Making the Transition to 4G LTE


Why the Transition to 4G LTE?
AT&T will be shutting down the 2G GSM network on January 1, 2017, forcing the machine-to-machine (M2M) industry to begin transitioning to 2G CDMA, 3G HSPA, or 4G LTE networks. This represents a major challenge for the M2M industry, as it will entail the replacement of devices, new contracts with network carriers, and time and cost of major system-wide changes. At first glance it may seem like the GSM carriers just don’t want to keep supporting the old 2G networks, so you may be wondering why that is. The answer is quite simple: they are running out of frequencies. Each carrier in the US is only allotted a certain band of the cellular frequency spectrum, and with the high data rate demands of 4G it uses many more frequency bands than the previous 2G and 3G standards. So if some of these frequencies are reserved for “2G only” signals, then they don’t have enough bandwidth left for the 4G network. This part is the stick, the carrot part of the 4G transition is because the 4G protocol is much more efficient at combining both voice and data. With 2G and 3G, voice and data travels across different paths in the network, so there is no way to share capacity between these two paths. However with 4G, both voice and data are sent across the same path in the network, so carriers can easily optimize their networks to get the best possible utilization of their bandwidth.

Benefits of 4G LTE
Increased speed is the obvious benefit of 4G LTE when transitioning from 2G or 3G networks. However, the evolution of 4G LTE is not all about speed. 4G LTE also has the benefit of reduced latency for time-critical applications. Recent and upcoming releases focus on lower power consumption, lower complexities, and lower costs. They also provide support for new connections and channels.

What this Means for the M2M Industry
The transition to 4G LTE will require a significant up-front investment, but it will pay off with increased connection speeds and improved coverage. 4G LTE coverage is being rapidly deployed around the country, as well as around the world. Globally, there are over 300 4G LTE networks available, deployed in 100 countries. AT&T recently completed a significant upgrade of their domestic 4G LTE network, and Verizon offers 4G LTE coverage to a vast majority of the United States. Multi-band devices are becoming increasingly prevalent, allowing for devices that will work with more than one carrier.

4G LTE Antenna Considerations
4G LTE presents additional difficulties for the designer when it comes to antenna selection. LTE modules typically have fallback to 3G and sometimes even 2G, so the antenna has to have good performance over a very wide range of frequencies. A common misconception is that the wider the antenna’s spectrum, the better the antenna. Unfortunately, the wider the antenna’s spectrum is, the more noise you let in to your receiver which degrades the receive signal quality. In this case bigger is not always better. With most 2G and 3G modules, it was possible to use only one antenna, even if the module had an RX diversity port. However, with LTE, many carriers have a hard requirement on having two antennas. This increases the cost and size of the design.

4G LTE Certification
Certification is an expensive part of the cellular design cycle, and even more so with 4G LTE. Certification costs are based on the number of tests that have to be performed by a lab in order to prove compliance, and for 4G LTE the number of tests are increased from 2G and 3G. With more frequencies there is also a larger chance of interference from active components on the PCB, such as microprocessor clock and data lines. It is therefore more likely that you will have to tweak your design and do repeat testing during the certification step.

Symmetry’s 4G LTE Solutions
Having a strong technical partner is a necessity for completing your 4G design on time and budget. Symmetry Electronics can help simplify the migration process through a comprehensive product offering and extensive technical support. Symmetry’s expertise in wireless designs is invaluable for customers trying to simplify the migration process. Our Technical Marketing Engineers and our field sales team are primarily engineers by trade and go through extensive factory and in-house product training so they can provide phone and email support for specific technologies, hands-on experience with development kits, and detailed design support with schematic and design reviews. They are able to provide guidance and support through all phases of the design cycle.

Symmetry offers replacements for existing 2G GSM design-ins. Multitech offers a number of M2M products covering 2G CDMA, 3G HSPA, and/or 4G LTE, including the embedded SocketModem Cell, the embedded SocketModem iCell, the MultiConnect® rCell 100 Series, the MultiConnect® Cell 100 Series, and the QuickCarrier™ USB-D dongle.

Symmetry also offers exclusive custom Telit IN-A-BOX kits for 3G HSPA and 4G LTE connectivity. These kits are designed to make cellular M2M design easier by providing development kits based on the Telit CE910, DE910, HE910 and GE864-GPS M2M modules. Each kit includes everything required to begin a cellular design for a variety of applications: a Telit EVK2, a Telit Interface Board, software development introduction tools, cellular antenna(s), power supply, and the Getting Started Guide and documentation.

Call Symmetry Electronics at (310) 536-6190 for technical guidance and all the latest M2M connectivity devices.

Contact Information

Symmetry Electronics

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