Key Messages from IDC Directions 2012 for “The Network” – Part 2

March 25, 2012
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Worldwide Cellular Infrastructure Revenue

Worldwide Cellular Infrastructure Revenue

Part 1 of this article summarized the big picture view from IDC Directions 2012 as well as changes in enterprise IT and network infrastructure/ architecture.  Mobility and next generation mobile network architecture’s are examined in this piece.

Essential guidance from IDC Analyst Courtney Munroe’s presentation on Mobility and the Cloud:

  • Cloud Applications and Traffic will grow exponentially by 2015
  • All Applications Providers must have a cloud Solution
  • Consolidation/Partnership inevitable
  • Apps will expand from basic categories to include HD Video/Business Analytics and LBS (Location Based Services) Apps

Take aways from John Byrne’s outstanding presentation (best of conference) on NextGen Mobile Architectures: Solving the Congestion Dilemma

Exponentially Increasing Mobile Data Traffic Is Driving Major Network Changes

Smartphones, tablets and dongles (oh my) driving major changes in wireless network infrastructure

  • Heterogeneous network” architectures required, with the focus rapidly turning to microcells, picocells, femtocells, distributed antenna systems, “cloud RAN”
  • Backhaul chokepoints must be resolved through a variety of solutions, including fiber, Wi-Fi offload and other fiber-to-the-cell deployments wherever feasible
  • Operators must be able to utilize every spectrum band available, as efficiently as possible, to keep pace with demand

Continued exponential data traffic growth requires a variety of solutions:

A capacity crunch is coming or is already here:

  • Operator assumptions regarding network traffic growth have been significantly exceeded form factor for video, download and upload
  • New M2M applications/form factors will develop to take advantage of high data throughput
  • Operators must take advantage of every solution available:
  • Wi-Fi more closely integrated into wireless network architectures
  • Multi-technology, multi-spectrum radios are the main focus in the macro-environment
  • Heterogeneous Network solutions to solve urban hotzone and in-building coverage challenges
  • FDD, TDD and FDD/TDD combinations to take advantage of all available spectrum bands

Total Spending on Connectivity

Total Spending on Connectivity

In the Macrocell environment, the focus of deployments is turning to the support of Base Stations that support multiple frequencies and multiple RAN technologies (e.g. 3G, WiMAX, LTE-TDD/FDD).

Flexibility is the focus, allowing customized approach for each operator’s unique situation:

  • Ultimately multi-mode, multi-band base stations will be part of the solution for operators in most regions
  • The Sprint “Network Vision” project represents a good example of network modernization to adapt to the new environment –multiple technologies & frequencies using a single multimode antenna

Heterogeneous Networks represent the “Next Phase” of Wireless Network Development

Wireless telcos and network equipment vendors are focusing on “Heterogeneous Nets”

  • AIR, Liquid, Light –regardless of vendor acronym focus is on 10x increase in # of radios to keep pace with network traffic growth
  • A host of vendors (and being driven by China Mobile) spending significant R&D on “cloud RAN” and other Het Netconcepts
  • HetNetSolutions will vary by operator and scenario:
  • Pico cell base stations
  • Femto cells moving into the enterprise and outdoors
  • Microcells
  • Managed, carrier-grade WiFi for mobile data offload of the cellular network

Backhaul Represents a Major Challenge to Robust Mobile Broadband  (see Figure)

Operators and vendors will need to solve the backhaul challenge at two main chokepoints –

  1. The connection between the base transceiver station (BTS) and the base station controller/mobile switching center (BSC/MSC).
  2. The “metro” hand-off from the BSC/MSCto the core network.

Backhaul Challenge to Mobile Broadband

Backhaul Challenge to Mobile Broadband

M2M Represents a Great Example of the Third Platform:

  • Digital Signage:
    • Remote billboards/digital ads (in areas where fixed broadband is not available and/or cost prohibitive)
    • Major areas of opportunity: taxis, buses, limousines, ferries and trains; targeted possibilities are enhanced further when combined with location awareness
  • Personal Fitness/Healthcare Monitoring:
  • Business(B) to Consumer(C): Operator could provide aggregated data to a consumer focused on fitness
  • B to B to C: Operator could provide active monitoring directly to clinic or hospital and react in the event of an emergency (call ambulance, forward relevant patient data, contact doctor, etc.
  • B to B to C: “Glowcaps” is such a model (see http://www.viodi.tv/2011/07/15/wireless-enablement/)

“Third Platform” networks must support trillions of transactions, which poses challenging new requirements:

  • OSS/Policy Management/Device Management:
    • Automated response is key to profitable M2M
    • Automated customer/service provisioning, authentication
    • Device/chip/module certification
  • Billing/BSS:
    • Revenue sharing among thousands of partners
    • Myriad of business models: per MB, per transaction, per month, etc.
  • Analytics:
    • Value of data gathered rests in the ability to make sense out of i
    • Intelligence will rest with network operators –ability to monetize depends on developing and packaging meaningful insights
  • Ecosystem:
    • In order to get to trillions of transactions, service providers must do much more work to bring application developers into the ecosystem

Postscript: 

Since IDC Directions 2012, there have been several articles on the topic of how wireless carriers will deal with the capacity crunch caused by the continued explosive growth in mobile data traffic- especially video streaming,  Here is a representative sample:

Fox News Opinion piece- burden on FCC to find more spectrum:

WSJ article:  Wringing Out More Capacity- Wireless Carriers Use Tricks to Ease Data-Traffic Jams, Including Multiple Antennas, Remote Controls
This article assumes the FCC’s hands are tied and won’t be able to come up with enough spectrum to alleviate the capacity crunch caused by continuous exponential increases in mobile data traffic.  With little new spectrum available for use in the near future, wireless carriers are coming up with new tricks to help break traffic jams on their networks as demand for mobile data surges.  The wireless telcos plan to use  various technologies for better managing data traffic such as video.
These aren’t a substitute for building more high-speed fourth-generation networks and setting up more Wi-Fi hot spots, the telecommunications equivalents of new highways.  However,  the article states these methods can help carriers get more data onto their existing mobile networks.

Another WSJ article :  Users of new iPAD-LTE  find watching mobile video has a high cost

Some users of Apple’s new iPad are finding a few hours of watching high-speed video can eat up an entire monthly data-plan allotment.  In essence,  wireless carriers are coping by forcing heavy mobile data users to pay more- either overage charges or resubscribe to top tier data plans.

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2 Responses to Key Messages from IDC Directions 2012 for “The Network” – Part 2

  1. March 27, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for the excellent summary and postscript.
    It seems wireless carriers are resorting to tiered pricing, overcharges and throttling as a way to cope with perpetual increases in mobile data traffic. Doesn’t seem like they’re actually implementing any of the “tricks” mentioned by John Byrne or the 1st referenced WSJ article- at least not in a big way.

    • March 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      Anil, Thanks for your comment. I believe that Heterogeneous networks will be used to improve mobile network data carrying capacity. A heterogeneous network is typically composed of multiple radio access technologies, architectures, transmission solutions, and base stations of varying transmission power.

      This topic will be discussed at the April 11 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting in Santa Clara, CA: http://www.comsocscv.org

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