Category Archives: LTE

LTE Lab Trial Sets Gigabit Speed Record

By The Editors of AGL

Verizon, Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies continue to push the LTE speed envelope breaking the Gigabit speed barrier. The companies achieved an industry first with commercial silicon and network infrastructure with 1.07 Gbps download speeds using the Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem during an Ericsson lab trial.

This 1.07 Gbps achievement builds on Verizon’s recent announcement about Gigabit LTE with support for License Assisted Access (LAA). Also of significance, the 1.07 Gbps speed was achieved using only three 20 megahertz carriers of (Frequency Division Duplex using separate transmit and receive frequencies) spectrum, achieving new levels of spectral efficiency for commercial networks and devices. These efficiencies will enable the delivery of the Gigabit class experience to more customers and lead to new wireless innovations.

The companies achieved the 1.07 Gbps industry milestone by using 12 simultaneous LTE streams, which allow for up to 20 percent increase in peak data rates and capacity with a corresponding improvement in average speeds. Ericsson’s Radio System and LTE software, in concert with a mobile test device based on the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, enabled these high speeds.

The lab tests also used 4×4 MIMO per carrier, 256 QAM per carrier, which enables customer devices and the network to exchange information in large amounts, delivering more bits of data in each transmission.


As T-Mobile Turns on 600 MHz, Rural Towers Are the Early Winners

By J. Sharpe Smith

With characteristic bravado, T-Mobile has begun lighting up its 600 MHz LTE network, switching on a Nokia transmitter on a rooftop in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

T-Mobile’s 600 MHz LTE network rollout will initially be in rural America and other markets where the spectrum is already clear of broadcasting. Those deployments and other network upgrades will increase T-Mobile’s total LTE coverage from 315 million Americans today to 321 million.

By the end of the year, an additional 600 MHz sites are slated for locations in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, western North Dakota, Maine, coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington.

In an ex parte meeting with FCC personnel, T-Mobile officials said they expect to have at least 10 megahertz of 600 MHz spectrum ready for deployment across “more than one million square miles” by the end of this year, including “hundreds of thousands of square miles” of rural areas.

T-Mo CTO Neville Ray applauded the speed of the deployment effort in the 600 MHz frequencies.

“This team broke every record in the books with the speed of our 700 MHz LTE deployment, and we’re doing it again. T-Mobile is effectively executing in six months what would normally be a two-year process,” said Ray said. “We won’t stop … and we won’t slow down!”

The operator is using “low-band” spectrum won in the government broadcast incentive auction concluded earlier this year, and yesterday’s announcement came two months after the carrier received its spectrum licenses from the FCC.

The speed of T-Mobile’s rollout is no accident. In February 2016, T-Mobile, in conjunction with Broadcast Tower Technologies and Hammett & Edison, set out a plan to maximize the resources needed to move the TV broadcasters from the band and rollout the needed technology.

T-Mobile worked with Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to ensure the right transmitter and handset technology would be available when the rollout began. It is also collaborating with the FCC and broadcasters such as the Public Broadcasting System to quickly clear the spectrum.

Moreover, T-Mobile worked with Electronics Research to make sure that adequate broadcast antennas and installation crews would be available for the TV stations’ move to new spectrum. Antenna production capacity was increased by 800 percent by the end of 2016, and production began at the end of the auction when new channels were assigned to broadcasters.

Additionally, T-Mobile went above and beyond the FCC’s spectrum clearing requirements of the auction winner, committing to pay for new low-power facilities used by local public television stations that are required to relocate to new broadcasting frequencies because of the auction.

J. Sharpe Smith is senior editor of the AGL eDigest. He joined AGL in 2007 as contributing editor to the magazine and as editor of eDigest email newsletter. He has 27 years of experience writing about industrial communications, paging, cellular, small cells, DAS and towers. Previously, he worked for the Enterprise Wireless Alliance as editor of the Enterprise Wireless Magazine. Before that, he edited the Wireless Journal for CTIA and he began his wireless journalism career with Phillips Publishing, now Access Intelligence.

Will LTE, the IoT and FirstNet Improve 9-1-1 Caller Location?

July 20, 2017 — 

Wireless handsets that can connect with internet of things access points may improve indoor location accuracy for 9-1-1 calls. LTE technology may help call centers enable texting. And, the FirstNet network may extend video and other imagery from 9-1-1- calls to first responders.

By Don Bishop

When someone places a call to 9-1-1, the call-taker needs to know the caller’s location — and quickly. It is usually the first or second question the call-taker asks, according to Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. The association, which identifies itself as NENA: The 9-1-1- Association, is a membership organization of people who work in 9-1-1- call centers and others who seek to improve 9-1-1 emergency number service.

Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. Photo by Don Bishop

“We live in a connected world, and it is going to become more connected with the internet of things,” Fontes said, speaking during a conference session at the Las Vegas Convention Center in March. “We need a sea change from what has previously been done to identify the location of someone placing a 9-1-1 call.”

Fontes recalled that in the 1990s and early 2000s, 9-1-1 systems used two methods of automatically determining a caller’s location when the call came from a wireless device. One involved direction-finding using intelligence in the network, along with radio signal triangulation with the cell phone and cell towers. The second, which came later, used the Global Positioning Service earth-orbiting satellites to provide locations, which used more intelligence in the handsets, although some intelligence remained in the network. But, Fontes said, callers remain tethered to their service provider, and therefore to whomever the service provider is, in turn, tethered to, to provide location accuracy.

The most recent efforts to improve location accuracy move beyond the world of the carrier, Fontes said. He reported that, even though the FCC rules are placed upon the wireless service providers, the most current rules enacted by the FCC take a look at indoor location. Fontes cited the statistics that there are 240 to 250 million wireless calls to 9-1-1 annually, 70 to 80 percent of or which are wireless. He said that more than 50 percent of U.S. households are wireless-only homes, not counting offices and other locations. “The number of calls coming from indoor locations is certainly a factor to be dealt with when you’re trying to locate somebody making a 9-1-1 call,” he said.

Fontes said that wireless carriers, NENA and Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) have agreed to steps that carriers can take to look beyond their networks to improve location accuracy. “That’s a big risk, because once you move outside of a network, the control that the carriers have slips away,” he said. “And yet, the requirements for location accuracy imposed by the FCC are imposed on the carrier. So now, what can be done and what is being done?”

Wireless devices connect through a variety of technologies, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, sensors and beacons. Fontes explained that within their environment, wireless phones have the capability of interacting with many other wireless access points that can provide better location capabilities.

“Earlier, I checked to see how many Wi-Fi hotspots in the convention center my phone was detecting,” he said. “I think there are about a dozen, maybe 14. Each of those has various levels of strength that provide some capability of determining where I am vis-à-vis those hotspots. In addition to that, we should take a look at the advent of beacons and sensors. The price of beacons and sensors is decreasing, making it much more affordable to be included in a variety of products.”

Fontes spoke of the possibility of having sensors dispersed in a transient type of environment to provide some location capabilities for a particular event.

Fixed Location and Address

He said he bought a microcell to use in a secondary residence to improve wireless coverage. The microcell registered with the wireless carrier’s database, providing its fixed location and address, which greatly improves 9-1-1 location accuracy. “As part of the agreement with the carriers, the FCC recognized and codified in its regulations the use of a database that’s being developed by the carriers to provide that list, the National Addressing Database, whether it’s Wi-Fi hotspots, picocells, beacons or sensors,” Fontes said.

As the database becomes more populated, Fontes said, the capabilities of working to improve location accuracy for the individual advances remarkably, particularly in comparison with the technologies of location accuracy — whether network-based solutions or GPS — especially indoors.

Outdated Voice-centric Service

Fontes said that in large part, technology from the previous century supports 9-1-1 service, and that means it is voice-centric. “How ridiculous is that?” he asked. “The voice call is the start of a series of responses in the public safety family of services that provides the response to emergency situations.”

With the eventual establishment of a nationwide public safety broadband network based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data technology, Fontes said the goal is to provide seamless links among the smart technologies that all of us have at our fingertips, smart technology in the 9-1-1 center and the smart technology used by the field responders via the new network. The new network is being built by AT&T under a contract awarded by a federal agency, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

LTE technology supports video and texting. Fontes said that when an audio-visual component is added to any type of communication, it is possible for experts to pick up cues that others’ eyes may not detect. “When that 9-1-1 call comes in — perhaps it’s a horrible situation in a school or a mall or whatever — with a video and voice component, you may be able to push that video, that voice off to others who are experts in detecting what’s going on in the environment, while the 9-1-1 professional is dealing with what needs to be addressed in the dispatch context.”

Fontes said texting is critically important. He said only 10 to 15 percent of 9-1-1 centers enable texting. “We have 37 million to 42 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired who rely on texting,” he said. “In addition to that, we know of unfortunate situations where texting would be safer than speaking — whether it’s a mass incident type of a situation, such as a mass shooting, or domestic violence.” He said in such situations, a caller with texting might be better able to survive than if the caller had to use voice.

21st-century Technology

“We have a long way to go,” Fontes said. “It’s politics. It’s money. The easiest part of all of this is technology. I’m grateful for all of those who have worked so hard to improve the technological capabilities that enable field responders to respond to emergencies with greater information, and for the standards work that’s being done by all of these organizations. I hope that in the context of what is happening in public safety at large, we as a nation will improve our next-generation 9-1-1 to make it in fact 21st-century technology.”

Brian Fontes spoke on March 27 at the International Wireless Communications Expo’s Network Infrastructure Forum during the in-building wireless session moderated by the author.



VoLTE Call over Commercial Network Moves Cat-M1 Forward

July 11, 2017 — 

This year has seen a lot of firsts when it comes to Category M1 (Cat-M1), a technology that marries Voice over LTE (VoLTE) with the Internet of Things. From a phone call across the Verizon network to demonstrations of use cases at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai, technologies from Qualcomm and Ericsson are pushing Cat-M1 forward.

By J. Sharpe Smith

Senior Editor, AGL eDigest

Verizon has successfully transmitted its first live Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call over its commercial Category M1 (Cat-M1) network with the help of Ericsson and Qualcomm Technologies, which is said to be an important moment in the evolution of IoT connectivity. Cat-M1 is a 3GPP-based technology that is designed to allow low-power Internet of Things devices to communicate over licensed spectrum

Cat-M1 can extend the reach of an IoT device across Verizon’s LTE network, whether it is a data-only or voice-enabled product.

In April of this year, Verizon launched the first nationwide commercial 4G LTE Cat-M1 network, which spans 2.4 million square miles, designed to provide scale, coverage and security for customers seeking wireless access solutions for IoT.

Verizon’s Cat-M1 network is built on a virtualized cloud environment, which enables IoT deployment and nationwide scaling. Cat-M1 is a new class of LTE chipset that is designed for sensors, which requires less power and supports an array of use cases ranging from water meters to asset trackers to consumer electronics.

The low bandwidth use cases for Cat-M1 chipsets demand new types of data plans, including low rate, multi-year plans to match the longer useful life of devices.

In 2016, Verizon launched a limited commercial Cat-M1 network.

AT&T Shows VoLTE Call on Cat-M1/LTE-M Network in Demonstration

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February of this year, AT&T demonstrated a VoLTE call on Cat-M1/LTE-M technology using technology from Qualcomm Technologies and Ericsson’s radio and core network.

AT&T plans to extend the technology into its mobile network to enhance existing and new IoT use cases requiring voice services. The demonstration shows that the technology is mature and ready for commercial deployment in operator networks.

The demonstration used Qualcomm Technologies’ MDM9206 LTE modem, designed to support Cat-M1/LTE-M, as well as Ericsson LTE Radio Access Network, Ericsson IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), Ericsson Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and Ericsson User Data Management network infrastructure and new software.


Network Convergence and the Promise of FirstNet

July 13, 2017 — 

Wideband distributed antenna system (DAS) networks that mirror information technology (IT) data infrastructure and that use fiber-optic cable hold promise for extending existing public safety wireless communications indoors and for delivering the coming FirstNet 700-MHz signals indoors, too.

By James Martin

In March, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) awarded AT&T a contract to build the first nationwide public safety broadband network for emergency first responders. The network will use Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed wireless data technology on frequencies in the 700-MHz band. Eventually, the network will supplant the use of existing public safety frequencies. As the FirstNet network evolves, public agencies and building owners will have to assume the burden of bringing network coverage indoors at venues so first-responder radios will work in all locations. In many instances, jurisdictions will require in-building coverage. The following information explains the convergence of public safety frequencies in connection with the new FirstNet standard and the requirements for systems that support the network’s wireless coverage inside buildings.

Coverage Challenges

Despite the current use of lower frequencies in the range of 150 MHz to 900 MHz to support public safety radios, the in-building coverage challenge remains unsolved. Even at these low frequencies, building construction materials can block outdoor radio signals from penetrating indoors. Underground areas, such as basements, are impossible to cover from the outside; outdoor radios dominate the airwaves; and energy-efficient, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings make matters worse. In the United States, LEED-certified buildings enclose 2.5 billion square feet, and this year, approximately 45 percent of nonresidential building construction will be green (environmentally friendly).

As a result, in-building wireless systems are a must for ensuring clear and consistent radio coverage for building occupants and first responders. Many local governments mandate the use of in-building wireless systems for public safety systems in buildings larger than a certain size, but even existing systems will be in for a revamp as the FirstNet network comes online.

LTE Convergence

Existing public safety networks and radios operate in several public safety radio communications frequency bands, including the 150-MHz, 450-MHz and 800/900-MHz bands. In effect, the United States is a patchwork quilt of public safety communication networks. With the advent of the FirstNet public safety broadband network, these will all begin to converge around 700-MHz LTE. LTE is now the dominant technology used in commercial cellular networks, but a lot of work is being done to further make use of LTE’s benefits. The results also will affect FirstNet LTE.

For example, mobile operators are always looking for more radio-frequency spectrum to expand bandwidth and provide their users with faster throughput. Once they have derived all the capacity they can with new cell sites, sector-splitting and carrier aggregation, the next thing is to consider using unlicensed spectrum to further expand available bandwidth. LTE in unlicensed spectrum (LTE-U), licensed-assisted access (LAA), and MulteFire computer software and firmware offer ways to use unlicensed spectrum that will deliver bandwidth more from current technology.

LTE-U protocol enables mobile operators to increase bandwidth in their LTE networks by using the unlicensed frequency bands in the 5-Hz range — bands that Wi-Fi devices also use. Licensed-assisted access is the name given to the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) effort to standardize the use of LTE in Wi-Fi frequency bands. LTE-U is an implementation of LAA. The MulteFire LTE technology developed by Qualcomm operates solely in unlicensed spectrum and uses self-organizing functionality; LAA aggregates unlicensed spectrum with an anchor in licensed spectrum.

Unlicensed LTE protocols will play a significant role in boosting LTE bandwidth and throughput while serving as a key component for connecting the internet of things (IoT). Ideally, in order to speed deployment and deliver an economical solution, public safety, wireless IoT devices, and cellular services will all operate on a converged network (see Figure 1).

FirstNet’s public safety broadband network will make use of the same LTE network, so it’s possible that, in some cases, the 700-MHz public safety frequency may already be supported by some in-building wireless systems (although the frequencies used for the FirstNet network are not the same as the 700-MHz frequencies in use by cellular carriers today, so this would be true in a limited number of cases). In many instances, however, it will be necessary to rip and replace existing in-building wireless systems to facilitate the support of the FirstNet network.

In-Building Requirements

What does this all mean for those considering buying or upgrading an in-building wireless system? There are three basic requirements:

1. Support 700-MHz FirstNet frequencies while still supporting existing cellular and IoT frequencies. Ideally, the solution should support public safety, cellular and IoT frequencies in a single system. This will simplify both deployment and maintenance, while keeping costs down. A truly wideband distributed antenna system (DAS) can support any frequency from 150 MHz to 2700 MHz, so it could support many different frequencies with a single layer of equipment, including 700-MHz FirstNet communications. And, this solution could seamlessly support future services.

2. Use fiber infrastructure. Many current DAS solutions use coaxial cabling or a hybrid architecture that combines fiber and coax cabling. An all-fiber infrastructure is easier and less costly to deploy, and often it can make use of fiber-optic cable already in place in the building.

3. Have a simple architecture. Many DAS products have a dizzying array of parts because of their inherently narrowband architecture, making it difficult for information technology (IT) staff to both deploy and maintain them. Building owners and contractors should look for DAS solutions that mirror IT data infrastructure with a limited number of system elements so it is familiar and easy to understand.

Meeting the FirstNet Challenge

The move toward FirstNet public safety infrastructure represents both a challenge and an opportunity for building owners. The challenge is that many in-building wireless systems will have to be upgraded or deployed because some existing systems support other frequencies, but not the 700-MHz frequencies the new FirstNet network will use, and some buildings lack any kind of indoor coverage solution. But the good news is that the need to support the new public safety broadband network offers the chance to deploy a single, converged in-building wireless system that supports all wireless traffic. The FirstNet network will take several years to roll out. It is not too early now to begin planning how to support it.

James Martin is vice president of operations at Zinwave. Prior to joining Zinwave, Martin was senior manager at TE Connectivity (formerly ADC/LGC Wireless) for more than 16 years. His leadership helped TE Connectivity emerge as a top-tier DAS manufacturer in the wireless space. Early in his career, he was employed at Hughes Network Systems and was responsible for the design, deployment and optimization of more than 500 macro cell sites across the southeastern United States. During this time, he was also instrumental in defining the first small cell systems designed and deployed by Hughes Network Systems. Contact James Martin at