|Issue:||Europe I 2009|
|Topic:||Preparing for a wireless world|
|Author:||Alexandros Stergios Manos|
Mr.Alexandros Stergios Manos is the CEO of Intracom Telecom. Over the years, he has served in a number of executive positions within the group including as Executive Director of the Telecommunications Systems Sector, as General Manager of the Corporate Marketing and International Operations Service Unit, and as CEO of CONKLIN CORPORATION, an INTRACOM subsidiary in Atlanta, GA, U.S. Mr. Manos holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and a BA in Business Economics from Brown University and a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.
Wireless broadband and multimedia services are driving important changes in the telecom market. High-speed wireless broadband, especially LTE and WiMAX, and the growing penetration of highly portable data-centric devices – notebooks, PDAs, smartphones, etc. – means that Internet applications usually available at the home or office will become available everywhere and become personal services. To prepare for this changing environment, service providers face the challenge of building an IP-based infrastructure with greatly improved backhaul to deal with the new demands.
The emergence of wireless broadband in conjunction with the take-off of multimedia services is driving the new telecom era. Following the overwhelming global success of mobile telephony, wireless Internet is now becoming one of the fastest growing segments in the telecom market. Technology is evolving rapidly – HSPA/LTE, WiMAX, WiFi, etc., depending upon the region and the local business environment, are vital parts of the vision of ubiquitous wireless broadband communications. The penetration of notebooks, PDAs, smartphones and other portable, data-centric devices is increasing. Services are converging by combining the best attributes of the Web with the best attributes of communication networks. Established players from the Internet and media domains are becoming very active in providing content. As with the transition of voice communications from fixed lines to mobile phones, the broadband connection will cease to be tied to a particular location and will become a personal service. The applications that are usually available at home or in the office will become available everywhere. Ubiquitous broadband access enhances productivity, personal communications, social networking and entertainment on the go. New services and applications that are specifically suited to mobile usage scenarios are also appearing – mobile office, on-board entertainment, gaming and location based applications are just some examples. Service providers In response to market trends and customer demands, wireless carriers extend their focus not only to retain their customer base, but to attract new subscribers that will appreciate the value of wireless broadband services. To succeed in this marketing war, carriers are launching innovative services, bundled into compelling packages and offering them with flexible price options. Nowadays, wireless providers often give laptops for free with a new broadband subscription. Flat data tariffs, following the wireline Internet paradigm, are increasingly common. Consequently, over time, data demands are expected to grow significantly due to the growth in mobile broadband penetration and the introduction of LTE and WiMAX high-speed mobile broadband services. As far as technology and networks are concerned, the majority of operators are already deploying advanced wireless broadband technologies. However, this is not the only strategic movement they have to make. Identifying possible bottlenecks in their legacy networks as well as possible operational inefficiencies, personnel know-how shortcomings and the like and removing them is vital for their success. In this effort, special attention is placed on controlling costs by investing strategically in order to reduce capital and operational expenditures in the medium and long run. Service agnostic infrastructure and IP backhaul Radio backhaul is a good example of a network segment that is often seen as a possible show stopper for wireless broadband. Backhaul capacity demand is already very high and it will continue to rise thanks to consumer adoption of bandwidth-hungry applications. Operators cannot afford to postpone backhaul investments because of the risk of losing customers. As a result, operators are planning ahead to ensure they have the right technology and adequate capacity in place for current and future demands. The selected transport solutions in particular should be future-proof, simple, scalable, secure, cost-efficient and provide carrier-class performance. When defining the backhaul network evolution strategy the essential principles are: • optimize capital expenditures and plan so that traffic growth will have little, if any, impact upon operating expenses; • guarantee the quality and availability of services; • facilitate network evolution towards NGN architectures; • exploit synergies with existing IP/MPLS core backbone networks; and • organise for a smooth migration of legacy systems to the target architecture In the exciting path towards wireless broadband networks, convergence of transport is the technical foundation for convergence as a whole. Applying this principle to all underlying transmission media is essential, especially with the backhaul network. When it comes to the selection of the proper transport technology, IP/Ethernet is generally seen as the most appropriate technology because it is future-proof and gives cost, capacity and scalability advantages. All of the new wireless standards adopt IP/Ethernet as their transport technology because mobile data traffic is inherently IP based. Moreover, flat, all-IP architecture is the long-term vision for telecom networks. The backhaul network typically includes multiple physical access technologies such as microwave (MW), copper and fibre, depending on the specific customer case and access network topology. Microwave point-to-point (PtP) links have been the most widely used last-mile backhauling choice for many operators and will remain very important elements of future wireless backhaul solutions. To succeed in their new role, modern MW PtP solutions are built upon state-of-the-art packet-based technology to provide cutting-edge radio performance, full IP/Ethernet capabilities and sufficient capacity for multiple radios and applications. Another valid choice for the last mile access is MW point-to-multipoint (PtMP) technology. PtMP solutions based on multiservice platforms are offering unrivalled capacity, packet switching optimization, dynamic bandwidth allocation and high spectral efficiency along with deployment simplicity and reduced installation costs. Wireless operators also appreciate the ability of powerful MW systems to support flexibly both PtP and PtMP applications depending on site requirements, thus optimising backhaul and services. While evolving from existing TDM based MW backhaul systems to all-IP ones, many operators would like to have the option to deploy MW systems that simultaneously support legacy services and IP based applications and employ techniques that convert legacy traffic streams to IP. A smooth modernization plan would provide sufficient time to ensure that all technical challenges are met and confidence that quality of service as perceived by consumers is not affected. Finally, powerful end-to-end management systems are needed to help carriers configure, maintain and control networks and services with a minimum of human effort; this would optimise internal resources and help familiarise personnel with the new operational practises. There is no doubt that the new wireless communications landscape will be exciting for consumers that will enjoy high-speed multimedia applications on the go. It will also be exciting and profitable for wireless carriers that manage to address the deployment and operational challenges in a proper and timely manner. The underlying technology is not the main differentiator; end users are technology agnostic. This philosophy needs to underlie the telecom operator’s deployment of network elements. Wireless carriers must understand the need to invest strategically and evolve to future-proof IP networks. No single bottleneck in the network can be overlooked. Of equal importance is to prepare their organizations to master future network and customer demands and manage the shift from the traditional voice-centric world to an all-IP one. To this end, wireless carriers should rely on strategically selected partners that are able to provide best of breed end-to-end solutions that fit the operator specific requirements. There is no single solution that fits all of an operator’s needs. A partner that listens carefully to operator requirements, analyses its needs and flexibly selects components to build an overall system is most likely to build an optimal solution. Technology partner/system integrators that understand all the technical and operational challenges of the new wireless era are best positioned to provide solutions, support and guidance and make the transition towards IP based networks a smooth and productive experience.