This post is by Leslie Shannon from Nokia Siemens Networks.
When LTE is rolling out, one of the first questions that network planners face is: “Where should I concentrate my coverage?” Based on our initial analysis of LTE rollouts, the answer might surprise you. To get it right, the key is to understand who will be using LTE and where they’ll be accessing it.
For many operators who have launched LTE, the default assumption is that LTE will be used primarily by the business community. So they have focused initial LTE coverage in high business-use areas such as downtown financial districts and airports. Based on information from the field, however, in particular from operators who already have a wide selection of LTE phones available and provide extensive LTE coverage, men and women in suits are not the main drivers of LTE traffic. The highest peak simultaneous user numbers come from completely different areas. In Korea and Japan, for example, the highest numbers of simultaneous users are concentrated along subway lines and in subway stations, particularly key interchange points such as Gangnam in Seoul. Gangnam is a business center, to be sure, but it’s the subway station that’s the source of LTE traffic peaks, not the office buildings.
In Sydney, Australia, the distribution of highest simultaneous users is quite different. Although LTE usage is high in some of the main subway interchanges, the main sources of LTE traffic– perhaps surprisingly –are Sydney’s main beaches, popular restaurant zones, and lower end residential areas with many older apartment buildings. Sports grounds, tourist destinations, shopping malls and hospitals also generate high numbers of multiple simultaneous LTE users.
What do all of these areas have in common? With the exception of the residential users in older buildings who are likely using LTE as a fixed-line substitute at home, high LTE usage across Korea, Japan and Australia is in places where people spend their spare time. During the morning and evening commute in Tokyo and Seoul, it’s rare to find someone who isn’t using their smartphone to pass the time. In Sydney, where commuting by car is more common, more leisure time is spent at the beach, the mall, the cricket ground, in restaurants – so that’s where people are using LTE. But why hospitals? Well, hospital patients are definitely a group of people who are looking for distractions. High levels of simultaneous LTE usage in hospital areas suggest that patients are either passing time watching mobile video, for example, or they’re surfing the web for second opinions. Heads up to the medical community!
The implication for LTE rollouts of these market experiences is clear. It’s important to know where people spend their leisure time. So rather than focusing exclusively on business districts for initial LTE rollouts, see what business people do and where they go when they clock out for the day and hit the subway station to head home. This is when they turn to their LTE smartphones to watch mobile video and surf the web, the key uses of LTE.
Oh, and the airport? In Sydney, that ranks near the absolute bottom in simultaneous LTE users, probably because everyone’s already conditioned to use Wi-Fi there. So, consider skipping the airport and put a base station where you last went out with friends. Especially if the people at the next table were watching a YouTube video on a smartphone!