Predictions for 2016: LTE-A, LTE-U, 5G and IoT
As RCR Wireless News prepared for its 2016 Analyst Predictions Day, the editorial team met with analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics and Chris Pearson of 4G Americas to hear their forecasts for the year ahead. The conversation was part of RCR Wireless News’ 2016 predictions webinar, which also included perspective from InterDigital and Sonus.
Below are some of the key takeaways related to LTE-Advanced, smartphone sales, LTE-Unlicensed, “5G” and the “Internet of Things.”
Analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics thinks smartphone sales could decline for the first time in history next year. Entner said Americans are holding onto their existing phones for longer, and he sees the average device replacement cycle creeping up to 28 months next year, from 26.8 months in 2015.
Entner noted people who pass on the newest smartphones will be unable to access voice over LTE and other rich communication features that are only available on the latest models.
Spotlight on Sprint
“Sprint I think will be the very interesting story this year because their Spark markets are finally being ready,” said Entner. “They will spend a lot of focus on having really, really fast speeds.” Entner said Sprint is already offering faster data speeds than its competitors in Sprint Spark markets. Sprint recently unveiled the LTE Plus branding name for its latest network enhancements.
At the same time, Sprint is in the process of restructuring as it prepares for the year ahead. The company has reorganized into four geographic markets and has begun a series of pre-announced layoffs.
Testing of LTE in unlicensed spectrum will accelerate in 2016, but commercial launches may be more than a year away, according to Entner. He noted if the Federal Communications Commission moves to protect the 5 GHz spectrum band for incumbent providers of Wi-Fi access, the U.S. could end up moving in a very different direction from other countries.
“It would be a very interesting departure because the rest of the world doesn’t really have the same concerns as some of the companies that built their business on Wi-Fi here in the U.S.,” Entner said.
LTE-A and the road to 5G
“We’re predicting over 150 LTE-Advanced networks will be in place in the next year,” said Chris Pearson, president of 4G Americas. “LTE-Advanced has an amazing technology innovation roadmap, and so far of the carriers that have deployed LTE-Advanced features they pretty much keyed on one and that is carrier aggregation. But what you are going to see in 2016 is more mature LTE-Advanced capabilities.”
Pearson pointed out LTE-A also facilitates LTE Broadcast, coordinated multipoint, self-organizing networks, device interference cancellation, 256 QAM, authorized shared access and higher capacity to support more signaling traffic.
The move towards 5G standardization will pick up in 2016, according to Pearson, who said even though commercial deployments of 5G are not expected until 2020, there is much work to do now.
“In 2016 you are going to see a lot of heavy lifting between associations and standardization groups and operators and their vendors,” Pearson said. But for commercial deployments, the focus will be on LTE and LTE-A.
“If there are features and techniques that can be done at the 5G level, I don’t think operators and their vendor partners are going to want to wait for them until 2020,” said Pearson. “I think you’re going to see them incorporated more and more into the LTE-Advanced or LTE-Advanced Pro standardization.”
Internet of Things
“In 2016 the Internet of Things will continue to make great progress, and there will be more businesses out there opening up their minds and their wallets and their overall corporate strategy to the Internet of Things, and that trend is just now starting to gain momentum, and we’ll see it in 2016,” said Pearson. He foresees increased IoT standardization as a key development in the year ahead.
“There is a lot of competition that is out there in the marketplace,” Pearson said. “There are a lot of different ways to have an IoT strategy. … But the decision by 3GPP to work the standardized narrowband IoT is really a critical decision as this competition increases throughout the world, because What I think you’re going to see with the new standard and the standard that is continually being worked on in the past year or so, is a real balancing act, balancing the complexity, the cost, the coverage and the battery life so you can reach more markets.”