Mobile broadband gathers speed


ERICSSON HAS completed a significant trial of next generation mobile broadband technology which achieved speeds of up to 80MBits/sec in Dublin last week.

The Swedish network equipment maker completed drive tests of its Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology delivering high definition video television and video conferencing to laptops in the back of a Dublin taxi.

Key parts of the infrastructure for the trial were located at Ericsson offices in Gothenburg and Madrid. Ericsson’s Athlone facility, the first RD lab it established outside of Sweden, was also involved.

The trial was facilitated at short notice by ComReg’s test and trial licensing programme. The communications regulator has been positioning Ireland as an ideal location for testing new technology thanks to the availability of radio spectrum and our island status which means there is no interference from neighbouring jurisdictions.

John Hennessy, managing director of Ericsson Ireland, said his firm had been testing mobile technology for its parent since 1990.

“There’s not always a clear understanding here of the value Ireland is bringing to leading edge technology,” said Mr Hennessy. “Customers make buying decisions on seeing it work here.”

LTE is a fourth generation technology which will be deployed to replace existing 3G networks. Unlike previous mobile standards it has global support. Different incompatible flavours of 3G are in different international markets but equipment makers like Ericsson are hoping standards will converge on LTE. They are also hoping it will become the single wireless network that will deliver digital radio, TV and broadband in one – thus justifying the expensive “forklift upgrade” that operators will have to commit to.

Last week’s trial was conducted using a base station at Ericsson’s Clonskeagh offices and a receiver on the nearby UCD campus. A large black box in the boot of the taxi hired for the trials was used to receive the signals but the Ericsson engineers point out this will become a USB dongle in commercial deployment.

Operating in the 2.3 GHz band, the LTE service was available in a suburban housing estate neighbouring the Ericsson offices. Two engineers who travelled from Sweden for the trial showed a high definition video of the Discovery Channel, stored on a server in Sweden, streaming to a laptop as the taxi drove around the estate.

Although the signal dropped repeatedly in the demonstration seen by The Irish Times, download speeds of 80MBits/sec were repeatedly achieved.

As the taxi brimming with equipment drove around suburban Dublin, Mr Hennessy joked that a lot of television licences had probably been sold in the area that week.

Ericsson provided the equipment for the first commercial LTE network which was launched in Stockholm last December and provides mobile broadband at speeds of 20-50MBits/sec. The experience there shows that just 10 per cent more masts are needed in the network compared to 3G.

The trial has now concluded successfully but Ericsson says it was an important stepping stone on the way to deliver Gigabit per second mobile broadband – about 100 times faster than today’s services.

Local Ericsson management says the flexibility of ComReg’s test and trial regime was key to bringing the trial to Dublin.

“The philosophy of test and trial has developed over the last few years and we have put engineering resources into developing a best in class product,” said Mike Byrne, ComReg commissioner. “We are more concerned that the spectrum is being used rather than which standard is being used – the market will decide that.”