ÜberTech


Why Consumers Should Care about LTE

Why Consumers Should Care about LTE

Summary: 4G LTE mobile networks will bring faster Internet on your mobile, including streaming music and video, video conferencing, faster downloads and more pictures. You’re going to like it.

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TOPICS: ÜberTech
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LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, is the next big thing. It’s a part of 4G, or the fourth generation of mobile technology (after the 3G used for smartphones, 2G used for digital phones, and 1G used for analog phones). Carriers around the world have upgraded—or are in the process of upgrading—their networks to the new technology. More on that in the second part of this three-part series on LTE.

What consumers need to know is this: LTE networks are to mobile Internet connectivity what broadband was to dialup. Remember the Internet before broadband? It was a very different, often dreadful experience of thumb twiddling while waiting for pages to load.

With LTE, we’ll be able to stream music and video, upload, download and essentially do anything on the Web using our mobile phones and tablets almost as fast as if we were at home on a broadband connection. This standard, unlike previous ones, is not just focused on improving download speed, but has been designed to improve upload speed, too. It supports a theoretical peak upload limit of 50 Mbps, orders of magnitude faster than what we get from 3G. (Some of the definitions of mobile broadband guarantee a miniscule minimum speed of only 256 Kbps.)

LTE delivers a peak speed of 100 Mbps for download. Though that’s the theoretical speed limit and consumers will realistically be on lesser bandwidth, LTE still promises a giant leap forward. (Have a look at this 3G vs. 4G speed test.)

LTE’s faster upload and download speed, in turn, will give application developers more options for creating better user experiences on mobile for gaming, banking, socializing, shopping, watching videos and more via the Web or apps. So, in the future when you use mobile banking, you’ll be able to have a live video chat with an advisor about which loan is best for you, or doctors will be able to use telepresence on their mobile to provide consultation to patients anywhere on the globe.

We may also see different bundles of services from mobile operators, as we’ll be consuming our previous data allotments in minutes.

Consumer Internet use really took off roughly a decade ago, when we all began replacing our dial-up modems with always-on broadband. And that’s the precipice on which we are teetering today, as LTE networks expand, and the number of compatible devices increases. Mobile consumers: it’s about to get real.

How will LTE change the oldest telephony service: voice? With 3G, voice calls over a mobile phone are circuit switched, which means there is a dedicated circuit-to-voice session. So, even when you’re not talking, the resources are dedicated to your conversation, eating up the limited bandwidth in the network, and increasing the chance that the network will run out of capacity. If you’ve ever tried to make a call in a crowded space like a music festival, where too many people have to share the available bandwidth, you know the pain of not being able to make a call.

LTE, on the other hand, supports “packet voice”. Because LTE is an all-IP system, it has to turn voice calls into digital data, and send them over the network as voice-over-IP (now often called voice-over-LTE, or VoLTE). This is a fundamental shift, and will improve network capacity because operators can share packet voice links between many communication sessions and conversations. At a crowded music festival, LTE can shuffle and re-allocate bandwidth in real time between many different callers. In effect, the pregnant pause in your conversation doesn’t waste bandwidth. Many operators plan to roll out packet voice by the end of this year.

Packet voice also allows for new features, such as making your or your contacts’ presence or status a common feature. You would always know, as you do with instant messaging apps, if the person you’re calling is busy. If you hate leaving awkward voicemails, you can just send a text instead.

LTE could also take us to the point where more people access the Internet via their mobiles than through fixed lines.

There’s a lot of new and improved technology behind LTE, and operators stand to gain as many behind-the-scenes benefits as those I’ve listed above for consumers. However, there are still a few speed bumps on the road to our mobile Shangri-La. I’ll cover both these topics in posts two and three of this three-part series.

Topic: ÜberTech

About

Diarmuid Mallon is the Director, Global Marketing Solutions & Programs – Mobile, which includes the SAP Mobile Services division and SAP Mobile solutions. He has worked in the mobile industry since 1996. Follow him here at ÜberTech and @diarmuidmallon.

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14 comments
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  • I doubt so

    It's the consumer-device that makes the usage scenario and user experience. Smartphones are in no way the proper devices to make use of LTE. What phone application does the editor have in mind that would ever benefit from 100 MB/s ? Almost the same goes for tablets. Current networks are fast enough for all sorts of mobile devices. Eg. distributing a high quality 1080p movie to a 5" smartphone is the ultimate waste of bandwidth since nobody would every realize higher compression rates.

    Hardly any consumer will ever see a true advantage in using LTE. It's the carrier that benefits from LTE by having more bandwidth. More bandwidth gives more freedom in network design.
    EnticingHavoc
    • Broadband replacement

      It makes sense when it is used as a broadband replacement in areas where broadband is not available or still very slow.

      I agree, on a phone or tablet, it doesn't make much sense, but for a family that is stuck on a 1mbps broadband connection out in the sticks, it makes a lot more sense.

      Here, in Germany, there is a roll-out of 4G broadband to rural areas which have no or poor cabled broadband access. It is certainly cheaper to install a mast in a rural area than to upgrade telephone cables to farms miles apart from each other.
      wright_is
    • Have you used LTE? I doubt so...

      I wonder whether EnticingHavoc you have used LTE on your smartphone. For me I have and there is a noticeable difference. Here is why

      - First and foremost LTE has more capacity so the cell is less congested, helped by limited smartphones on the network at this stage. So it's faster in busy areas on average (not peak speeds which are rarely achieved).

      - LTE has much lower latency, so clicking on a link on a web page loads right away, no lag like on 3G.

      - LTE as pointed out in the article has far better capacity on the uplink, so uploading a phone to say Facebook often fails on 3G, it works right away on 3G. It also allows you to have a video call on Skype or Google talk as if you were on Wifi.

      If you just look on paper at peak downlink speeds and what applications need, then you are not going to see the real benefit but there is much more to good performance than this.

      My suggestion is try it out for yourself.
      Nimos-92373
    • Have you used LTE? I doubt so...

      I wonder whether EnticingHavoc you have used LTE on your smartphone. For me I have and there is a noticeable difference. Here is why

      - First and foremost LTE has more capacity so the cell is less congested, helped by limited smartphones on the network at this stage. So it's faster in busy areas on average (not peak speeds which are rarely achieved).

      - LTE has much lower latency, so clicking on a link on a web page loads right away, no lag like on 3G.

      - LTE as pointed out in the article has far better capacity on the uplink, so uploading a phone to say Facebook often fails on 3G, it works right away on 3G. It also allows you to have a video call on Skype or Google talk as if you were on Wifi.

      If you just look on paper at peak downlink speeds and what applications need, then you are not going to see the real benefit but there is much more to good performance than this.

      My suggestion is try it out for yourself.
      Nimos-92373
      • Have I used LTE?

        No, I never tried it.
        And I refuse to get a smart phone, as long as there's a mandatory data plan.
        Another way to increase revenues.
        radu.m
      • Perhaps the author intended to say that LTE...

        is just a solution in search of a problem to fix - because the examples cited are truly not necessary for everyday life, even in these times..... Sure it may enhance the "user experience" of some "high end users", but really now, should we envision a huge chunk of the population wandering down the street paying so close attention to streaming video on their personal comm devices that they enter into potentially hazardous conditions???? Sometimes marketing folks need to climb down from their self erected pedestals and witness how the bulk of humanity really lives.
        Willnott
  • Does LTE Do IPv6?

    If not, it's just going to aggravate the IPv4 address logjam.
    ldo17
  • Not here

    Another "revenue enhancer".
    Anyone noticed that's almost impossible to get a phone without a mandatory data plan?
    I thought that bundling was illegal.
    radu.m
    • Re: Anyone noticed that's almost impossible to get a phone without a mandat

      Where is "here"? Plenty of phones sold unlocked with no SIMs or contracts in the shops here. And that would be typical of most of the world.
      ldo17
  • Um, no

    This article is nonsense. 3G vs. 4G is NOT a sharp difference like the supposed dialup vs. broadband, because 3G has been improving over time. My HSPA+, which is sometimes referred to as a 3.75G technology, is almost as fast as the LTE provided by my carrier. In fact my carrier has ads about phones that provide "LTE speeds" even though they don't support LTE. And some carriers refer to things like HSPA+ as 4G even though they're technically not, because of their high speed.

    This article was written by someone with little understanding of the subject. Why is ZDNet accepting an article about mobile from SAP?
    Rohan Jayasekera
    • Really? How about yes?

      Just because HSPA+ is being labeled as 4G, does not mean that it is equivalent to LTE. LTE is much more capable in the long term for faster transmission than HSPA+. Also the digital packets for voice vs. circuit-switch is very much an improvement that should reduce the overloading of cell towers. Sure, for some carriers, the current LTE isn't much better than HSPA+, but other carriers that skipped HSPA+ have even faster speeds.
      grayknight
    • Absolutely, Yes

      This article is NOT nonsense. The author makes some very good points. I am both a rural LTE user as well as a smartphone user of LTE. In both cases, LTE connectivity provides significant improvements to my experience.

      In terms of rural connectivity, I previously had used a Verizon EVDO Rev A USB 'modem' in my WiFi router. I was lucky to get 2 Mbps download and 500K upload speeds -- that connecting a variety of devices -- 1 desktop, 1 laptop, tables and other devices I have on my LAN. With Verizon LTE, I now regularly enjoy download speeds up to 10Mbps with upload speeds exceeding 2 Mbps -- a significant upgrade.

      In terms of smartphone connectivity and benefits over "3G" with LTE, we have begun leveraging capabilities such as video calls -- especially when I'm traveling. That was not nearly as workable when only connecting via 3G. Additionally, as others have said, the overall user experience regarding connectivity via apps, business emails and such is much improved when connected via LTE.

      The industry is not moving toward LTE to simply charge subscribers more. Yes, everyone should make a profit; however, today's mobile networks are stretched pretty thin. Circuit Switched voice is at capacity in many areas. LTE (VoLTE) will help relieve some of these network capacity issues. For my home internet service (via LTE now), my bills are less than they were when I was only using EVDO Rev A. So my experience is a little different.
      wdudley2009
      • Yes and yes

        To those smarty pants that look at paper headline speeds pushed by marketing and try and say 3G is just as fast as 4G, understand this, downlink peak bandwidth of a cellular network which is one meausre, does not dictate speed for most applications and users.

        Two points

        (1) HTTP which most applications use requires good downlink speeds, uplink speeds AND the forgotten aspect of good latency to get a great experience. If you don't get this, read about TCP window sizes. 4G LTE is far superior than 3G in uplink and latency even if peak downlink speeds are the same. Try seeing what your pings times are on 3G, then repeat on 4G...

        (2) Cellular networks are shared networks. 4G is more spectrally efficient since it uses multiple antenna multiplexing on the downlink (not present in almost all 3G networks or devices), and generally has more bandwidth available as a whole than 3G spectrum. As a result the average amount of bits/user that can be pushed through the network is greater without even looking at anything else. This results in much higher average downlink speeds (even if the peak downlink speeds are the same).

        My advise, try it for yourself for a period of time before making comments that 3G is the same. Like wdudley2009 has.
        Nimos-92373
  • Right, nobody needs LTE

    I'm old enough to remember when the statement was "Nobody will ever use more than 16k" How about, "Who would want a computer in there home?"

    Being short-sighted is a sure why to get athletes tongue, also known as 'foot in mouth disease"
    ccsolutions