|Europe II 2008
|The Wireless broadband revolution
|Managing Director; CTO
|WiMAX Telecom GmbH, Austria; WiMAX Telecom AG, Switzerland
Peter Ziegelwanger is the Managing Director of WiMAX Telecom GmbH in Austria and CTO of the WiMAX Telecom Group. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the telecommunications business. Mr Ziegelwanger held several executive management positions in operations and sales in telecommunications companies such as Ericsson Austria, Airpage (CTO), RSL COM Austria (COO, now eTel Austria) and Memorex Telex Communications AG (COO). His last position was as Head of International Carrier Management in Telekom Austria. Peter Ziegelwanger graduated in Civil Engineering and Atomic Physics from the Technical University of Vienna and has an extensive technical background in the telecommunications sector.
The Internet is becoming an indispensable tool for many; the demand for mobile Internet access is simply the latest manifestation of its growth. People want access, wherever they are, not only to voice, but to broadband for business applications, and for everything to social networks, videos, live TV, and entertainment of all sorts. Existing mobile networks and mobile devices cannot handle the traffic efficiently. The next generation of handsets and devices will be WiMAX capable for high-speed Internet access.
Changes in telecoms The telecoms industry has experienced many changes in past years, from market de-regulations and the boom years of mobile telephony to the Internet hype. The fixed network voice telephony market is saturated and mobile networks now carry more traffic than fixed networks. This was a natural evolution, built upon the convenience of the small, portable, mobile phone handset that users carry everywhere, at home and abroad, so they can be reached at their personal phone number anywhere and anytime. The freedom and convenience of mobile telephony has driven its acceptance around the globe. Today mobile telephony is an inseparable part of our lives, despite its occasional inconvenience. The Internet brings a similarly pervasive experience and we use it constantly for business and personal matters. Certainly, its main use is for business, but it also plays a significant role in our private lives. In many instances, we cannot work without an Internet connection, although we might be able to work without a telephony connection for a while. Not being able to send and receive emails gives some business people today the feeling that they cannot do their job properly. The Internet was originally used to access information; it has improved private and business services such as online banking, trading stocks, government services and the like. Today email, a person-to-person communication utility, is the most widespread Internet application for both business and private users. The demand for Internet connectivity has resulted in significant growth rates for broadband access. Incumbent operators tend to provide broadband access based on the existing copper line infrastructure; they use digital technology (DSL – digital subscriber line) to increase the data transfer rates over standard fixed voice lines. Cable TV operators are another group of operators that have residential access infrastructures. Many have upgraded their networks so that, in addition to (unidirectional) broadcasting, they can handle bidirectional traffic for high bandwidth Internet access. Internet usage The need for broadband, high-speed, Internet connectivity is mainly due to bandwidth hungry applications, big volume content distribution and machine-to-machine communications. Having said that, voice telephony has increased whenever it has been made easier for people to use, as with mobile telephony. The introduction of new technologies, though, tends to drive the growth of data volume. Today, given the high-speed access available, users have little notion of the volume of data they are sending and receiving on the Internet. Most of today’s advanced software just ‘assumes’ it always has on high-speed broadband Internet access. There are natural, physical, limitations on voice communications, but machines do not have the same limits; Webcams, for example, can produce an enormous amount of data depending on the resolution and streaming system used. Today, social networking is growing on the Internet. Platforms like YouTube, Facebook and MySpace allow multimedia communication between individuals and groups wherever they may be in the world. Although this is just the beginning of community platforms, they already dominate such highly developed Internet markets as South Korea. These platforms call for new attitudes and behaviour on the part of their participants if they are to effectively use the Net to communicate with others. Currently, given the widespread availability of mobile broadband, people can connect to their communities anytime and anywhere. Sending photos over the Internet or mobile networks to friends is slowly replacing text-only messaging; it is more personal to send a photo or video clip since it is richer in personal content, similar to a person-to-person phone call – the future is ‘personal’ broadband. Nevertheless, the new emphasis on personal communications requires new devices and networks. People always need to communicate, and not only while sitting at home in front of their computers. The rising demand for wireless broadband and advanced mobile devices reflect the need for increasingly personal, increasingly ever-present, communications. Always on Internet devices The new 45 nanometre chip technology permits the design of mobile devices with greatly reduced power consumption. These devices will be as powerful as existing notebooks or desktop computers, but as small as PDAs (personal digital assistants) or mobile gaming consoles, making a new generation of mobile devices – MIDs or mobile Internet devices – possible. The main MID applications are web browsers, email clients, VoIP soft-clients and multimedia control software for video encoding and decoding. To simplify the development of future applications, open APIs – application programming interfaces – are available that give software developers access to the multimedia and connectivity features of the operating system. The devices offer always-on connectivity to high speed Internet, but they require the high bandwidth, low latency, networks that only WiMAX or WiFi networks provide. The key is definitely the operating system; as with PCs, the operating system defines usability and convenience. The power of the applications depends upon the operating system and the platform that drives the mobile devices – and the applications drive new markets. The new devices will deliver a full, no compromise, Internet experience, smaller, but similar to that of a home PC connected to DSL or cable broadband. This means there are no limits to the Internet services and applications available. Nevertheless, the networks for mobile Internet have to provide the same performance as fixed networks, since Skype calls, YouTube video viewing and publishing all demand low latency and high bandwidth uplinks. Many specific devices dedicated to Internet applications will come to the market in the near future, but all types of electronic consumer device – like gaming consoles, digital cameras and navigation systems – will be connected to the Internet. Car electronics and home security systems also demand, and will get, connectivity for maintenance, or usability and remote control. Connectivity must be cheap and efficient so highly integrated chipsets are required. WiMAX technology provides the required, standardised, ecosystem of chipset vendors, integrators and low patent license fees that can make Internet connectivity for all kind of electronic devices affordable. Demand for new wireless networks Devices that provide services based on Internet connectivity need that connectivity anytime and anywhere. Certain Internet applications are not as bandwidth hungry as others. Email, for example, has limited real-time requirements compared to VoIP (voice over IP). Users accept delays sending and receiving email, but VoIP and video telephony are more demanding; delays are not acceptable. They need wireless broadband networks with real time connectivity and 80kbit/s to 200kbit/s of full-time bandwidth available for both downlink and uplink. Video streaming for non-real-time content requires high bandwidth, but not necessarily continuous connectivity as video content can be buffered on the device. Mobile devices generally offer several Gigabytes of storage that can be used for buffering. Pushed by new mobile Internet devices and the ‘connected life’, the most demanding job will be providing the right networks. Fixed networks will always provide the highest speeds and richest applications like video broadcasting and streaming in highest resolution, but, similar to the mobile telephony revolution, wireless networks will give the highest growth rates and revenues as they serve the demand everywhere and offer personalized communications connecting every person and machine via wireless networks. As all these applications ask for uncompromised connectivity; open access to existing mobile networks is not good enough since they were built for voice telephony. UMTS networks, even upgraded with HSPA, cannot satisfy the bandwidth and latency requirements of new applications and devices. They are limited by spectral efficiency as well as the network architecture, which works well for voice, but not for IP. New technologies like WiMAX give users a much better ‘always-on’ Internet experience, very similar to the WiFi networks used for home and office wireless networks, and WiMAX also allows cost efficient implementation in small mobile devices; WiMAX affords an end-to-end IP architecture for personal broadband. Finally, new wireless networks will be capable of mobile broadcasting and multicasting to deliver real-time video and TV channels to end-users. Mobile devices will be both personal communications and entertainment devices. Demand for mobile and personal broadcasting will increase, and live TV, movies and music on demand will be delivered to mobile devices anywhere. The future of wireless is mobile multimedia and personal broadband supported by new devices and new networks.