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Signals Ahead: The Mother of All Network Benchmark Tests Volume 4 - Detailed Performance Analysis (the HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA edition) - Product Image

Signals Ahead: The Mother of All Network Benchmark Tests Volume 4 - Detailed Performance Analysis (the HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA edition)

  • Published: February 2012
  • Region: Global
  • Signals Research Group, LLC

Over the last several months Signals Research Group has been conducting a network/technology benchmark study of all of the leading next-generation wireless technologies, as exemplified by operator deployments in North America. 'Signals Ahead: The Mother of all Network Benchmark Tests ' is a series of four reports:

Volume 1
Network and Technology Performance

Volume 2
Quantifying the User Experience

Volume 3 and Volume 4
Detailed Performance Analysis

The four reports 'Signals Ahead: The Mother of all Network Benchmark Tests ' are included with any paid corporate subscription to Signals Ahead, or can be purchased separately. Volume 4 is free when purchasing volume 3.

ABOUT VOLUME 4 - DETAILED PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS (the HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA edition)

Volume 4 (the HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA edition) of what was originally planned to be a three part series of reports provide a deep-dive analysis of how HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA networks perform today as exemplified by operator deployments in North America. Specifically, the focus is almost entirely on AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as Alcatel Lucent (ALU), Ericsson (ERICY), and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN).

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1 1.0 Executive Summary
2.0 key conclusions and observations
3.0 dc-hsdpa and hspa+ comparative analysis
3.1 The Availability and Use of 64QAM – Market Level Analysis
3.2 DC-HSDPA Primary and Secondary Carrier Contribution
3.3 Unadjusted CQI Reports versus 64QAM Availability
3.4 HS-PDSCH Code Assignments
3.5 Throughput during a Cell Handover
3.6 Adjusted MAC-HS Throughput Comparisons
4.0 test methodology
5.0 conclusions
6.0 appendix 1
7.0 appendix 2

Index of tables

table 1. HS-SCCH Scheduling Rates and HS-PDSCH Code Assignments – by operator and by market
table 2. Summary of HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA Test Results, including CQI Reports and Modulation Scheme Distributions – by primary and secondary carrier
table 3. Summary of HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA Test Results, including MAC-HS Throughput, HS-PDSCH Code Assignments and HS-SCCH Scheduling Rates – by primary and secondary carrier

Index of figures

figure 1. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN) in Dallas
figure 2. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) in Dallas
figure 3. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ALU) in Kansas City
figure 4. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – T-Mobile HSPA+ Network (NSN) in Kansas City
figure 5. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA and AT&T HSPA+ Networks (ERICY) in Oakland
figure 6. Distribution of Downlink Application Layer Throughput – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA and AT&T HSPA+ Networks (ERICY) in the Bay Area
figure 7. 64QAM Availability – by operator, vendor and market
figure 8. MAC-HS Throughput by Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 9. MAC-HS Throughput by Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 10. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 11. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444 figure 12. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 13. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 14. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 15. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier –
T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 16. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier –
AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 1315
figure 17. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier –
AT&T HSPA+ (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose 1340
figure 18. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence – AT&T HSPA+ (ERICY), San Francisco 0600
figure 19. 64QAM and Reported CQI Probability of Occurrence – AT&T HSPA+ (ALU), Kansas City 0540
figure 20. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ALU) Kansas City 0540
figure 21. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 22. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 23. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose 1340
figure 24. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 1315
figure 25. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ALU), Kansas City 0540
figure 26. 64QAM Utilization versus HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 27. 64QAM Utilization versus HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 28 .64QAM Utilization versus HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Scatter Plot – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ALU), Kansas City 0540
figure 29. Application Layer Throughput versus Cell ID – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 30. Application Layer Throughput versus Cell ID – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 31. Reported CQI versus MAC-HS Throughput Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 32. Reported CQI versus MAC-HS Throughput Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), Oakland 0444
figure 33. Reported CQI versus MAC-HS Throughput Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 34. Reported CQI versus MAC-HS Throughput Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 0520
figure 35. Adjusted MAC-HS Throughput for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas, and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose
figure 36. Adjusted MAC-HS Throughput for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas
figure 37. Adjusted MAC-HS Throughput for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY) and T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Francisco
figure 38. Adjusted MAC-HS Throughput – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ALU), Kansas City
figure 39. XCAL-M Drive Test Tool in Action – DL performance
figure 40. XCAL-M Drive Test Tool in Action – UL performance
figure 41. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 1315
figure 42. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY), Dallas 1315
figure 43. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose 1340
figure 44. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose 1340
figure 45. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Houston 0507
figure 46. Reported CQI versus 64QAM Utilization Scatter Plot for the Secondary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Houston 0507
figure 48. 64QAM Utilization versus HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (NSN), Dallas 1315
figure 47. HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Probability of Occurrence – AT&T HSPA+ Network (ERICY), San Francisco 0600
figure 49. 64QAM Utilization versus HS-PDSCH Code Assignment Scatter Plot for the Primary Carrier – T-Mobile DC-HSDPA Network (ERICY), San Jose 1340

This document contains information about a separately published report that provides network performance benchmark analysis for HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA, as exemplified by operator deployments in the United States. In addition to focusing on the performances of T-Mobile's HSPA+/DC-HSDPA network and AT&T's HSPA+ network, the report provides keen insight into vendor differentiation, specifically Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks. The 70-page report, which includes 52 figures and/ or tables, is included as part of a subscription to Signals Ahead or it can be purchased for $1,495. We are bundling this report with another report that we published in mid-January that provides similar analysis, albeit specific to LTE (please contact us if you would like to receive a report preview). This document contains a complete Table of Contents and List of Figures/Tables, as well as a list of past research reports and anticipated research topics that we plan to address in the coming year.

In Volume 4 (the HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA edition) of what was originally planned to be a threepart series of reports, we provide our deep-dive analysis of how HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA networks perform today as exemplified by operator deployments in North America. Specifically, the focus is almost entirely on AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as Alcatel Lucent (ALU), Ericsson (ERICY), and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN).

Volume 1, which we published in September 2011, provides relatively high-level performance analysis of all emerging mobile broadband networks (EV-DO, Mobile WiMAX, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, and LTE) and how they compare and contrast. Volume 2, which we published in late October, looks at network performance from the perspective of the user experience. It identifies and quantifies what network performance characteristics really matter and how they influence the user experience for a wide range of mobile data applications. Volume 3 includes this report and the LTE version that we published a few weeks ago.

Our ability to collect and analyze the network performance data would not have been possible without the support of Accuver, who allowed us to use its suite of network drive test tools, including its recently released XCAL-MO network benchmarking tool and XCAL-M drive test solution, as well as its XCAP post-processing software to analyze the results. We have used the Accuver tools several times in the past for various Signals Ahead reports and we have grown quite fond of their capabilities and their ease of use. In particular, for the most recent round of network benchmark testing, the company's XCAL-MO tool proved to be an invaluable asset and without it, we would have found it next to impossible to accomplish our objectives.

For the first time, we are now able to offer their tools with our services for commissioned-based projects on behalf of operators, government regulators, vendors, trade associations or other interested parties on a global basis. We look forward to discussing such opportunities with anyone that is interested.

In Volume 1 we had high praise for T-Mobile's DC-HSDPA network while we observed that AT&T's HSPA+ network performed as advertised and generally to our expectations. In the case of T-Mobile's DC-HSDPA network, we went as far as to publish drive test results which showed that it could outperform the Verizon Wireless LTE network from both a downlink throughput and latency perspective. It didn't hurt that Verizon Wireless was limiting the throughput at the upper end, but conversely we were erroneously using the wrong APN address for the T-Mobile network, meaning that the DC-HSDPA network was limited to only 15-16 Mbps at the Application Layer. We later showed in Volume 2 that it was possible to hit sustained throughput of nearly 25 Mbps on the network when we used the correct APN.
Now that the dust has settled and we have had the chance t
o do some deep-dive analysis of the results, we can provide far greater insight into how the two 3G networks performed and how the vendors, in particular Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, performed relative to each other. We were only able to test Alcatel Lucent's HSPA+ solution on AT&T's network in Kansas City, although we do include our more detailed analysis in this report.

Although it depends on the infrastructure supplier, we identified several reasons why the average throughput on both networks should have been even higher than what we observed. Without going into specific detail, the key vendor differentiators, which had a material impact on network performance, include the following:
- With one vendor's implementation, our test dongle frequently dropped the secondary carrier for the duration of the test, thereby relegating DC-HSDPA to a single HSPA+ carrier.
- One vendor had extreme difficulty maintaining throughput during a cell handover, instead there were extended periods where the throughput was essentially zero
- One vendor's infrastructure had resource limitations, which artificially reduced the throughput from what it could otherwise have been.
- We documented a huge disparity between the reported CQI values and the network assignment of 64QAM. Ultimately, this disparity had a dramatic impact on how frequently 64QAM was used and it impacted the throughput across the spectrum of CQI values. (e.g., 0 – 30).
- After normalizing the MAC-HS throughput to an “empty network” by adjusting the scheduling rate and number of code assignments, we are able to demonstrate that one vendor's solution
delivered measurably higher throughput than its peers – a conclusion that we validated through other means.

All this and more in this issue of Signals Ahead….

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