How to Efficiently Upgrade to LTE in Australia

Wireless operators in Australia have limited budgets for upgrading their networks for the expected mobile broadband usage demand increases. Some are switching off 2G with increased 4G capacity as a significant factor. In today’s blog post, Reece Baines talks in more detail about how operators can add a better and more efficient upgrade path to their networks.

Upgrade-AustraliaThe pressures that are forcing Australian mobile operators to modernize their LTE networks were the topic of my last blog. Mobile broadband usage in the country is expected to quadruple by 2017, but operators have a limited budget for upgrading existing networks for the expected demand. Some are switching off 2G with increased 4G capacity as a significant factor.

This is why I’m going to talk in a bit more detail about how operators can add a better and more efficient upgrade path. Firstly, we need to remind ourselves that adding an LTE network onto existing 3G (or even 2G) infrastructure is complicated. 3G is a voice system, while LTE is mainly a data network. Then, we need to think about different equipment selection, installation practices and environmental considerations, and we need to make sure that subscribers aren’t affected by the upgrade.

The Australian telecommunications landscape has many radio frequency (RF) bands available for use, including 700, 850, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300 and 2600 MHz. If an operator needs to tap into different RF bands, it will have to install new equipment, make changes and add extra features such as multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) on the tower top. As such, the tower has to withstand more weight and higher wind load, which equates to extra costs.

Moreover, LTE is extremely sensitive to passive intermodulation (PIM), which results from poorly designed or poorly installed equipment on the tower. It’s a serious problem, since a 1 decibel drop in uplink sensitivity due to PIM can result in an 11 percent decrease in coverage area. The result: a significant reduction in subscriber satisfaction and higher risk of churn.

Clearly, this places a harsh spotlight on the small piece of real estate at the top of the tower. That’s why we have come up with innovative and flexible solutions that address many of the above issues and help overcome the PIM problem. The best example of this is the breakthrough concept of using pre-assembled tower tops that can be put together at the factory and tested to ensure they meet specific KPIs. This means a reduction in installation mistakes that can lead to issues like PIM. In Australia, where labour costs are high, this approach has the added advantage of saving on installation costs and time.

CommScope gathered many of the lessons it has learned about implementing LTE in its LTE Best Practices ebook. It is the result of years of experience with LTE in markets around the globe and consolidates what we’ve learned across 10 subject areas including noise and interference mitigation, co-siting, PIM avoidance, small cells and more. Each chapter includes real-world advice for equipment selection, environmental practices and network installation.

Many of the guiding principles that have served us and our customers well in their 4G/LTE rollout will no doubt apply to 5G as well.

What do you think? Are you rolling out LTE efficiently? What’s next on the path to 5G?