"LTE is a set of standards defined by the 3GPP, and most commercial LTE networks use equipment and devices built around Releases 8/9," notes Danny Dicks, research analyst with Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider and author of the report. "As of April 2014, the latest agreed release is Release 11; many NEP's LTE hardware and software can offer features complying with the relevant parts of the standards for Release 10 and above."
The set of features that will be deployed in LTE-A networks is starting to become clearer: they will be those features that enable efficient use of spectrum assets for maximum capacity and coverage, and those that improve the user experience of mobile data wherever they are in the network, Dicks says. "Operators are looking for those features that give them the biggest improvement at lowest cost and easiest deployment," he continues. "From the smorgasbord of technologies considered and standardized by 3GPP in Releases 10 and above of LTE, various forms of carrier aggregation will be the most significant over the next year or two."
Key findings of LTE-A: State of the Market report include:
- Networks and services using features defined in Releases 10 and onward of the 3GPP's LTE standards are being turned on around the world;
- Carrier aggregation (CA) dominates the news about LTE-A, as operators try to make the most of their spectrum holdings;
- Multimode CA (FDD + TDD), the aggregation of more than two carriers and the aggregation of broader carriers are all being demonstrated;
- LTE-A features to help with network densification using small cells/HetNets are starting to be used, particularly eICIC/FeICIC and Uplink CoMP; high-order MIMO is a ways away;
- Chipsets supporting LTE-A features are currently available, and the number of commercial devices is growing.