Wireless Standards Advance While Deployments Soar

A COMPLICATED COCKTAIL that mixed exhibition razzmatazz with serious, forward-looking communications technology is one way of summarizing the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was held February 14-17 in Barcelona, Spain. Another would be to say that it offered something for everyonewhether they were consumers looking for the latest mobile-communications must-haves or electronic design engineers seeking semiconductor technology.

Despite the wide variety of technology at MWC, however, some clear industry trends permeated the event. Not least among these was the continuing drive of Long Term Evolution (LTE) into LTE-Advanced. Much attention also was paid to how femtocell deployments are progressing. In addition, in-car communications were spotlighted. For example, chip company NXP and automotive supplier Continental showed a concept car demonstrating how near-field-communication (NFC) technology can be applied in vehicles.


A NUMBER OF new technologies are being introduced into LTE-Advanced to enable peak data rates to 1 Gb/s in the downlink and 500 Mb/s in the uplink. To achieve such a high peak data rate, LTE-Advanced supports a maximum bandwidth of 100 MHz via aggregating up to five component carrierseach up to 20 MHz wide. The first LTE-FDD and TD-LTE networks are currently being rolled out in Europe, the US, and Asia. These standards provide data rates to 100 Mb/s, allowing high-speed mobile-Internet access. A key design element to the successful introduction of new standards lies in the technology provided by the test and measurement companies. At MWC, for example, Spirent Communications announced the addition of the multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) Over-The-Air (OTA) Environment Builder software to its wireless-channel-emulation product line. When equipped with this new capability, Spirent's wireless channel emulators promise to predict the user experience of MIMO devices prior to deployment. Next month's column will provide a more in-depth look at LTE-related test and measurement gear, such as what was launched at MWC by Agilent and Rohde & Schwarz (see figure).


ACCORDING TO a report by Informa Telecoms & Media, residential services still represent the overwhelming majority of femtocell deployments. Yet almost a third of femtocell deployments now include enterprise offeringscontrasting strongly with the situation 12 months ago, when there were no non-residential deployments. In total, there are now 19 femtocell deployments globally compared to nine a year ago. They include six enterprise offerings: two urban deployments from Vodafone Qatar and Telefonica Spain, as well as an outdoor rural service from SoftBank in Japan.

Analysts predict that the femtocell market will reach close to 49 million femtocell access points in the market by 2014, with 114 million mobile users accessing mobile networks through femtocells during that year. Given these trends, it is not surprising that the Femto Forumthe femtocell industry associationwas at this year's Mobile World Congress. The organization now includes 74 vendors and 61 mobile operators, representing over 1.71 billion mobile subscribers worldwide and across multiple wireless technologies (WiMAX, UMTS, and CDMA). These subscribers account for 33 percent of the total mobile subscribers worldwide.

See Associated Figure

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