SAN JOSE, Calif. Ė Long Term Evolution, the next big wave in cellular networks is getting switched on around the globe. The fourth-generation network is bringing plenty of interesting changes worth tracking as cellular networks become choked with smartphone data.
Japan, Korea and the U.S. are leading the way in LTE deployments so far. Europe is lagging because where many countries are still doling out spectrum for 4G.
The data deluge is putting pressure on available spectrum. Thatís one of the factors driving development of a new breed of small cell base stations that have generated plenty of debate.
Meanwhile the mainly residential femtocells that started the whole small-cell trend are being shrunk to the size of fat credit cards, suitable to take on the road. Among other twists and turns, Chinaís technocrats led by China Mobile have managed to get global traction on their variant--TD-LTE.
There are plenty more new technologies to come with the LTE wave, including smart antennas and a new Direct LTE device-to-device capability in the works. The next step in LTE, Release 10 is right around the corner with first carrier operations expected in 2013.
Despite all the hard work, some say semiconductor design is becoming a bottleneck to keep pace with fast-moving cellular nets.
LTE nets are ramping nearly twice as fast as 3G networks did, according to a report presented at a meeting of the NGMN Alliance in June (above), blowing past a forecast (below) made by the World Radiocommunications Congress a few years ago.