Wireless communications has been a strong focus at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. With technology aiming to connect almost everybody on the planet, mobile and wireless connections are becoming more important than ever. IT News Africa spoke to Alcatel-Lucent’s Michael Peeters, Chief Technology Officer of the company’s Wireless Division about Alcatel-Lucent’s involvement in driving the technology forward.
“Our main focus has been on North America with WCDMA connnections, but this year we will see a massive shift towards LTE from the current 3G. The uptake of LTE has been incredible and with the current pace of innovation, the drive for LTE will happen much sooner than what people think. LTE drives down the cost per bit, which in a sense makes LTE cheaper,” Peeters said.
He also remarked that as devices become increasingly bigger, there is more space for LTE antennae in each one, which will make the signals stronger as well.
The biggest drivers in the LTE space is the US and China, as they have the biggest market share.
And with the upwards shift towards LTE, there will be a shift in the mobile landscape. “We will see a shift from data to voice in terms of LTE usage. The next step will be VoLTE, which is Voice-Over-LTE. It would essentially be a dedicated line, and the voice quality will be perfect,” Peeters said.
Although Alcatel-Lucent has a presence in virtually every country, most of the company’s activity on the African continent is focussed in North Africa. “Africa is actually at an advantage, as they use mobile devices for everything. A lot of the time you will see that they access services though text messages, and Alcatel-Lucent is right that in the back-end to make that work,” he added.
But while data has seen a surge in popularity, Peeters said that it is not perfect and data is going to explode in the near future. “But there isn’t enough spectrum, and more spectrum needs to be made available. Even if we have enough spectum, the answer will lie in Small Cells. It becomes very expensive to dig trenches for fibre connections, and this is where Small Cells step in.”
But Peeters was quick to add that it is a global problem and not just isolated to North Africa, although there are definitive markets that are more mature than others, that are able to reuse their assets in other places.
And with the break-neck pace at which technology speeds along, the next version of LTE has already been discussed, introduced and tested. South Africa, as with many other countries, is only just starting to get around to deploying LTE in the market, but Peeters gave details on what will be available next.
“It’s called LTE Advantage, and will have a lot of added features that are not currently available on the LTE network. It involves carrier integration and the US was the first country to make it roll it out. LTE Advatage stitches together a carriers different blocks of spectrum and offers it as one block,” he said.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor