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Improving Broadband Technology Supports Healthcare IoT

Improvements in 4G LTE and 5G broadband technology support healthcare IoT connectivity and continued implementation.

Broadband technology, healthcare IoT

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Improved broadband technology can help support healthcare IoT growth as more organizations are utilizing connected devices to help improve patient care. A recent update in broadband technology could potentially affect the healthcare industry in its IoT usage.

Verizon, Ericsson, and Qualcomm Technologies announced that they surpassed the broadband Gigabit speed barrier on 4G LTE with commercial silicon and network infrastructure.

The companies reached a speed of 1.07Gbps download speeds using a Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE modem during an Ericsson lab trial using Ericsson’s Radio System and LTE software. The speed was also achieved using three 20MHz carriers of Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) spectrum, which used separate transmit and receive frequencies.

The entities reached the 1.07Gbps speed using 12 simultaneous LTE streams, which increase peak data rates and capacity while improving overall average speeds.

The companies aim to make Gigabit 4G LTE speeds available for commercial customers across all major industries, including healthcare, to support the increased implementation and use of IoT devices.

The 1.07Gbps speed was reached using:

  • 12 LTE streams with 3 cell carrier aggregation of FDD spectrum
  • 4x4 MIMO per carrier (multiple in, multiple out), which uses multiple antennae at the cell tower and on consumers devices to optimize data speeds
  • 256 QAM per carrier, which enables customer devices and the network to exchange information in large amounts, delivering more bits of data in each transmission, significantly enhancing data speeds

While the Gigabit speeds were achieved, it’s important for organizations to note that speed tests in a lab environment often don’t translate to actual scenarios. There are a number of factors that can slow speeds, such as physical space and other network interferences that can prevent organizations from getting the speeds of which their equipment is capable.

Organizations are still using 4G LTE for their IoT devices, which is why it’s important to continue improving the technology. However, many of the same companies are working toward developing and standardizing 5G broadband.

Qualcomm and Ericsson are also working with AT&T on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) to bring reliable 5G broadband technology to enterprise organizations.

The 3GPP provides their organization partners with an environment to produce and test new telecommunication network standards that will form the basis of the global standard. The organization aims to help move the global mobile ecosystem from 4G LTE to a faster 5G deployment based on standards-compliant 5G NR infrastructure.  

"The roadmap of 5G technologies is complex, and collaborations such as this are critical to ensuring timely deployment of 5G networks," Qualcomm Technologies Executive Vice President and CTO Matt Grob said in a statement. "The 3GPP-based trials we are planning with AT&T and Ericsson will help us accelerate integration of advanced 5G New Radio technologies in form-factor accurate devices, building upon our long history of 3G and 4G LTE development and paving the path to wide-scale 5G deployments."

Healthcare organizations are using broadband technology rather than WiFi networks to connect IoT devices. Broadband allows users to be truly mobile by remaining connected to the network regardless of where they are. It also frees up the WiFi network for stationary IoT devices and larger on-premises devices.

Cellular is a more robust environment and it never has the issue of too many people logging onto and using it at once and slowing it down.

Cellular networks also play a large part in connecting rural communities with their care providers. AMIA recently wrote a letter to the FCC declaring that broadband access is a social determinant of health and is critical for people in rural and underserved areas.

Inadequate access to broadband technology for mHealth reduces vulnerable groups from participating in mHealth treatments, according to AMIA.

The importance of IoT connectivity continues to grow more important as more healthcare organizations are using IoT devices to provide patients with better and more personalized care. This growth is why new developments in broadband technology are so significant to the future successes of the healthcare IoT.

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