4G handsets set to disappoint

The first generation of 4G handsets is likely to disappoint

"The first generation of 4G handsets will not perform in the way they have been presented. They will be a disappointment," said Monty Barlow, DSP group leader in the wireless division of Cambridge Consultants.

The problem lies with the extremely complex algorithms used in the multi-antenna LTE standard to squeeze as much bandwidth out of the available channel. Building optimal implementations of these algorithms will take enormous amounts of computing resources.

"The question is, how do you simulate the environment well enough to know the optimal way of decoding multiple signals from multiple antennas," said Barlow. "It takes more processing power than you have and more time than the universe has existed."

Barlow, who has been working on a multiple-antenna marine terminal for the Iridium satellite communications system, says the big problem is to pick the best of 64 to the power 1000 choices of a signal that has passed over an arbitrary channel. Modeling that channel successfully will take considerable effort.

Richard Davies, technology director for the wireless business unit at the consultancy, pointed out that, since an optimal solution is currently impossible, developers will have to find ways to produce sub-optimal solutions, which may turn out a more difficult task: "To understand something that is less than optimal is much harder to do intellectually."

Tim Fowler, commercial director of the wireless business unit, added that the first implementations of 4G will not be as big a disappointment as the first implementations of 3G: "LTE will deliver a user benefit, if only in terms of lower-cost infrastructure. And some people's products will do better than others."

A number of operators and equipment makers are using the ITU event to announce deals to trial LTE equipment.

Telefónica has reached an agreement with six LTE technology providers to launch test projects in six countries with a  view to introducing 4G networks in the regions in which it operates.

The suppliers chosen so far include Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, NEC, Nokia Siemens Network and ZTE. The trial will look at the behaviour of the equipment in the field.

“We are defining our strategy and the rollout of LTE with the objective of driving mobile broadband and offering the best service from the moment that the equipment and terminals can support the new standards and are available for sale”, said Julio Linares, chief operating officer of Telefónica.

The company says its LTE network will offer peak speeds of up to 340Mbit/s in ideal conditions and will also increase capacity for mobile broadband services.

Implementation of LTE will be subject to the availability of customer equipment, such as datacards and later handsets, and the necessary spectrum.

The trials will be carried out in Spain, the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Argentina.

Meanwhile Anite and LG Electronics have announced that they have verified what they say are the industry’s first LTE protocol conformance test cases, and made the results available to members of the 3GPP standards body.
 
Conformance testing ensures that new handsets and data cards can deliver the services expected by the end user and work with  existing users and networks.
 
"LTE device certification is essential in ensuring that next generation LTE wireless devices meet customer expectations," said Paul Beaver, 3GPP director, Anite. "Working with LG is speeding the availability of the first LTE test cases to LTE developers, enabling the wireless industry to deploy the technology successfully and more quickly."

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