LTE a must-have to manage the explosion in mobile data: Alcatel-Lucent

Local telco LTE trials are timely, but HSPA to remain a competitive technology, analysts say

Telstra’s announcement that it is to trial LTE technology may be very timely given the ballooning rate of mobile data consumption.

Speaking overnight in a web presentation, the president of IP division and carrier, group portfolio strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, Basil Alwan, said mobile network operators were battling with an explosion in data consumption over mobile networks.

“Mobile networks are under intense pressure not only from the scaling number of subscribers but from the evolution of smartphones,” Alwan said. “It is creating great challenges — not just in one component [of the network] but across the board.”

According to Alwan, users of newer smartphones, such as the iPhone, consumed about 250-350MB of data per month — about 10 times the amount of traditional smartphone users.

“The top 10 per cent of those new smartphone users actually consume 10 times that,” he said. “So your most aggressive users are consuming a massive amount of data on the network… we are talking two to three 3GB of data per month as opposed to the average iPhone user.

“We are just at the start… as smartphones penetrate further onto the network this challenge is only going to grow.”

Alwan said prior to the introduction of newer smartphones, network capacity planning had been relatively straight forward. With the introduction of IP and applications which could use the network freely, however, the ability to plan for bandwidth was “completely compromised.”

“[Network owners] are having to rebuild their networks or rethink how the network is built in order to handle these kinds of capacity demands,” he said. “The other issue is how to monetise the network over time; we need to managed subscribers and charge them in different ways.

“That requires dynamic network intelligence where given a certain subscriber or geography or time of day pr application — [the network owner] provides different levels of service.”

According to IDC telecommunications analyst, David Cannon, evolving High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and forthcoming MIMO technology was likely to be able to keep up with mobile broadband demands until national LTE networks became feasible some time in 2014 or 2015.

“The direction HSPA is going, and the evolutionary process Telstra is taking with their HSPA network — the HSPA+ technology they are launching probably next month — will still go a long way in the market,” he said.

“They have a dual carriage HSPA+ solution they are launching probably next month, which will give download speeds of about 30 megabits in ideal conditions. Then they’ll move to a technology called MIMO — Multiple Input Multiple Output — which has theoretical download speeds of 86 megabits. Realistically that will offer consistent speeds of about 25 megabits which will make it an ideal fixed wireless last mile solution.

“By the time LTE is feasibly available in the country, HSPA technologies will be quite good,” Cannon added. “The WiMax solution Vividwireless is about to deploy launch will also put them on the same path that the telcos are on in moving to true 4G.”

Ovum telecommunications analyst, Nathan Burley, also expressed confidence in existing HSPA technology and said that LTE deployments would be limited in Australia until the 700MHz and 2.6GHz spectra were freed up in 2013 or 2014.

“We also think Vividwireless does have a lot of spectrum and it will enable them to have a lot of capacity,” he said. “No doubt they’ll provide viable mobile broadband offers but they’re really going to be up against it with the current HSPA offers that are in the market.”

Alwan also used the webcast to announce the launch of Alcatel-Lucent’s next generation packet core which including the company’s’ Wireless Mobility Manager, 7750 Service Router, 5780 Dynamic Service Controller and 5620 SAM.

Questions have been raised in the past about LTE’s implications for network neutrality.

Optus parent company, SingTel, also announced in November last year that it would trial LTE by the middle of this year.

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