WHAT'S the buzz about LTE? What is it and why is the world so excited about it? More importantly, how will it benefit you?
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. It's the next generation 4G telecommunications standard. There are currently only two 4G standards in the world - WiMAX and LTE.
Let's look at the evolution of telecommunications standards. It all began with the 1G analogue standard in the 80s which was then replaced by 2G digital telecommunications which included GSM1.
The current generation of mobile telecommunication networks is collectively known as 3G (third generation) and encompasses various technologies and mobile cellular protocols such as GPRS2, EDGE3, CDMA4 and HSDPA5.
In recent years, the world has embraced WiMAX, the first fully commercialised 4G wireless network telecommunications standard and now, globally, operators are looking at the next generation of 4G in LTE.
In Malaysia, we are privileged in that we have had 4G networks ahead of many nations. Hence credit should go to the Malaysian Government which was very quick to see the advantage 4G could bring to the nation.
In 2007 the industry regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), issued WiMAX licences to four operators.
At that time, the household broadband penetration was only 23% and the Government announced its broadband initiative to reach 75% penetration by 2015 (http://bit.ly/qeEAzY).
Packet One Networks (P1) was the first operator to roll out its nationwide WiMAX network in 2008 and one of the first in the world to do so. To date we cover 45% of the population and have 338,000 subscribers.
Investing in WiMAX pushed Malaysia into the global spotlight. The whole world has been watching us to see how we would fare.
In just over a year, P1 became the largest WiMAX operator in South-East Asia and we began hosting telco operators from all over the world, who came to visit our headquarters in Petaling Jaya to learn more about WiMAX technology and our 4G operations.
Most were impressed at the difference between 4G and 3G speeds. And the difference is huge.
Put simply, 4G is built for broadband while 3G is built for voice. 4G has a very wide pipeline to transmit data, so 4G speeds far exceed the 3G and CDMA options widely available now.
So when do we get LTE in Malaysia?
The Government has allocated 20MHz of the 2.6GHz spectrum to nine different service providers, both 3G and 4G operators. This spectrum allocation is for LTE deployment.
P1 is going to use the spectrum to operate a dual 4G WiMAX/TD-LTE network. So we will have the best of both 4G spectrums. The result, data and voice services will be delivered to our subscribers at incredibly fast speeds. We did a trial on dual WiMAX/TD-LTE network recently and got speeds of 130Mbps (megabits per second).
To put that into perspective, the 3G and 4G mobile broadband networks we have in Malaysia today deliver downlink speeds of between 700kbps (kilobits per second) and 4.8Mbps. The latter is on the P1 network.
Now consider what you can do with 130Mbps. You can download a 1GB file in just over a minute. Now you see why LTE gets us excited.
The reason we need LTE is because the world's dependency on mobile broadband is increasing. More and more people have smartphones and Tablets which require mobile internet and data downloads.
The proliferation of rich media applications like video streaming, online gaming and online social-networking is driving the consumers' desire for greater bandwidth and faster speed.
High definition, larger displays, WiFi TV and soon-to-come 3D small screens are also driving consumer demand. Consumers want high-speed data both at home and when they are mobile.
In the 3G world, there are currently one billion subscribers and by 2014 that number will grow to more than 2.8 billion.
Imagine 2.8 billion people downloading and accessing data every day? According to IDC, data usage is forecasted to reach 35 zettabytes (or one trillion gigabytes) in 2011, from 0.8 zettabytes in 2010. That's a whopping 44-fold increase.
The current networks can't possibly cope with this perpetual data tsunami. We need more speed and we need it soon.
With LTE everyone will enjoy high-speed broadband. The whole world will have access to this incredible chnology. The only question you as a consumer will have to ask then, is, which provider will give me the best experience at the best price?
Michael Lai is chief executive officer of Packet One Networks (Malaysia), a converged telecommunications, broadband and WiMAX service provider.