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LTE Direct equipped smartphones could improve spectrum utilization

Qualcomm's LTE Direct could reduce the burden on the licensed spectrum by enabling peer-to-peer LTE networking.

Published onMay 21, 2015

Qualcomm has been trailing the next stage in LTE development, known as LTE Direct, for a little while now and other developers in the space have begun talking a bit more about the promising new technology.

For a little background, LTE Direct, also known as D2D, is a device-to-device proximal discovery technology. Essentially, this enables compatible devices to communicate with each other directly using the LTE wireless spectrum. The technology works within a range of 500 meters and could allow for the discovery of thousands of nearby devices.

“D2D-enabled LTE devices have the potential to become competitive for fallback public safety networks that must function when cellular networks are not available or fail.” – Professor Jeff Andrews

You may recall that there’s a growing concern about the amount of bandwidth available to provide increasingly high-speed, long distance LTE services, and there has been lots of talk about local, small cell networks and initiatives like LTE-Unlicensed to help boost data speeds to customers. LTE Direct takes this idea one step further, by allowing end devices to cut out the middle men and communicate directly with one another.

LTE Direct slide 2

Of course, this has a few potential negative aspects for mobile devices, especially when it comes to data privacy and any effects on our precious battery life. Qualcomm states that the technology allows for the anonymous discovery of other devices and doesn’t track location or device data. Battery life is also said to be mostly unaffected, by not wasting network pings on every available connection.

“it’s not that much further to a scenario where when you’re finished with your cellphone, you can hang it on the wall and it adds to the cellular network.” – Steve Papa, founder of Parallel Wireless

The proximity service is already being touted as an efficient, high-speed method to allow people to connect with and search for people, local businesses and other services nearby. The opportunity to connect directly with consumers and the potential for ad revenue should entice businesses over too. Furthermore, some believe that the finalized model could go even further, allowing for devices to actually contribute to network spectrum, presumably by allowing others to transmit data through D2D devices and onto another cell or handset.

LTE Direct slide 1

Steve Papa, founder of Parallel Wireless recently told CNBC that smartphones could eventually replace the need for cell towers in built-up populated areas, as smartphones could become part of the transmission network.

While unlikely to completely replace the need for longer distance coverage, combining LTE Direct with small cell networks could greatly decrease the burden on the limited spectrum available and improve future network speeds and coverage. For further details, be sure to read Qualcomm’s whitepaper on the subject.

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