The UMTS Forum, the group behind the development of mobile broadband, has released new research detailing the future of Long Term Evolution (LTE), considered by many to be the next major mobile data access technology.
Produced by analyst firm Ovum, the LTE Mobile Broadband Ecosystem: the Global Opportunity report highlights the growing adoption of mobile data around the world and how LTE will develop to meet the increasing desire for both enterprise and consumer services.
Although the development of LTE is lagging behind that of WiMax, most in the industry consider WiMax to only have niche applications. LTE is expected to become the dominant next-generation mobile data platform, thanks largely to all-IP traffic design and flatter, more efficient network architecture.
According to the study, LTE will be characterised by a complex ecosystem that includes not only operators, infrastructure providers, terminal vendors, standard bodies and regulators, but also chipset manufacturers, application developers, content platform providers and consumer electronics vendors.
The report lays out the benefits of LTE and the hurdles that still need to be addressed to ensure that LTE adoption is as smooth as possible.
Thanks to its faster speed and higher bandwidth, LTE will enhance many existing services while enabling new ones, including non-voice mobile services such as real-time video, peer-to-peer content sharing and social networking.
While LTE trials are under way, the report warns that a lot of standardisation still needs to be done, particularly around voice over LTE, and closer co-operation between different industry players is needed.
In particular, mobile operators are going to have to work with content providers to make the most of the investment required to roll out LTE. Manufacturers are also going to need to make sure there is a suitable range of end-user devices available, and regulatory bodies need to ensure that sufficient bands of the spectrum are available.
As part of the study, Ovum surveyed a number of currently active 3G users, who were generally positive about the transition to LTE. But many felt that the technology currently lacks a killer app beyond enhancing the mobile internet experience.
Access to email, web browsing and search, as well as online shopping and social networking, are likely to be the most popular consumer services, with an anticipated usage growth of 15 to 25 per cent within the first two years of users moving to LTE.
Although mobile data access is seen as the primary driver for LTE, location-based services are also seen as major application areas that end-users will find attractive, with users highlighting GPS and in-car devices as their second and third most preferred LTE-enabled devices, behind laptops.
To meet these growing demands, the report predicts that devices will become more complex, and will need greater processing capability to deal with video processing and applications, as well as improved battery life, larger screens supporting a clean, intuitive, multi-touch interface, and multi-standard, multi-frequency band operation to support roaming and increase coverage area.
The report concludes that while challenges remain, these are being addressed and there are no insurmountable barriers to the adoption of LTE.
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