LTE: Time for Great Speed
The LTE technology is coming to Belarus
Statistics reported by Belarusian mobile carriers in the last 12 months have steadily demonstrated one common trait: the traffic of mobile data services is on the rise. Two years ago after major holidays or events like New Year, Independence Day or the final of the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship mobile carriers would report the number of minutes their subscribers spent talking or the number of texts they sent. Now megabytes are the measuring stick. The fact that LTE will arrive in Belarus by the end of the year has rejoiced both mobile carriers and their subscribers. What is it all about? Why was the infrastructure operator beCloud created in Belarus? And how many movies will we be able to watch on our phones simultaneously?
Belarus will get LTE. No doubt about that. The technology will be made available in Minsk in Q4 2015 to later spread to the rest of the country. There are a lot of speculations going on but do all the consumers understand what LTE stands for and whether they need it?
“It is the most difficult thing,” smiled Sergei Poblaguyev, Director General of SOOO Belarusian Cloud Technologies (beCloud trademark). “We can describe the technology in detail, can predict its development but we can say nothing specific regarding how users will react.”
Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is the next step in mobile communications and the development of telecommunication standards.
“At present we heavily rely on the third-generation (3G) cellular communication standards. However, visual content is getting more popular. More traffic is pushed around. People are no longer satisfied with getting a picture or a video. They would like high-definition quality,” explained Sergei Poblaguyev. “Driven by market trends, the new technology LTE was born several years ago. It allows making video calls, watching online video in HD, and many other things.”
It is worth noting that the terms LTE and 4G are not the same thing despite what mass media often would like you to believe. 4G stands for the fourth-generation mobile communication with high-speed data transfer and improved quality of voice communications. 4G is a family of mobile communication standards and technologies that match certain requirements of the Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-R). In turn, LTE is a subset of the 4G family, just one of the 4G technologies.
“To be precise, LTE stands outside the 4G family of standards since the technology’s technical parameters are below those 4G specifies. This is why the LTE Advanced technology is in focus today instead of its predecessor LTE that offered only data transfer. LTE Advancedcanberightfullycalleda4G mobile communication technology,” noted Sergei Poblaguyev.
The LTE technology has been developed by the international consortium 3GPP (an organization in charge of working out mobile communication specifications). The work began back in 2000 while the first deployment came in 2009. To be precise, the world’s first LTE network was launched by the telecommunication company TeliaSonera in Stockholm and Oslo on 14 December 2009. At present there are 393 commercial LTE networks in 138 countries.
“I should mention that the LTE technology is not set in stone. The 3GPP consortium regularly updates the specifications to improve various aspects of the technology,” said Sergei Poblaguyev.
Even More Speed
What is the key difference between LTE and all the previous technologies? Speed, said Sergei Poblaguyev without hesitating. LTE also boasts low signal lag during data transfer. The two advantages make the technology very appealing to modern users.
Data transfer speed has two limits: the theoretical one and the practical one, explained the beCloud Director General. Let’s have a look at the former. If the subscriber’s phone supports LTE Advanced, it can use several signal frequencies instead of one. Their speeds are summed up to provide up to 300Mbps per phone. To compare, 8Mbps bandwidth is enough to transfer Full HD signal. Simple math tells us that the subscriber will be able to receive 37 Full HD channels simultaneously.
“The question is whether the subscribers need the speed. Does
the regular user need such high numbers? Well, that figure is the theoretical limit. Things are a bit more complicated in real life. Several factors are at play, for instance, the distance between the subscriber and the base station and the number of users willing to access the Internet at the same time. Speaking in Full HD terms, we are left with ten channels. I believe the number can satisfy any user,” noted Sergei Poblaguyev.
The other massive advantage the LTE Advanced technology offers is the lower signal lag during data transfer and faster connection setup. It means that users will be able to open and browse web pages faster and enjoy faster web applications.
“The 4G standard signal is supposed to move from the network core to the subscriber’s device within 10 milliseconds. The figure is ten times that high in 3G. The difference is huge. Another advantage LTE offers is better support for mobile users. In
other words, users will be able to enjoy steady data services while travelling at high speeds,” said Sergei Poblaguyev.
It seems that LTE has only benefits to offer. However, there is one disadvantage. Subscribers with outdated phones will need a replacement. Not all modern devices support LTE. Subscribers will either have to buy new phones to use the technology or buy additional equipment (modems, routers).
Users should bear in mind that LTE uses different frequencies in different countries. This is why the mobile device either has to work with multiple frequency ranges or has to match the frequency range of the user’s home country.
Partnership Instead of Competition
The infrastructure operator beCloud has been granted the exclusive license to use LTE frequencies. Another option was to give such licenses to all the mobile carriers.
“I think it was the right decision. Users do not care who creates the infrastructure and what kind of hardware is used for the base stations. In the end they need good service. It will cost about $300 million to deploy the LTE network in Belarus, at least in all the district capitals with the population of at least 50,000. If the license were granted to all the mobile carriers, the costs would be multiplied. Each carrier would have to build its own infrastructure with the total cost of $900 million instead of $300 million. Respectively, the carriers would charge three times as much for their services. But we are partners of mobile carriers, not competitors,” explained the beCloud head.
In 2014 beCloud sat together with specialists of the Belarusian mobile carriers to define several business models regarding the joint utilization of the future network infrastructure. The technical model and the commercial model for cooperation with the carriers are ready now.
The ability to smoothly interact with Internet service providers is another advantage owing to the fact
that there is one LTE infrastructure operator in Belarus. “Some of them have already contacted us. They would like to offer LTE services as well. If mobile carriers had to build their own infrastructure, it would be unprofitable for them to let fixed ISPs access the market. But we are going to have sound competition the way things are,” said Sergei Poblaguyev. He went on saying that efforts to create the LTE infrastructure are in full swing.
The tender to buy the equipment and the related services for the sake of creating the universal LTE network has been held this year. All the major equipment vendors such as NSN, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE, Samsung, and Alcatel-Lucent turned up for the event. Instead of relying on one vendor beCloud opted for a multiple-vendor approach. Apart from that, in 2014 the company was granted the right to use LTE and LTE Advanced logos by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which owns rights to the logo and the LTE trademark.
LTE facilities are being designed now. The company is busy taking care of the electromagnetic compatibility with existing radioelectronic devices.
“We plan to get the first LTE network in Belarus up and running by the end of 2015. It will be built in Minsk and will use the frequencies 1,710-1,730/1,805-1,825MHz, 2,5302,565/2,650-2,685MHz. Thanks to access to the 2,600MHz range the company will be able to offer high service quality and high throughput of the LTE network,” stressed the company’s Director General.
According to Sergei Poblaguyev, beCloud has great plans regarding the network’s advancement into the regions. There is no doubt that a lot will depend on the success of the LTE technology in Minsk. But in 2016 the technology is supposed to become available in the oblast capitals — Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, and Mogilev. By 2020 the technology will be made available in district capitals and other localities populated by at least 50,000 people.