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The Evolution of Mobile Broadband Communications

Mobile broadband now represents the leading edge in innovation and development for computing, networking, Internet technology and software.

"The mobile broadband market has continued to explode thanks to widespread adoption, powerful new networks, stunning new handheld devices, and more than a million mobile applications," said Peter Rysavy, President of Rysavy Research and author of the latest market study for 4G Americas.

The resulting report discusses the evolution of HSPA and LTE, as well as the capabilities of these technologies and their position relative to other primary competing technologies. It explains how these technologies fit into the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) roadmap that leads to International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced (IMT-Advanced) and beyond.

Their new white paper notes that major developments this past year include not only HSPA ubiquity, but rapid deployment of LTE networks; deepening smartphone capability; the availability of hundreds of thousands of mobile applications across multiple device ecosystems; the maturing of new form factors such as tablets; and a better understanding of what the industry needs to do to address data demands, which are growing exponentially.

Over this past year, the need for additional internationally harmonized spectrum has become particularly urgent, resulting in a number of new initiatives by industry and government.

The important observations and conclusions of the study follow:
  • The wireless industry is addressing exploding data demand through a combination of spectrally more efficient technology, heterogeneous networks, self-configuration, and self-optimization.
  • LTE (FDD) has become the global cellular-technology platform of choice for both GSM-HSPA and CDMA/EV-DO operators. WiMAX operators have a smooth evolution to LTE-TDD.
  • Despite the industry’s best efforts to deploy the most efficient technologies possible, overwhelming demand is already leading to isolated instances of congestion, which will become widespread unless more spectrum becomes available in the near future.
  • The wireless technology roadmap now extends to LTE-Advanced, defined to exceed IMT-Advanced requirements. In 2013, operators will begin deploying LTE-Advanced which will be capable of peak theoretical throughput rates that exceed 1 Gbps.
  • GSM-HSPA has an overwhelming global position in terms of subscribers, deployment, and services. Its success will continue to marginalize other wide-area wireless technologies.
  • GSM-HSPA will comprise the overwhelming majority of subscribers over the next five to ten years, even as LTE becomes globally available.

"The GSM to LTE wireless technology ecosystem has become the most successful communications technology family ever," noted Chris Pearson, President of 4G Americas.

Through a process of constant improvement, the 3GPP family of technologies has not only matched or exceeded the capabilities of all competing approaches, but has significantly extended the life of each of its member technologies.

With 5.8 billion connections today, the 3GPP family of technologies is available on nearly 800 networks in more than 220 countries worldwide. Mobile broadband HSPA is commercialized on 476 networks in 181 countries -- LTE has already been commercialized on nearly 100 networks in 49 countries, with an additional commitment from more than 340 operators.

HSPA+ and LTE mobile broadband penetration is increasing in connections, deployments, devices and evolution of infrastructure and continues to expand, allowing users more data intensive applications.

In one of the most significant industry developments of 2012, LTE service has become broadly available in the U.S. reaching a large percentage of the population.

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