By Mae Kowalke
Long term evolution (LTE) has emerged as the dominant technology for enabling 4G wireless broadband networks. The question for operators is no longer which technology revolution to join, but rather how to optimize their networks and reduce operating expenditures (OPEX) using LTE.
Focusing on network optimization is the key to successfully adopting LTE. With this lens, it is possible to create a migration strategy that addresses service level agreement (SLA) key performance indicators (KPIs) and other business concerns.
In a recent Enriching Communications article, Wireless Optimization Makes Good Business Sense, two analysts from Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE Services division (Christophe Blachier, Director, and Olivier Guéret, Senior Marketing Manager) cited figures from a January 2011 Global Mobile Suppliers’ Association report, which support the observation LTE is the future of 4G.
According to the report, there are now 128 LTE network commitments in 52 nations, and another 64 such commitments are expected by the end of 2012. Trials of LTE technology are increasing in number.
Although 4G is the future of wireless broadband, the LTE technology and network management tools needed to create tomorrow’s networks and revolutionize digital delivery does come at a short-term cost. Capital expenditures (CAPEX) investments in new technology are most likely to be rolled out in phases, rather than all at once.
“As LTE overlay is CAPEX-intensive, operators will choose to scale deployments over several years,” Blachier and Guéret predicted. “They will cover high-traffic areas first, and then extend to less demanding areas.”
Eventually, the 2G and 3G spectrum will be completely relocated to 4G LTE, but in the meantime several technologies must coexist and complement each other. Operators will take a gradual migration approach in order to overcome several key challenges inherent with moving to a new technology:
- Integrating and operating multi-technology networks
- Scaling gradually while managing deployment costs
- Managing wireless access capacity while transforming backhaul networks to all-IP
- Maintain quality of experience (QoE) for end users
Alcatel-Lucent’s Blachier and Guéret recommend that operators take a close look at three main options for network optimization using LTE, with an eye on addressing a surge of data traffic:
- Find intelligent ways to reduce the amount of data moving through the network
- Optimize the existing infrastructure to increase capacity
- Add extra capacity
The best approach for one operator may not be right for another, and even within each approach there are various options. For example, the amount of data can be reduced through various methods including eliminating incompatibility between terminals, removing irrelevant data transmissions, and optimizing video delivery.
Regardless of the approach taken, migrating to LTE will involve some tough choices. Choosing the right technology partners will be a key element in successful network transformations.
“A solid strategy and an experienced partner are essential to ensure the process is carefully managed and that end-user QoE is not interrupted,” Blachier and Guéret emphasize. “Network analysis expertise and unique decision-making tools coupled with professional services can help operators optimize their wireless networks today and plan the right LTE migration strategy.”
Read the full article for more discussion on this topic, including details about the three options for network transformation.
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