Last night, Ericsson unveiled “the world’s first commercial gigabit LTE solution,” a suite of hardware and software upgrades of commercial 4G LTE networks to allow for peak speeds of one gigabyte per second. The solution set is comprised of four features, involving three component carrier aggregation (3CC), 4×4 multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) on 20 MHz mid and high bands, 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM), and Ericsson Lean Carrier.
The larger 4×4 MIMO antenna arrays multiply the capacity of radio links to accommodate increased uplink and downlink speeds. Ericsson also plans to offer 2×2 MIMO on low bands. The 3CC aggregation enables the bonding and aggregation of separate radio spectrum bands, whereas each standalone carrier comes in 1.4, 3, 5, 10, 15, or 20 MHz (typically 10 or 20 MHz bands are used), thereby increasing bandwidth and consequently bitrate as well. 3CC aggregation, as its name suggests, allows for the combination of up to 60 MHz from three radio bands.
The 256 QAM modulation scheme allows for the modem to encode more bits over the radio frequency, increasing throughput by up to a third. This enhanced modulation scheme is supported and made feasible by Ericsson’s proprietary Lean Carrier innovation, which address intercell signal interference. These Lean Carrier solutions are projected to increase the use of 256 QAM higher order modulation by up to 280%.
Working in concert, these solutions result in a 100% increase in peak downlink data rates. Ericsson proclaimed in a press release that its suite of software upgrades would improve indoor space coverage and reduce device costs and battery usage, in anticipation of the rapidly progressing IoT market.
Beyond the aforementioned upgrades, Ericsson announced that it has brought the world another step closer to 5G with the advent of its own Cloud RAN architecture, dubbed Elastic RAN (E-RAN), which centralizes baseband processing units (BBU) and allows for more efficient and cost effective allocation and management of radio spectrum resources. What differentiates Ericsson’s proprietary E-RAN architecture from other C-RAN solutions is its high scalability.
As we noted in our previous report on C-RAN solutions, implementing a centralized hierarchy, in which a multitude of baseband processing units are pooled, requires immense fronthaul and backhaul capabilities and is therefore limited geographically by the availability of fiber resources. E-RAN, according to Eric Parsons who is head of Ericsson’s LTE mobile broadband, greatly mitigates those limitations by offering optimal coordination in any baseband distribution scenario:
“Unlike traditional C-RAN deployments where all basebands must be centrally located, Elastic RAN supports tight coordination between adjacent sites connected by fiber with distances typically found in dense urban deployments. Since each site coordinates with all its neighbors in a fully peer-to-peer relationship, the area that can ultimately be coordinated is limited only by the area that the operator seeks to have supported by Elastic RAN.”
Of course, it is important to note that this scheme does not remove the need for dark-fiber capability. Rather, it allows for optimal coordination between sites that already have fiber support.
While Ericsson will host a demo of these exciting upgrades in the Mobile World Congress later this month, consumer’s expectations of blindingly fast mobile download speeds should be tempered, as smartphones that can support and are compatible with these upgrades have yet to be developed. That being said, the stage is being set for the highly anticipated rollout of 5G by 2020.