Providing 1 Gbps data rate to devices like smartphone and tablets? Who really needs that?
It’s a valid question today in 2017, when most networks deliver peak data rates of 300 Mbps or less. Especially when you realize that peak data rates are only delivered under ideal conditions, both with respect to the radio link quality as well as to network load.
This brings me to my first point: the real benefit of increasing the peak data rate for users is that typical data rates rise at the same time. Driving peak data rates above the gigabit-per-second barrier will result in a mobile user experience that at least matches the home fixed broadband experience people are used to receiving.
And my second point: mobile broadband has been transformed. No longer is mobile just following the established path of residential broadband. Mobile is faster than residential in many locations around the world. Mobile is also at the heart of user-generated content, thanks to the cameras built into all smartphones. And mobile is at the heart of the sharing economy, not just for apps to rent and order things, but especially for media streaming.
So, we need to think about bandwidth drivers beyond the TV set in the livingroom corner. Possibly the best examples are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The VR mass market builds on VR goggles made for smartphones. AR flourishes in unknown territories, not just for games like PokéMon GO, but for many high-value professional use cases, such as remote medical assistance.
VR, with its 360-degree viewing field, combined with the proven market success of high-resolution smartphone screens, will further drive up the dramatic growth in mobile video data. This doubly affects networks. Not only is high user-throughput needed, but network capacity must also be expanded.
Fortunately, the very same tools, for example carrier aggregation, more antenna paths (4 x 4 MIMO) and higher order modulation (256QAM), needed to cope with continued traffic growth in LTE networks, are also used to drive up user data rates beyond the gigabit barrier.
Point number three: there are synergies between capacity-driven network investments and the opportunity to open up new markets with high throughput services.
What sort of timeline are we talking about here for all this to happen? 2017 saw the introduction of 1 Gbps services, enabled by Nokia 4.5G Pro and so-called DL Cat.16 user equipment. This marks a ten-fold speed increase over the initial ( Cat.3) LTE user devices.
In roughly 7 years, a 10x speed increase happened, involving not only the networks, but also the user devices and most importantly the subscribers who demand speed increases, because of their evolving use patterns.
There is no reason why this pace of evolution shouldn’t continue. Already this past summer we demonstrated user data rates of 1.2 Gbps on Nokia 4.9G and the industry’s first DL Cat.18 user equipment chipset. Looking ahead, we expect several speed increases within 4.9G towards user data rates of around 3 Gbps. Beyond that, the evolution will be carried forward still further by 5G. Nokia 4.5G Pro, 4.9G and 5G are powered by Nokia AirScale Radio Access, which is the future-proof investment in higher data rates for network capabilities and new services and markets.
How long will it be, I wonder, before we start asking the question: Who needs 10 Gbps data rates, or even 1 Tbps?
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