256 QAM from RuckusThree well-known technologies come together. Gig LTE isn't magic, just darn good engineering. More spectrum is put to use through carrier aggregation. Early LTE used a single 20 MHz band. Gig LTE will use three or four bands. More antennas send more signals, usually four. (4x4 MIMO). Advanced modulation (256 QAM) carries 8 bits per signal rather than the 6 bits of the earlier 64 QAM, a third more. All three were added to the LTE specs between 2009 and 2012, but only now are improved chips and radio frequency components in mass production.

More spectrum. Early 4G LTE used 20 MHz spectrum bands and achieved up to 150 megabits.

Combine two, three, four, or five 20 MHz bands and speeds go up proportionately. In 2016, three carrier aggregation - 60 MHz - is becoming available from T-Mobile in much of the U.S., SK in Korea, and some others. I don't believe anyone is actively supporting 4 carriers, or 80 MHz, which is expected to become common in gigabit LTE. At maximum, 3 carriers can deliver 3 times as much as the single carrier, 450 megabits. In Swisscom testing, below, the three carriers reached 338 megabits, a more realistic figure. The more spectrum, the more calculations the phone must do and the more radio frequency filters in the analog front end. The problem is compounded because the spectrum bands are scattered and different for each carrier and each country. Sprint, for example, has spectrum at 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz, and 2.6 GHz. AT&T has some at 700 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2300 MHz. To be able to serve most companies around the world, the iPhone 7 covers 24 bands just for LTE. Even with remarkable advances in radio frequency front end components, working with so many bands adds considerable cost and complexity.

The engineers developed practical ways to join bands for high speeds around 2013. It wasn't easy and I don't recall any three band deployments before 2016. LTE is defined as up to five bands - 100 MHz - since 2009, so there's still room to grow. More recent standards go even higher. 5G millimeter wave will use several hundred MHz or even a GHz, 1000 megahertz. The complexity and power demands go up as well. Top analyst Linley Gwennap expects early mmWave chips to be 10X as complicated as today's state of the art and real battery killers. It will take at least another generation of Moore's Law and probably two generations before mmWave phone processors will match the power and size of today's LTE chips. That's one of the reasons it will be at least 2020 and probably 2022-2024 before mmWave phones become common.

More antennas.  Arogyaswami Paulraj in 1993 discovered that you can derive separate signals from two transmitters, even if they are very close. The signals bounce off walls and other obstacles slightly differently and a good receiver can tell them apart. (If you have perfect line of sight, MIMO does very little to improve performance because it doesn't get those bounces.) Wi-Fi 802.11ac has used four antennas for several years, but it's only now four antenna cell phones are becoming available. 

256 QAM carries eight bit per signal. It's more sensitive to noise but today's components reduce noise considerably.

Put these three together and you can get over a gigabit (shared) if you have a good connection. Push a little further, including to five bands, and you get almost two gigs. Huawei and BT did a demo of 2 gig LTE, but production gear is unlikely before 2018 or 2019.

For the record: I'm not an engineer by training, but I've learned this from some very good engineers.

Ericsson and Swisscom Achieve new world First in LTE-Advanced

 Categories: Industry

  • Technology leaders Ericsson and Swisscom demonstrate 256 QAM in a combined three-carrier aggregation LTE FDD/TDD live commercial network
  • New 256 QAM modulation scheme enhances the data rate of existing frequency spectrum by up to 30 percent
  • Swisscom uses upcoming Ericsson Networks Software 16A to achieve 426 Mbps in downlink

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) and Swiss operator Swisscom have on September 17th, 2015 achieved another LTE-Advanced world-first in a live demonstration in Swisscom’s commercial mobile network.

By introducing 256 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) in a combined three-carrier aggregation LTE FDD/TDD network, the partners achieved peak downlink speeds of over 426 Mbps, compared with 335 Mbps recently achieved with the same set-up in Swisscom’s commercial network with current 64 QAM technology for downlink.

Ericsson and Swisscom have previously demonstrated Europe's first fully commercial LTE-Advanced three-carrier aggregation solution combining LTE in both FDD and TDD modes.

Patrick Weibel, Senior Architect Wireless Strategy, Swisscom, says: “At Swisscom, it is always our ambition to innovate to offer our customers the best network at all times. 256 QAM will add an important feature to the modernization of our LTE-Advanced network by increasing data speeds up to 30 percent without using any additional spectrum.”

For the demonstration, held in Zurich, Switzerland, 256 QAM was introduced using software from the recently announced Ericsson Networks Software 16A, which will become commercially available later in 2015. The three-carrier aggregation solution in Swisscom’s live commercial network makes use of two LTE TDD carriers, each with 20MHz bandwidth in the 2.6 GHz frequency band (B41), and one LTE FDD carrier with 15 MHz in the 2.1 GHz band (B1).

Per Narvinger, Head of LTE, Ericsson, says: “Ericsson Networks Software 16A introduces numerous features that help operators take important steps towards improved app coverage in the Networked Society. One of these features, 256 QAM modulation, significantly improves data throughput in any given LTE spectrum. We are proud to provide our partner Swisscom with another world-first innovation.”

About carrier aggregation and 256 QAM:

Carrier aggregation and 256 QAM are two features of LTE-Advanced. With carrier aggregation, several carriers in non-contiguous frequency bands can be combined and treated as one. The current Ericsson Networks Software 15B can achieve up to 450Mbps in downlink by combining three 20MHz carriers in LTE. 256 QAM, part of the new Ericsson Networks Software 16A, improves the data throughput in a given spectrum by up to 30 percent, meaning that a three-carrier LTE-Advanced network can achieve up to 600 Mbps downlink.

From T-Mobile's Neville Ray. There's some bluster and competitor bashing, but his description of how these features work is on target.


LTE Advanced is so 2014. We’re already on to the next big thing. Verizon is now 50% faster … and still slower than T-Mobile!

September 06, 2016
I was cracking up at Verizon’s breathless “LTE Advanced” announcement last week.  Really?  LTE Advanced? That same technology (2 channel carrier aggregation) has been available to T-Mobile customers since 2014 , and we’ve already rolled out 3 channel carrier aggregation too. 
These advanced technologies are already live for T-Mobile customers in 425 cities across the country.  And, it’s a big reason T-Mobile has been crushing the competition in LTE speed for years according to three independent sources OpenSignalOokla and even the FCC. Customers on America’s fastest LTE network already experience typical download speeds of 7-40 Mbps and typical upload speeds of 7-20 Mbps. (Ouch.  I’m sure it’s frustrating for Verizon to be #2 even with all this LTE Advanced stuff they’ve already deployed!)
Verizon loves to scream about the massive amounts of money they’ve spent on their network over the last decade. It is a staggering, mind-blowing sum of money. But, here’s something even more mind-blowing: Verizon has spent billions on their network, and it is still slower than T-Mobile, and Verizon still won’t (or can’t) offer unlimited data.   
I will hand it to Verizon. They did some cool marketing. And, I really can’t blame them for trumpeting LTE Advanced two years too late. This is what they have to do with their older, slower network. Every couple years, they rebrand it. Remember Verizon XLTE? It’s all but gone. Now, it’s Verizon LTE-A. What’s next? Verizon LTE-BS?
Look, in reality, carrier aggregation is not new.  It’s so 2014. That sound you heard from T-Mobile last week was a great big yawn. We’re already on to the next big thing.
Today, I’m proud to announce that we’re first (again) to introduce new technology that delivers a massive 2x speed boost to customers. 4x4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) doubles the number of data paths between a cell site and your phone.  Double the paths = up to double the speed than before! 
This new advanced technology is available NOW in 319 cities. Customers with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will be able to use this new technology with a software update later this month, and more phones will support it soon.
But, we’re not stopping there. Today, we’re also first to launch another new technology – 256 QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) for downloads and 64 QAM for uploads.  These new technologies increase the number of bits delivered per transmission for even faster speeds. In fact, combined with 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM delivers download speeds up to a blazing fast 400 Mbps. 
256 QAM and 64 QAM are already live in half our network, and by end of October, we’ll light up every single cell site across our nationwide network. Customers with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge will be able to use this new technology with a software update in October, with more phones on the way.
We’ve already launched seven LTE Advanced technologies – more than anyone else in the industry. (For those keeping score, they are VoLTE with eSRVCC, Carrier Aggregation, CoMP, SON, HetNets, EVS and higher order modulation.)  Already, one of those technologies – Voice over LTE (VoLTE) – carries roughly 60% of calls on our network, far more than any of the carriers. Our LTE Advanced is so much more advanced than the competition, it ought to be called LTE Advanceder®.
While carriers like to announce everysingledevice. they test in the lab on new technologies, the Un-carrier acts. We put new technology to work for our customers in the field, not in press releases.
But, equally important as our technology leadership is coverage. Today, I’m also proud to announce T-Mobile now covers nearly 312 million!  That’s right.  Verizon’s claimed coverage advantage is gone. We cover 99.7% of the people Verizon does. Now, almost everyone can choose a faster, more advanced network from T-Mobile – a network that can handle unlimited with more cell sites and more spectrum per customer than Verizon. A network that already carries 55% more data per customer than Verizon.
There’s a reason Verizon and AT&T don’t offer everyone unlimited high-speed data and have been running away from it for years – their networks just can’t handle it.  Their networks were built when a phone call was the #1 smartphone app – not Instagram or Pokémon Go or Snapchat.  Their network was not built to handle the massive amounts of data people use today.  T-Mobile’s network was built a generation later with newer technology – and it was built for how people use smartphones today – for massive amounts of data!
With every new technology-first we deliver, we build on our LTE Advanced foundation and extend our leadership. We’re not just pushing this industry forward on things like service contracts, overages, international roaming and unlimited data. We’re pushing this industry forward on next-gen technology, too – beyond LTE Advanced, towards 5G and towards a future where people can just use wireless without worry or fear.
There’s a reason T-Mobile customers are the most satisfied and T-Mobile customers are more likely to recommend the Un-carrier than customers of any national wireless company. It all starts with our blazing-fast, super-advanced network – that just got a lot faster and more advanced.  If you haven’t tried it lately – trust me, you simply haven’t tried it at all!

5GW News

dave rightStarting July 2017, all new articles are at wirelessone.news. The pols and the marketing folks have made "5G" a meaningless term so the name doesn't fit reporting on advanced wireless. This will stay so old links work. I've reported broadband since 1999 and now is the time for gigabit wireless. Catch a mistake or have news? Email me please. Dave Burstein