Reflections on LTE Advanced – Part One

Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Simo Isomaki | 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.

Customer Satisfaction is Important for All Types of Mobile Users

Posted: March 18th, 2011 | Author: Olivier Suard | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

Last week, I noticed for the first time TelecomAsia’s monthly reporting of Asia’s top 10 selling handsets. I have to confess that I have never paid close attention to handset shipments, so I was surprised by what I saw. Firstly, there are only two suppliers in the top 10: Nokia and Samsung. Secondly, most of the phones on the list are fairly basic, not smartphones. So while we often believe Apple iPhones and HTC Android phones to be ubiquitous that is not the reality on the ground.

To me, this was a reminder that we, in the industry, are often well ahead of the actual market. It is obviously a good thing in many ways, but it’s also important for us not to forget that not everyone in the world owns an iPhone or is a heavy user of mobile broadband value added services.

Consider for example how, when we talk in the industry about customer satisfaction, we often focus on mobile broadband speed and capacity. Yet for many customers, satisfaction comes from much more prosaic factors such as how easily they can get their phone working, how well they can make voice calls or send texts, and how fair and accurate they perceive charging to be.  Looking at it from an OSS perspective, this also means that, while policy control is a very exciting and fast growing area, there is also still plenty of mileage in, say, mediation, charging and provisioning.

The phone shipment statistic reminded me of a demonstration of the Comptel Dynamic SIM Management that my colleague Simo Isomäki gave me recently. He showed me how a subscriber, when they first use the phone, can follow an interactive menu to select the phone’s number, the services they want and the method of payment (pre- or post-paid) –all fairly important factors in the customer experience. He showed me this on various smartphones, but also on a very ordinary phone with a small, text-based screen. When you consider that Asia already makes up nearly 50 percent of the global market in terms of subscriptions, and continues to grow; and given the shipment statistics above, the “ordinary phone” version Comptel Dynamic SIM Management was, in retrospect, probably the most important of all!

Comptel will be exhibiting at Frost & Sullivan’s 5th Annual OSS BSS Asia Pacific Summit, 23-24 March 2011, Singapore.