Direct LTE standard might deliver ultra-fast, energy-efficient direct connections by 2015

June 27, 2012
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Cell Tower ExtremeTech

The large storage modules available with today’s smartphones mean that many of us carry all our data on our smartphones or tablets. Be it music, pictures, videos, or important work documents,  we now only need one device to have complete access to everything.

Further, with the introduction of short-range peer-to-peer connectivity options such as Bluetooth and WiFi Direct, it has never been easier to transfer data from one device to another, without the need of an additional access point or router.

It looks like P2P connectivity standards are headed in an even simpler and, more importantly, faster, direction.

Led by Qualcomm, a group of companies that feature big industry names such as Alcatel-Lucent, LG, NEC, Deutsche Telekom, and Nokia, are pushing for a new wireless standard called Direct LTE. As the name suggests, the idea is to use the blazing-fast 4G LTE standard to allow for short-range direct connections, in addition to the “regular” cellular connection. The primary goal of the new standardization group is to improve power efficiency, but also to add new features, that are not supported by current standards, such as WiFi Direct.

Some of the advantages of Direct LTE over other currently available technologies are:

  • Will support LoS (Line of Sight) connections over a distance up to 500m, with signal limits of 20-23 dBm
  • Discover nearby users/devices more quickly, and hence with less processing overhead, leading to more power-efficient systems.
  • Enabling of advanced location-aware applications.
  • Internal tests conducted by Qualcomm showed surprising results. While using WiFi Direct found 369 terminals in 82 – 119 seconds, LTE Direct identified a whopping 7200 terminals in just 0.64 seconds.

Granted, Direct LTE is not looking to replace current standards, but it will rather work in a complementary fashion. For example, a connection between devices could be established using Direct LTE, which would be a lot of faster, with the actual data transfer being done over WiFi Direct, which saves on network-related costs.

The group wants to submit this new standard to the 3GPP to be included in LTE Release 12, which is expected to available in 2015. Of course, using Direct LTE will require LTE-capable devices, that is, smartphones and tablets with LTE radios. LTE support is for now available in a select, mostly high-end devices, and primarily in North America. But, with the whole world switching to 4G LTE in the future, the lack of LTE-capable devices should not be an issue anymore by 2015.

What are your thoughts? How often do you use Bluetooth and WiFi Direct? Is there a need for a faster, more power-efficient P2P connectivity standard? Let us know in the comments section below.

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