Alcatel-Lucent today said it is testing a new technology that will be able to deliver faster and more consistent mobile broadband speeds on next-generation Long Term Evolution networks. It’s just one of a few technologies that will help squeeze all the speed and performance out of mobile networks, so your smartphones will get faster data in more places and have better battery life. This way, even as mobile devices consume more data, eating up bandwidth, people will be less likely to experience the spotty service affecting iPhone users in the U.S.
Alcatel-Lucent researchers at Bell Labs have come up with a way to take MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) to the next level. Just like adjusting the rabbit ears on a TV, changing the antenna configuration can help improve the signal strength on cell networks. MIMO is like boosting the number of those antennas and placing them so they expand the coverage. The researchers have taken that up a notch with a series of technologies called CoMP, short for Coordinated Multipoint Transmission. The telecommunications world loves acronyms, but it basically means they’re going to link the MIMO-enabled base stations together using a low-latency backhaul such as fiber, or less preferably, microwave.
The benefits are a more consistent experience for consumers, because data speeds won’t drop as precipitously when users reach the edge of a cell tower’s range. Think of it as more bars in more places away from the tower, or fewer dropped calls as you drive away from a cell site. The technology is still at the research stage, but within the next few years or so, standards will come out dictating how CoMP might be used to boost network coverage. Operators will likely have to update the software on their gear to make this work, but it won’t require a wholesale upgrade.
Meanwhile, Quantance, a provider of a component that resides in the cell phone, has a technology that smooths out the radio signals to help phones be heard by the tower and boost their ability to hear the signals coming from it. That’s good for your handset’s battery life because the easier it is to hear a signal, the less power a battery has to expend on boosting a signal. And who doesn’t like more talk or web surfing time?
As data usage continues to grow, carriers are searching for ways to deliver dependable service to consumers with limited spectrum resources and without blanketing the nation with towers. Research into more efficient use of existing spectrum, such as what Alcatel-Lucent is doing, as well as improvements on the handset side will help, but figuring out how to optimize the radio networks will be a problem everyone will eventually need to think about.