaming partners. Earlier this month Cox rolled out a teaser advertising campaign for the network, which is expected to be formally launched in March.

In the United States, Verizon Wireless has taken the LTE lead and plans to commercially offer the service in 25-30 markets this year, covering 100 million POPs. The carrier has promised average LTE download speeds of 5-12 Mbps.

For more:
- see Cox's January announcement of its LTE tests
- see slides from Bye's presentation today

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