Carrier Aggregation Enables LTE-A to be Three Times Faster Than Previous Generation of LTE
Because LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) routing is on the cutting edge of networking technology, there aren’t many resources available online that identify business cases for adopting the service. Most resources that are available online are filled with jargon or are outdated, i.e. published when the spec was released years before the service was available.
Whether you’re an expert who needs help articulating the case for investing in LTE-A-compatible technologies or you’re largely unfamiliar with the service, consider this your go-to primer.
Benefits of LTE Advanced are rooted in carrier aggregation
First things first: carrier aggregation is the innovative new feature on which LTE-A is built. In conventional LTE networks, carriers broadcast in multiple frequency bands, but each device or 4G router can only utilize a single frequency band at a time. At any given time, certain frequency bands may be overtaxed with traffic, while other frequency bands remain underutilized. This means the devices are underutilizing the network resources, and quality-of-service (QoS) might be negatively impacted by high-volume usage on one band within a geographic area or when applications require a lot of bandwidth.
Carrier aggregation, however, makes it possible for carriers to transmit data to a device like a wireless router over multiple network bands at once, through a single “aggregated data pipe.”
LTE Advanced offers better Quality-of-Service (QoS)
LTE-A utilizes a more efficient packet scheduling protocol and allows carriers to manage radio frequency resources more flexibly. In other words, the packets of data carried over the network can get where they’re going using more efficient routes, and there’s a lower likelihood that those data will be lost in transmission. Network providers can better allocate radio spectrum resources across their network, intelligently selecting which users connect via which frequency bands to enhance quality and capacity in spite of finite spectrum.
That means businesses that rely on wireless networks will be able to use and create higher-bandwidth applications, enjoy better access to cloud storage and software, and work faster.
LTE Advanced is more reliable
With single-band LTE, it is possible for connectivity to be interrupted for a few seconds when a device switches frequency bands. In contrast, because LTE-A utilizes multiple frequency bands at once, devices switch frequency bands in just a few milliseconds. Additionally, even if one band drops, the device stays connected via the second band in the aggregated data pipe.
Businesses will be able to trust LTE-A to provide connectivity for even their most mission-critical applications.
Carriers are using LTE-A & ‘small cells’ to address data demand
While traditional LTE is already widely recognized by mobile and distributed enterprises as a critical business enabler, one potential drawback is the potential for radio spectrum interference in densely crowded areas like urban centers and stadiums. Additionally, the demand for data is growing exponentially. Today, cellular carriers are aggressively deploying small-cell radio access nodes in many urban centers in concert with their efforts to expand their LTE-A coverage. These small-cell nodes have a short range, but they help increase network capacity and decrease congestion.
This move by carriers will make it possible for enterprises to continue the shift to wireless networking, because carriers will be better able to meet the rapidly increasing demand for wireless bandwidth.
LTE-A is three times faster than the previous generation of LTE
Current-generation LTE networks aren’t reaching their full potential speeds, so you may be wondering whether LTE-A will be able to significantly improve network performance. The answer is yes, thanks to carrier aggregation.
Recently we conducted a speed test here in Boise on AT&T’s network. On single-band LTE, we saw speeds of about 4 Mbps. When we measured speed for the LTE-A service, we reached speeds more than three times faster — 15 Mbps. Across the U.S., the trend is similar: with conventional LTE, typical speeds range from 5-12 Mbps, while LTE-A offers advertised speeds of 10-25 Mbps. We have been getting reports of speed tests using our routers coming in at 60 Mbps, 80 Mbps and even up to 156 Mbps on commercial networks in the U.S.
LTE Advanced is available across the U.S.
All major carriers in the U.S. are quickly rolling out LTE-A on their networks. AT&T and Verizon started in major metro areas (NFL cities, to be exact) and continue to expand. T-Mobile and Sprint have a great percentage of their LTE networks covered by LTE-A at this point.
Some carriers have their own branded name for LTE-A services, while others may brand it later. T-Mobile is calling it “Wideband LTE,” Sprint labels it “LTE Plus” (they retired the Sprint Spark name), and Verizon has been rolling it out under its “XLTE” brand, but we’re adding “with carrier aggregation” to delineate. AT&T hasn’t announced a branded name for LTE Advanced yet.
Cradlepoint launched the world’s first & only suite of LTE Advanced-compatible routers
Cradlepoint is the industry leader in 4G LTE. We were the first to support LTE connectivity using a USB stick, the first to engineer an LTE router with an embedded modem, and now our LTE-A routers are the only line of routing products on the market that enterprises can use to take advantage of LTE-A.
Here are a few features of our new platforms:
- Supports carrier aggregation for two frequency bands
- SIM-based automatic carrier selection for all of North America (just insert an active SIM and power up)
- Backwards-compatible with traditional LTE and HSPA+
- No price increase over our Category 3 LTE routers
LTE-A has very real bottom-line benefits for mobile and distributed enterprises with high-bandwidth needs. For example, a bus carrying 60 passengers can use LTE-A to offer more bandwidth and network capacity, creating a better experience for riders. A retail store with dozens of different applications and multiple Parallel Networks that all depend on wireless connectivity for either primary or failover connectivity can enjoy even greater reliability, better QoS, and significantly faster speeds to enhance customer experience.