LTE Advanced is advancing. According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 79 carriers in total have launched, have deployed or are trialing LTE Advanced technologies in their networks. The GSA also said 21 operators have launched LTE Advanced carrier aggregation in 14 countries.
Those figures are up from the end of July, when the GSA stated in a report that 69 operators were deploying or trialing LTE Advanced and 15 operators had launched carrier aggregation.
According to trade group 4G Americas, 20 carriers have actively launched LTE Advanced, and the group expects 40 networks to have LTE Advanced by year-end. The tallying is somewhat imprecise because there are numerous LTE Advanced capabilities that would qualify an operator as having launched an LTE Advanced network. The best-known of them, and the one that carriers have embraced most enthusiastically, is carrier aggregation, which bonds disparate bands of spectrum together to form wider channels and produce more capacity and higher speeds.
However, many other LTE Advanced techniques are likely to become more in vogue over the next year and beyond, including self-optimizing capabilities and advanced MIMO antenna technology.
Two other promising techniques are enhanced intercell interference coordination (eICIC), which enables small cells and big macrocells to coexist in the same spectrum, and coordinated multipoint (CoMP) transmission, which enables multiple towers to communicate with a single device at the same time and improves performance at the cell edge.
U.S. carriers are also taking advantage of new MIMO technology. Sprint (NYSE: S) has been seeding the market with devices that can support the 4x2 MIMO antenna technology the carrier is deploying. In April, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) confirmed that it had started deploying the technology in its LTE network to enhance network performance at the cell edge and generally improve the customer experience.
By moving to 4x2 MIMO, both Sprint and T-Mobile are effectively doubling the number of antennas--and, thus, data-transmission paths--used in standard LTE deployments, which use 2x2 MIMO. MIMO sends data over two parallel transmission paths from cell towers to devices at the edge of the network.
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LTE Advanced expected to be in 40 networks globally by year-end