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What is Long Term Evolution?

written by: •edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/3/2011

Somewhere lost in the excitement of 3G technology is an offering known as Long Term Evolution or LTE. While not as well known to the average user, it is this technology that has largely been the focus of newer, faster and more efficient 4G networks. Let's have a look at what LTE involves.

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    Understanding The Basics

    Long Term Evolution has long been seen as the first advancement towards stronger, faster and more efficient 4G data networks. The technology under LTE can currently reach downlink peak rates of 100Mbps and uplink speeds of 50Mbit/s.

    The LTE technology is also a scalable bandwidth technology for carriers operating anywhere from 20Mhz town to 1.4Mhz.

    Long Term Evolution offers some excellent advantages over current 3G systems including higher throughput, plug and play compatibility, FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) and TDD (Time Division Duplexing), low latency and lower operating expenditures. It also offers legacy modes to support devices operating on GPRS systems, while supporting seamless passthrough of technologies operating on other older cellular towers.

    The technologies put forth by LTE will not only be implemented over time, they are designed to be scalable. This scalability means the company can slowly introduce LTE technologies over time, without disrupting current services.

    LTE is also designed with a full Internet Protocol (IP) network infrastructure. This means it can support full voice in packet domains, while also offering advanced radio techniques for achieving higher performance levels beyond what basic CDMA networks and 3G data packets can currently achieve.

    The technology also means Long Term Evolution can work on higher bandwidth networks without any loss of thoroughput.

    Here's a list of LTE's capabilities to date: (Source: 3GAmericas)

    LTE capabilities include:

    • Downlink peak data rates up to 326 Mbps with 20 MHz bandwidth
    • Uplink peak data rates up to 86.4 Mbps with 20 MHz bandwidth
    • Operation in both TDD and FDD modes
    • Scalable bandwidth up to 20 MHz, covering 1.4, 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz in the study phase
    • Increased spectral efficiency over Release 6 HSPA by a factor of two to four
    • Reduced latency, up to 10 milliseconds (ms) round-trip times between user equipment and the base station, and to less than 100 ms transition times from inactive to active