Are you ready for the understatement of the year? People love fast data. Not just having it but also bragging about it. A quick scan of any message board or Google Plus community will show you post after post of speed tests performed on every mobile device known to man.
Right now the gold standard is LTE, and in The United States Verizon leads the way, with AT&T following close behind for most users covered by the technology. Sprint has launched LTE in a few cities and the last of the four major carriers, T-Mobile, is in the process of their own LTE rollout. But people's need for speed never seems satisfied and we are always looking for the next big thing on the horizon that will make data move even faster.
The next big step in wireless data technology will be LTE Advanced. Currently Chinese manufacturer ZTE has been testing this new network alongside carrier China Mobile and they're achieving speeds of 223 megabits per second.
With consumers becoming more and more data hogs by streaming movies, music and games, the predictions on how fast data consumption will increase are off the charts. By 2016 Cisco Systems estimates that mobile data traffic will grow by a factor of 18, while Bell Labs predicts it will increase by a factor of 25. LTE Advanced will help alleviate the pressure on the networks. According to Michel Peruyero, senior director of product evolution strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, "If you stay with only LTE, you can only support a certain number of users. With LTE Advanced, you have significant increase in data rates, or the same data for many more users."
Here's how LTE Advanced works. In order to reach such high speeds the technology actually stitches together streams of data from as many as five different frequencies, or "carrier aggregation." This is accomplished by using up to eight different antennas to transmit and receive data called multiple input / multiple output (MIMO). This is as opposed to the current generation of devices that use one antenna that can handle one stream at a time.
LTE Advanced could also be a solution for home networks as well. With more connected devices, from televisions to WiFi only tablets, the broadband demands are even greater in the home. This tech could lead to even more powerful connections with a theoretical top download speed of one gigabit per second. This is similar speeds that test users of the much sought after Google Fiber are seeing. "We know, practically, you won't be able to have eight antennas in all the devicesâ€”especially small ones like netbooks and laptops. But fixed devices in the home could have an array of eight antennas, leading to a greater opportunity to deliver broadband Internet wirelessly, rather than through copper or fiber," says Peruyero.
Of course there is also a high price for being on the bleeding edge and some sacrifices must be made, especially for mobile users. One of the major complaints of every mobile user is battery life. In order to handle all of the extra antennas and the more powerful processors that these devices will need, batteries must get bigger. That means even larger smartphones. This will probably be combated somewhat by only including four antennae rather than eight in the early stages, so that the price and size of the devices can be kept somewhat reasonable.
So I guess the question here is how much do you want faster speeds? With AT&T already in the early pre-testing phases, LTE Advanced is coming, and will eventually be the standard. Are you planning on being an early adopter? Let us know in the comments.