Mobile networks are evolving at a rapid rate to keep up with the explosion in smartphone technology, with LTE leading the pack for many providers. Most devices can now provide internet access, allow you to stream videos or music, and run a host of data-heavy apps. Basic 3G infrastructure, once seen as super-fast, now just can’t cut it with the rapid influx of data that’s passed every day, and LTE has risen to meet the challenge. Yet you may have seen TD-LTE mentioned as the next form of technology to watch for, even though LTE is still in development in many places. So what is it, and how quickly is it becoming the new standard?
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LTE vs. TD-LTE
LTE or long term evolution is one of the most basic technologies used in 4G networks, the natural evolution of now-prevalent 3G networks. LTE can provide download speeds of more than 150 megabits per second, and can support a higher number of network users in a smaller area, for greater capacity. It’s relatively easy to upgrade, and is compatible with already existing standards.
TD-LTE stands for Time Division Long Term Evolution, and is similar to regular LTE in a few ways. The same chip in a mobile phone is able to access both LTE and TD-LTE, for example, although they operate on different wireless spectrum bands. The difference is that the band that the TD-LTE signal is carried on has less traffic, making it cheaper and more convenient for network providers. It uses one channel to both transmit and receive data, while LTE uses different channels for each direction.
Growth of TD-LTE
Because this type of network has been heavily hyped over the past year, it’s a logical conclusion that it’s a brand new technology. However, it’s been in development over the past 15 years and has just now started becoming a global reality. Because it’s cheaper to implement due to only using one signal, it’s more viable than LTE for some network operators yet can still handle high broadband demand. At the moment, there are over 50 operators who are part of the Global TD-LTE Initiative, and though the technology originally flourished in China to meet high demand it’s now becoming more common elsewhere.
According to this report from the Global mobile Suppliers Association, subscriber rates are growing rapidly. Approximately 1 in 8 LTE operators have already launched TD-LTE systems, spread across 26 countries of operation. There are an additional 48 operators who are planning networks, with some providing a converged system that uses both LTE and TD-LTE modes.
The Bottom Line
Offering a converged network with both LTE and TD-LTE modes seems to be the wave of the future. TD-LTE with Nokia Networks and other providers is being pushed as a way to boost network speed and capacity for mobile users. It runs on the same chip as regular LTE, so we can expect that you’ll be able to pick and choose between the types of long term evolution networks that work best for your device. For network operators, there’s no need to pick and choose between LTE and TD-LTE; we can have both!