Three Trends Moving Wireless Networks Into the Future, and Three Strategies to Help Operators Get Ready

As operators prepare to enter the next phase of wireless networking, we’re beginning to see some very specific trends emerge. As a result, the industry is being pushed forward more quickly than ever before. Even as operators shore up their LTE networks, they’re laying the groundwork for VoLTE – though, for some, their existing networks might not be ready. There’s also nascent talk about 5G, which could prove to be the next big thing.

Why the sudden forward motion? Several reasons:

 

The game has become data-centric

According to Cisco, in 2014 mobile data traffic was nearly 30 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. Clearly, data demand has significantly increased, and we’re seeing intense traffic. Things are becoming more capacity-driven. Operators need greater bandwidth to support this increased capacity.

 

Applications will continue to become more media-driven

Exacerbating this is the rapidly growing popularity in media-centric apps that use a very large amount of bandwidth. For example, the Cisco report also stated that mobile video traffic exceeded 50 percent of total mobile data traffic for the first time in 2012. This exemplifies the fact that media-driven applications are playing an increasingly prominent mobile role, which operators are struggling to accommodate.

 

Voice is still important — but data has become even more important

Voice remains a cornerstone of mobile communications, but data usage is still growing at a faster rate than voice services. The fact that there are two different delivery networks for both has created a major inefficiency headache for operators, which is driving them full-steam ahead toward VoLTE . They’re also looking at ways of automating network optimization, which may – or may not – be the best solution.

Here are a few strategies wireless operators can implement to help set themselves up for success, now and in the future:

 

Maximize the value of existing wireless spectrum

The need for greater bandwidth has led operators to become more aggressive in purchasing wireless spectrum, but even that’s not enough. They must also be focused on proactively maximizing the value of their existing wireless spectrum. Many operators have found this difficult, due to time constraints and other factors. Still, it’s an important part of the equation for operators who wish to maintain efficient networks that are optimized to handle the needs of both today and tomorrow.

 

Continue to build out Wi-Fi offerings

Another particularly interesting tidbit from the Cisco report is that by 2016 more than half of all traffic from mobile-connected devices will be offloaded to the fixed network by means of Wi-Fi devices and femtocells each month. We all know that operators are already using these technologies to offset some of the weight that’s been put on their LTE networks, and this report predicts that these technologies will continue to be very important avenues for data offload. Given that, operators should not forsake investing in alternative network technology, such as Wi-Fi, even as they continue to build out their LTE and VoLTE networks. Wi-Fi remains a very viable option, especially as more devices allow for things like Wi-Fi calling, which really became a selling point with the introduction of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+.

 

Focus on customer growth – but make sure your current network can handle it, now and tomorrow

The primary goal of many operators is to simply expand their customer base. While this is a worthy goal, it’s important to strive for it without sacrificing the integrity of the current network. Operators must discover where these customers are; identify capacity trends and forecasts; optimize their networks based on this data so they are prepared to seamlessly handle the influx; and maximize and enhance their spectrum efficiency.

— Jong-Hak Jung

 

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