Ofcom report: LTE networks to up capacity by 200 per cent

Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulatory body, has released a report stating that it expects future UK LTE networks to be 3.3 times more spectrally efficient as current 3G technologies, giving capacity gains of 230 per cent using the same amount of spectrum.

The data was obtained from research conducted by consultancy Real Wireless for Ofcom, with the aim of gaining a clearer understanding of the improvements to be made from what it dubs as ‘4G’ technologies. Ofcom said that for the purposes of the report it considerst technologies at HSPA+ level and below to be 3G, while LTE and Wimax are considered 4G.

The report states that initial deployments of LTE will provide a 1.2 times increase over the latest variants of 3G such as HSPA+. Compared to HSUPA Release 6 handsets, the increase will be 3.3 times.  The forecast also expects that increased spectral efficiency will enable the networks to carry as much as 5.5 times more traffic in the same spectrum by 2020.

However, while the spectral efficiency of 4G is clearly proven Ofcom said that it would not be enough on its own to meet the expected growth in demand for mobile data. Much of this extra spectrum is expected to come from the auction of new spectrum of 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies, due to be held in the UK in 2012.

In addition the report highlighted the need for more intelligently designed networks, with topologies that make the best use of available spectrum. This means the widespread use of small cells, which can be affixed to walls and lamp posts and help boost coverage in densely populated areas.

Dr Stephen Unger, chief technology officer at Ofcom said in a statement that, “4G mobile technologies will be able to send more information than 3G, for a given amount of spectrum. This increased efficiency means that 4G networks will be able to support increased data rates and more users.

“The research that we commissioned indicates that early 4G mobile networks with standard configurations will be 3.3 times (230 per cent) more spectrally efficient than today’s standard 3G networks. To put this in context, a user on an early 4G network will be able to download a video in around a third of the time it takes today on a 3G network. It is anticipated that this efficiency will increase to approximately 5.5 times (450 per cent) by 2020.”

The full report is available to view on the Ofcom web site.

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