Key highlights from this whitepaper
Carrier aggregation (CA) is generally recognized for the peak data rates that it offers and we must admit that seeing close to 300 Mbps in a commercial LTE network is pretty cool. However, the real benefits of CA lie elsewhere. Carrier aggregation provides a more consistent user experience throughout the network and it provides the consumer with full access to all available network resources by logically combining two or more radio carriers, frequently involving a low-band (coverage) and a high-band frequency (capacity). Based on performance studies that we have conducted over the last two years in commercial LTE networks that support CA, we provide numerous proof points for how CA benefits the user experience. We show that CA can result in much faster download times of most data content, including relatively small amounts of data. Video is perhaps the most popular mobile data application, and CA plays a critical role in providing a good user experience. According to Cisco, mobile video traffic accounted for 55% of all mobile data traffic at the end of 2014. Even with relatively low bit-rate videos, we demonstrate that a smartphone used CA in a commercial LTE network and that without the functionality there would have been a degraded user experience. The industry is moving to higher video resolutions and LTE networks will become more congested. As this transition occurs, CA will become even more important. Lastly, despite conventional wisdom, CA can have a positive effect on the battery life. Like the adoption of HSDPA/HSPA+ in the 3G family, we believe that CA functionality will eventually extend to lower tier smartphones – if for no other reason because consumers will demand it.