4G, or LTE embodied a vital change for the mobile industry. It sparked the transformation to an IP-based network that will support our IoT-driven world of the future. In 2016, we will inch a little closer to the next generation of this mobile technology that will be introduced as 5G.
We’re already seeing incremental steps being taken toward 5G through increased 4G deployments and intermediate technology launches like LTE-A and 4.5G that will eventually lead to commercial iterations of 5G. In 2015, we saw a phenomenal surge in LTE activity across the world that had far-reaching effects in both advanced and developing markets. The number of global LTE subscribers hit 1.37 billion, as estimated by ABI Research, and LTE services were launched in 24 developing African countries, with plans to roll out 4G LTE in 50 African countries by 2020.
The start of standards definition work and research into new technologies and use cases will help to bring the possibilities of 5G into sharper focus within the industry. Whether it is cars that drive themselves or doctors that monitor patients remotely in real time, 5G will depend on high-speed, ubiquitous LTE availability and utmost reliability. And, while the industry is making great progress in launching LTE networks, operators are still adapting legacy infrastructures to these new, virtualized standards. With these challenges in shaping LTE deployment, and eventually 5G, there are three areas that we predict will come into focus in 2016 to help 5G make its grand market entry in the forthcoming years.
With that in mind, here are some predictions on what 2016 holds for LTE and beyond that, 5G:
#1: CONNECTED LTE VIA IPX
Over the next year, operators deploying LTE will need to focus on implementing and better leveraging IPX networks to ensure the highest quality of LTE coverage and user experience for the end users. IPX has emerged as the fundamental network backbone that supports LTE and next-generation services like 5G that also rely on IP-backed capabilities to support increasing consumer demands for bandwidth and service quality. An IPX network also allows operators to use a single-connection approach to simplify testing and deployment while gaining global reach, access to value-added services and capabilities to support future technologies like 5G.
Senior Technology Director Innovation and Solution Development,
#2: IMPLEMENTING VOLTE EFFECTIVELY
2015 not only saw a surge in LTE rollouts, but also domestic VoLTE rollouts from major European and U.S. operators. In 2015, we also witnessed the first commercial VoLTE roaming launches. However, to guarantee true commercial success, mobile operators should differentiate themselves from Over the Top (OTT) players such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger in terms of quality of service. To do this, operators must ensure that VoLTE calls will smoothly hand off to legacy technologies, and that users with VoLTE services enjoy seamless connections to all available LTE service areas – and quickly. Getting this approach correct now will allow operators to incorporate 5G-based voice capabilities later.
#3: ROAMING INTEROPERABILITY
Enabling ubiquitous coverage is a special challenge of LTE for 4G and VoLTE. It requires comprehensive testing of essential roaming functions, such as clearing and settlement, and customer-experience management between LTE networks. Despite the obstacles, operators must master the challenges that come with a mobile market of many service providers, networks and disparate technologies. Without the unity that comes with interoperability, the world would not be able to communicate and the market will not be able to complete the IP transition that leads to 5G.
So, in 2016, we predict that operators will place more focus on overcoming the crucial issues inherent in a fragmented marketplace to ensure the best coverage and quality of experience possible. With a mixture of markets, operators have to put strategies in place for technology situations to co-exist. Tackling this over the next year as the LTE market starts to mature will draw the industry closer to integrating 5G-based technologies.