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HSPA+ (2100 MHz) vs LTE (2600 MHz) Spectral Efficiency and Latency Comparison

Brendan McWilliams, Yannick Le Pzennec, Grahame Collins

Vodafone Technology Networks, Access Competence Centre, Madrid, Spain and Newbury, United Kingdom brendan.mcwilliams@vodafone.com yannick.lepezennec@vodafone.com grahame.collins@vodafone.com

AbstractHigh Speed Packet Access+ (HSPA+) has become widely deployed whilst the more recently specified Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployments are in their infancy. The objective of this paper is to provide a side by side field performance comparison between HSPA+ and LTE deployed in the 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz bands respectively reusing the same sites and antennas and using the most advanced mobile broadband feature readily available in the same radio environment. Separately, both of these technologies have been investigated however a comparison of both as part of the same field trial has received less attention.
The performance comparison was carried out with comparable spectrum bandwidth (5 and 10 MHz) in a real network Vodafone Spain dedicated to the trial without any bias in terms of traffic or interference from other users. The exercise revealed that the latency performance difference is not as high as expected with less than 10 ms difference however the connection time is significantly improved. Most distinguishing factor in LTE downlink is the more efficient and robust usage of Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) and 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) altogether which outperforms HSPA+ even when using a less advantageous frequency band. In uplink LTE only outperforms HSPA+ in good radio conditions due to the possibility to use 16QAM modulation.

(HSDPA MIMO refers to MIMO 2x2) in both Single Carrier (SC) using 5 MHz and Dual Carrier (DC) with 10 MHz respectively.
TABLE I. HSDPA Capability 7.2 14.4 64 QAM MIMO DC SIMO DC MIMO MC MIMO MC MIMO 3GPP Release Rel5 Rel5 Rel7 Rel7 Rel8 Rel9 Rel10 Rel10 HSDPA MOBILE BROADBAND CAPABILITIES #HSDPA Codes 10 15 15 15 2x15 2x15 3x15 4x15 Modulation 16QAM 16QAM 64QAM 16QAM 64QAM 64QAM 64QAM 64QAM Peak rate 7.2 Mbps 14.4 Mbps 21.6 Mbps 28.8 Mbps 43.2 Mbps 86.4 Mbps 129.6 Mbps 172.8 Mbps

TABLE II. HSUPA Capability 2 Mbps 5.7 Mbps SC16QAM DC16QAM

HSUPA MOBILE BROADBAND CAPABILITIES 3GPP Release Rel6 Rel6 Rel7 Rel9 TTI 10 ms 2 ms 2 ms 2 ms Modulation QPSK QPSK 16QAM 16QAM Peak rate 2 Mbps 5.7 Mbps 11.5 Mbps 23.0 Mbps

Keywords- 3GPP, HSPA+, LTE, MIMO, Latency



3GPP has in recent years developed the LTE standard as an evolution beyond the UMTS 3G Standard, widely deployed within which a wide range of HSPA+ features form part of. HSPA+ is generally used to refer to the HSPA capabilities that were introduced from 3GPP Release 7 and thereafter in subsequent releases amongst which 64QAM modulation, MIMO, and Dual Cell. Mobile Broadband services over 3G networks are now already widely available using HSPA+ features and speeds up to a theoretical value of 43.2 Mbps are becoming ever more common [1][2]. TABLE I. and TABLE II. below show respectively the downlink (DL) and uplink (UL) peak rates supported with the mobile broadband capabilities introduced with HSPA+
978-1-4673-1389-6/12/$31.00 2012 IEEE

Where spectrum availability permits, LTE deployments are now beginning across the world following the now stable standard, successful validation via trials and availability of corresponding devices. LTE Mobile Broadband capabilities are limited / defined in terms of peak rate by the maximum rate supported by the UE. TABLE III. shows the DL and UL UE LTE peak rate capabilities supported up to 3GPP Rel10 [1].
TABLE III. Category 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 3GPP Rel'8 Rel'8 Rel'8 Rel'8 Rel'8 Rel'10 Rel'10 Rel'10 LTE UE CAPABILITIES DL Peak Rate 10 Mbps 50 Mbps 100 Mbps 150 Mbps 300 Mbps 300 Mbps 300 Mbps 3000 Mbps UL Peak Rate 5 Mbps 25 Mbps 50 Mbps 50 Mbps 75 Mbps 50 Mbps 100 Mbps 1500 Mbps

MIMO layers DL: 1, UL:1 DL: 2, UL:1 DL: 2, UL:1 DL: 2, UL:1 DL: 4, UL:1 DL: 2/4, UL:2 DL: 2/4, UL:2 DL: 8, UL:4

MIMO which was added in 3GPP Release 7 for 3G is a technology that forms a fundamental component of LTE thereby making it a key enabler in fulfilling the original LTE requirements. A key difference between 3G and LTE is the immediate fallback capability in LTE which permits fallback to transmit diversity not possible in 3G (slow fallback would be possible to STTD Tx Diversity scheme, but this utilization of this brings performance issues across all radio conditions). II. A. Objectives LTE field performance has been investigated in many papers - [3] [4] [5] [9] [10] - however comparison between HSPA+ and LTE performance in the same environment i.e. a side by side direct comparison using the location and, site reuse has received less attention. The key objectives of this trial were to compare the performance of HSPA+ and LTE using the latest available features over the same bandwidth (5 and 10 MHz in DL, 5 MHz in UL). Single user and multi-user throughput performance for FTP traffic model was measured as well as latency. This performance comparison aimed at gaining knowledge of field performance versus expected performance from simulations, and to identify the key strengths and weaknesses of both HSPA+ and LTE in the field and identify areas of improvements. B. Field Trial Environment The field trial consisted of a cluster of 3 NodeBs and 3 eNodeBs in a semi urban environment in an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city of Madrid, Spain, using the Vodafone Espaa network. The test cluster was closed to commercial traffic and the collaboration included leading network and device providers of HSPA+ and LTE technologies. C. Field Trial Setup The main characteristics of the trial setup used to benchmark HSPA+ and LTE performance are listed below: 5 MHz and 10 MHz blocks of spectrum were utilized in both the 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz bands for HSPA+ and LTE respectively. This permits the comparison of spectral efficiency given that both amounts of spectrum were available. A real network implementation using the same three sites for both HSPA+ and LTE i.e. in each site there was a NodeB and eNodeB connected to the same antenna i.e. the same sector. SCOPE

User throughput measured at MAC level using both NW and UE level traces. A list of notable network parameter settings are listed in TABLE IV.
TABLE IV. Notable Parameters Pilot Power Downlink capabilities Uplink capabilities KEY NETWORK PARAMETERS HSPA+ LTE 21.2 dBm (5 MHz) 18.2 dBm (10 MHz) Tx diversity (TM2) MIMO Open Loop (TM3) 16QAM

35 dBm SC 64QAM, SC MIMO 16QAM, DC 64QAM. SC HSUPA 2 ms TTI QPSK Proportional Fair Rake 2 with Interference Cancellation ON (UEA1)

Scheduler type

Proportional Fair

Uplink Receiver

Interference Rejection Combining OFF (no IPSec)


Note: cell pilot power allocation in 3G and LTE is not comparable i.e. 35 dBm in 3G is used across all the carriers 5 MHz all the time, whilst in LTE the pilot signal is transmitted during predetermined time periods and frequency subcarriers in both instances pilot power was the same proportionately. Similarly for the UEs, a list of notable parameters is given in TABLE V.
TABLE V. Notable Parameters Rx Diversity Equaliser Interference Cancellation UE category KEY UE PARAMETERS LTE ON N/A N/A Category 3

HSPA+ Capabilities ON ON (LMMSE) OFF HSDPA:cat.14/18/24 HSUPA: cat. 6 23 dBm

UE Maximum Output Power

22 dBm

For both technologies: Full buffer traffic model was based on downloads of large files via FTP. IP transport was used in the backhaul dimensioned to support LTE peak rates and latency contribution.

In addition to the usage of different frequency bands, only one other variable existed in the exercise in that the LTE only device used (multi mode devices were not available at that time) was limited to 22 dBm output power as opposed to 23 dBm in the HSPA+ device). Same energy was used for SIMO and MIMO testing i.e. same overall power settings for Common Pilot Channel

(CPICH) and total power. Power settings are highlighted in TABLE IV. . Cross polar multi band antennas (covering both the 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz frequency bands) were used for SIMO and MIMO testing, i.e. such antennas are typical in commercial networks (no antenna upgrade for MIMO). III. PROCEDURE



Feature SIMO 64QAM

Spectrum Used 5 & 10 MHz 5 & 10 MHz 5 & 10 MHz 5 & 10 MHz 5 MHz 5 MHz


As in the testing or comparison of all new technologies a reference scenario was agreed upon with which to make subsequent comparisons. As one of the objectives of this activity was to measure LTE performance against existing 3G performance and the additional gains it might bring despite utilisation of different frequency bands for both 3G was selected as this reference technology. As Channel Quality Indicator (CQI) reports differ in both calculation and scale for 3G and LTE respectively, selection of static test points were identified as reported by the 3G HSPA+ devices see TABLE VI. .
TABLE VI. Radio Conditions Good Medium Bad REFERENCE RADIO CONDITIONS Received Signal Code Power (RSCP) RSCP -70 dBm -70 dBm RSCP -90 dBm RSCP < -90 dBm



MIMO 2x2 16QAM MIMO 2x2 64QAM SIMO 64QAM QPSK (2 ms TTI)
16QAM (1 ms TTI)


Average CQI 28 24-25 16-17

All of the above tests were carried out in static points in the aforementioned radio conditions and similarly via drive testing (approx 20km/hr). HSPA+ MIMO was not included in any the drive tests as it is known already that this feature does not perform well in dynamic conditions [6].

Thus static points were identified using the 3G HSPA+ network as the reference and tests thereafter were conducted at the same time in the same place using the same spectrum bandwidth in both the 2100 MHz and 2600 MHz band. The time between testing was minimised i.e. one immediately after another, to ensure radio conditions were similar as possible. The tests were performed over 5 different static points to ensure sufficient confidence in results. Due to the propagation differences of using the 2600 MHz frequency band less coverage versus the 2100 MHz frequency band - care was taken in the selection of both static locations and a drive testing ensuring that all were in LTE coverage and thereby avoiding dropped calls. IV. TEST CASES

B. Latency Testing Latency Testing consisted of performing ping testing of a 32 byte packet 100 times at intervals of 1 second in 5 different locations. For both technologies, latency testing focused upon: The transition time in going from idle to connected mode. Measured latency whilst already in connected mode. V. A. Static Tests 1) Single User Throughput Performance in 5 MHz Figure 1. shows the results of throughput obtained using the same spectrum comparing HSPA+ 64QAM, HSPA+ MIMO 16QAM and LTE MIMO 64QAM modulation. LTE MIMO 64QAM in the downlink outperforms HSPA+ across all radio conditions, with gains of 72%, 55% and 22% vs HSPA+ in good, medium and bad radio conditions respectively. RESULTS

A. Throughput Testing Spectrum availability and functionality available from both the network and device supplier meant that testing was limited to 5 MHz and 10 MHz bandwidth testing. TABLE VII. lists the throughput tests conducted during the trial.





Throughput (Mbps)


Throughput (Mbps)

30 25 20 15 10 5 0

user 2 user 1

LTE MIMO 64QAM 20 15 10 5 0 Good Medium Radio Conditions Bad




Figure 1. Single User downlink performance over 5 MHz

In the uplink, LTE outperforms HSPA+ quite significantly in good radio conditions, modest improvements in medium radio conditions although degradation was observed in bad radio conditions see Figure 2.
10 9 8
Throughput (Mbps)

Radio Conditions

Figure 3. Multi User downlink performance over 5 MHz

In the uplink, no multi user testing was performed. 3) Single User Throughput Performance in 10 MHz LTE vs HSPA+ gains are higher in 10 MHz due to the better efficiency of LTE MIMO schemes in 10 MHz. The usage of dual stream MIMO is higher in 10 MHz allowing for more efficiency see Figure 4.


HSUPA 5.7 Mbps LTE

7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Good Medium Radio Conditions Bad

+12% -24%

Note that HSPA+ in 10 MHz (i.e. DC-HSUPA) is not yet available in uplink hence the trial focussed only on downlink for 10 MHz comparison tests.

Throughput (Mbps)


40 30 20


Figure 2. Single User uplink performance over 5 MHz

10 0 Good Medium Radio Conditions Bad

2) Multi User Throughput Performance in 5 MHz In the downlink, LTE outperforms HSPA+ across all radio conditions see Figure 3. - respectively in a multi user scenario (2 devices only) in a similar fashion as was shown in Figure 1 and single user testing.

Figure 4. Single User Downlink performance over 10 MHz

B. Drive Tests 1) Single User Throughput Performance in 5 MHz For the drive tests, parameter settings were unchanged from those settings during the static testing and the speed of the test vehicle did not exceed 20Km/hr in the test route (using the same cell). Average throughput using HSPA+ SIMO 64QAM over the drive route was 9 Mbps, whilst using LTE MIMO it was 14 Mbps a 56% gain in favour of LTE MIMO.

2) Single User Throughput Performance in 10 MHz Average throughput using HSPA+ SIMO 64QAM feature over the drive route was 17.1 Mbps, whilst using LTE MIMO it was 24.3Mbps a 42% gain in favour of LTE MIMO. C. Latency The results show that the latency LTE connection time gains is approximately 3.4 times lower compared to HSPA+ on average, see Figure 5.

Modulation Usage
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30%

600 Connection time (ms) 500 400 300 200 100 0 SP1 SP2 SP3 Static Point SP4 SP5 HSPA+ SIMO 64QAM LTE MIMO





Figure 7. Modulation Usage, 5 MHz, Single User.

Figure 5. Connection Time from Idle to Connected Mode

Latency whilst in connected mode showed gains in LTE of below 10 ms compared to HSPA+ as shown in Figure 6. .

By design, LTE has an intrinsically better link performance than 3G and allows not only better usage of higher order modulation schemes but increased usage of dual layer MIMO see Figure 8. The trial revealed that for HSPA+ dual stream occurs throughout good radio conditions and to a lesser extent in medium radio conditions as expected. For LTE, dual stream refers to utilisation of Rank 2, and this occurs throughout good and medium radio conditions. In bad radio conditions there is no dual stream transmission neither in HSPA+ nor LTE. It should again be noted that the radio conditions are worse for LTE due to the 2600 MHz band and were LTE transmitted in the 2100 MHz band like HSPA+ then some Rank 2 transmission could be expected in LTE.

Latency (ms)



0 SP1 SP2 SP3 Static Point SP4 SP5

100% HSPA+ MIMO 16QAM MIMO Dual Stream Use (%) 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Good Medium Radio Conditions Bad LTE MIMO 64QAM

Figure 6. Latency in connected Mode



A. DL Throughput Figure 7. shows the utilisation rate (y-axis) of the three used modulation schemes across good, medium and bad radio conditions in both HSPA+ and LTE respectively. It is clear that under the same radio conditions that usage of the highest modulation scheme usage (64QAM) is significantly higher in LTE than in HSPA+ e.g. 64QAM usage in bad radio conditions still occurs in bad radio conditions in LTE but not at all in 3G. Similar modulation utilisation was observed in 10 MHz testing.

Figure 8. MIMO Dual Stream Usage in 5 MHz, Single User

Similar Dual Stream Usage was observed in 10 MHz testing. Note that for HSPA+ MIMO capability was limited here to 16QAM as MIMO 64QAM for HSPA+ was not available at the time of the trial. B. UL Throughput For LTE, the Uplink improvements in good radio conditions are due to the predominately use of 16QAM modulation and in addition although to a lesser extent - with what appears to be a more efficient receiver. It should also be noted that in addition to the coverage loss (around 2 dB) brought about due to operation in the 2600 MHz band, the LTE device used during the trial had a lesser maximum power (1 dB less) than the HSPA+ device(s) used and this is also a factor in explaining the lower UL LTE performance observed in bad radio. C. Latency The results from the latency testing revealed that in connected mode the difference between the two technologies was closer than expected. This shows that in a fully optimised network, latency figures of 18 ms can be achieved in a 3G network. For LTE, some improvements can be expected around or below 10 ms when future optimisations become available. However, in Call establishment testing it was clearly observed that LTE was significantly quicker than WCDMA. It is expected that a 100 ms connection time for LTE is achievable so there is room for improvement. For 3G, the introduction of additional optimisations in channel switching i.e. to and from idle mode and the channel states when in connected mode will improve call establishment times. VII. CONCLUSIONS Side by side testing of HSPA+ vs LTE with all things being equal was not possible in this exercise due to spectrum usage restrictions but in this paper we have discussed the results from side by side field testing of HSPA+ in the 2100 MHz band against LTE in the 2600 MHz band. This is expected to be a typical deployment across many territories and the

performance results obtained indicate that in the downlink - in spite of the different and disadvantageous frequency band utilised for LTE - LTE spectral efficiency is greater i.e. it outperforms HSPA+ over a wide variety of radio conditions. A true side by side comparison utilising the same frequency band would reveal greater gains for LTE compared to HSPA+. In the uplink, the benefits of LTE are more modest at this stage. Finally, with regards to Latency it was observed that the idle to connected mode performance of LTE significantly outperforms its HSPA+ counterpart whilst there are more modest reductions in latency whilst in connected mode. REFERENCES
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