image_LTE_catIn 2000 the GPRS technology was introduced. It offered the true possibility of transmitting data through 2G cellular networks, by adapting a circuit-switched network, designed to transmit voice, to a packet-based network. Almost a decade and a half ago, the common speed you were able to reach was 40 kbps on the downstream (from the network to the mobile terminal) and 14 kbps on the upstream (from the mobile terminal to the network).

Back then, the commercial networks were designed and thought with the individual user in mind, that used the laptop to eventually connect to the Internet for a short period of time. Besides the low speed, companies and corporations missed a series of key features to be able to use these mobile networks to access their corporate network. Among the more relevant deficiencies, you could find the excessive latency, the lack of quality of service, the lack of security, the small flexibility regarding the customer´s private addressing, the service robustness or the limited range of available devices.

In spite of these limitations, Teldat saw that in fact several business applications could benefit enormously from the new mobile services that were rising. Further from the natural evolution of the “Machine-to-machine” (M2M) systems, offered at that time with GSM circuit-switched networks for typical applications such as “the vending machine” or the tele-control, Teldat bet on applications belonging to enterprise traditional communications realm and in particular the transactional traffic such as the one from the Automatic teller machines (ATM) or from the Point of Sale (PoS) terminals. Teldat mission was to complement those basic initial networks with devices that correct the deficiencies commented before. For instance, besides the required software protocols for IP, security and quality of service, Teldat devices used embedded modules instead of USB dongles or PCMCIA cards, given that the later ones were not designed for a robust 24×7 operation, did not allow for the proper connection of external antennae or the use of two SIM cards from different carriers for a better resilience.

From those initial 2000`s the cellular technology has constantly progressed through new technology generations: EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+. Teldat has pioneered the use of such technologies for the benefit of the enterprise and corporate connectivity, developing specific devices, further from the branch office access routers, such as equipment for the vehicle connectivity or “bridge” type devices to simplify the 3G adoption in branch offices with existing routers. Finally, we are currently on the deployment stage of the LTE technology, (Long Term Evolution) or commercially known as 4G, despite of the technical controversy that such classification causes, since strictly it does not qualify for it.

Anyway, LTE is being deployed by most of the mobile operators and a broad range of mobile terminals, such as smartphones or various LTE communications devices, such as USB dongles, modules or routers.

Thanks to the technological evolution, the current situation differs widely from that on the first 2000´s. In this initial adoption stage in which we are, the future is not written and we do not know the success it will reach or the precise applications and services that will be used massively, but everything seems to foresee a brilliant future for LTE.

What precise advantages does LTE add to the business world?

The most relevant advantage is doubtless the great increase on the access speed that can be reached, both in the downstream and in the upstream. The real speed a specific user can reach depends on several factors, as always on radio communications, but mainly on the network design or in other words, on what the carriers wishes to offer, which in turn depends basically on the amount of radio electric spectrum that the carrier owns and on the quality of the backhaul or link between the radio nodes and the backbone. Depending on the operator and the coverage area, typical speed ranges from 8Mbps downstream to 4Mbps upload, with a maximum of 20 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps Upload. As a reference, each LTE cell can support up to 200 active users at full speed for every 5MHz spectrum.

There is also an important advantage introduced in successive cellular technology generations:  constant network latency reduction, or transit time of packets. LTE gets typical latencies below 100 milliseconds compared to more than double that in 3G and 70% more in HSPA+. This improvement is important for transactional applications, VoIP traffic and web browsing, as it significantly improves the user experience.

Another important advantage is that LTE is an end to end package technology. For the first time, a cellular generation does not have to use or adapt voice designed switched circuits developed for transmitting data. This is an advantage that the mobile operators benefit from mainly because it allows them to operate a more simple network, but it also impacts on the end users with more stable networks and more flexible services, such as voice which we’ll talk about below.

Voice on LTE also requires a special mention. LTE was not originally designed for voice. Being a package technology, LTE does not allow the transmission of voice in a “conventional manner” through circuits. Hence operators use GSM networks when the user wants to make a voice call. Logically, all mobile operators who are currently deploying LTE, have in mind finally “dismantling” 2G/3G “legacy” networks. Therefore voice transmission has been standardized on LTE using ToIP technology, which is known as VoLTE, allowing operators to use their IMS cores to deliver advanced voice services in a very flexible way, such as videoconferencing. Within the routers market it is to be seen which opportunities are offered by this technology depending on what will be developed at a network level and at LTE module level. However the possibility of more advanced voice services than on 2G/3G also exists, as well as the possibility of having more than one voice line per device; mediagateways for example.

More LTE technical innovations

In addition to the above mentioned, LTE incorporates many other technical innovations that offer advantages such as a lower power consumption by the independent way in which it receives and transmits the information, a quick transition between UMTS and LTE or the possibility of self-organizing the network capacity depending on the requirements, among others.

The development of cellular standards is constantly evolving and improvements are being defined, as well as new features for the next generation called LTE Advanced. However, LTE mainly due to its larger bandwidth, is currently a realistic option for companies and corporations to use as a network access for data or voice services, whether on backup or primary lines.

One must not forget the increasing integration of the telecommunications market, particularly in Europe, resulting in improved offers to end customers with better pricing options and overall offering a more integrated fixed-mobile connectivity, fulfilling cutomer needs more adequately.

For all these reasons, we in Teldat, believe that LTE will enable businesses and corporations to benefit from new connectivity scenarios, without sacrificing the performance which has traditionally been requested from wired connectivity.

About the author

Eduardo Tejedor

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