Lack of modems hinder LTE-Advanced network performance?

UL taps Anritsu ME7873LA platform for LTE-Advanced
Though telecom operators are making investment in LTE-Advanced and Advanced Pro for enhancing mobile data experience, the lack of acceptance of next-generation modems in mobile devices may hinder network performance, reveal reports from ABI research.

Already, North American mobile operators have invested roughly $265 billion in total capital expense and $70 billion for spectrum since the 700 megahertz auction in 2008.

Even with huge investments being done in wireless network capacity, lack of the same at the mobile device at the other end of the connection, which may be Category 4, 6, or 9 and do not support the advanced features of LTE will hinder the network capacity at crowded hot spots.

The main reason is that the slower devices cannot accept data transmitted in greater speeds by the networks. This will result in network congestion with the slower devices limiting spectrum utilization.

Hence, to avoid a negative impact on network performance and function, which will have a diverse effect on investment by carriers in network enhancement, handset OEMs have to be promoted so that the adoption rate of sophisticated modems goes up.

Current Scenario and Stats

About 85 percent smartphones may be shipped with relatively low speed modems which are not aligned with LTE-Advanced Performance, in 2016.

Instead if subscribers upgrade to Category 12 devices, the network could deliver a capacity gain of about 1.86 times.

In 2016, almost 25 percent LTE smartphones may be equipped with modem supporting a down link speed higher than 200 Mbps, and hence supporting LTE-Advanced networks.

With LTE-Advanced services trending, LTE-Advanced Pro with higher carrier aggregation combinations exceeding three channels, advanced MIMO features and elevation beamforming, along with the deployment of higher modulation methods like 256-QAM, is expected to be accepted too.

Reports suggest that 90 out of 148 operators currently deploying LTE-Advanced services are undergoing plans to deploy LTE-Advanced Pro by 2016 or 2017.

Devices powered by modems enabling down link speed up to 1Gbps, should be used for the above.

The devices will range from Category 11, supporting up to 600Mbps for down link data rates, to Category 16, supporting up to 1Gbps.

Category 11/12 modems will be available in high-end devices like LG, Samsung, and ZTE soon.

The main concern will be that the first Category 16 modems are not expected before 2017, with the first launch of the modem happening in 2016 by Qualcomm.

Even then, Category 11 or higher gear modems can enhance the overall mobile service experience by enabling faster speeds compared to Category 6 and Category 9 modems.

The latter have been found to limit spectrum utilization of LTE-Advanced Pro networks in crowded hotspots that utilize high-bandwidth services.

In-spite of investments in LTE-Advanced Pro, majority of operator terminals still deploy modems with Category 4, Category 6, and Category 9 devices.

Reports suggest that mobile device shipments powered by category 11 or higher generations may shoot from 2 percent of total LTE devices sold in 2016 to 36 percent by 2021.


As a solution to the above woes, carriers are dependent on device makers to provide them with devices to help resolve these issues, beginning with OEMs implementing Cat 7 first and then moving to Cat 12 or Cat 13 LTE in sync with the network.

Operators need to ask device vendors to maintain sync with network implementation plans to deliver following modem features in all devices:

# Pre-planning based on smartphone lifetime of two years

# Introduction of economic plans to promote subscribers to select mobiles with advanced modems

# Designing of hot zone, small cell and in-building systems to maximize signal strength, hence slashing interference

# Upgradation of network software to 256 QAM and carrier aggregation

Devices featuring enhanced modems currently include Intel XMM 7360 supporting up to Cat 10 LTE, and Qualcomm offering Cat 13 and the industry-first-LAA or Cat 16 support.

Demand for LTE-Advanced

According to recent Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) data, 521 operators have now commercially launched LTE, LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro networks in 170 countries. 147 of these operators have deployed LTE-Advanced, and 9 have commercially launched LTE-Advanced Pro. LTE-Advanced has now moved into mainstream deployments, and the GSA has raised its forecast to 560 LTE network deployments by the end of 2016.

Stephane Teral, senior research director, mobile infrastructure and carrier economics, IHS Markit, says the migration from basic LTE to true 4G is underway: 84 percent of IHS Markit’s service provider respondents are already running LTE‑Advanced (LTE-A) networks.

IHS Markit says barriers to deploying 4G are nonexistent at this point, and the main driver for 4G is the lower cost per megabyte of data. Easy upgradability and standards compliance are the top two LTE features among those surveyed. IHS Markit respondent carriers view Ericsson as the top LTE vendor, followed by Nokia and Huawei.

Vina Krishnan
[email protected]