Putting the 'long term’ in long-term evolution
Unlike its predecessors, many of which by this same point in their adoption cycle were already being prepared to transition to the next generation of cellular air interface technology; LTE appears to be living up to its long-term promise. LTE, while gaining momentum, is really only at the beginning of its launch cycle. There have been 265 commercial LTE network launches to date, supporting some 200 million subscribers in 2013. That number is expected to grow substantially in the next few years, with estimations of more than 2.3 billion subscribers worldwide by 2018.
With only a few murmurs of “5G” in the ether, the current iteration of LTE, known as release 9, is only the first step in a series of enhancements aimed at air interface, heterogeneous network topologies, advanced services, and for the first time, the potential for a truly global standard. However, as with most undertakings of such global magnitude, achieving this vision is an evolution and not an event.
Some known advancements are already in the planning stages or are on their way to being deployed, such as increasing levels of carrier aggregation, VoLTE and heterogeneous networks. All LTE advancements are geared towards trying to meet the consumer's insatiable demand for more bandwidth and lower latency while maintaining profitability and service levels for the operators.
However, these known advancements will not be enough to support the growing number of subscribers, and given that 5G is nowhere near ready to being ratified as a standard, much less implemented, we expect that more evolutions of LTE will need to be designed and implemented to address the consumer generated demand. This is where industry-wide summits such as the LTE Innovation Summit become extremely valuable to the ecosystem.
Check out the 2014 LTE Innovation Summit, being held from April 9-10, here: http://www.ecnmag.com/events/2013/12/2014-lte-innovation-summit