Reflections on LTE Advanced – Part Two

Posted: May 2nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In my last post, I touched on what LTE-A is and the benefits we can expect from it, including much more bandwidth. However, there is some room for improvement with this technology.

The Price Issue

First and foremost, there are cost issues related to the massive performance increase. For instance, if you have a mobile broadband bundle with a capacity of 2 GB, this could quickly be consumed in roughly 15-20 seconds. If you’re a heavy user today and spend about 30 GB a month, at maximum capacity, it would not last long in LTE-A. Depending on how the service is put to market, consumers could end up paying a fortune for its speed—hindering adoption and prolonging the transition to LTE-A.

So why will it be so pricey? There are a few fundamental reasons. First, the cell in LTE-A is smaller but much faster than those found in previous generations. So this means that we will have more cells (think of these as the roadside ‘towers’), but they will most likely be built into streetlight poles and other facilities in addition to physical towers. Here’s where the price comes into play—each cell has a cost. In addition, each of those cells needs to be connected to the core network somehow (typically microwave radio or optic cable), and with more cells comes more cables and more complex networks.

Also, each cell needs to transport more data as bandwidth grows. Thus, the infrastructure to support such bandwidth requires major investments by communications service providers (CSPs), including in new technologies like small cell devices for more specific locations. We can also expect more fibre rollouts, which will need to be connected to all kinds of routers, switches and repeaters in the telecom network. These will all need to be planned, installed and operated. While we assume that efficiency increases in hardware over time (smaller space and faster speed) and power consumption decreases, all this infrastructure will have a major impact when it comes to cost. In addition to the purchase and operations, the cost of labour for actually digging up the ground, laying the cables and filling the ground can really add up.

What about Vendors?

This means a lot of various things for software vendors like Comptel and others in the OSS/BSS and Service Provider IT (SPIT) field? We believe the infrastructure rollout will need to be as automated as possible to drive the need for an excellent fulfillment process, logical network connections and efficient resource management. This will, in turn, reduce wasted time and money. The increase in bandwidth will likely drive more customer offerings and drive the need for service orchestration and catalog-driven order management. The complexity of the service must be conveyed in a way that makes sense for customer segments using the network capacity, and various service bundles should be prepared and proposed.

One may, however, discover that there are so many different ways to bundle these services that they completely avoid it and allow customers to self-personalise their subscriptions in advance or just in time. CSPs will naturally want to charge and control this usage and the bandwidth that customers are getting, such as services without quota restrictions like music streaming with a fixed monthly fee. Perhaps they can consider time-, location- or service-specific profiles of policies that enable customers to enjoy the vast capacity at full speed.

With this in mind, we already enjoy a degree of granularity like watching a TV series at full capacity, while others view it at a lesser quality, all enabled by policy control and online charging systems. We’re also starting to see CSPs analysing and adapting their customer engagement through intelligent interactions like free services and campaign offers, better matching service profile configurations and other things that better suite personal preferences of usage. All of these services need to be activated, changed and deactivated in real time with a provisioning and activation engine that can scale to the vast speed and low latency.

Likewise, the usage data will be so diverse and vast in its volume that a next-generation mediation system with massive scalability is needed to enable managing the online feeds of data and transactions securely and to adapt the data from various sources and formats with all of the potential various destinations (and their formats). This layer we saw formed in the CDR/file world will also be very necessary in the new online/diameter world.

In summary, behind the acronym LTE-A, there is a promise of vast bandwidth, which no matter how you look at it, will surely benefit us, especially as many other innovations can then be applied to it. There are some hurdles to overcome, but just as many opportunities presented with the technology.

If you’re interested in talking about LTE-A a bit more, please leave a comment or come to our booth at the upcoming Management World 2012, taking place in Dublin in May, to chat with me about it.

Reflections on LTE Advanced – Part One

Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights, Telecom Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When following the hot industry trends, I found a lot of excitement around LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and wanted to share my thoughts on this emerging technology.

So what is LTE-A?

Well, in the simplest of terms, it’s the latest advancement in radio technology that will put one Gigabits/s bandwidth (or 1000 megabits/s) to your mobile device of choice, whether it’s a laptop, dongle, tablet or smartphone (and eventually feature phone). Network rollouts will occur once the technology is proven in trials and compatible devices are available.

For comparison, you can get up to 100 megabits/s through LTE technology and up to 24 megabits/s with ADSL technology. The bandwidth that LTE-A enables is similar to the fastest speeds from Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology and about three times faster than that of cable. It is also approved by the International Telecommunications Union as the true 4G technology irrespective of what industry marketing and some communications service providers (CSPs) are saying about LTE and DC-HSPA. Globally, we are just deploying LTE infrastructure, and thus, LTE-A will have its first major deployments sometime in the future.

Some Perspective

While the maximum speed will most likely be very theoretical, at least in the beginning, the technology promises to provide all of the bandwidth we need without wiring everything together physically, allowing for true mobility. To put that bandwidth into perspective, one HD quality video stream can consume up to tens of megabits per second depending on the encoding/decoding technology used. This would then decide how much of the CPU and graphics chip on your device would be used and how much battery life they consume on decoding the video feed. The less bandwidth that is consumed (and hence tighter compression used in video encoding), the more work the CPU and graphics chip will have to do, and more battery will be consumed. In theory, you would not need much video compression with LTE-A, as there is plenty of capacity and hence less demand on battery, CPUs and other chip development needs. Think about several HD video channels being streamed to your device and having the ability to use other services in parallel. It would also enable higher upload speeds, so your multi-megapixel DSLR pictures could be streamed to your cloud storage or photostream of choice in near real time.

Is there really a need for this much bandwidth?

I’ve witnessed first-hand that once more bandwidth is available, it will get used. Remember the times of MS-DOS and the famous statement that 640 kB of memory is enough for everything? I’m feeling a bit old here, but seriously, we are masters of consuming 97% of our hard drives, for example, no matter what the capacity is—and the same applies to bandwidth. With recent advancements in HD displays in relatively small form factor (e.g. retina display in the new Apple iPad), it’s almost guaranteed we will consume available bandwidth. I’d think, however, that with such bandwidth, the need for large local storage on devices becomes less important, especially as cloud storage is becoming more affordable. Hence, we will see more video-enabled devices with minimal, built-in storage capacity.

LTE-A sounds promising, right? In my next post, I’ll discuss this technology further and highlight some areas where there’s room for improvement.

Around the World

Posted: April 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Around the World | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Around the World

New York Times…
A Ballooning Megabyte Budget
Limited data plans are pushing customers to carefully budget their megabytes and more closely track their mobile usage. Confusion abounds, however, as many consumers aren’t sure how to quantify megabytes, and upgrades to faster devices and networks speeds are encouraging people to use more data-intensive applications but are leaving them to deal with unexpected charges .

To avoid data plan confusion and bill shock, mobile operators are offering tiered data plans and promoting transparent billing by giving customers options for monitoring their data. Some operators, for instance, are sending text messages to update consumers on their allotted and remaining data usage.

According to the article, many customers aren’t aware that data monitoring tools exist or have not used them to budget their data use. Therefore, operators need to improve their customer interactions and demonstrate the value of these resources to help customers take the right steps towards budgeting their megabytes.

Total Telecom…
Leakage Could Cost Mobile Operators $296bn in 2016
According to Juniper Research, if mobile operators fail to update their revenue assurance systems, their revenue losses from leakage could balloon to $296 billion in 2016, up from $58.4 billion. To minimize the risk of fraud, the firm recommends installing a real-time system to monitor and react to criminal activity, in addition to processing and validating all billable transactions.

Supporting this, research from KPMG shows that 50 percent of operators in Africa and the Middle East lose more than one percent of revenue through leakage. Losses can often be linked to improper billing operations, placing additional impetus for operators to ensure their billing systems are properly integrated into the operations support system (OSS) and business processes. As the head of KPMG says, the hope is that these figures act as a “wake up call” for the industry and encourage operators to invest in revenue assurance and fraud management systems to prevent increasing revenue losses.

Light Reading…
Ready or Not, Here Comes LTE-Advanced
Even though Long Term Evolution-Advanced (LTE-A) networks won’t be a mainstream technology until 2015, some operators are making their commercial debut with the technology and claiming to be “LTE-A ready”. This is spurring a debate over what is and isn’t 4G—and even 5G.

As marketplace confusion with network labels grows, savvy customers are increasingly asking, is a network truly LTE-A only when it uses multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) orders of 4×4 or higher? At 8×8, does it become worthy of a 5G marketing moniker? The answers to these questions could dictate how operators are able to differentiate their services and respond to customer needs.

According to a Heavy Reading report, despite the debate surrounding LTE-A, the emerging network is worth paying attention to because its ultimate impact will be widespread. Do you agree with the report’s prediction that LTE-A will dominate the global market? And what do you think is the value of knowing an operator is “LTE-A ready”?