The European Union is to invest €18m into LTE Advanced, a future mobile wireless internet technology.
Work is currently underway on rolling out the Long Term Evolution (LTE) of 3G, and LTE Advanced is a proposed further evolution of that technology. The development of LTE was aided by €25m (£21.5m) from the EU and, according to a statement issued by the European Commission on Tuesday, the new investment will help boost mobile broadband speeds even further.
"With LTE technologies, Europe's research know-how will continue to set the tone for the development of mobile services and devices around the globe, just as we did in the past decades with the GSM standard," EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.
"LTE technologies will turn mobile phones into powerful mobile computers. Millions of new users will get ultra high-speed internet access on their portable devices, wherever they are."
Whereas 3G download speeds will soon be able to reach around 42Mbps using a variant protocol called High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) Evolved, LTE download speeds can reach 100Mbps through the technology's use of a technique called Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output (Mimo) — using multiple antennas on the base station and on the device in order to increase throughput.
If LTE Advanced works out as planned, the technology's peak data rates should be as high as 1Gbps — an International Telecommunications Union's prerequisite for mobile technology to qualify as '4G'. This would be achieved by putting four or more antennas on the device, with the same number on the base station.
The technology would also be able to use non-contiguous frequency ranges, which would address some of the problems associated with Europe's crowded radio spectrum.
In September, the Commission will begin negotiating the details of the research funding with various industry consortia. According to the Commission's statement, the resulting research projects will begin at the start of next year.
Europe's first commercial LTE deployments, in Sweden and Norway, are also due to begin next year.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the communications software and services provider Aricent said the specifications for LTE Advanced were likely to be agreed sometime in 2011 or 2012.
"LTE by itself is considered to be really a '3.9G' technology and it is LTE Advanced that will deliver on the 4G promise of minimising differences between wired and wireless broadband speeds," Aricent marketing manager Sanket S Nesargi said in the statement.
Nesargi pointed out that LTE Advanced would require current infrastructure to be "upgraded significantly" and called for operators to invest now in LTE.
"This investment will provide a base for migration, as well as experience with running 4G networks, and help evaluate whether/when the upgrade to LTE Advanced will be needed," he said, adding that the new technology could start to be used in 2013-14 "after standards have crystallised, and the LTE business case has been whetted".