Weimin Ying is president of LTE product line at Huawei Technologies. He discusses operators’ issues migrating to LTE networks, and ways around the obstacle of major capital expenditure
Wireless technology is an integral part of the way people communicate – and their reliance on wireless continues to increase.
Users now expect their fixed broadband, satellite and wireless services to quickly and seamlessly migrate to mobile. With smartphones, operators are seeing huge growth in the use of data services by consumers, and demand for increased bandwidth.
Consumers are hungry for more sophisticated services, and so operators must provide higher technical requirements.
Conventional network construction has restricted the profit potential of mobile broadband with prohibitively high deployment costs and pricing.
The combined challenge of a huge OPEX and decreased ARPU has also forced telecoms operators to transform their service offerings.
To meet increased traffic and capacity needs, operators have to make faster decisions on next generation upgrades, such as the transition to LTE. This will enable them to boost a range of efficiencies from spectrum, to operations and maintenance (O&M), as well as to cut per-bit costs and to simplify network architecture.
There is a growing trend for operators to position LTE as the future of mobile. A year ago there were only 31 LTE network commitments from operators.
A year on, 88 operators in 42 countries have committed to deploying LTE systems or are engaged in trials or planning. Up to 22 LTE networks are expected to be in service by the end of 2010, and over 39 by the end of 2012.
ABI Research estimates that by 2013, 30 million mobile broadband subscribers will have access to LTE services, and by 2016, 10 per cent will be accessing LTE services.
While the future is bright for LTE, its large-scale commercial deployment is still riddled with obstacles.
Operators are regularly scouring for solutions that offer improved voice and data experience at a reduced cost. The heavy investment already injected into 3G is encouraging many operators to either retain it as their focus while slowly increasing evolution to LTE, or to enhance 3G coverage with 4G as a supplement.
Network convergence is the answer for many operators.
Operators looking for cohesion across multiple networks need a solution that can accommodate different wireless standards and enable a smooth transition to future technologies.
There are products available that cater for the increased demand for network convergence, and which have already proven successful in accommodating different wireless standards.
Some of these solutions can offer 500 times more capacity through flexible multi-layer access methods and spectral efficiency gains. These solutions should boost business development and lower the CAPEX incurred by network upgrades.
LTE technology offers other significant advantages. The technology itself is IP-based – situated on flat network architectures. It can incorporate quality of service via VoIP, and offers enhanced spectrum utilisation to support more users per cell. It provides higher data bandwidth, which translates into more data capacity per user.
With greater relevance placed on sourcing additional revenue streams, LTE enables operators to supply enterprise data networking, HDTV-quality and other bandwidth-hungry applications.
With LTE consumers can also benefit from access to a wide range of innovative new multimedia applications. In principle, it will extend high-speed internet access currently enjoyed by urban/suburban users to rural/isolated areas, and will eliminate the ‘digital divide’.
Businesses will also be able to take advantage of LTE with the use of high-simulation video conferencing, as well as use of mobile networks to access company applications.
Such applications will increase employee productivity and employee availability.
Another typical enterprise application of LTE is flexible working – employees can access the internet anytime, anywhere, and are guaranteed a high level of service.
LTE will facilitate the introduction of new services in areas that have not yet been explored, including consumer electronics, healthcare and public utilities.
Once, LTE was a future possibility, but soon we will enjoy the benefits it brings. The next generation will be able to remain connected to one another like never before.