Does it require significant cell site hardware upgrades? Does the backhaul have to be upgraded as well (maybe the LTE fiber backhaul is sufficient)? Is it backwards compatible with LTE?
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There will be hardware upgrade's for both the handset's and network. Upgrades such as MIMO and other beam forming technologies will require antenna upgrades and upgrades to the base station. Current LTE supports up to 73Mbit/s per sector but you wont see that in the real world. We will see 8X8 MIMO and 128QAM and theoretical speed's will span to 1Gbps stationary and 100mbps mobile.
When you all think this technology will be rolled out..5 years?
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I think some portions or LTE-Advanced could be attained via software upgrades only. But it depends on if the current hardware has enough power to accept the upgrade. Locust's right though, the big gains from MIMO etc. would need new antennas.
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No they don't need to upgrade the fiber backhaul.
That's the easy part because they contract with a fiber supplier usually and the circuit is GigE.
With VZW buying like 50Mbit or 100Mbit from the ILEC/fiber supplier. They just call their fiber supplier's NOC/file a network upgrade request and the supplier will charge VZW more and boost the bandwidth, this can even be partially done REMOTELY since it's the latest CARRIER ETHERNET (1Gbps GigE, rate limited to whatever supply the customer, e.g. VZW is buying).