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Broadband wireless has evolved at breath-taking speed in the last 5 years, transforming global communications. The IEEE 802.16 (WiMax) standard got the ball rolling. It was the first to deliver real “4G” speeds, at tens of Mbps. Meanwhile, a parallel effort, LTE was developed, and backed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a standards effort by cellular carriers. It took into account heritage voice and other carrier features.

The 3GPP completed their initial Rel-8 LTE spec, and a follow-on, a Rel-9 LTE spec, in March of 2010. That provided further enhancements to the HSPA+ technology and enhancements to LTE, including support of MIMO and Dual-Carrier HSPA operation, which allowed carrier aggregation for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ for wider channels.

LTE has now become the defacto “4G” standard, world-wide.

Even WiMax backers have acknowledged the success of LTE. The next version of the WiMax standard, version 2.2, incorporates LTE compatibility into the spec.

LTE-Advanced is a part of 3GPP Release 10 (pdf). LTE-Advanced fulfills the criteria of supporting up to 100 Mbps, to be considered 4G by the ITU.

It was formally submitted as a candidate 4G system to ITU-T in late 2009, and approved as IMT-Advanced and finalized by 3GPP in March 2011. The technology received its first commercial implementation in October 2012 by Russian network Yota. Huawei supplied YOTA with end-to-end gear and built Yota’s commercial LTE-A network on the 2.6GHz band.

Key features of Release 10 include:

The 3G and 4G Wireless Blog aggregates lots of white papers and presentations that explore and explain LTE-A.

There are five different LTE User Equipment categories as can be seen in the table (above) supporting different parameters and performance. LTE category 1, for example does not support MIMO, but LTE UE category five supports 4×4 MIMO.

Further enhancements to LTE-Advanced have just been completed in 3GPP Release 11. Those enhancements will be showing up in the next months.

A White Paper from Nomor Research (pdf), summarizes the general trends and release schedule for LTE Release 12. Key technologies that Release 12 include: Small Cell Enhancements, a New Carrier Type, 3D-MIMO Beamforming, M2M Communication, LTE-WiFi Integration at radio level, and Public Safety services like device to device communications.

The completion of Release 12 isn’t expected until mid of 2014, with deployments expected around the end of 2015 and later.

Global LTE smartphone shipments will grow threefold to reach 275 million units in 2013, reports Strategy Analytics, with only 90.9 million units expected to have shipped in 2012. Tablet shipments will hit 120 million units in 2012 only after two short years of the device being on the market, and 340 million systems are expected by 2016, according to IHS iSuppli, though most will use WiFi to connect.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Small Cells, Big Deal, FirstNet: The Asymetrical Threat, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, China Mobile Awards Contracts for TD-LTE, London: The Biggest Small Network in the World, AT&T: 40,000 Small Cells, Softbank & Sprint Do a Deal, WiMax Forum Embraces TD-LTE, Small Cell, Big Growth, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells, Alcatel-Lucent: Small Cell lightRadio, Telefónica Launches lightRadio in Barcelona, South Korea Completes Nationwide LTE Coverage

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