LTE continues to evolve and present new challenges and opportunities, even as the industry begins to chase “5G” dreams. At last week’s LTE North America event, both the current state of LTE features as well as new evolutions within mobile networks and the trends driving the industry came into sharper focus.
1. LTE has a long life ahead of it and is expected to provide both significant improvements to current implementations as well as a solid underpinning for 5G. Chris Pearson, president of 4G Americas, noted as of Release 13 (to be finalized in the spring of 2016), features will be known as LTE-Advanced Pro rather than just LTE-Advanced. LTE is expected to be the workhorse of advanced wireless networks for the foreseeable future, predicted to carry the bulk of traffic even when 5G becomes available around 2020. There is also still significant room for growth in LTE – even by 2020, LTE coverage is expected to reach only 70% of the world’s population.
2. 5G is generating industry interest, early exploration and research, but the business case for 5G is still unclear – and operators feel many of the use cases that are being presented can be met by the continuing evolution of LTE. In particular, the “Internet of Things” is seen as a major driver of network investments, ranging from low-power wide area networks (read more here from the GSMA) to LTE as well as future 5G networks. Representatives from AT&T and T-Mobile US discussed some of the issues related to 5G in the following panel session: