Pioneer for the new mobile communications standard:LTE remains the backbone of the network infrastructure in the 5G age

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Credits: Jörg Borm
The expansion of the existing LTE mobile communications standard is continuing at full speed.
At the latest since the frequencies required for 5G came under the hammer in the frequency auction in June 2019, 5G has been making the headlines again and again and causing many political debates about the great opportunities for the economy and society. At the same time, however, the expansion of the existing mobile communications standard LTE is continuing at full speed. Is the investment in 4G still worthwhile at all? There is no doubt that the new 5G mobile communications standard has many advantages, which is why Telefónica Germany secured valuable and extensive mobile communications spectrum for 5G expansion at the auction. 5G is first and foremost relevant in the industrial sector, where the standard enables real-time applications, more flexible logistics and production processes or even completely new business models. For private customers, 5G will bring higher capacities and speeds for mobile data use. Nevertheless, the current generation of mobile communications, LTE, will continue to form the backbone of the network infrastructure in the coming years and continue to play a decisive role in mobile broadband supply. This is because the performance limit of LTE is still far from being reached for everyday applications. Moreover, 5G cannot exist without 4G at the present time.

Millions of consumers continue to benefit from LTE

LTE plays an essential role as a companion for 5G.
Today, 85 percent of the mobile data traffic in the O2 network is handled via the fast LTE standard. This includes data usage by customers of all Telefónica Deutschland's own and partner brands. This makes LTE currently the most important mobile communications standard alongside the GSM (2G) standard, which provides basic mobile coverage for almost 100 percent of German households. With the current average data rates available to customers in the O2 network, they can use all digital applications smoothly. For example, around 5 Mbit/s are required for the smooth playback of YouTube videos. Even for streaming in HD quality, the provider Sky recommends a network speed of 8 Mbit/s. Best of all, the technical possibilities of LTE are far from exhausted. Carrier aggregation - i.e. the allocation of several LTE bands to one user - gives customers additional network capacity and will enable them to achieve even higher data rates in the future. This means that customers will be well served even if data usage continues to increase and more sophisticated digital applications are developed. At the same time, with the introduction of 5G, mobile broadband coverage will gradually spread to the 4G and 5G standards. This will improve the customer's network experience in many ways. Not only because customers will benefit from the technical advantages of 5G in their data usage, but also because the LTE network will be relieved, especially in urban hotspots. As a result, customers in the LTE network will enjoy even higher data rates than before and a better overall network experience.

5G requires LTE infrastructure

LTE plays an essential role as a pioneer for 5G.
In addition to the importance that LTE will continue to have for capacity, LTE also plays an essential role as a pioneer for 5G. "The globally defined network standards for mobile networks stipulate that 5G technology is based on the system architecture of 4G. In this case, 5G is piggybacked by 4G," explains Gerald Huber, 5G Program Senior Manager at Telefónica Germany. "It is therefore important that we not only look at 5G, but also intensively drive forward the LTE expansion in parallel. This forms the basis for the further 5G expansion. The responsible standardization organization 3GPP has initially adopted a non-standalone standard (5G NSA) for 5G. According to this standard, existing LTE mobile networks will be combined with 5G. Part of the data traffic will be transmitted via 4G instead of 5G. The 5G standalone standard (5G SA) will follow at a later date. This standard provides for a stand-alone 5G network including a core network. It will initially be relevant for industrial networks, such as campus networks or for applications requiring network slicing. But until then, 5G will be based on 4G.

Telefónica Deutschland pushes LTE expansion

Telefónica Deutschland is therefore continuously driving forward the expansion of LTE with extensive measures throughout Germany. Currently, an additional LTE transmitter in the O2 network is transmitting around every hour. The focus of the expansion is both to better supply areas - especially in rural areas - and to further increase capacity in large and small towns. Telefónica Deutschland will continue to expand the LTE network at this rate in the coming years. At the same time, the network engineers will bring the new 5G standard to more and more cities and regions. The company is thus making a significant contribution to the digital infrastructure in Germany, taking industrial partners and private customers alike into the future.