O2 LTE trial fails to address key concerns, says TE Connectivity

Mobile operator O2 has announced that it is launching the first large-scale public LTE 4G trial in the UK. Up until June 2012, 1,000 London-based participants will be able to enjoy internet speeds of up to ten times faster than the current 3G performance, with technology available at over 25 sites and covering 15 square miles of the city. This will involve dongles being handed out to users, which can be plugged into tablet devices and laptops computers – smartphones will not be included in the trial.

Yet Tony LeFebvre, director of product management at TE Connectivity, made the following commented: “A major problem with this trial is that it appears O2 will be delivering signals via the traditional macro tower architecture, which has already proven to be insufficient for 3G services. When considering that LTE services will require three to five times as many base stations, it seems unlikely that 25 masts within a 15 square mile radius will be enough. Traditional network infrastructure is only really suitable for less intense, 2G services, therefore, as the demand for high-speed mobile internet continues to increase, it is vital that operators re-evaluate their network infrastructure as opposed to simply adding more masts.

“Making cells smaller is the most efficient way to deliver higher capacity per cell. By using smaller cells and the right products, operators can deliver high-quality service throughout a coverage area without the dead zones so common in macro networks. By combining with small cell architecture, such as Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), operators would then be able to distribute this increased capacity via remote antennas to exactly where it is needed. Not only will this overcome any potential opposition to the erection of more masts within urban areas, but it will ensure that operators are in a position to provide the capacity required for future smartphone demands.

“Unfortunately, by neglecting to include smartphones in the trial, O2 will struggle to obtain data relating to one of the key challenges operators now face. Improving mobile broadband use for laptop users is one thing, however, it will be significantly harder to replicate this success with mobile phone performance. More and more users are choosing to access the internet via their smartphone, whether it’s checking emails, updating their social networking site or shopping online, and they use these devices to interact with the online world in a fundamentally different way than they do using PCs. With next generation handset proliferation increasing, it is vital that operators are fully prepared to cope with the fluid way network demands shift when the majority of users are accessing the mobile internet via smartphone.”