|Topic:||Why business connectivity services in emerging markets must change|
|Title:||SVP, Product & Services Portfolio Management|
Ola Gustafsson joined Aviat Networks in 2013 bringing extensive experience in microwave and wireless technologies. As Senior Vice President, Product and Services Portfolio Management he is responsible for maximizing the business value of Aviat Networks’ product and service portfolio.
Prior to joining Aviat Networks, Ola spent over 20 years at Ericsson, where he had a strong impact on the development and design of several innovative microwave products. As Ericsson’s head of product line microwave and mobile backhaul, he developed and managed the roadmap and lifecycle for the entire Ericsson microwave, mobile backhaul and small cell backhaul portfolio.
For over 10 years Ola was heavily involved in the ramp up and management of the MINI-LINK™ microwave system. In addition to this, he managed the integration of Marconi microwave into Ericsson, where he delivered rapid alignment of several overlapping products and oversaw the restructuring of Marconi’s supply chain and operations.
Ola holds a Master of Science in electrical engineering (MscEE) from Chalmers University Sweden.
With the growth of bandwidth-hungry business applications, such as teleconferencing, security, video streaming and mobile commerce services, there is a relentless drive for better data connectivity and service enablement. No doubt, a key part of the MNO’s enterprise role will be to keep up with demand to fulfill the moving target of enterprises’ data connectivity expectations.
As industry analyst firm Heavy Reading points out, mobile network operators (MNOs) are only too aware of the need to provide enterprise services. Frost & Sullivan has also predicted that over the coming year MNOs will need to start to increase their role in the provision of enterprise services. With a declining ARPU from traditional consumer mobile subscribers, enriched offerings that can attract and retain high value enterprise customers are desperately needed.
One big demand from enterprises is more data, faster. With the growth of bandwidth-hungry business applications, such as teleconferencing, security, video streaming and mobile commerce services, there is a relentless drive for better data connectivity and service enablement. No doubt, a key part of the MNO’s enterprise role will be to keep up with demand to fulfill the moving target of enterprises’ data connectivity expectations.
Beyond the challenge of keeping up with expectations on capacity and speed, there is also the need for bigger change, and in fact an evolution of MNOs from their past of merely being providers of voice and data services. It means evolving into a business partner for enterprise customers, delivering value-added secure and high quality connectivity services based on mobile and cloud offerings that simplify and reduce the cost to the enterprise for IT and networking services. To do this, they must first get a connection to the enterprise’s physical location. This means that the MNOs will need to leverage their existing sites and transport infrastructure. Fortuitously, mobile operators already have most of the necessary equipment in place. However, operators often lack the ability to deliver ubiquitous packet connectivity directly from their own network edge. If they could utilize this then connectivity and cloud services could ride on top of it. In addition MNOs often face complex installation challenges, as delivering connectivity services to enterprises has not traditionally been their forte.
So what do mobile operators need to do to evolve into the next generation of enterprise connectivity providers?
Enabling packet connectivity services from cell site
Firstly, cell sites themselves must evolve to enable new business connectivity services. Right now, cell sites simply house base stations, backhaul and traffic aggregation equipment. In the near future, the cell site will need to change into a transport network architecture that accelerates the delivery of new services. It therefore must become a service delivery hub. The service delivery hub must be part of a true multiservice transport network and IP routing must be used because it is the only proven, scalable, futureproof technology on which these services can be built.
However, it is not just a case of plugging in one new devices after another. Doing so adds a lot of complexity, which of course is very counterproductive for operators. . In addition, the hub needs to be OPEX efficient from the start, since physical space at a cell site is scarce and the cost of energy is always increasing, meaning that the complexity and cost of managing the hub needs to be reduced.
Since the majority of existing cell sites are connected through microwave it is reasonable to assume that the enterprises connected from those cell sites can also be connected through microwave. This means that focus must be to transport as much revenue-generating traffic as possible in the available microwave frequencies. MNOs need a single multiservice transport IP-based device that is built for microwave transmission . It should integrate the best elements of formerly separate devices, collect the traffic from different on-site equipment (2/3/4G, WiFi, Enterprise connections, etc) and transports the traffic through the network (microwave and/or fiber) with high efficiency, predictable quality and high security. That means technology that unifies the router and transport network (both microwave and fiber) functions into a single converged device. Currently, the leading technology combining these two is a new category of product aptly named the microwave router, which was launched in early 2014. Without such integrated solutions, operators will struggle to meet capacity demands with their available microwave spectrum. And in terms of reducing the cost of data transmissions, providing packet services that are seamlessly integrated with the connectivity and transport layer for an intelligent service delivery, microwave routers are the only option.
Enterprise services ideal for emerging markets
Obviously, the enterprise services revenue opportunity for MNOs is clearer where fixed infrastructure is not already widespread. As such, the biggest benefit from these services will be in emerging markets. In addition, industries such as mining, coal, oil and gas production can benefit immensely from these types of business connectivity services offered by MNOs. In these particular industries, communication is often impacted by geographic and environmental challenges. And in many rural locations it is not financially viable for fixed line communications to be installed. Couple this with the business need to be connected to headquarters and other strategic hubs at all times, and MNOs are optimally positioned to offer new business connectivity services via their wireless networks. While there may well be messier workarounds, the option of secure connectivity solutions from their trusted wireless carrier would be a major bonus to most enterprises.
The benefits of new enterprise communications technologies are not limited to the private sector. International collaboration means governments; the public sector and academic organizations have a lot to gain too. For example, consider the healthcare industry. Hospitals and medical facilities in remote and rural regions of Africa could stay connected and share patient information and best practices quickly and securely. This type of service could very rapidly lead to improvements in patient care, saving thousands of lives and comforting millions more in distress.
Building and operating the network
For operators to build their network for the future, a key component will be a microwave router that can support differentiated services offerings (e.g. private lines, private LANs, legacy TDM transport, synchronization, etc.) over spectral efficient, high capacity wireless connections. A microwave router means fewer boxes to buy, deploy and maintain. Also, because the router and microwave radio are all in one device, the network overall will perform better with less external interconnections, meaning less latency.
By simplifying and reducing the cost of scaling networks, operators will be able to reach more customers with both network coverage and business services. A microwave router can also increase backhaul capacity, allowing for additional services to be added over pre-existing infrastructure. With MPLS routing from a microwave router, high capacity services such as teleconferencing and video calls can be prioritized and delivered faster over the network, thereby reducing latency and providing a better quality of service to an enterprise user. As for operators, these new services offer the chance to increase revenues from the enterprise sector.
However, can MNOs really offer these services? Does it make sense? MNOs are already providing the voice coverage needed to keep workers connected to their companies while in the field. It seems inevitable that mobile operators will combine these established mobility services with robust, secure and reliable enterprise data services by leveraging their existing infrastructure on the fulcrum of the microwave router. This would be an especially unbeatable proposition for enterprises in the emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.