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Social Media Increasingly Plays a Big Role in Public Safety

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Middle Eastern revolutions and national ad campaigns are not the only situations that benefit from social media. Natural disaster communications also can be greatly helped by effectively harnessing the opportunities of social media.

“Communication reliability depends upon how we engage through the media, and new media is the conduit through which we negotiate those relationships,” noted Marya L. Doerfel Ph.D., an associate professor at Rutgers University who focuses on natural disaster communications in a recent Alcatel-Lucent LifeTalk article, Social Media, Relationships Boost Emergency Communications

Ultra-Fast Broadband the Path to End-to-End IP Telephony and PSTN Migration

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The TDM-based public switched telephone network (PSTN) still brings in revenue, but operators need to start thinking about PSTN transformation as vendors start to move away from TDM equipment support and existing revenue from the PSTN network dries up.

Adding fuel to the need for PSTN transformation is the increasing cost of maintaining the PSTN network.

The direction of the PSTN migration is clear.  Operators need to move to an IP-based network. This has been an inevitable and desirable trend for many years. In addition, it presents the opportunity for operators to converge their voice and data services onto a single network architecture that can drive revenue and cost reductions.

Scaling Microwave Networks Effectively Requires a Mix of Optimization Techniques

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The data storm kicked up by the rise in data use from smartphones and tablet computers necessitates a focus on scaling microwave capacity efficiently.

Microwave networks can be adjusted for spectral efficiency on a link-by-link basis, but this is not practical. What’s needed is a network-based approach such as that used in the Alcatel-Lucent 9500 Microwave Packet Radio that can avoid optimizations that are only valid on a small scale, and reduce the amount of spectrum used to help save rights-of-use costs.

According to a recent Alcatel-Lucent TechZine article, operators have two good microwave scaling methods at their disposal on the topic, hierarchical quadrature amplitude modulation (HQAM) and packet compression.

Next Generation Public Safety Communications is a High Priority for Houston

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

It might be an understatement to say that Harris County in Texas takes its public safety first-responder communications seriously.

The county, which encompasses the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston, also is home to the country’s petrochemical industry. The county also is no stranger to natural disasters.  Hurricanes are common for the area, and big one named Hurricane Ike ripped through the region in 2008. In fact, Hurricane Ike was the third most costly storm in U.S. history, and $60 million has gone toward the recovery effort with another $100 million committed for the future.

As a result, natural disaster communications for enabling not just fast response during a crisis but also for preparations and dealing with the aftermath has been recognized as a top priority. The county believes that to best protect its citizens and give first-responders the capabilities they need to work in a high-performance manners is to have a communications network that is second to none. A next generation public safety communications network is the one thing they know they cannot do without when a natural disaster strikes.

Cable MSOs Need a Flexible Network Edge

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

It seems these days that no matter how much bandwidth and services multiple systems operators (MSOs) it is not enough. Subscribers want higher quality user experiences not just for their televisions but for the exploding number of other network connected devices they possess which are multiple media bandwidth hungry. 

Even if cable MSOs can meet current demands the pressure to go faster is intense, especially when the competition is only a click and a quick connection away.  This need for speed to the market and in the market is placing increasing strains on cable system architectures and creating a need to accelerate cable network IP transformation.

As Time Warner Cable senior director and chief network architect Michael S. Kelsen has written: “Cable operators are seeing their network capacity requirements double approximately every 24 months to keep up with customer demand and the launch of new services.”

One way to cope with increasing capacity demands is ensuring cable operators have a flexible network edge. A flexible network edge helps maintain growth but reduces costs at the edge of the network by supporting the evolution of residential, commercial and even mobile services.

A High-Performance Evolved Packet Core is Essential to Handle Mobile Data Demand

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The glass can be half empty or half full when it comes to mobile broadband.

On the one hand, data usage is growing at exponential rates, and seems to be no end in sight. In fact, it is projected that by 2017, the monthly mobile broadband usage of the average subscriber will reach 5 GB, according to research from Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs.

On the other hand, the emergence of LTE enables operators to more cost-effectively monetize this traffic demand by rolling out quality-of-service (QoS) guarantees for sensitive data traffic such as voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), as well as other data service packages that until recently did not make sense.

Finding the glass half full from the emerging data storm requires some planning when rolling out LTE, however. Network optimization is not a given. While LTE flattens IP traffic and enables new business models it also introduces new problems. Chief among them is increased network signaling rates.

Oil & Gas: Dynamic Communications Enables Faster, Farther and Safer Operations

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The demand for oil and gas capabilities has never been greater and continues to grow. In fact, world energy needs are expected to increase by roughly 40 percent by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, with the fast-developing China and India leading the way in energy consumption growth. The demand for oil is expected to grow by 20 percent, and gas needs should expand during this time by 50 percent. As much as dependency on fossil fuels is seen as needing to be reigned in, clearly oil and gas demand is going to go up despite greater reliance on alternatives. .

With that said, meeting energy needs is getting more complex. Hydrocarbon delivery is challenged by the fact that so much of the relatively low-hanging fruit has been plucked. The energy reserves of the future will increasingly come from deep-sea drilling, tar sands mining and other more challenging methods. Hydrocarbon delivery also will have to travel farther distances.

To effectuate cost-effective and efficient exploration and fuel deliveries in more challenging environments, it has become paramount that gas and oil communications be upgraded to next generation capabilities.

The Mobile Gateway Could Choke LTE Networks if Telcos Are Not Careful

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

LTE is the future of the network. That much is no longer in dispute in dispute.

Mobile network operators are embracing IP-based networks, and the numbers prove it. By the end of 2013, predicts the GSA, there will be 260 commercial LTE networks in 93 countries.

“Telecom operators like IP-based networks because they are interoperable and flexible,” noted Patrick McCabe, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Alcatel-Lucent, in a recent TechZine article, 3 Reasons for an IP-Optimized Mobile Gateway. “This makes them easy to modify as new IP-based functions, features, and applications become available.”

But getting there could have some bumps unless mobile network operators improve their mobile gateways, leveraging enhancements to their wireless packet cores. The mobile gateway needs to be IP-optimized if it is going to deal with the deluge of traffic that has begun and will only get worse as users get their hands on the fast speeds that come with LTE.

Chinese City Ensures its Railways Provide Superior Service by Leveraging Next Gen Communications

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Railways came into their own several hundred years ago thanks to England. But today, modern railways are being pioneered by China, which has plunged headlong into railway development as part of its rapid growth and evolution as an emerging superpower. And, as part of the deployment of its extensive next generation railroad network, Chinese railway operators are relying on dynamic next generation communications networks, to assure operational excellence and provide passengers a high-quality user experience.

When China began work on its new metro network in the city of Xi’an, home to the famous terracotta army, it wanted to ensure that it had both a cutting edge rail communications network for its operations and complete wireless coverage in stations for its passengers.

Railways See the Benefits of IP Convergence - Customer and Network Operator Perspectives

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

TDM just doesn’t cut it any longer when it comes to rail communications. Railway operations decision-makers the world over are moving from TDM-based rail solutions to a single IP-based communications network that maximizes bandwidth and delivery true multi-tenancy. When it comes to communications, rail solutions in 2013 are all about IP convergence.

“The necessity of an IP network transformation is due to the increasing need to host more services and its ability to converge these onto a single piece of infrastructure to provide a truly multi-service network,” Stefano Pasetti, director of mobile and telecommunications for Milan’s metro rail service provider, Azienda Trasporti Milanese (ATM), said recently in a blog post by Alcatel-Lucent.

MPLS-Based Networks Keep Public Safety Communications Humming

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

When it comes to first responder communications, network quality matters a lot. Public safety organizations need reliable, secure communications networks.

Traditionally, public safety networks have used plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH), synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) or synchronous optical network (SONET) TDM technologies for their networks. But as communications have evolved, TDM is proving insufficient for IP-based voice, video and data systems.

“Many public safety communications networks are evolving to broadband solutions which utilize an IP WAN for first responder radio networks, video surveillance, LTE, improved interoperability, and better integration with growing IT applications, noted a recent white paper on the topic by Alcatel-Lucent, "Mission-Critical Communications Networks for Public Safety."

IP Convergence Delivers for Railway Operators

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Rail communications have not been immune from the information technology revolution, but any new rail solutions need to be rock-solid since safety is on the line. Rail communications failure is just not an option.

Moving from separate network services to a converged IP/MPLS multi-service network is helping railway operations make a step-change in flexibility and efficiency while reducing total cost of ownership.

IP convergence--and IP/MPLS in particular—bring safety-related train control communications under a single unified architecture while delivering new railway communications flexibility.

One railway operations pioneer, Portugal’s REFER Telecom (the telecommunications subsidiary of Portuguese railway infrastructure manager, REFER E.P.E), has been using a fixed IP communications network since 2004. Since 2008 it has been running on IP/MPLS technology provided by Alcatel-Lucent.

Viable Carrier Wi-Fi Starts with ANDSF

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets have made users a little more ornery. They now expect both a high quality of experience and high bandwidth availability to run their mobile devices. Yet, this can be a challenge for operators.

One solution to tackle the bandwidth issue is leveraging carrier Wi-Fi, which eases the cellular load. But Wi-Fi has historically been challenging in terms of user experience, as logins and moving between cellular reception and Wi-Fi have made the experience anything but simple and elegant.

Policy empowered carrier Wi-Fi control looks to change that, however, delivering both bandwidth and a high quality of experience. This empowered Wi-Fi is possible thanks to 3GPP, Access Network Discovery and Selection Function (ANDSF).

How to Win the Battle of Core Router Cooling

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

As broadband traffic continues to increase, it is increasingly becoming a challenge to scale power management accordingly to keep power consumption down and heat dissipation up enough to not overhead core routers.

“Traffic growth sets off a vicious cycle in the Network Operation Center (NOC): higher power consumption to run the additional equipment, more heat generated by the additional equipment, more cooling needed to stay in optimal operating temperature range, and higher power consumption to run the cooling elements,” noted a recent TechZine article, Why Hotter Networks Need a Cooler Core, by Arnold Jansen Senior Product Marketing Manager, Alcatel-Lucent.

Shared Data Plans Mean New Charging Challenges

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The move to LTE networks, increasing data usage, and the proliferation of multiple devices per user has ushered in the concept of shared data plans.

Shared data plans offer benefits both to consumers and operators. For carriers, shared data plans mean the ability to have a single pool of data minutes that they can use across their multiple devices. For carriers, shared data plans mean increased customer loyalty and additional revenue opportunities.

However, shared data plans also mean challenges for carrier charging systems.

Alcatel-Lucent Motive Customer Experience Solutions Win Two Industry Awards

By Peter Bernstein, TMCnet Senior Editor

For those who follow the mobile industry closely, you know that mobile service providers (MSPs) are constantly on the watch for tools that will enable them to gain a competitive edge.  You are also aware from TMCnet’s coverage of the space mobile device management (MDM) is increasingly be viewed as an invaluable tool for MSPs to get better visibility into what is going on end-to-end with their customers enabling them to provide an enhanced, simpler and more customized customer experience as well as facilitate the roll out of LTE services. 

One such capability that increasingly is gaining traction with MSPs around the world is Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive portfolio of Customer Experience Solutions. And, the efforts of the Motive team have not gone unnoticed.  In fact, Alcatel-Lucent was recently honored with two industry awards in recognition of the work being done to help service providers forge stronger and more valuable customer relationships:

The Apple Loophole: iOS 7 Upgrade Impacts on Mobile Networks

By Patrick Tan, General Manager, Network Intelligence, Alcatel-Lucent

Note: Originally posted in Alcatel-Lucent Analytics Beat blog

Similar to previous iOS updates, over 50% of Apple device users upgraded their device to iOS 7 within 2-3 days of its release, 30% upgrading within the first day.  Apple made improvements to their software release process to ensure mobile networks are protected from these techno-hungry iPhone users. Specifically, the notification announcing availability of the new iOS is staggered over a few days to help spread out the signaling load.  They also implemented a “no-greater than 100 MB app size” policy which restricts apps over that size from downloading over mobile networks.  And Apple’s iOS 7 update came with a mandatory WiFi-based upgrade path. 

So, quiet day on mobile networks on September 18th?  Not quite – iOS 7 update came with a hidden cost to mobile operators.  But, only systems correlating signaling, volume, applications and device data – down to the iOS version – could detect these trends. 

In this blog, we report on Apple iOS update trends discovered using the Alcatel-Lucent 9900 WNG on mobile networks worldwide.

Managing Signaling Traffic a Must for LTE Operators

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The first wave of large-scale LTE rollouts have shown that LTE networks have significantly greater packet core signaling volume. This is partly due to the flatter, all-IP architecture of LTE where macro and micro cells are directly connected to the mobility management entity (MME), the dedicated control plane element in the evolved packet core. This is also because of the increased overall network use that comes with subscribers who have access to a faster network.

An MME can experience a sustained signaling load of more than 500-800 messages per user equipment (UE) during the normal peak busy hours and up to 1500 messages per user per hour under adverse conditions, according to a recent blog by David Nowoswiat and Gordon Milliken of Alcatel-Lucent, Managing LTE Core Network Signaling Traffic.

This is why it is incumbent that operators intelligently manage packet core signaling.

The Wireless Packet Core--How Data Moves Through an LTE Network

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The move toward 4G LTE is a seismic shift in mobile architecture inasmuch as it finally takes operators to an all-IP architecture. No more packet/TDM mix that adds complexity and slows down the network.

The rise in LTE also has meant a explosion in demand for packet core technology. Packet core revenue grew by 20 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with last year, for instance, according to research firm Dell’Oro.

The evolved packet core (EPC), as the LTE packet core is known, is both the brains and the brawn of LTE. Data goes from handsets across the backhaul network to the EPC, where the data is processed and then forwarded onto the Internet or another public or private network from the mobile provider.

Carriers Can Benefit from Shared Mobile Data Plans

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Shared minutes have been a wild success for mobile operators, and the family plans have become the norm. But now consumers want shared data plans, too, since according to Alcatel-Lucent one in every four mobile users will have more than one device by 2016. Currently 60 percent of consumers want shared data plans, and that number is likely to grow.

Shared data plans are a boon for operators, so this trend should be embraced.

Users on shared plans typically opt for larger data buckets, for one. More than a quarter of subscribers for one leading carrier choose a data allowance of 10 GB per month or larger, according to a recent TechZine posting by Daisy Su Senior Strategic Marketing Manager, Corporate Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent, The Case for Shared Data Plans.

G.fast Promises a Copper Speed Boost with VDSL2 Vectoring 2.0

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

There was a time when fiber-to the-home was seen as the future of broadband. But all that changed with the introduction of VDSL2 vectoring.

“With a single innovation, the market shifted,” noted Alcatel-Lucent colleagues Paul Spruyt and Dr. Stefaan Vanhastel in a recent blog post, The Numbers are in: Vectoring 2.0 Makes G.fast Faster. “Copper became a valuable commodity again as operators began using their copper assets to deliver fast broadband speeds faster.”

Making that copper even more valuable potentially is the new G.fast standard.

G.fast can increase aggregate bit rates over copper loops shorter than 250 m to fiber speeds of more than 1 Gb/s, the authors explained. It also delivers a cost advantage over deploying fiber directly to the home.

The trouble is that G.fast suffers from crosstalk even more than VDSL2. Tests by Bell Labs on older, unshielded cables in Austria showed that G.fast reached speeds of 500 Mb/s over 100 m when a single line was active, but they fell to a measly 60 MB/s when crosstalk was introduced as a result of a second G.fast line being added.

Playing the Mobile Data Game

If the 'price is right,' operators could win in mobile data.

By Cassidy Shield, Head of Global Solutions Marketing for Content, Cloud, and Communications, Alcatel-Lucent

I am bullish on the mobile broadband opportunity and pro mobile data share plans as an innovative approach to data pricing.  With that said, the irony of mobile data sharing plans is that you're not really sharing anything. Sure, multiple devices can pull from the same data pool, but there's no exchange of data, no bartering, and essentially no value associated with each byte.

That's how the market is today, in these early days of data sharing, but "gameification" has the potential to transform how consumers interact with their data plans.  Imagine a family of four, in fact I often imagine my family of four all on the same data plan. My wife could negotiate with our daughter, saying, "I will trade you 10 megabytes of data for doing your chores." Maybe my daughter who is quite clever doesn't want to do her chores, so he makes a similar deal with her brother. Each family could set their own rules for chore bartering, but what is interesting is that when data is treated as a currency with real value associated with it, the possibilities open up.

It's not just chore-evading children who would find this model interesting, but also advertisers and third parties. Brands are exploring every possible means to build their mobile presence, but the key lies in figuring out how to connect with mobile users by giving them what they want -- connectivity.

Network Analytics Show the Rise of Mobile Phone Malware

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

It is a scene out of a Mission Impossible movie, only the threat is real. Two product managers and a VP sit down to discuss the latest product release, one that’s been under wraps for months. While the group thinks it is safely beyond the ears of its competition, unknowingly one of those present in the meeting has had malware installed on his Android phone. The malware activates the microphone on the smartphone, and the whole meeting is taped and sent to the competition.

This nightmare scenario is unfortunately not beyond the possible these days.

Kindsight, an Alcatel-Lucent suite of solutions, leverages network-based security analytics such as its 9900 Wireless Network Guardian to reveal the latest trends on security threats to fixed and mobile networks, and its Q2 2013 Kindsight Security Labs Malware Quarterly Report reveals that the number of mobile spyware applications discovered this quarter is on the rise, according to an Alcatel-Lucent blog post, Android phones playing “I spy” at home and at work..

Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation: Capacity-Based Plans

In this seventh installment of the Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation blog series, Alcatel-Lucent’s Rich Crowe (@rhcrowe) looks at capacity-based mobile data plans. With capacity-based plans, subscribers are encouraged to use the network when it has spare capacity or to pay a little bit more as the network nears its capacity. Mobile operators can use these plans to reduce network congestion, monetize peak-time data traffic, and better manage the investment required to address continually growing demand for data.

Congested networks and wasted capacity

Fast-rising mobile data traffic – driven by increasing consumption of real-time entertainment on the go – is putting a strain on mobile networks (see Figure 1 as an example). Mobile network operators are working hard to increase capacity so they can meet peak demand and keep subscribers satisfied. Adding capacity can help ensure that users don’t encounter a slow or unresponsive network during mobile data traffic peaks. But it’s an expensive solution that means even more capacity goes unused at off-peak times. Capacity-based plans are an excellent way to slow network growth requirements while monetizing available capacity.

Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation: Loyalty-Based Plans

In this sixth installment of the Six Degrees of Mobile Data Plan Innovation blog series, Alcatel-Lucent’s Rich Crowe (@rhcrowe) examines loyalty-based mobile data plans. With loyalty-based plans, subscribers get rewards for keeping up active relationships with mobile network operators. Operators can use these plans as the basis for retaining subscribers, encouraging increased spending and data usage, or forming mutually profitable partnerships with retailers.

RAISE the bar

Airlines offer them. So do hotels, credit card companies and, yes, mobile network operators. “They” are loyalty programs that reward customers for making frequent purchases. Airlines, hotels and credit cards tend to stick to the script, offering free flights, nights and merchandise. Mobile network operators have no such script. Today, operators reward loyal customers with voice minutes, text messages, accessories, ringtones, discounted device upgrades or even dining, shopping, travel and spa services. As mobile network operators’ business models grow more data-centric, the creative use of mobile data will become essential to ensuring that their loyalty-based plans remain relevant.

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