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Predictions: 2015 and Beyond

By Ronnie Haraldsvik —

January 14, 2015 — Overall 2014 was an exciting time in the wireless world. Mobile innovations brought us the early days of wearable devices and the beginnings of the connected home. Apple and Samsung continued to push the size limits of mobile devices. Mobile consolidation efforts continued with Softbank and Sprint and T-Mobile USA brought us low-low pricing battles. 2015 has the earmarks for more monumental shifts in the mobile landscape.

In the new year, expect more focus on Network Function Virtualization (NFV) in enterprise and mobile networks, edge and cloud services and Software Defined Networking (SDN) to drive network transformation as the industry moves from capex to opex. Big Data will grow as enterprise IT vendors and mobile carriers alike leverage data analysis for localization content, context and services for advertising and brand loyalty. There will be continued focus on data security for data centers services, as well as in the enterprise and at home. Mobile network evolution from to LTE and beyond continues, especially as wearables and the growth of the “Internet of Things” make the case for improved use of higher spectrum for last mile access to enhance our quest for an “Always-on” experience.

Here are a few key predictions for the wireless market:

Mobile macro networks will see OpEx spend match CapEx spend by years end.

Network infrastructure spending is expected to be flat, but thanks to the rise of cloud services over the last few years, 2015 will mark the year that OpEx overtakes CapEx and never looks back. Even Deutsche Bank is eyeing this trend, as both carrier and enterprise IT is looking to cloud, SaaS, subscriptions and service contracts will make up the majority of spending in the year ahead.

Expect small cells and software to dominate network build out to handle need for mobile capacity.

Flat macro-cellular spending means the shift is going to be on small cell build-outs and services rather than the traditional macro-focused infrastructure spending we’ve seen in the past. Carriers will be looking for ways to enhance coverage in high-density areas using small cell networks. Expect to see in-building coverage and capacity to be the new battleground for mobile carriers by years end.

BYOD and DIY mobile in the enterprise is properly diagnosed. 

Businesses realize that BYOD is a misdiagnosis of a larger problem when trying to solve in-building mobility issues and security concerns. Originally trumpeted as a smart fiscal move, CIOs and CFOs begin to realize that without the relationships and economies of scale, enterprises begin to see its employees are treated like regular consumers and this is a disadvantage to the enterprise. CIOs realize that corporate IT are security savvy, but not mobility experts and lean on mobile operators to fix mobility problems. For enterprises, Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) devices with secure application containers becomes the preferred methods to deal with mobility, security and cost-containment by corporate IT, CIOs and professionals alike.

Connected Devices, Peripherals and Smart Buildings become a strong trend in the Enterprise.

The expected increase in wearable and connected devices, due in part by significantly lower prices as companies fight for adoption, will add a significant strain on the already-strained enterprise Wi-Fi networks, creating opportunities for 3G/4G in-building mobility solutions and services from mobile operators and computing partners. Within the next 2 years, wireless and mobile traffic demands inside the enterprise will double. This will mean IT departments will need help to better cope with dynamic capacity demands while focusing on security. Simply banning non-essential devices is not a move that works as early adopters always find work-around methods. Rather, the savvy enterprise IT team will look for ways to prioritize application usage or and cloud-source a large majority of network functions.

Expect network vendor consolidation in unexpected places.

Expect fixed-mobile consolidation to continue. Look for Nokia to expand by acquiring a core routing company, Amdocs to expand beyond software and billing services by acquiring a mobile hardware company, and finally we will see Oracle’s new management take the further into mobile by buying a hardware company.

The Silicon Valley big surprise in 2015? A Space Odyssey.

Google acquires a space company to compete with SpaceX and Virgin Galactic for space travel and exploration. Will passengers receive complimentary Google Glass devices?

Beyond 2015: Gigabit Consumption becomes the norm.

One hundred-Gigabit mobile family usage plans and Ethernet-to-the-home to become the norm. By end of 2015, individual usage will start to reach 2 Gb on average and 3-5 Gb for the top 10%. By 2018, when you hear 100 Gig plans pricing plans, you won’t blink an eye.

Ethernet-to-the-home (ETTH) will be favored over fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) in major metropolitan areas.

ETTH not only addressed the growing bandwidth demands of the consumer, but it better favors business deployments making it a more cost-effective may to bring a big pipe to over 75% of highly populated areas. This broad coverage translates to around 10% of all deployment areas giving carriers a one-two punch on both consumer and enterprise deployments.

Beyond 2015: Consumers and businesses drive demand for soft-SIM IP phones.

Apple SIM is just the tip of the iceberg for both consumer and business mobile customers looking for flexibility in selecting mobile service provider based on best service, costs, location (city or country) or handset. Carriers and OEMs that successfully meet the demands of the customer will succeed the most, but this also provides opportunities for innovative developers looking to work into the telecom marketplace.

Beyond 2015: 5G is defined by service level by 2018.

Unlike the previous mobile telephony generations that were defined by technology, 5G officially is defined by service levels. Expect 5G to not be about the airlink or access method, speed or spectrum, rather it will be about service level and quality of service.

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Ronny Haraldsvik is SVP/CMO of SpiderCloud Wireless and an industry veteran for more than 25 years.

Expedited Planning, Deployment Key to Small Cells

The biggest question that must be answered before a carrier deploys an in-building small cell system in an enterprise is whether it makes economic sense? Reducing the deployment time and cost of small cells is the key to increasing the number of enterprises that fit into that business model, Ronny Haraldsvik told AGL Small Cell Link.

SpiderCloud will announce an initiative to help mobile operators and enterprises reduce the time needed to identify, verify and deploy in-building small cell systems at the World Mobile Congress later this month in Barcelona, Spain.

The current standard rollout of a DAS is about nine to 12 months, and many operators still think that small cells will take that long to deploy. However, small cells are not nearly as disruptive to the structure of the building as DAS. A small cell deployment is more like Wi-Fi. Through a self-organizing network (SON) platform, existing Ethernet capabilities and a smartphone planning app, SpiderCloud has reduced the planning and deployment time to less than 30 days.

“With our approach, we have removed 90 percent of the time and cost normally required to deploy a system of equal scale and capabilities,” Haraldsvik said. “We have always believed the biggest challenge to the uptake of small cells in the enterprise is not whether they would work. The challenge is to change the operational procedures within the operator to speed the deployment of the system.”

One way of changing the operational procedures of carriers was to develop a pre-sales smartphone application, the EASY-30, which is designed to remove costly, complex and time-consuming steps in the decision-making process. The E-RAN Estimator calculates customer requirements taking into account the number of floors, floor area, number of employees or subscribers and access technology, then it estimates the number of radio nodes and service nodes, as well as providing insight into Erlangs, materials, dB losses and user density.

“Armed with the necessary details, the business operations team can swiftly initiate a project to build the E-RAN at the location or building,” he said. “Using SON to optimize the user experience as well as the system management, a network for 3,000 people can be set up in a matter of days by installers with Wi-Fi experience rather than macro cellular RF experts.”

With a 30-day turnaround on a contract, a carrier’s enterprise sales force can go after 1,000 accounts, instead of just 100 targeted buildings, which it would have with DAS.

“Ethernet and SON shave weeks and months off the deployment process, and the cost is no more than a Wi-Fi system. No longer does there have to be cost-sharing over a DAS because it is too expensive,” Haraldsvik said. “With the pre-sale app, we have taken away the need for several meetings and back and forth communications between the IT department and the mobile operator’s RF team.”

Vodafone Deploying Small Cell Commercially

Vodfone Netherlands began deploying SpiderCloud’s small cell technology last fall, and this month, Vodafone UK launched its Sure Signal Premium indoor small cell service for medium and large businesses.

“Working with Vodafone UK, we have made our system commercial grade,” Haraldsvik said. “We have several commercial deployments with Vodafone. We also have six LTE trials going on in the United States, and we have commercial contracts, but we have not been able to announce them yet.”

SpiderCloud’s small cell technology is being targeted at medium to large companies; in particular, it has deployments at insurance companies and financial institutions. A potential enterprise must have at least 150 employees and 50,000 to 75,000 square feet. SpiderCloud’s technology scales up to 100 radio nodes per deployment with one services node, all over Ethernet. The vendor’s largest deployment so far is nearly 80 radio nodes, which took less than three days to deploy.

“We believe small cells must feature soft handoff of voice, LTE, Wi-Fi, be easy to deploy, sit on top of an existing Ethernet, if needed, and be able to scale to handle tens of thousands of subscribers,” Haraldsvik said.

Small Cell Industry Completes LTE Testing

Equipment vendors, test tool vendors and companies providing test network infrastructure took part in interoperability testing of 3GPP Release 9-compliant FDD LTE small cells, hosted by the Sintesio test lab in Slovenia in June.

The primary objective of the event, known as a “Plugfest,” organized by the ETSI Centre for Testing and Interoperability and the Small Cell Forum, was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3GPP LTE standards in supporting interoperability between small cells and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) equipment from different vendors.

“The plugfest aims to cultivate an effective ecosystem of interoperable small cells, which creates a wider choice of small cell products and facilitates economies of scale,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, chief marketing officer, SpiderCloud Wireless, which was one of 16 companies that participated. Others included Airspan Networks, Cisco and JDSU.

Interoperability tests, monitored by test tools, were conducted between small cells and EPCs, security gateways, macro eNodeB — and as an option HeNB gateways — to verify the S1 interface implementations. In a multi-vendor HetNet environment, mobility scenarios such as handout with the macro network using S1 and X2 interfaces were tested. VoLTE (IMS) calls were also tested. The Plugfest routinely repeated tests of IPsec/IKEv2 security protocols, which allow a small cell to communicate over the public Internet to operators’ core networks in a highly secure manner.

“The objective of the Forum in helping carriers cross the chasm to mass small-cell deployments is brought much closer to realization by the results of this Plugfest,” said Gordon Mansfield, Chairman of the Small Cell Forum. “As we continue to drive certainty into the technology and business case of the small cell future, such Plugfests provide the key structural underpinning to the new generations of mobile networks.”

LTE is critical to the future of wireless; however, the reality is that it is going to be a multi-mode, multi-access world for years to come, with carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless voicing their long-term support for a joint 3G and 4G environment, Haraldsvik said.

“Some of these 3G networks will not be refarmed over to 4G technology for probably another decade or so. And there are still 2G networks out there,” he said. “Having a 4G plug fest is important, but what is more important is that we have 3G and 4G multi-mode, multi-access small cells that can work with other manufacturers’ equipment.”

When it comes to the access technologies, SpiderCloud has been compliant with the Wideband CDMA world in the transition to an all-LTE network. Most GSM providers moved to WCDMA for their 3G technology. AT&T and T-Mobile both operate WCDMA networks.

“WCDMA operators, which account for 90 percent of the world, will be providing 3G (WCDMA), LTE and Wi-Fi for quite some time. They will have a lot longer tail on 3G technology,” Haraldsvik said. 

Verizon Wireless is rapidly transitioning to LTE from CDMA, conceivably because the latter lacks the global economies of scale. SpiderCloud purposely did not build a CDMA product because of the aggressive buildout to LTE among CDMA providers, such as Verizon Wireless. It will provide them with an LTE product.