By Tony Lefebvre, director of product management at wireless network vendor TE Connectivity
Consumers and businesses are increasingly campaigning for 4G LTE networks, leaving operators faced with the challenge of avoiding the disappointment we saw with the rollout of 3G.
With a promise of several hundred megabits of downstream service per subscriber, 3G mobile services tended to over-promise and under-deliver.
If operators want 4G LTE to succeed, they simply have no option but to plan and build networks differently to meet user expectations.
While there has been significant focus on issues affecting 3G performance, such as lack of bandwidth, increased latency and poor mobile signal, a major factor that has contributed to the disappointing performance has been often overlooked – namely the limitations of existing macro-tower architecture.
Users tend to believe that once 4G LTE technology is rolled-out, these problems will all disappear, which is just not the case.
For example, users currently only feel the benefit of next generation services if they are close to the transmitter, which is extremely impractical.
This is not going to change if 4G LTE is deployed on the existing network.
The demand for data is increasing rapidly and shows no sign of slowing down as businesses rely more and more on data intensive applications and services.
Video conferencing, CRM and the cloud are increasingly being seen as necessary for increasing productivity, yet on the current 3G network businesses are rarely able to enjoy the full benefits.
In addition, the use of mobile devices is being encouraged within the workplace, which is only set to increase data traffic and put even greater pressure on the network.
If networks do not provide the capacity required for 4G LTE services, businesses will have to continue putting up with slow data downloads, interrupted streaming and patchy internet access, which sees them wasting a significant amount of money on applications which will not work properly and ultimately, defeats the purpose of rolling out a new network in the first place.
In the UK, for example, this means the workforce will not have the resources of their competitors in other countries that already have 4G LTE – a difficult position to be in given the country is considered to be one of the leaders in technology.
So what can be done?
There are a number of solutions that operators can deploy in order to provide the capacity needed for 4G LTE services in lieu of building cell towers.
The use of small cells is widely debated, with key small cell architectures including small base stations, such as micro, pico and femto cells which provide fixed coverage and capacity to specific areas, and Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), which precisely extend and move services to targeted areas through remote antennas.
These technologies not only provide operators with the ability to deliver 4G LTE, but they can do so with a higher quality of service.
By using smaller cells and the right products, operators are in a position to deliver high quality service throughout target service areas where 4G applications are need most.
Ultimately, a 4G LTE rollout has the potential to transform the way in which consumers and businesses communicate.
However, a successful 4G LTE service is entirely dependent on mobile operators optimising their network infrastructure.
Networks need to be expanded with small cell architectures to prepare for future data demands so that they are able to deliver the service that is expected.
3G has undeniably been a disappointment, so to avoid 4G LTE suffering the same fate, operators must act now to address the issues.
Only then will organisations be able to enjoy the full business benefits of 4G and subsequently remain solid competitors in international markets.