wireless data technologiesIncreased usage of smartphones and tablets in recent years has significantly contributed to surge in mobile data traffic. Mobility has transformed our lifestyles in fundamental ways, the way we live, do work, play, purchase and connect with others. Today, we are increasingly using our smartphones and tablets to download multimedia content including pictures, audio files, video clips, etc. We are not only downloading but also creating and up-linking these contents more and more.

Our changing lifestyles have led to manifold increase in our mobile data requirements. This is likely to grow even faster in the coming years. As per the recent CISCO VNI global mobile data traffic forecast,  data traffic volume will increase thirteen times in the next five years.  A large part of this demand would come from mobile users, which will need to be handled with advanced wireless data technologies.

According to the same forecast, the number of mobile-connected devices will surpass the number of people on earth by the end of 2013 and there will be roughly 1.4 mobile devices per person by 2017.  With the fast growing number of smartphone and tablet users, mobile data requirements are also increasing speedily.  Consequently, there is a pressing need that wireless data technologies evolve at a higher pace to support this ever growing wireless data demand.

Some key areas around which wireless data technologies are evolving are as follows:

  • Increasing Spectral Efficiency:  New wireless data technologies, such as  LTE and LTE-Advanced are evolving fast in the areas of higher order modulation (64 QAM, 128 QAM) and multiple antennas (4×4 MIMO or 8×8 MIMO) to support higher spectral efficiency. Spectral efficiency is an indicator of efficient use of spectrum to transmit larger numbers of bits over one unit of spectrum (measured in Bits/Hz). Higher spectrum efficiency would mean Communication Service Providers (CSPs) will be able to support higher data rates with the same spectrum.
  • Enabling Small Cells: CSPs over the past few decades have deployed wireless services using macro cells with tower/roof mounted antennas. These macro cells typically cover area of few kilometers. Following the sharp rise in the demand of wireless data, one of the strategies CSPs are adopting to cater to this demand is to deploy large scale small cells solutions. These solutions support equivalent capacity for smaller areas at much lower costs. However, aspects like interference management, backhaul availability, operations and maintenance are the major challenges in the way of developing and deploying large-scale small cells solutions. Wireless data technologies need to evolve to address these challenges to enable seamless deployments of large scale small cells, which in turn would increase the overall data capacity of communication networks.
  • Supporting Spectrum Across Bands: CSPs have their spectrum assents divided across different bands and are looking for solutions that can enable usage of spectrum across multiple bands in same air interface technology and for the same user.  Carrier Aggregation feature that has been recently standardized by 3GPP supports this capability. However, supporting multiple bands in mobile devices is still a major technological challenge restricting its widespread usage by CSPs.

To meet end users fast growing wireless data demand, a lot more actions are required by various telecom ecosystem players, such as chip vendors, equipment vendors, device vendors and CSPs. These players will have to work collectively to get newer and advanced wireless data technologies adopted by standardization bodies like 3GPP and work towards their development and deployment.