Now that LTE is here, what's next?

Coming some day to a network near you: LTE-Advanced and LTE with voice

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Palmer also said that Verizon will work "aggressively" to deploy LTE-Advanced technology, using a technique called carrier aggregation to allow phones to use two or more radio channels combined to communicate, more than doubling network speeds. (Qualcomm has posted a short video description of carrier aggregation on its website.)

For Verizon, carrier aggregation would mean combining its 700MHz spectrum holdings with AWS spectrum (which itself is over 1700MHz for uplinks and 2100MHz for downlinks).

Today, phones primarily rely on a single radio channel to communicate. But Qualcomm has developed a smartphone processor, the Snapdragon 800, which incorporates the ability to work with carrier aggregation across two or more LTE radio channels.

That chip is being used in the special Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone for LTE-Advanced, being rolled out in South Korea. SK Telecom said it launched its LTE-Advanced network this week in Seoul with theoretical top speeds of 150Mbps.

Qualcomm said the Galaxy S4 with LTE-Advanced will also work on KT and LGU+ networks in South Korea. A Qualcomm spokesman said carrier aggregation technologies "could be" launched by U.S. operators by early 2014, although no U.S. carrier has committed to a schedule. Qualcomm could not say when Samsung plans to make the Galaxy S4 with LTE-Advanced available in the U.S. Samsung declined to comment.

Palmer also refused to say when Verizon will have LTE-Advanced capabilities in place or what speeds LTE-Advanced networks would support. But she did say that there has been a lot of "hype" about it. "LTE-Advanced is really a set of enhancement and features that can be added to a network," she said. "You will see us leading in LTE-Advanced, however we will deploy things like carrier aggregation where we need it and small cells... strategically applying features where and when customers need it."

Analysts divided on timing

Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, said that Verizon, Sprint and AT&T all seem to be aggressively moving to LTE-Advanced, and that AT&T should be able to implement it in 2014.

But Phillip Redman, an analyst at Gartner, was less optimistic. LTE-Advanced in the U.S. "will be expensive and a long time coming" for the carriers, he said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates, concurred. "I don't think we'll see wide-scale deployments of LTE-Advanced in the U.S. for at least two to three years," he said.

Gold said one reason it will take so long is that carriers are still recovering from the costs of rolling out LTE networks. And he expects that customers will probably be ambivalent about getting LTE-Advanced performance when it becomes available.

This article, "Now that LTE Is Here, What's Next?," was originally published on Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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