The Apple iPhone 5 will be with us in the next few days and we can anticipate the usual rush for Apple fans to get their hands on this latest version of the popular smartphone. Long queues outside Apple Stores and the endless quest online searching for the best mobile phone network plan to reduce the initial cost of owning this desirable smartphone.
However, this year you will now be able to get lightning fast 4G LTE services on your iPhone 5 because Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) have also launched their 4G LTE network in the UK offering download speeds up to 25Mbps using their 1800Mhz spectrum. This means that when you are choosing your iPhone 5 4G LTE service provider then Orange and T-Mobile are going to be the networks of choice, leaving O2 and Vodafone loyalists with ‘slow’ 3G connectivity. Will this perfect timing of 4G LTE network upgrade and the launch of the iPhone 5 LTE create a perfect storm for the UK mobile phone operators and users with a swing towards Orange and T-Mobile as the leading UK mobile phone operator, burgeoning their already huge customer base of over 28 million customers?
Like any 3G or 4G technology, the speed available using the new 4G LTE network with your 4G LTE Phone will depend upon the distance to the tower and the number of connected users downloading content at the same time. In the USA, many users of Verizon’s 4G LTE Network report an average download speed of only 8Mbps which many users of existing 3G HSPA+ technology in the UK already report so 4G LTE may only offer slightly higher average data speeds.
Whilst this is all good new for the iphone 5 launch and the launch of the new 4G LTE Network, lets not forget that that high speed 4G LTE service could also be used to provide internet for the home and in recent 4G LTE trials using a 4G LTE modem (4G Dongle) users found that they could get a high speed mobile broadband connection which means that the 4G LTE Network needs new 4G hardware in the form a an LTE Router to enable users to insert their 4G LTE SIM Card into the router to get high speed mobile broadband to share in their home or business or a 4G LTE Travel Router to enjoy high speed mobile broadband on the go.
Well, it is in fact very closely linked and it’s critical that the Digital TV Switchover we are all hearing so much about these last years goes ahead completely in 2012. The Government and broadcasters have been working hard for the last 10 years on making sure we are all moved off the old analogue delivery method and onto Digital. Most people have a DigiBox or it built into our TV sets and the final furlong is in sight now.
But have you asked why? Sure, it seems obvious that the signal quality will be better with HD channels being broadcast and new transmission techniques and more channels on Freeview but there is much more to it than that.
The radio waves in the UK are very busy and have been for some time. We all watch TV, listen to the radio, use our Mobiles and use a host of other wireless devices from WiFi to remote keys for cars and doors. All of this needs to operate within a known frequency band whether it is a licensed or unlicensed frequency band. Be very afraid if you start to interfere with some other electrical function or critical service – you may have the RA (Radio Agency) to deal with! To do a serious explanation of UK frequency spectrum would take a PhD thesis but the critical factor in all of this movement from Analogue TV to Digital TV is to free up the airwaves to launch 4Generation Mobile Broadband services.
It now transpires that this will not be all smooth running and that there will be some interference at the cross over points in the frequencies, particularly around 800MHz. Practically this is going to mean that whoever wins the licenses to operate 4G services is going to have to find some solution to delivering the broadcast services free from interference. This might involve using filters; it might involve paying for a satellite or cable service to those homes affected.
But why would you do that when you are building a super fast mobile network capable of delivering rich media content particularly video? Surely the technology will allow for a facility to deliver to individual homes; after all it is designed to run up to 1GBit/s to a static location. What remains to be seen is will it be economical to do so if a large number of homes have to be guaranteed a broadcast service above and beyond the other mobile connections that will be demanding rich media services.
Many many years ago when the yuppie hoard roamed the western world there came a really useful form of communications in the form of a portable phone. Portable was the description but it was more akin to ‘luggable’ and came in the form of a small suitcase or brief case connected to a car battery or similar. At the time they were the rich business man’s toy and remained so for some time with the key advantage being that you could tell your wife that you were on the way home and to put the dinner on! How things have changed over the last 25 years!
Analogue technology was very quickly replaced by Digital at the beginning of the 90’s and GSM was born. This was a natural evolution from a specification that was developed in the Nordic countries called NMT (Nordic Mobile Telecommunications). It was such a good fit that it became the major template for the new standard although the operating frequencies necessarily had to change. Operating frequencies and their availability remains a major theme of all development discussion in this space to this day and is likely to always remain so. Incidentally, this left two major telecoms vendors in a remarkably good position to supply the world with mobile terminals and Nokia and Ericsson started to clean up with one company becoming almost preeminent for the whole of the 90’s and even into the 00’s. But, as Nokia now know, nothing can ever be taken for granted.
What grew up behind this development was a battle between Europe /Asia and the USA and Japan. The major market developed in Europe and Asia and the USA lagged behind. Japan managed to maintain a considerable growth and innovation with their standards approach but it had little to do with the rest of the world and just made it a difficult market to enter for western suppliers. This is a whole historical piece on its own but is really just an interesting subject conversation and considered opinions as to how this period became so complicated.
Things are much clearer now however, or are they? Now we are heading through the 3G period, with 2G almost forgotten, (although used by us all on a daily basis) and with many improvements being layered on top of the old standard. Now we see HSPA in its two main varieties HSDPA and HSUPA, the D and the U in both cases standing for Download and Upload. These services provide High Speed access to mobile at and around fixed broadband speeds where network is available.
We are now moving slowly towards 4G and LTE services and these are expected in the UK in 2013 if all goes to plan. Briefly, LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is a subset of the overall 4G standard. As usual, there are standards, and there are standards; which leaves some confusion. The major hardware vendors are all rushing to get their interpretation of the ‘standard’ out there and working to prove a point and accelerate growth. Certain parts of Scandinavia, USA and Arabia are already starting to offer trial services although the terminals are not in the mass market yet. The consideration of these standards and services requires considerable explanation but for now, let’s have a look at the quantum jump in speeds we can expect in the future if all works out perfectly – which it won’t!
With the roll out of 4G mobile broadband services in the UK using HSPA+ Network technology, mobile broadband providers have been able to offer high speed mobile internet services with download speeds up to 21Mbps. To get the most out of these new super fast mobile broadband services you will need the new generation of 4G Modems and 4G Routers.
There are many 4G Modem products that offer a simple USB modem stick like the Option Icon 711 connection for a single user to connect to a USB port of their laptop for mobile data usage, but what if you need to connect your iPad, iPhone or other tablet or mobile phone? You will need to use a travel router like the ZTE MF60 or the Zoom 4506 4G Travel Router.
You can continue to use your 4G USB Modem at home by connecting it into a 4G Router that will allow you to share your 4G USB Modem with multiple wired or wireless users, for example the Zoom 4501 4G Router will provide high speed wireless connectivity and 2 x 10/100 Ethernet ports for the connection of multiple PC’s, Tablets etc and by plugging in your 4G USB Modem they can all share the high speed mobile broadband connection.
The next step for 4G connectivity at home is the use of an embedded 4G router. This means that the 4G SIM card is inserted directly into the router rather than plugging in a USB modem. The advantage of this is that most 4G Routers have the option of connecting a 4G Antenna that can be mounted externally to provide a reliable 4G signal, especially when the router is positioned inside a building with poor signal reception. 4G Routers such as the Zalip CDG561WE and Option Globesurfer III+ are both available in the UK and can be used with impressive results on three mobile HSPA+ network. There are sure to be many more embedded 4G routers available over the coming months as mobile operators start to roll out their 4G HSPA+ Networks.
Another option to consider in the future is the LTE Router – LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and includes 4G and HSPA+ technology but also includes things like WiMAX which offer high speed connectivity, but WiMAX networks are generally not available in the UK at present, but once the analogue TV spectrum gets sold then we can expect more WiMAX type services for delivery of mobile broadband offering speeds up tp 1000Mbps. Other Euopean countries already offer WiMAX services and there are already WiMAX Routers and LTE Router products available.
To help answer the question “What is LTE ?” we have compiled the following information. LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the project name of a new high performance air interface for cellular mobile communication systems. It is the last step toward the 4th generation (4G) of radio technologies designed to increase the capacity and speed of mobile telephone networks. LTE is commonly known as 4G so you may have started to hear about the latest 4G phones, 4G Mobiles, 4G modems and even 4G Routers.
LTE will support typical download speeds of 100Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps, however the initial LTE products including LTE mobile Phones, LTE Smartphones and LTE Routers will typically support either 21Mbps or 42Mbps, but these will be subject to the availability of LTE networks.
When will LTE be available in the UK?
O2 and Huawei have just finished trials of an 4G Mobile Network LTE service in Slough where they reached download speeds of 150Mbps. However, the UK mobile phone operators will need to move quickly to roll out 4G LTE services becuase acording to a recent Financial Times article, Hong Kong based PCCW is looking to roll out an LTE network in the UK through its UK subsidiary UK Broadband. PCCW recently aquired all the UK WiMax licenses and plans to operate its 4G network using the 3.5GHz and 3.6GHz frequencies for LTE.
There are a growing number of 4G phones available, but with no usable network they will not live up to their performance claims in the UK and there are also a growing number of other 4G business hardware solutions such as 4G Routers. A good example is the Vololink VA126 LTE router which can provide download speeds up to 42Mbps and is available to buy now, which is great if you live in one of the LTE network trial areas but we imagine that as LTE services are rolled out during 2011 and 2012 in the UK then products such as the Vololink and Zalip HSPA+ routers that can take advantage of the high speed LTE mobile broadband networks will become more popular and start to replace the 3G router products currently being used for IP CCTV and M2M remote monitoring and management applications.
In summary, the answer to the question “What is LTE ?” is that LTE is high speed mobile broadband offering potentially faster sdownload speeds than traditional wired broadband services for use with LTE mobile phone handsets and other mobile broadband equipment such as LTE Routers and LTE Modems.