Ericsson has introduced new lean design concepts to address inter-cell signalling, which can be used now to improve data speeds and app coverage for 4G LTE users, while paving the way to 5G.
While standards for 5G are yet to be established, Ericsson argues it is clear that the technology will employ ultra-lean design to improve the signalling schemes both to save energy and to enable the dense builds required by the expected new 5G spectrum.
Ericsson Lean Carrier is running live in thousands of cells in South Korean mobile operator SK Telecom’s (SKT) network. Ericsson and SK Telecom have now deployed Ericsson Lean Carrier in urban, suburban and rural areas. In a large-scale deployment, users can enjoy up to a 50% increase in downlink data speed with a network average increase of about 10%.
Park Jin-hyo, senior VP and Head of Network R&D Center, SK Telecom, said: “Through this technology commercialisation on LTE base stations, we can expect to enhance the performance at cell edge area and user experience.”
By reducing interference, Ericsson Lean Carrier enables new 256 QAM higher order modulation to be utilised over a broader area, extending the higher data speed advantage to the outdoor macro environment. Ericsson claims Lean Carrier increases the use of 256 QAM by up to 280%.
Lowering inter-cell interference, while simultaneously improving network performance, requires innovation. Ericsson has leveraged the capability of its LTE baseband hardware and combined that with intelligent software scheduling algorithms to create Lean Carrier. The process involves appling the design concepts being developed for future 5G systems to today’s 4G LTE networks.
Ericsson explained that Lean Carrier reduces, or makes lean, the level of reference signalling needed for good network performance. This leads to a corresponding improvement of the downlink data speed, which applies to all parts of the 4G LTE network, with the highest performance gains occurring in the areas with most cell overlap.
Per Narvinger, Head of LTE, Ericsson, said: “When LTE was created in 2008, it was straightforward, powerful technology, but now we have added significantly more intelligence. Running signalling full-blast limits performance by creating unnecessary inter-cell interference.
Optimising 4G network performance
“Drawing on our experience from high-performance networks and projecting forward to what will be possible with 5G, we were able to innovate a solution that optimises the signalling in today’s 4G LTE network.
“Networks that employ the Ericsson Lean Carrier software upgrade will provide a better user experience. And with the shift to small cell architectures in 5G, addressing signalling interference now puts us firmly on the path to meet 2020 requirements,” said Narvinger.
Operators are beginning to adopt more advanced encoding schemes to efficiently handle demands for improved user experience. However, use of the new 256 QAM higher order modulations require clean radio signals in order to increase the downlink data speed.
By reducing interference Ericsson Lean Carrier increases the amount of time during which 64 QAM and 256 QAM encoding schemes can be utilised by the LTE system.
Ericsson said Lean Carrier can be implemented within Ericsson’s LTE networks today, and the solution is compatible with all LTE devices.
5G will encompass an evolution of today's LTE technology and the addition of new radio access technologies, often in higher frequencies. These higher frequencies will drive smaller cell sizes, making it increasingly important to minimise unnecessary transmissions.
This is the basic principle of 5G ultra-lean design. Ericsson said Lean Carrier provides distinct benefits for both users and operators on today’s LTE networks while achieving a critical innovation milestone on the road to 5G.