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Asia pushes beyond 4G with LTE carrier aggregation

Posted: 13 Aug 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LTE-Advanced  carrier aggregation  3GPP  4G  5G 

How frustrating it is when the video you're watching is often buffering because your cellular service is too slow. Many times, having a quad-core, octa-core or even deca-core application processor may not help. The thirst for more entertainment videos, streaming music, videoconferencing, interactive games, and higher data speeds in general are pushing cellular carriers to enhance their service offerings. That requires greater channel bandwidth for higher-speed down links and, increasingly, up links as well (think videoconferencing like Skype and Apple's FaceTime).

According to Ericsson's February 2015 Mobility Report, application traffic is dominated by video streaming and social networking. In many mobile networks, Ericsson discovered that anywhere between 40% and 60% of the video traffic comes from YouTube. It is predicted that mobile video in general will grow by around 45% annually through 2020 and is expected to account for around 55% of all mobile data traffic. User behaviour is also resulting in video growth driven by other OTT providers like Netflix.

The solution to increasing cellular wireless speeds is carrier aggregation (CA), the mechanism that expands operator capabilities and enhances subscriber mobile experiences and it paves the way to eventual 5G communication. CA is the leading feature of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A).

Modem ClassPeak Throughput SpeedsCarrier Aggregation
CAT 10450Mbit/s DL
100Mbit/s UL
3x20MHz DL
2x20MHz UL
CAT 9450Mbit/s DL
50Mbit/s UL
3x20MHz DL
CAT 7300Mbit/s DL
100Mbit/s UL
2x20MHz DL
2x20MHz UL
CAT 6300Mbit/s DL
50Mbit/s UL
2x20MHz DL
CAT 4150Mbit/s DL
50Mbit/s UL
2x10MHz DL

Table 1: LTE modem classes.

The spectrum available to the operator is often a patchwork of several different bands, so to achieve higher-speed operation means of stitching together two or more bands is necessary through CA. CA enables combining two or more bands to provide a single channel whose bandwidth is, theoretically, the sum of all of them.

CA is enabled through DSP technology and was formally introduced as LTE-A in 3GPP industry standard Release-10, allowing operators to use their spectrum assets more efficiently to boost user speeds and increase network capacity. Generally, category 6 (Cat 6) defines the better CA capability, enabling 300Mbit/s down link speeds and 50Mbit/s up link speeds.

In November 2014, Qualcomm was the first cell phone chip vendor to announce a category 10 (Cat 10) LTE-A modem supporting global CA for down link speeds of up to 450Mbit/s, up link speeds of up to 100Mbit/s and CA across both TDD and FDD spectra...

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