Long-term evolution (LTE) is an emerging technology. It is a standard in wireless communication, and relates to the effective and efficient transfer of high-speed data for both data terminals and mobile phones (Sesia, Toufik, & Baker, 2011). Based on GSM/EDGE as well as UMTS/HSPA technologies, LTE increases both the speed and capacity of a network by utilizing modulation techniques that are new. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has developed the standard by which other companies must work if they are interested in getting involved with LTE (Agilent, 2009; Khan, 2009; Sesia, Toufik, & Baker, 2011). It was not until December of 2009 that LTE became publicly available. At that time, it was launched in Stockholm and Oslo by TeliaSonera (Dahlman, Ekstrom, & Furuskar, et al., 2006). Carriers who already use GSM or UMTS see LTE as the natural path they should take when upgrading, but even carriers who are still using the outdated CDMA for their mobile phones, such as Verizon Wireless, have stated that they will migrate to LTE. Because of that expected migration, LTE is believed to be a truly global standard for mobile phone technology.
Commonly, LTE is referred to as a type of 4G service. However, the current release version of LTE does not actually satisfy all 4G requirements (Dahlman, Parkvall, & Skold, 2011). In future releases, LTE is expected to meet all of those requirements and truly be considered 4G. Whether this actually takes place, and how soon, remains to be seen. The technology is alleged to be the next best thing, and to set the "gold standard" for any wireless communications carrier. However, there are still skeptics who are not convinced LTE is the wave of the future or the way to address problems with current wireless network communications. Additionally, there are implications for stakeholders of the companies that switch to LTE as well as concerns with integration of the new technology into what is currently available.
Implications for Stakeholders
When it comes to the stakeholders, there are several groups affected by the use of LTE. A corporation that wants to move to using LTE would need to consider a cost/benefit analysis, because LTE is an upgrade from what most companies are currently using. As such, there are benefits that would be received from upgrading, but there are also costs associated with any kind of upgrade of technology. For example, any company that is not using LTE currently would have to assess how much they would gain from making the adjustment. LTE costs more to implement in the short-term, but since it is expected to become the standard for wireless technology, it will also be beneficial for companies in that it will not quickly become obsolete like other technologies (Agilent, 2009; Dahlman, Parkvall, & Skold, 2011). When a company is using a particular kind of technology, and that technology becomes obsolete, it starts to cost the company money. Fewer people work on the technology, it becomes harder to get hardware and software for replacement or repair, and the technology simply does not work as well as newer options which are better quality, better funded, and on which companies are focusing.
Integration is a serious consideration for any company that wishes to use LTE, however, because large companies have many, many people using wireless technology (Dahlman, Parkvall, Skold, & Beming, 2008). If a corporation is paying for cellular phones for 50 employees, for example, that company will have a large outlay of cash to consider if it decides to upgrade its phones to a newer technology. Not all older phones will work with newer wireless technology, so the phones generally have to be replaced. That happened with 3G technology, and it is happening again with 4G and LTE. That is not to say that companies should not upgrade to technology that will be better and more easily used in the future, but only that companies have to consider all factors. Provided the company has the money to upgrade, LTE technology will help them with operational concerns such as increased productivity, better efficiency, and other long-term benefits (Dahlman, Ekstrom, & Furuskar, et al., 2006; Ekstrom, Furuskar, & Karlsson, et al., 2006). That benefit is true for management, nontechnical as well as technical staff, and the clients and customers of the company.
Application of Theories
Social theories that relate to technology can be used to address the question of whether a company should consider LTE. These theories include actor-network theory, social construction of technology, structuration theory, systems theory, and activity theory. Discussing these here is important, in order to see how they relate to the issue of whether companies should do away with the technology they are currently using in favor of switching over to a more modern and up-and-coming technology such as LTE.
Actor-network theory - this theory addresses the idea of human beings and nonhumans (technology) as interrelated actors on the same "stage" (Dahlman, Ekstrom, & Furuskar, et al., 2006) Impartiality between the human and nonhuman actors is the key. This theory is important to LTE because it shows how technology and humans can meld seamlessly, so that individuals who use technology can have an experience in which everything is integrated and intuitive.
Social construction of technology - the theory described here is essentially the opposite of the aforementioned actor-network theory, in that this theory states that people create and shape technology, but are not shaped by that technology (Ekstrom, Furuskar, & Karlsson, et al., 2006). This is also partially true where LTE is concerned, since the demand and desire for 4G and for better, faster networking was what ultimately led to the creation of LTE.
Structuration theory - in this theory, resources are part of social systems, and are properties that belong to those systems (Agilent, 2009). People interact with technology, and in doing so they enact structures which shape how they use that technology. In other words, they do not allow the structure of their lives to be shaped by technology, but instead, they use technology and shape it around the lives they have and want to live.
Systems theory - in systems theory, the history of technology plays a big role (Ergen, 2009). The theory looks at inertia, and it stresses the connection between the artifacts that are being created and the factors that surround them. LTE is part of that inertia, because it is the movement toward something more. However, it is still controlled by social, political, and cultural factors.
Activity theory - this is a psychological theory that aims to understand the complexities of human interaction (Furht & Ahson, 2009). This theory applies to technology because of the interaction between humans and that technology, especially where significant upgrades such as LTE are concerned. By interacting with technology, humans also interact with one another in ways they would not be able to without that technology.
Structured Cabling Issues
Having networks that will handle LTE means new cabling infrastructure for some areas (Khan, 2009; Sesia, Toufik, & Baker, 2011). The current infrastructure is not capable of supporting everything that LTE will need in some of the more rural parts of the country. Even though the people who use the service think of it as wireless, there are still cables needed to carry the signal to various places, where it is then sent from the towers in order to allow for access on all the phones that are running on the network. Companies that provide wireless services have to maintain all the cabling, towers, and other needed equipment. If the current structured cabling will not provide what is needed for LTE to work effectively, that cabling will have to be replaced (Sesia, Toufik, & Baker, 2011). Naturally, that is not an inexpensive proposition, and many wireless companies will not want to spend the money required to provide LTE to their customers. However, if they do not provide LTE service and other companies do, they risk losing customers.
Peak downlink rates of 300 Mbit/s are provided by LTE, along with uplink rates of 75 Mbit/s (Sesia, Toufik, & Baker, 2011). That provides round trip times that are lower than 10 ms (Khan, 2009). Fast moving mobiles and broadcast streams, as well as multi-cast streams, can all be supported by LTE. Scalable carrier bandwidths are also offered, and these range from 1.4 MHz to 20 MHz (Johnson, 2010). Additionally, time division and frequency division duplexing are both supported, while the actual architecture is simplified. Having a simpler architecture allows for operating costs that are lower than would otherwise be expected. In that way, LTE is actually very cost effective, once the initial outlay to purchase equipment has been overcome. New technology is generally always costly in the beginning, and over time the…