Talking tech since 2003

Picture this: you’re sitting at the Super Bowl about to text your buddy about the awesome game. After typing your message and hitting send you are greeted with this message: “The message can not be sent at this time. Please try again later.” Most of us have seen this before and all of us hate it. What exactly causes this? Over congested mobile towers and what seems to be little attempt from the carries to solve this growing problem that leaves hundreds of thousands each day with cellular headaches.

LTE, which is the next big thing in mobile telecommunications promises to alleviate these issues and provide end-users with more reliable connections. All the big mobile phone providers are jumping on board talking about how amazing their LTE is going to be vs. the competitors. So will LTE solve those cellular headaches?

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is the latest standard in mobile telecommunications technologies that currently power GSM/EDGE, HSPA/UMTS networks. In this U.S. this includes AT&T, and T-Mobile. Verizon has also announced a move towards LTE transitioning from CDMA to UMTS between 2011-2012.

Really what is the big deal? It’s just an upgrade just like when we went from 2G to 3G right? Well, the short answer is no. LTE is a completely new technology with some amazing tricks up its sleeves. No wonder Verizon dropped WiMax (the next step up from EV-DO, their current 3G technology) in favor of LTE.

First, LTE is a huge jump in speed. Current HSPA+ tech can reach speeds of 21Mbps while the first revision of LTE will be capable of reaching well over 100Mbps. Just sit back and image for a moment your phone operating at 100Mbps by 2012 and it does not stop there. With LTE Advanced following the original LTE roll out closely we could see mobile speeds up to 1Gbps by 2015!

Second, is a little magic trick. Currently when your phone looks for signal it connects to the tower with the strongest signal. While this might give you the best “bars” it does not give you the best performance for your data or voice communications. Say you’re at a big football game, 74,000 people attend. Three towers cover the stadium. Lets do a little math given that 10% of the attendees might be using their phone at any give time.

  • 10% of 74,000 = 7,400
  • Users per tower = 2466+
  • Capacity per cell = 200+
  • Average cells per tower = 8

This means that during the “big game” cell towers in that area could be overcrowded by up to 866 users! A huge number for mobile telecommunications that could ultimately leave thousands of people in the area will little or no cell phone service. Anyone remember SXSW?

Currently cell phone providers beef these potentially crowded areas with more mobile towers to compensate for big events, such as the Dallas Cowboys Stadium hosting the Super Bowl. However, this does not always work. The area could still experience massive cell outages due to an over congested network. So what does LTE do to fix this?

Imagine you are driving down the freeway. You notice the left lane is moving faster than the right. So you move over into the left lane ultimately shortening the amount time it takes to arrive at your destination. LTE works in similar ways. It, like you, can divert traffic to different “mobile cells” to combat network congestion and ultimately provide more reliable service. Not only does this make a huge difference in mobile voice and data communications but also opens the door for more devices that could use LTE. Such devices include security alarm systems and televisions.

So is LTE a big deal? Yes it is! LTE will revolutionize the way we communicate provide faster and more reliable means of transmitting data, allow for a more diverse range of mobile telecom devices therefore making LTE the aspirin to your (mobile) Internet headaches.

Comments or Questions? Feel free to leave them below.

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