RF and Wireless

Carrier Aggregation: Essential to Long-Term Operator and OEM Success

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Report Summary:

The number of LTE-Advanced networks almost doubled in the first half of 2015, driven primarily by carrier aggregation (CA) for user experience and network performance gains.  Re-farmed legacy holdings, 600 MHz and 700 MHz allocations, supplemental downlink, and wider use of TDD spectrum will lead to more highly fragmented spectrum, forcing operators to even wider use of CA.  By the end of 2017, more than half of all LTE operators will use three carriers to support the LTE-Advanced data rates that customers demand, with operators leading 3x CA including China Mobile, EE, KT, Optus, SKT, Sprint, and Telstra.  The increased availability of Cat. 6 (and higher) devices will help, however, today only a few baseband-integrated SoC processors for LTE smartphones support three-carrier aggregation, led by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820.

Table of Contents

1.    Executive Summary   
2.    Operator Priorities for LTE Advanced   
2.1    Global Momentum for LTE-Advanced    
2.2    Spectrum Ownership and LTE-A Potential  
2.3    Drivers for Operator Adoption of Carrier Aggregation   
2.4    Carrier Aggregation Makes the Best Use of Fragmented Spectrum Resources   
2.5    MIMO as an Alternative to Carrier Aggregation   
3.    LTE Chipsets   
4.    Conclusions & Implications   

Exhibit 1    Distribution of Operators by Number of Bands Used for LTE   
Exhibit 2    Global Mobile Network Population Coverage by Technology  
Exhibit 3    Distribution of Operators by Aggregate LTE Downlink Spectrum and 20 MHz Block Ownership   
Exhibit 4    Some Alternative CA & MIMO Combinations With up to Four Antennas   
Exhibit 5   Top-Performing Baseband-Applications Processor SoCs Supporting LTE-A  

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