By Mae Kowalke
Wireless operators and those who supply them infrastructure spend a lot of time focusing on the ‘data storm’ and what they are doing to stay one step ahead of it. The goal is to deliver more data, faster, with a better customer experience and greater economies of scale than in the past. Thanks to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, these goals are now within reach.
“According to the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 4G LTE is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever,” said Maniam Palanivelu, director of global 4G LTE solutions marketing at Alcatel-Lucent, in an Enriching Communications article, “LTE: The Best Thing to Happen to Wireless Networks.”
Palanivelu cited GSA figures indicating there are now 49 commercial LTE networks in 29 countries, and that is forecasted to reach 119 networks in 53 countries by the end of 2012. Two hundred and eight-five operators in 93 countries are actively investing in LTE. In fact, the evolution toward 4G LTE is occurring in developing and developed markets alike.
“Operators in developing markets are using LTE to cost effectively bring the mobile Internet to areas that previously had no Internet access at all…In developed markets, premium data services, such as mobile video, gaming and business apps, need LTE’s big bandwidth and low latency,” Palanivelu explained.
For operators, the need to deliver more data is the driving force behind LTE adoption. Customers got a taste for data with 3G, and changed their behavior in response. With average consumption per device growing 14-20 fold, it is clear users want more data. They also are indicating they want it sooner rather than later. The advertising push by service providers on who has the best and/or most extensive 4GLTE deployment demonstrates how critical expeditiously deploying not just 4G LTE but also Wi-Fi hotspots has become. Make no mistake about the fact that operators are committing infrastructure dollars behind their marketing claims.
The cellular carriers have it right about the imperatives for acting, Palanivelu says, “Now is the time for operators to seize this opportunity and profit from the growing data storm,” and LTE clearly is the technology they need to meet exploding demand.
The article makes other compelling points about LTE that highlight its attraction. Delivering more data isn’t the only advantage. LTE also provides a graceful migration path to move to a scalable all-IP architecture.
“It no longer makes business or financial sense to run multiple disparate networks,” Palanivelu states. He continues that, “To deliver the massive capacity required to serve the demand, today’s networks must change. Unlike 3G, LTE is all IP. It’s based on IPv6 which supports massive numbers of additional IP addresses and provides other improvements over IPv4. And it opens up access to new market segments like machine-to-machine.”
Although return on investment for LTE varies for each operator the path forward is clear. Deployment is now no longer a question of if, but when, where, why and how. The proof cases are impressive.
“The faster operators can bring LTE to market, the faster they can rise above the data storm to grow profitably and drive new revenues,” Palanivelu concluded. “Once they have the spectrum, there’s no reason to wait another day to invest in LTE and commercialize its vast potential.” He could have added with a 4G iPhone on the way, and tablet sales creating a tsunami of demand for quality user experiences on devices of all shapes and sizes, failure to deploy LTE and correctly architect not just the network but the business model could be hazardous to one’s competitive health.