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Finding a better naming scheme for mobile phone evolution

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mobile phone? LTE? LTE Advanced? 3GPP? 4G?

The mobile phone industry has made amazing things happen in the past dozen years. The hectic pace of development has had a backward-looking perspective when we try to describe, in a quantized way, the progress made since the analog phone days. We just need a sexier and less confusing way to describe the progress.

When the 8086 processor was built (ca 1976) it launched the most successful line of microprocessors for Intel, driving the x86 architecture and the development of the 80286, '386 and '486 variants. The naming scheme could have continued forever, I guess, but the guys in Silicon valley, instead of calling the next revision the "80586" processor, corrupted the Greek 'pente-' for five into the "Pentium." They were forced to brand the chip with a name after the US Patent and Trademark office ruled that a series of numbers could not be trademarked. Now, the microprocessor's latest version is the Pentium 3561Y, which hums along at a crisp 1.2GHz (not the fastest clock speed in the family, which boasts devices that rocket along at over 3GHz).

The telecoms evolution needs a cool name, too. Thus far, we refer to various "generations" of mobile phones and refer to them as 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G. In breaking with the 1-2-3-4 sequence, I think, the industry adopted the notional description of "Long Term Evolution" as the next step. Kind of hazy and kind of non-committal to step-change development that is inferred by generation. If that weren't enough, LTE, under 3GPP Release 10, is known as LTE-Advanced. It's sort of like bolting a set of wings on a unicorn.

But the G string, so to speak, isn't broken, and I've seen events such as this one being organized: Unveiling 5G Wireless Networks: Emerging Research Advances, Prospects and Challenges. So, it's not really clear whether LTE is 5G in a different wrapper.

Whatever the nomenclature, the "promise" of the technology is stupendous, if not a little stupefying, to contemplate with technical goodies and functionality like this being baked: cloud computing and virtualization; network architectures; system design for supporting multi-spectrum, multi-RAT (Radio Access Technology) and multi-operator; spectrum sharing between M2M and LTE-A in 5G wireless networks; green communications, cloud and software defined radio technologies for radio access network in 5G; quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) improvement in 5G wireless networks; SDN-based new evolution of 3GPP standards for 5G wireless networks; and mobile social networking over 5G wireless networks.

What this says to me is that the mobile infrastructure will be as much about computing, storage, data processing and testing as about communications. It's gonna be a real gas, we just need a better, hipper, way to describe it. Maybe someone from Generation X will coin a better term.

- Michael Violette
??EE Times

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