This was a hypothetical question posed in one of the panels I moderated at the recent CTIA show. As you can imagine, the question solicited quite a bit of discussion among the audience and the panelists, which included mobile operators and the major infrastructure vendors. Before posing the question, the audience member quoted several news stories that talked about delays to the introduction of VoLTE and, most recently, Verizon Wireless’ decision to delay VoLTE-only handsets from late 2014 to mid-2016. Note that Verizon Wireless was not on the panel.
The answers given by the panelists to the question were simple: “don’t worry, we will get it to work.” In fact, the sentiment was more like “we MUST get it to work.” Generally, the view was that VoLTE is key to the future of the mobile operators and that since current 2G spectrum will be refarmed for LTE, VoLTE is required in order to provide voice services. Obviously, there is a lot of effort going into ensuring the performance of VoLTE is as consumers expect. I for one do expect that the industry will address the lingering issues, and in a year or so, VoLTE will be established.
But what if the CTIA panel and I are wrong? What if VoLTE continues to stumble or takes so long to stabilize that consumers lose interest? What if VoLTE becomes another wireless technology that took too long to develop and, by the time it was ready, other solutions had passed it by? The wireless industry is littered with examples like this from network-based location services (which competed for a time with handset-based GPS) to WAP (remember?) and WiMAX (which was overtaken by LTE). So even though VoLTE may eventually work, what if it comes too late for impatient consumers?
For the consumers, there may be little real impact. The fact is that there are multiple IP voice solutions available today from Skype and FaceTime (among others) to VoWiFi. The fact is that today I can call my kids with FaceTime and have a great audio experience. Skype will let me do the same thing and there are numerous solutions out there for Android users. In short, I do not need VoLTE today to make IP calls and I have numerous options available that are free.
But for the mobile operator, this becomes a major problem. Over the last few years, revenue has obviously shifted away from voice to data, as people use more and more broadband data.
Smartphones and tablets obviously encourage higher data use. And the operators have responded with bigger buckets and lower pricing. But many people use their mobile phones to make phone calls, just like in the olden days! Voice service is needed by the majority of consumers. And so a major part of the mobile operator value equation is the ability to provide mobile voice. If the mobile operators are unable to do this and consumers flock to the OTT voice applications and services, consumers will never look back.
At this point, the mobile operators will simply become bit pipes with no hope of offering differentiated services. Without VoLTE and associated services, consumers will simply look for the cheapest service on the network that provides the best service. Some would argue that the industry has already reached this point, but I would differ – the mobile operators still have the opportunity to provide services (like HD voice) that consumers will value and provide some differentiation. But without VoLTE, given the pace at which the OTT vendors are moving, it is unlikely the mobile operators will get another chance. VoLTE is likely the last chance the operators have; it is that critical. And for that reason, the industry MUST make VoLTE work and soon. And I believe they will.
IAIN GILLOTT, the founder and president of iGR, has been involved in the wireless industry, as both a vendor and analyst, for over 20 years. iGR was founded in 2000 as iGillottResearch, Inc. in order to provide in-depth market analysis and data focused exclusively on the wireless and mobile industry.
IGR Research has come out with another study that forecasts almost 98 percent of broadband data use in U.S. households will be on Wi-Fi devices by 2018. The U.S. Home Broadband & Wi-Fi Usage Forecast, 2013-2018, estimates the amount of data used by fixed broadband connections at U.S. households. This report also estimates the amount of data usage that is driven by devices that primarily connect via Wi-Fi – laptops, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, game consoles, etc.
The following key concepts are addressed in the new research study:
The new market study can be purchased and downloaded directly from iGR’s website, igr-inc.com/Advisory_And_Subscription_Services/Small_Cell_Architectures/us_home_broadband_wifi_2018.asp, providing immediate access to a digital copy of the research.
By Ernest Worthman —
The mobile industry remains some way off from understanding how best to apply software-defined networking (SDN). SDN can add brains to the network by placing the focus on network intelligence rather than outright speed or bandwidth. This approach has a number of advantages. First of all, it
can work across the different elements of a mobile network, such as the control plane or application layer. Second, it optimizes resources. Third, it integrates disparate technologies much more efficiently and effectively. The end result is that all of this translates into faster speed, better performance, and fewer bottlenecks due to the efficient, autonomous utilization of network resources.
As everything moves to virtualization, existing hardware such as test and measurement equipment will become software modules, rather than hardware running through the cloud or existing servers. This means such processes can run constantly and continually monitor the network. In turn, the data can be assessed in real time by the intelligence and perform on-the-fly tweaking and instantaneous problem resolution.
In a recent report, wireless consulting firm iGR defined three types of mobile virtualization. Mobile application virtualization is when an application is separated from the other apps and services running on a mobile device. Mobile access virtualization occurs when a mobile device connects to multiple radio access networks (RAN) transparently to the user. Mobile core virtualization is when the evolved packet core (EPC) is fully virtualized and runs in a data center with off-the-shelf hardware.
“It is easy to talk about ‘virtualizing the mobile network,’ but the actual implementation becomes complex very quickly,” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR. “The virtualization effort permeates numerous elements, including end user devices such as smartphones and tablets, the EPC, the core SON, 4G network servers, eNodeBs, small cells, and various APIs. Consequently, mobile virtualization can mean many things to many people.”
Ernest Worthman is the editor of the Small Cell magazine.
iGR has released its latest global mobile data traffic forecast. Along with the usual metrics, the study adds a bit of a different perspective on the amount of mobile data consumed per connection, as well as per subscriber.
This is of interest because it allows iGR to develop subscriber usage profiles based on its primary and secondary research and further divide the subscribers into four different usage categories: light, medium, heavy and extreme. In the mobile data traffic model, these subscriber categories are defined by the activities and applications that tend to be used by that type of subscriber, as well as by the duration of the activity, transmission time and frequency of use.
The report is highlighted by cross tabulated results and predictions. The mobile data forecast reflects the amount of mobile data traffic, in megabytes per month, for each type of subscriber. This is a valuable metric since because it shows not only the bandwidth per subscriber, but also the signaling load on the networks.
With this report, bandwidth usage can be determined across a wider subscriber base. The report presents a more complex model that can be applied to a broader range of usage as applied to multiple devices. According to iGR’s model, as each subscriber uses more bandwidth, they are doing so on more devices and more varied types of devices. The report discusses how that will affect bandwidth loads. For more information, visit igr-inc.com/Opinion/
Metrocells may have all of the buzz right now, but DAS has the numbers, according to analysts. By 2017, DAS deployments could see more than 300 percent growth, according to iGR Research, a market Research firm, which just released a report U.S. DAS Market Forecast, 2012 to 2017 Installations, Tenancy, OpEx and CapEx and held a complimentary webcast.
DAS will become more important to carriers in the next four years and in-building systems will be the next competitive battleground as more employees are allowed to “bring your own device” (BYOD) to work, Ian Gillott, president and founder of iGR, said during the webcast.
“There are a lot of [DAS] systems out there with a single tenant, a lot with only a couple of tenants and very few with four or five tenants,” he said. “We see more tenants per DAS system later in the forecast.”
The report also forecasts capex and opex for the next five years, indicating that they will increase at roughly the same rate for that period by as much as 500 percent.
The report discusses the future of the DAS market overview and who will be the players. Currently, according to the report, only one or two operators have a serious commitment to DAS in future deployments (AT&T’s antenna solutions group is the most vocal), driving capex and opex from 2012 to 2013. However, the report does not expect major growth in capex and opex until sometime in 2015, when other major carriers get involved in DAS deployments.
“The other carriers are going to have to be more active [in in-building DAS]. They are talking about, and we will see more activity but you don’t see it right now,” Gillott said. “That’s why we will see a lull in [DAS spending between 2013 and 2014]. 2015, 2016 and 2017 will be driven by the whole industry.”
DAS Data is Most Popular Research
The webcast presented a high-level overview of DAS and the small cell infrastructure, with supporting data using the study results. It discusses what it is, where it will go and what comprises a DAS. It also looks into the immediate future with some prognostication of numbers and growth and how it will play out in the next few years, especially for large, in-building systems. High industry interest in the research would seem to validate the future of DAS.
“[DAS deployment] webinar was based on the most popular research that we have done in the last two years,” Gillott said.
The report provides an overview of the components of DAS and small cells and defines the basic parameters and components of a distributed antenna system and what type of DAS systems will be built going forward. It discusses the type of systems likely to be deployed (single vs. neutral host). The report also discusses what the philosophy is about locations of base stations and how the interconnect is implemented for remote locations. According to the report, base station hoteling will be a coexistent implementation with DAS rather than a competitor or a replacement for DAS systems.
Next, the report discusses where DAS is the preferred technology infrastructure. It goes into good detail and depth in the positioning of DAS vs. enterprise-level femto or picocells. The report makes note of the reasons and justifications for the choices and what to expect in terms of costs and ROI and challenges that need to be overcome. It also discusses what to expect from the DAS installation with respect to the installation and what, if any, complimentary technology might be required (Wi-Fi for example).
It goes on to provide a valuable discussion of the pros and cons of DAS, which takes a fairly in-depth look at the issues and explanations of the implications of the issues that surround DAS installations – data that is very valuable to system integrators, enterprise operators and third-party suppliers. This part of the presentation does one of the better jobs of culling out the issues and how they must be evaluated when deciding if DAS is a good fit or if other small cell technologies should be considered. It also addresses the capex, and subsequent opex of the deployment. Further data in the report takes a very detailed look at a large number of variables that affect DAS deployments.