Summarising Sierra Wireless’ latest whitepaper, “The Last 4G Technology Jump Before 5G”, we take a look at what is LTE-Advanced Pro, and what it will mean for the Internet of Things.
What is LTE-Advanced Pro?
LTE-Advanced Pro (LTE-A Pro) is the latest version of the LTE standard, and is also known as “4.5G”. Delivering significant data speed increases, plus improved network efficiency and capacity, it is a step-up again from LTE-Advanced. Sierra Wireless describes LTE-A Pro as a “data superhighway”, achieving speeds of 1Gbps by combining carrier aggregation, use of unlicenced bands, a 4×4 MiMo antenna scheme, and an increased 256 QAM modulation scheme. The below diagram from the Sierra whitepaper shows this:
The Difference Between LTE-A and LTE-A Pro
The LTE-Advanced Pro standard came with 3GPP releases 13 (2016) and 14 (2017) so is not yet widely available. LTE-Advanced, 3GPP releases 10 (2011), 11 (2012) and 12 (2014) is becoming more available however with the first commercial routing products released in 2016. LTE-Advanced devices are already demonstrating massive improvements over the original LTE standard, with download speeds 3x faster than standard LTE plus increased capacity, marking a clear progression in cellular technology.
LTE-Advanced Pro however will take this evolution further again, offering 10x faster download and 3x faster upload speeds than standard LTE, plus even further enhanced capacity and efficiency:
As outlined above, the main technologies underpinning this advancement are:
Carrier Aggregation: Available for up to 5 carriers with 20MHz bandwidth with LTE-Advanced, carrier aggregation enables combined frequencies to be transmitted in parallel – delivering higher throughput. LTE-Advanced Pro however increases this to 32 carriers, each with a bandwidth of 100MHz – delivering a maximum aggregated bandwidth of 640 MHz.
Increased Network Capacity and Efficiency: LTE-Advanced Pro roughly doubles the network capacity without the need for any additional spectrum or base stations. As well as supporting Time-Division Duplex (TDD) and Frequency-Division Duplex (FDD) LTE, LTE-A Pro supports Licensed Assist Access (LAA), enhanced LAA and LTE WiFi Aggregation (LWA), meaning additional bandwidth can be made available by aggregating data together from regular LTE bands, the 5GHz LTE-unlicensed spectrum and common WiFi networks. Furthermore, the use of 4×4 MiMo antennas increases capacity by allowing multiple transmit and receive signals simultaneously. Finally, a 256 QAM modulation scheme (an increase from 64) makes it possible to carry more bits of data per symbol, increasing throuput and making better use of the spectrum.
Other benefits delivered by LTE-Advanced Pro over earlier LTE technologies include longer battery life (up to 10x) and a closer alignment with 5G for improved network future-proofing. It also enables private organisations to take advantage of spectrum sharing to establish private LTE networks, without having to buy a spectrum license.
What is LTE-Advanced Pro Suited For
Offering faster data speeds and greatly improved network efficiency and capacity, LTE-Advanced Pro is ideal for data-intensive, critical applications – but how does this translate to the Internet of Things?
Many IoT applications don’t typically require high data rates and so upgrading to LTE-Advanced Pro may not be seen as necessary in the short-medium term. This said, lots of IoT applications have a long lifespan and evolve constantly – meaning applications with lower data requirements today could easily need to extend beyond this in future – and so LTE-Advanced Pro may be considered a strong option for network future-proofing.
Though not available for commercial devices today, LTE-Advanced Pro is clearly set to deliver further enhancements in the journey of Long Term Evolution (LTE). Follow the link provided to download the full Sierra Wireless whitepaper, “The Last 4G Technology Jump Before 5G: What LTE-Advanced Pro Means for the IoT”, to learn even more about LTE-A Pro and its expected impact.