LTE: Technology versus business

As a technology, LTE is solid, but as a business model the future of mobile is less clear. caught up with Konstantinos Halkiotis, RAN integration principal engineer at Greek operator Cosmote, at the recent LTE World Summit and got his thoughts on the future.

Halkiotis first notes that 2G’s success is due to the fact that it was geared to voice, but it failed to make any meaningful progress for the delivery of data services. So for data, operators have had to go down a winding upgrade path from UMTS to HSDPA to HSUPA to HSPA and now to HSPA+, where Cosmote claims 42Mbps with dual carrier functionality, with a possibility to take that up to 84Mbps.

But Halkiotis notes that if more capacity is needed for the user, then an operator will have to upgrade to a new technology, namely LTE.

“LTE adoption will be driven by the low latency the system will offer. It is very promising as a mobile broadband service,” he says. “But of course there is the legacy of UMTS and the capex and money you need to spend on the core network when rolling out LTE.”

Fortunately, Halkiotis sees great potential in Software Defined Radio (SDR) as “a promising technology that connects the past – GSM – the present – UMTS and HSPA – with the future, which is LTE using only one basestation, one common RF bearer frequency band and one common transmission controller to define what technology you want to use to transmit over the air depending on the cell or the time of day.”

According to the engineer, this helps a lot by providing flexibility to the operator and reducing the capex and opex of LTE deployment while future proofing the investment and allowing for upgrades without any hardware changes, by just tuning the software.

But what of the business model? “The boom in data traffic came when operators introduced flat rate tariffs,” he says. “Before this you didn’t have so much data traffic. So for LTE I’m not sure where the revenues will come from as we will have to see the profile of the user. Perhaps HD video?

“Consumers will always take whatever you give them. So if you give them more they will take more. If you give less then they will take less. Really, we need a new strategy to convince consumers of then need to go to LTE,” Halkiotis said. “In any case, LTE will be the future.”

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