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Ericsson announces gigabit-speed 4G LTE software solution

Ericsson has announced a set of products to advance 4G speeds, including combining 3CC, 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and Lean Carrier; an elastic RAN cloud architecture; and spectrum boosters for radio.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Ericsson has announced plans overnight to use new software to upgrade commercial 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks worldwide to enable peak speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

The Ericsson Networks Software 16B solution involves three-component carrier (3CC) aggregation, combining 60MHz of bandwidth from three different spectrum bands; 4x4 multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), which transmits twice as many data streams to devices; 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), which bundles more bits into the spectrum being used; and Ericsson Lean Carrier, which lessens interference caused by excess reference signalling on LTE networks, in turn augmenting the data throughput received by customers.

According to Ericsson, combining these four software features provides a 100 percent enhancement of downlink peak data rates compared to using only 3CC aggregation.

The technology manufacturing giant is set to demonstrate Ericsson Networks Software 16B later this month at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 in Barcelona.

Ericsson has also announced its new elastic radio access network (RAN) cloud architecture, through which all Ericsson Radio System LTE baseband units are able to harmonise with adjacent units, whether they run on a distributed, centralised, or hybrid network architecture.

Elastic RAN is touted as being hyper-scalable, with Ethernet transport networks interconnecting LTE basebands to form a single coordination area. CA and coordinated multipoint may also be used to improve the app coverage network.

Ericsson is also now supplementing its Radio System, which was unveiled at last year's MWC, with three new products, each supporting either 4x4 MIMO, new spectrum bands, or refarmed spectrum. Radio 4415 supports 4x4 MIMO with 4x 40W output power, while its Radio 2012 product supports the 1.4GHz supplemental downlink band, and Radio 2212 now has 2x 80W output power to enable spectrum to be upgraded to 3G or 4G from 2G.

"Our latest combination of software, hardware, and network architecture innovations supported on the Ericsson Radio System ensure that our mobile operator customers can continue to delight their customers while driving network performance and efficiency improvements as they evolve to 5G," said Arun Bansal, senior vice president and head of Business Unit Radio at Ericsson.

"Gigabit LTE, Elastic RAN, and new radio access and microwave backhaul products are all designed to help our operators become the frontrunners in their markets."

The company has also added several microwave backhaul capabilities to its Radio System: Multi-band Booster, which combines a wider high-frequency spectrum channel with a narrow low-frequency channel; the Mini-Link 6651 indoor unit, which uses 4096 QAM and a 112MHz channel for a link capacity of 1.9Gbps; the Mini-Link 6354 outdoor unit, which also uses 4096 QAM and 112MHz channels for a capacity of 2.8Gbps; and High Performance Compact antennas for Ericsson's current Mini-Link 6363, Mini-Link 6352, and Fronthaul 6392 units.

"Microwave backhaul continues to play a very important role in the evolution to 5G," said Dragan Raguz, head of Transmission at Tele2 Croatia.

"Ericsson has once again demonstrated its leadership with Multi-band Booster enabling substantial increase in capacity and improved use of spectrum."

According to Ericsson, all of these advancements will aid in the progress towards 5G by 2020.

In Australia, Ericsson has been partnering with telecommunications provider Telstra on increasing network speeds, announcing a demonstration in partnership with Qualcomm of 4x4 spatial multiplexing MIMO combined with 256 QAM, which it claimed established the foundation for commercial network download speeds of up to 1Gbps.

During the experiment, the companies combined 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, Ericsson Networks Software 16B for LTE, and Telstra's commercial network.

The combination currently achieves peak downlink data speeds of up to 380Mbps, but the technology is expected to reach download speeds of 1Gbps in the future.

"Activating new advanced network and operational capabilities such as 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM provides operators with a more solid and secure network performance, enabling digitalisation opportunities to everyone, everywhere," Thomas Norén, VP and head of Radio Product Management at Ericsson, said in December.

The companies noted that 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM should be supported on smartphones from 2016.

"We are constantly looking to enhance our customers' user experience, and 4x4 MIMO will be an important addition to our mobile network speeds and capacity," said Mike Wright, Telstra group managing director of Networks.

"This next step in device evolution, achieved by Ericsson and Qualcomm, shows 4x4 MIMO with 256 QAM in combination. This brings us even closer to offering 1Gbps capabilities to our customers."

Wright said on Thursday that Ericsson's new announcements in 1Gbps LTE will also be leveraged on its network.

"We are excited to have been able to efficiently drive new performance milestones in our LTE network in the evolution towards 5G, including recently partnering with Ericsson to demonstrate the world's first end-to-end 1Gbps capability on Telstra's live network," Wright said.

"Ericsson's latest LTE innovations, including gigabit LTE, will enable us to continue to raise the bar in terms of user experience across a wide range of applications and media streaming."

In November, Telstra and Ericsson also attained speeds of 1Gbps during live commercial 4G mobile trials by aggregating five spectrum bands in a world first.

During the test, 100MHz of spectrum was aggregated across the 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz (2x 20MHz) bands, and delivered to a Cobham Aeroflex TM500 mobile device.

"Our end-to-end tests have been achieving amazing download speeds of over 950Mbps using a specialised speed test application," Wright said in a blog post.

"Just as importantly, we have also been able to hit speeds of over 843Mbps end to end over the internet to the speedtest.net site."

According to Ericsson, 5CC aggregation provides the foundation for 5G, which will require the aggregation of higher-frequency bands. The high speeds also allow for better and more reliable coverage with mobile devices.

Similarly, Chinese technology giant Huawei has been working with Singapore's third-largest telecommunications carrier, M1, to attain 1Gbps download/130Mbps upload speeds on M1's 4G mobile network in Singapore.

The trial was conducted inside M1's LTE Advanced test lab, and attained through the combination of four network technologies: 4x4 MIMO; 2CC uplink carrier aggregation; 3CC tri-band downlink carrier aggregation; and Higher Order Modulation 256 QAM.

The two companies used commercially available hardware as well as a prototype CAT14 Huawei device for the trial.

"Through technology innovation, we can further stretch the capability of current 4G technology, prior to the advent of 5G technology, to achieve an incredible peak download speed of more than 1Gbps," said M1 CTO Denis Seek.

"With more customers uploading and sharing content on social media and other channels, it is equally important to ensure we can deliver higher upload speeds. For this reason, we are also testing technology to deliver increased mobile upload speeds, to ensure we can meet their expectations."

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