LTE Spectrum bands foxing networks and devices alike

February 08, 2012 //By Paul Beaver, Anite
The global deployment of LTE is radically changing the mobile space. But the rapid deployment of LTE is not without its challenges. As carriers and handset providers navigate the path to 4G mobile services, not only do they have to cope with multi-technology networks, but also multiple frequency bands.

Global LTE frequency allocation will differ because of diverse national regulatory positions on the issue. Current 3GPP specifications for LTE define over 30 potential bands for the technology. This is an inheritance of the different allocations issued by regulators and the ability of LTE to be deployed in a much wider range of frequencies than prior mobile standards. Informa’s recent LTE Spectrum Strategies report revealed that roughly 10 different bands were being used for LTE. However, even this small amount of bands will generate challenges for operators and vendors alike.

Incorporating technology to cope with multiple LTE frequencies and supported bandwidths presents a major challenge to operators and manufacturers. One example of the complex problems that LTE brings is the ability to roam onto different international LTE networks, each with their own varied make-up and performance nuances. For instance, French incumbent operators are in the process of bidding for 4G spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band, whereas networks in the USA have deployed LTE in the 700 MHz – 800 MHz frequencies. Networks utilising 2.6 GHz or 700 MHz - 800 MHz frequencies for LTE could mean that subscribers may have problems connecting to the network when roaming.

According to Paul Beaver, Products Director at Anite, the wireless device testing company, operators and manufacturers will be able to overcome the challenges of supporting multiple LTE frequency bands by developing a comprehensive quality assurance system, based on laboratory based device testing. However, Beaver believes that field testing LTE devices alone is not a practical solution, as it requires a significant amount of time, prohibitively high cost levels and is not repeatable.

A key requirement will be the development of a comprehensive quality assurance system, based on standardized lab-based device testing, to significantly reduce the possibility of launching LTE devices that don’t interoperate. There are significant cost savings, operational advantages and performance benefits that can be generated by testing LTE devices in the lab

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