LTE might be mature as a technology but it’s still yet to be deployed in many networks. We speak to Nemanja Ognjanovic, manager of network and services planning department, Telekom Srbija about the challenges that remain for operators looking to deploy. Ognjanovic is one of the discussion leaders of the Service Innovation track for Voice, Video and Roaming at the Operator Mindshare, taking place on the 23rd June at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.
At what stage are your LTE deployment plans and what are the key challenges that you expect to face?
LTE is not deployed by any operator in Serbia yet, but Telekom Srbija is committed to implement it as soon as all the technical and regulatory requirements are met. The network has already been in the process of modernization towards LTE for several years through the introduction of “single RAN” base station cabinets that allow for the co-location of 2G/3G/4G equipment in the same cabinet. Furthermore, the upgrade of core network and necessary backhaul links to meet traffic requirements is ongoing, while waiting for regulatory issues to be solved.
In general, the key challenge for LTE implementation is not on the technical side, but on the commercial side, since the required significant investment cannot be easily monetized through service subscription and mobile data plans. The technical deployment should be followed by a proper marketing campaign aimed at attracting subscribers and creating of relevant LTE customer database.
Are you experiencing the widely predicted data explosion right now, and are confident your network will be able to handle it?
We have been facing the data explosion for several years already, which occurred with the growth of smartphones, their applications and the change of customers’ behaviour. The traffic has increased roughly three times in the last two years. However, there were not many bottlenecks in the network—the planning, both short term and long term, was done to meet this growth.
By coming later to the LTE party than others are you able to implement latest release technologies such as LTE Advanced?
The LTE deployment will start with Release 8, but further development will certainly follow in the future. To be more precise, eNodeB software will support release 10, but the overall implementation of LTE-A cannot be predicted at the moment, neither can other related technologies such as VoLTE and eMBMS, since there is not enough feedback regarding the acceptance of 4G technology by the customers.
What is your view on NFV and SDN – are these just buzz words or are they relevant to your planned network deployment?
There is a clear commitment to follow the trends imposed by the industry leading network suppliers with which we co-operate. Among these trends NFV and SDN are certainly seen as an evolutionary step in some parts of the network. For the first step we have already moved from a dedicated hardware architecture towards multi-purpose hardware for some network elements, and as the final goal we are heading towards s cloud-based architecture. But this is a long term process, and will be done in phases. As phase one, some purely software based applications will be virtualized, followed by network nodes responsible for the control plane. At the end of this process, we expect the data plane also to be processed in the cloud, but there is still no clear roadmap and timeline for this goal.
As you look to upgrade your radio network is there enough emphasis placed on backhaul?
We are focused on the backhaul as well as on the access, not only by providing proper link capacity to fulfil traffic requirements, but also by implementing new approaches for the backhaul. The concept of “all IP” enabled us to plan the network more flexibly, by aggregating fixed and mobile backhaul. Furthermore, we are looking into more innovative solutions, such as backhaul via unlicensed bands (e.g. Band-E), which would help us where ever the optical backhaul links are not feasible.
The Operator Mind Share 2014 is taking place on the 23rdh June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.