LTE's backers vow to KILL OFF WI-FI and BLUETOOTH
I am made all things to all men
LTE's supporters reveal plan for GLOBAL RADIO DOMINANCE
These things are so important that last month the 3GPP set up a special working group, the WG SA6, to ensure that Release 13 has all the capabilities necessary to compete with TETRA, and eventually P25.
More impressive is TETRA's ability to operate without a network. Individual radios can switch to direct mode, working like walkie talkies in situations when the emergency is so bad that the mobile network disappears, as happened for a time during the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London.
TETRA can also use a radio as a relay, extending coverage into areas where it isn’t usually required. A good example of this is mountain rescue, when police can drive a TETRA-equipped Land Rover onto a hillside to provide backhaul for the officers involved in the search.
LTE can't do any of that, for the moment at least. Release 12 does include a Device-to-Device communication mode (D2D), also known as Proximity Services. However, that’s limited to setting up a P2P Wi-Fi connection, and is generally done by coordinating users over the LTE network. Reaching out and talking to another LTE handset, using LTE, is something still in development.
Who wants to be Weightless?
Next up is the Internet of Things, or M2M as anyone not riding the bubble calls it, or Machine-Type Communications (MTC) as it known in the weird world of the 3GPP. Telephone networks are already carrying out M2M deployments, squeezing the last revenue out of their 2G networks with an application for which they are almost-entirely unsuited.
Pushing a mobile phone into an electricity meter is like encoding a bitmap in XML — possible, but adds no value whilst increasing the size of the data disproportionately. The signalling involved in maintaining a cellular connection is far more than would be generated by any electricity meter, creating a solution which is inelegant to the point of obscenity, justified only by legacy infrastructure and a general lack of imagination.
Release 10 of LTE already allows machines to take a back seat when the network is congested, but Release 13 will enhance LTE’s MTC capabilities, so it can justly claim to be suitable for the Internet of Things.
That means a new class of device, capable of dropping off the network for extended periods, and super-sensitive reception at very low bandwidth. The 3GPP is aiming at a 15dB improvement in reception, so devices can pick up a paging message from the basement or under the stairs, essentially anywhere a meter might be located.
Taking out Bluetooth
The attack on Bluetooth, meanwhile, has already begun. LTE Direct is already part of Release 12 and offering the kind of discovery service central to Bluetooth LTE, and the iBeacon, concept. Detecting an LTE transmission isn’t very difficult, so Qualcomm (who own a good number of LTE patents, but surprisingly few Bluetooth ones) is promoting the use of LTE to detect passing shoppers, nearby friends, or relevant services.
Qualcomm and friends argue that LTE Direct has better range (around 500m) and without cloud-based tracking (a la FourSquare et al) privacy is less of an issue. The problem is the interoperability required — picking up the signal from a phone on a competitor’s network is easy; identifying the owner is much harder. Qualcomm accepts this is a huge issue, but points out that SMS interoperability proves it can be done, if operators really want to do it.
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