Friday, April 25, 2008

UMA+LTE: It's all good

Recently there has been a flurry of activity around the next generation Radio Access Network (RAN) technology known at LTE. LTE is the ‘all IP’ access network for mobile service providers. With very high throughput (>100mbps) and very low latency (targeting 5msec), LTE is designed to a be a true wireless broadband access network.

With that in mind, people have started questioning UMA’s role in an LTE environment. While there are a lot issues still in flux (including LTE itself), and much work still to be done, what is clear is that the core drivers behind UMA in a 2G or 3G environment still apply in LTE.

Some people simplistically view UMA as redundant in an LTE environment because they both ‘deliver services over an IP access network.’ This view completely misses the value of UMA in a Home Zone 2.0 (femtocell or dual-mode handset) service deployment.

Operator deploying Home Zone 2.0 services in a 2G or 3G network are doing so for three reasons:

  • Create service zone unique from the macro network with the goal of offering differentiated services/billing based on location.
  • Offload the macro RAN, especially for very high speed, media rich audio and video application.
  • Improve the performance, coverage and throughput rate for mobile data services when indoors/in the home zone.

These same service drivers apply directly, and in some cases are even more relevant, to an LTE RAN:

  • Create a unique service zone (still a competitive advantage)
  • Offload the macro RAN (definitely for the projected data rates)
  • Improve coverage/performance (certainly if LTE is at 2 gHz or higher)

As the market evolves, UMA will continue to evolve as well. Just as UMA started as a 2G technology and evolved to support the 3G/Iu interfaces, UMA will continue to evolve into key solution in an LTE-enabled network.

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