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Why LTE Matters

By Tom Deitrich
Smaller, faster and more portable are persistent trends in the digital world. The computing power that once required a roomsized machine can now be found in laptops and handheld devices, and you can put stacks of CDs in your pocket in the form of a portable media player. The same trends affect the cellular market, and pose some interesting engineering challenges. Cellular long term evolution (LTE) is the next step forward in cellular 3G services. With an expected market rollout in the 2009 time frame, LTE technology is a based on a 3GPP standard that provides for a downlink speed of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and an uplink speed of up to 50 Mbps. With multiple antennas, speeds can reach more than 320 Mbps on the downlink. Fixed wireless and wired standards are already approaching or achieving 100 Mbps or faster, and LTE is a way for cellular communications to operate at that high data rate.

For consumers: better, faster, pocket-sized multimedia

High-speed data over cellular networks will enable a rich suite of multimedia services. Cell phones and handheld devices are the new media centers, with access to music, photos, games, video and a host of connectivity options. Emerging cellular standards such as High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) are already enabling multi-call capabilities on handsets and IP multimedia subsystem services such as push-to-share and multi-player gaming. Just like the Internet, the larger and faster your pipe, the faster you can access data. Downloading a 1 MB song, for example, on a slower network can take several minutes. But with a 10 Mbps connection, you can download that song in one second. Fast transmission speeds become even more important for emerging services such as broadcast. Typically, a broadcast channel requires about 300 kilobits per second to send streaming or multicast transmissions. This means that in five MHz, or five megabits of bandwidth, you can broadcast about 16 channels. With 10 megabits, you can broadcast 32 channelsin real time. LTE should provide several technical enhancements that will improve the market for services such as voice-over-IP (VoIP) and videoconferencing. High downlink rates will be important for two-way bandwidth-intensive communications such as videoconferencing. Network latency will also improve, from as much as 200 milliseconds today to 510 milliseconds with LTE. Latency is a key network metric for enabling services that involve voice, which is very sensitive to transmission delays.

For network operators: flexibility, efficiency and cost savings

LTE will bring many technical benefits to cellular networks. Bandwidth will be scalable, from 1.25 MHz to 20 MHz. This will suit the needs of different network operators that have different bandwidth allocations, and also allow operators to provide different services based on spectrum. This provides a flexibility that is not available in todays cellular networks. Because LTE is a 3GPP standard, an upgrade path is laid out for operators who already use WCDMA networks. It is already the case that some network operators can upgrade to the High Speed Download Packet Access (HSDPA) standard with little capital expense, depending on the age of their equipment. When new LTE systems are introduced, carriers will use the exact same sites as todays base stations, because real estate for base stations is difficult and expensive to obtain and because carriers need to maintain their existing coverage patterns. Standards-based upgrades will allow carriers to keep their existing cell tower sites. 3G networks are more spectrally efficient than 2G, and LTE is expected to increase that efficiency. With greater spectral efficiency, operators can serve more standard voice customers and also provide more data, and more services, in a given bandwidth. That efficiency could also help carriers improve their average revenue per user or per unit (ARPU), helping to offset the cost of new LTE-capable devices and network upgrades. LTE spectral efficiency is expected to be between three and four times that of HSDPA. LTE will also migrate cellular networks completely to IP, or packet-based data. Today we have a very complex network that contains a lot of intelligence, which makes the network more expensive. Re-distributing that intelligence from the core of the network toward the points (i.e. end devices such as cell phones) can make a network much simpler. This, in turn, can help to reduce the capital expense of telecom network equipment.

continued on next page 1 Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.

What will LTE look like?

What kind of end devices will be used on these LTE networks? Freescales vision is a small LTE modem device that can plug into anythingsuch as a cell phone, a portable media player, a gaming device or a computer. Plugged into a computer, the device acts as a global wireless LAN. In a portable media player, it could enable users to download a tremendous amount of content or watch streaming television shows. In a gaming device, it enables real-time, graphics-intensive multi-player wireless gaming. This new LTE modem would work in much the same way as a wireless LAN works today with a PC. The host, which is the cell phone or other portable device, receives data packets which can come from one of many sources, including the LTE modem. The LTE modem receives the signals, packetizes them, sends the IP data packets into the host, and the host processes them. These packets could include DVB-H signals for broadcast television, WLAN for fixed broadband or LTE signals for mobile broadband.

Engineering challenges, or how not to melt a cell phone

Commercializing this technology will require some thought about the needs and wants of end users. End users are worried about power consumption, because they dont want to lug around a big battery. They want small, portable devices with user interfaces that are easy to understand. Most of all, they want something that is affordable. That translates into several engineering problems. An LTE device that consumes low power presents two main concerns. First, you must transmit the data. Typically more than 50 percent of the power in any mobile phone is used by the power amplifier. And to transmit high-speed data requires a great deal more power. To retain small form factors, that current draw must be reduced using sophisticated engineering techniques such as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling. Second, very high-speed signals require a lot of data processing. Todays engines process tens of millions of instructions per secondbut these new techniques will have to process several billion instructions per second, at low power. Small form factors require a large amount of integration. This is becoming increasingly important in modern devices that can contain an MP3 player, TV capability that requires a DVB-H or MediaFLO chip, games that require an applications processor and connectivity options that can include Bluetooth, wireless LAN and GPS. Yet, despite all these added features, consumers still want to be able to slip their phone into a pocket.

Freescale solutions for handsets and networks

At the 2008 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Freescale demonstrated streaming high-definition video over an LTE link with peak data rates of 182 Mbps downlink and 86 Mbps uplink. Were working on several solutions to the technical challenges of mobile broadband, from the handset to the base station. For end devices, we are developing special ultra-efficient processor units that can handle the computationally intensive processing of LTE data flow, at low power. A micro-coded engine for orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) provides the flexibility of a DSP and can handle the enormous instructions-per-second load required to process high-speed data. Another micro-coded engine will handle multiple software interfaces to the media access control (MAC) layer, allowing the end user to multitask; for example, you could watch streaming television and make a data call simultaneously. For network operators, Freescale has production-ready, optimized solutions available through our ODM/EMS partners and thirdparty ecosystem. Our Rapid System Development Platform is a comprehensive hardware and software reference package which enables OEMs to quickly plug together their own systems for evaluation and development. This modular, programmable base station reference platform includes an industry-standard MicroTCA development chassis and processor boards and software for Layer 1 and Layer 2 development. The long term evolution of cellular technology has tremendous potential. Compelling services over fast networks will have profound effects on the way we do business and go about our daily lives. Although the technical challenges are many, Freescale is constantly working on the solutions that will pave the road to the broadband future.

Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.