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Introduction to LTE-A Pro

LTE-A Pro, a new LTE marker, defines features and technologies that meet 3GPP specifications related to Release 13. 3GPP announced LTE-A Pro in October 2015 to describe technologies that go beyond LTE-Advanced specs to address the network demands created by ever-increasing data usage and the specialized resource management required by IoT and other new LTE network use cases.

Goals of LTE-A Pro

The benchmarks set by LTE-A Pro specifications aim to address two primary goals for future LTE networks: boosting performance, and enabling IoT connectivity.

Boosting Performance
Throughput: >3 Gbps
Latency: <2ms
Bandwidth: 32 x 20 MHz
Enabling IoT Connectivity
Ultra-long battery life
Reduced device costs
Deeper coverage (15 dB)

Goals of LTE-A Pro

Enhanced Carrier Aggregation
After standardizing the framework for LTE Carrier Aggregation (CA) in Release 10, Release 13 will push the specifications even further. LTE-A defined protocols for up to 5 Component Carriers (CCs), and LTE-A Pro aims to dramatically expand these capabilities to 32 CCs. Carrier Aggregation with 32 CCs makes a new range of achievable data rates possible and provides the flexibility to aggregate large numbers of carriers in different bands. To see how Artiza Networks is working with operators and vendors to enable brand new combinations of LTE FDD and TDD bands, read about our project with Nokia Networks here. This new CA framework will also support aggregation configurations that include unlicensed spectrum.

LTE in Unlicensed Spectrum
There are several candidate technologies for incorporating unlicensed spectrum into LTE protocols. One that 3GPP is focusing on for Release 13 is Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA). In LAA, a primary cell is designated that operates in licensed spectrum and delivers a secure connection for control messaging and provides guaranteed Quality of Service, while a secondary cell using unlicensed spectrum is aggregated to boost data rates. This system can reduce OPEX for network operators, improve spectral efficiency, and offer a better user experience. For LAA and other LTE technologies that seek to take advantage of unlicensed spectrum, coexistence with current Wi-Fi devices and users will be a crucial challenge.

64 Antenna Ports/Full Dimension MIMO
Another benchmark for LTE-A Pro is the implementation of “Massive MIMO” systems deployed on two-dimensional antenna arrays. Current LTE-A systems support up to 8 antenna ports, but the new release will aim for up to 64 antenna ports at the eNB.

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a radio technology designed to offer ultra-low device cost and power consumption service for massive numbers of low throughput devices. It can work within the existing LTE architecture (“in-band”) by using resource blocks of a normal LTE carrier, or in an LTE carrier’s unused guard-band resource blocks. Alternately, NB-IoT can be deployed in dedicated spectrum as a standalone configuration. As GSM networks and devices are phased out, NB-IoT is especially suitable for refarming the spectrum that will become available.

Like NB-IoT, enhanced Machine Type Communications (eMTC) aims to reduce the cost and power consumption for latency-tolerant IoT devices. eMTC is designed for terminals to operate on a standard 1.4MHz carrier in any LTE system bandwidth. It is readily deployable with current LTE infrastructure, and affords relatively high data rates compared to other IoT adaptations of LTE. Both NB-IoT, eMTC and other technologies related to IoT target an increase in coverage by up to 15dB. Increasing coverage will allow LTE networks to reach devices with poor reception/transmission conditions, e.g. utility meters placed in basements.

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