The Long Term Evolution (LTE), the 4G technology currently being used by 52 percent of the mobile devices in the world would continue to drive connectivity and innovation at least for the next five to seven years, says an expert.
Although attention is gradually shifting to the full rollout of 5G technology, it is 4G LTE has particularly proved lifesaving for many people during the COVID-19. The technology has underpinned the innovative digital initiatives supporting communities during the pandemic.
To be sure, LTE is a 4G wireless communications standard developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) that is designed to provide up to 10x the speeds of 3G networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, and wireless hotspots.
The lockdown which has seen billions of people stay indoors as a measure to curb the spread of the virus has provided a breeding ground for the widespread adoption of 4G LTE.
“The pandemic and The lockdown have presented humanity with mortal challenges. People, countries, and organisations are rising to these challenges, often using our evolving telecommunications capabilities,” said Huawei in a statement. “However, the new era has come with opportunities, which innovators have also been able to grapes, thanks to 4G connectivity.”
Henry Calvert, head of the Network 2020 future programme at the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), said in the medium term, LTE will continue to do the heavy lifting, at least until 2025.
At the recent 2020 GSMA LTE Summit, Calvert noted that LTE came to the fore in the provision of telehealth and telemedicine, as well as expanding network services to hot spots to support people who were sick through hospitals and other healthcare services. 4G has also provided data and connectivity needs of the new lifestyles taking shape since lockdown.
Operators say they have seen data usage growth of over 70 percent per customer during the lockdown and this is driven by online services and consumption of on-demand video services like Netflix, which recently added 15.8 million subscribers in a year – more than double expectations.
“There has even been a call to on-demand video providers to reduce the quality of video they’re deploying and encourage people to use standard-definition rather than high-definition TV to preserve the capacity in the networks for online education, online health, and online businesses,” Calvert said.
Irrespective of the importance of 4G, 5G is still needed to meet growing online demands. For instance, the use of contact-tracing mobile applications surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. These apps are capable of locating and notifying the contacts of infected individuals remotely, while still protecting the privacy of users.
“Our GSMA intelligence groups show that there will be a short-term dip in 5G deployment,” Calvert said. “But that will quickly recover to normal levels. We still see launches of 5G networks, as we now KNOW that delivering on the data demand that has been met by our LTE networks can only get better with 5G.”