I ended my last blog HSPA+ is Here! with an interesting question: “Since LTE is around the corner, why should anybody invest in upgrading to HSPA+?” Well, I think this quote from Gabriel Brown of Heavy Reading gives an excellent answer:
“…with at least a year's time-to-market advantage over LTE, HSPA+ can help to significantly relieve pending mobile capacity shortages. With an initial focus on cost-effective, software-only upgrades to 64-QAM modulation, and then a later upgrade to more hardware-intensive MIMO and multi-carrier technology...”
HSPA+ is a natural and cost-effective evolution for today’s HSPA networks. There is no need to buy new spectrum or to deploy brand new infrastructure, both of which can be very expensive and time consuming.
LTE on the other hand, needs new spectrum, and new radio and core networks. A key benefit of LTE is that it can easily leverage wider bandwidth spectrum, 10 MHz or more. It can be effectively used to augment the data capacity of HSPA and HSPA+ networks, especially in dense-urban areas. LTE is also optimal for the unpaired TDD spectrum.
But, the interesting fact is that both HSPA+ and LTE offer similar performance when using the same antenna configuration and spectrum bandwidth. For example, for a system with 2x2 MIMO and 10 MHz of bandwidth, both HSPA+ and LTE provide similar capacity, similar peak and cell-edge data rates, as well as similar user perceived latency. The reason for this is very simple—both HSPA+ and LTE leverage the same enhancements to increase performance; Highly optimized shared channel, advanced antenna techniques like MIMO, higher order modulation, advanced receivers, wider bandwidths, just to name a few.
So, going back to the original question, operators can cost-effectively evolve their existing HSPA networks to HSPA+. Depending on the availability of new spectrum, and market requirements, many operators could also selectively overlay their HSPA/HSPA+ networks with LTE. From the user perspective, they get an excellent mobile broadband experience, no matter whether it is HSPA+ or LTE. And better yet, both of these technologies are evolving in parallel—HSPA+ is racing to Rel. 8 and Rel. 9, while LTE is progressing to LTE Advanced.
Wait, before you go, you might want to sign-up for our upcoming webinar HSPA+ is here, what's next?, which will cover the above as well as all other facets of the HSPA+ evolution in detail.