The Race to 5G – Wireless Carriers Today and Where They’re Going

Dr. Paul Carter

With most wireless carriers in the United States providing comparable service offerings (voice, data, unlimited texting, unlimited minutes, etc.), they need to constantly devise new ideas and advantages to maintain a competitive edge, retain current subscribers and attract new customers to their networks. Because these service offerings are so similar, carriers need to focus on improving the quality of their services by expanding and improving networks while listening to consumer demand.

As time and technology evolve, and as we approach the inevitable era of 5G, carriers will have to get creative in their approach to the industry and focus on differentiating themselves from their competitors. Every carrier offers smartphones and a data plan—with this commonality, what are carriers doing today (and what are they planning for tomorrow) to establish themselves as outright industry leaders and consumer favorites? And how can consumers know if their service offerings are top quality?

Going Where No Carrier Has Gone Before

Coverage is king and while Verizon Wireless has long held the title for most reliable network, AT&T is now staking claim to the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. Currently, consumers expect to be able to connect to the Internet and use their mobile devices all the time, regardless of location, and it’s frustrating when they can’t. While direct competition in these markets is unavoidable, some network carriers are getting creative and going where no others have a presence: to the air. Planning for a late 2015 launch date, AT&T is still aiming to launch its own 4G in-flight broadband service to satisfy frequent flyers traveling across the continental United States. Current in-flight connectivity is akin to 3G speeds and inconsistent, rendering it capable of only email and basic web browsing. Carriers must be bold and make smart infrastructure expansions to keep an edge over competitors, and AT&T’s plan to aim for the skies is doing just that.

Operators Amp up Their LTE Networks

Currently, each major US operators has extensive network projects underway. Major carriers are actively deploying LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network features that will result in faster data speeds and improved network capacity beyond the capabilities of LTE networks already in place. For instance: earlier this year, AT&T deployed an LTE-A network in Chicago, while Verizon has been rolling out XLTE networks across the nation, promising faster speeds and greater capacity. In addition, Sprint has been introducing Sprint Spark, resulting in network improvements and further approaching carrier aggregation (an LTE-A feature set that combines spectrum bands).

Keeping it all in Check

Carriers expanding their networks and upgrading their infrastructure means great news for subscribers, but there is only one true method in knowing whether or not these enhancement programs have any real impact on performance, and that’s through rigorous standardized benchmarking procedures. By testing network performance both before and after upgrades, carriers are able to glean, with actionable data, where their improvements are going and which key quality metrics are being affected. Without detailed, independent, controlled and published network test programs, how are consumers to know which carrier is best for them? How can they make educated decisions without concrete performance data? Benchmarking validates and enables marketing claims and gives consumers the information they need to know which network may be best suited for their needs.

Where Networks Are Going Next

With major wireless providers constantly bidding for consumer attention, from network expansion to new service additions, it’s becoming increasingly clear that major players in the industry are in a constant state of enhancement. What will network providers do next? Fully covered subway stations and rail routes in major cities? Expanded in-air services for transoceanic routes? It will be exciting to see how wireless providers take on the industry as our technology evolves and as all carriers race to the next generation of mobile communications.

UPDATE: Since this article has run, AT&T announced in early November that they’ll be abandoning their plans to bring in-flight LTE network services to airlines in 2015.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: The Race to 5G – Wireless Carriers Today and Where They’re Going

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