By 2020, network professionals say a 1000X increase in capacity is necessary. That’s because there will be 10 times the amount of mobile broadband subscribers and each subscriber will consume 100 times the bandwidth they do today (about 1 GB per day).
How can cellular providers keep up?
Roughly speaking, Nokia thinks carriers can meet the challenge by adding new spectrum (like the 2.6 and 3.5 GHz band), which will add 10X the bandwidth, new technologies like LTE-A and MIMO, which will add another 10X improvement in efficiency, and microcells in neighborhoods, which will add another 10X improvement in density.
Multiplied together they are expected to deliver 1000 times the capacity.
By 2017, almost 80% of operators will be running complex multiband, 3G/4G networks, usually with Wi-Fi offload. They will utilize heterogenious networking (HetNet), for which LTE-A will act as a catalyst; integrating Wi-Fi.
MIMO, with as many as 8 x 8 radio elements, can provide beamforming and increased capacity and utilize the higher frequencies effectively.
When ten or more inexpensive microcells cover the same area as one macrocell, that will deliver 10x the spectrum density — where it’s needed.
Qualcomm sees 3.5 GHz as promising for small cells, as well as unlicensed 60 GHz which is being standardized in IEEE 802.11, although the higher frequencies would only travel for a block or so.