Once again the LTE World Summit returned to the sunny streets on Amsterdam, or at least to the interior of the RAI exhibition centre, which is nearly as good. This time up on stage a live Twitter feed was visible behind the speakers, providing an opportunity for those in the audience to get their Tweet up on the big screen in real-time – always a thrill.
Proceedings were kicked off by Erik Hoving, CTO of KPN. Hoving reiterated a theme that he has expressed before from this platform – that operators need to move away from specifications and become more people centric.
“We need to figure out the role of the smartphone,” he said. “The future isn’t about LTE or 5G, it’s about users. If we don’t understand users, we don’t have a role to play. We need to move to a user centric world.”
He also noted that there was an increasing need to increase data security to match what was being done by the “Google’s and Apple’s of the world”, by which he presumably means Google and Apple.
Despite it being only 9:15am, next up was a ‘fireside chat’ with Günther Ottendorfer, CTO of Telekom Austria Group, who provided an update of the state of the carrier’s LTE roll-out. Of his comments, the stand out was his opinion that while carrier Wi-Fi was one of the most promising features of the last ten years the right approach to this had not been found, with the suggestion that free Wi-Fi undermined the business model.
He also revealed himself to be a smart watch wearer having tried everyone that has come to market so far. We’re in IoT territory here. But will it generate revenue, interviewer Mark Newman, Informa analyst asked? Not directly admitted Ottendorfer, but the general increase in service will bring in the revenue, which seems like a reasonable response.
He also gave us a great example of M2M in action – a map in Austria that indicates which roads are clear of snow thanks to M2M in the snow ploughs – a smart city in action. We like.
He also mentioned VoLTE as bringing an improvement particularly but warned that, “we shouldn’t over hype of over promise in the beginning.” NFV was also name checked as a key technology, with Telekom Austria trials taking place in Serbia and Croatia. “It will be a revolution,” he said, “When we have a common hardware platform and you can put apps on that.”
Ying Weimin, president of GSM/UMTS/LTE Network for Huawei stepped up next and presented the UK’s EE and South Korea’s LGU+ as benchmark LTE deployments – no coincidence that Huawei are one of their main vendors. For EE Huawei was now able to upgrade a site to LTE in only 10 minutes, compared to the five hours it used to take. He revealed that EE is also trialling 300Mbps carrier aggregation, VoLTE and eMBMS, in the London tech city area.
As a Londoner it does seem me to that the Korean carrier is the more impressive deployment – with full LTE coverage providing a ubiquity of speed that we can still only dream about in London, let along across the rest of the UK. The ‘No Edge LTE’ Weimin referred to it provided by a mix of 800MHz, 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz. But as we saw from the video Weimin played, no one could get in the way of South Korean’s and their desire to download cartoon Manga style videos on the move. Fair play.
Next up was Hugh Bradlow, CTO of Telstra coming in via Skype all the way from Australia. I’m led to believe the call was made on a fixed connection but an LTE one would probably have served him better, as audio feedback caused several lulls in the conversation. Nevertheless, Bradlow was able to tell us about Telstra’s successful LTE Broadcast trials of a cricket match. Quizzed as to whether it would be a success in the long term, he was honest enough to admit that he didn’t know, but that it would take several years rather than just one to find out if the technology had any legs.
The cost of adding the technology to a handset was minimal he said, and that the mobile handset industry should be pushed to increase the eco-system.
Mallikarjun Rao, CTO, Vodafone Netherlands, took us through the network’s roll out with the main message that the customer experience was key. Rai said that its LTE deployment was built around active antennas, which it found brought a 30 per cent increase in coverage over passive. Coverage, rather than peak speeds was the emphasis and that by 1 October 2014 it expected to have 100 per cent LTE coverage with up to 225Mbps in 50 cities and LTE roaming in 24 countries.
Small cells was also a major focus and these were deployed as part of a long term strategy, without a specific business case, rather than just a knee jerk reaction to a local capacity cruch situation.
The final session of the morning was a panel on Network Innovation, and ‘Paving the way to 5G’ – hey, why not think big?
Haitham Abdulrazzak, CTO of Etisalat, revealed that it had the aim of turning Dubia into a totally connected city and was increasing investments to so with a focus on combining the data centre and exchanges.
Kerstin Günther, SVP Technology Europe, Deutsche Telekom explained the the main driver to move to new technologies such as NFV was to bring the flexibility to bring a faster time to market.
Erik Hoving, CTO, KPN Group returning to the stage for the panel said that innovation was the key for the telecoms industry if it was to compete with the big OTT players. “The iPhone was more innovation then we did in ten years – let’s not be naive,” he admitted.
Yousef Abu-Mutawe the CTO of Zain Jordan said that most investment up to now has been to reduce cost per bit, in order to make networks cheaper to run and to maximize profits.
However, he was concerned with that the technology life cycles were too short to gain a real ROI and called another vendors to create a clearer and more realistic technology roadmap so that operators could better plan their network life-cycles.
“Today most of the depreciation factor in our business case is up to eight years, and I believe with current 3G and 4G this becomes unrealistic. And it has to come a bit shorter and that requires thinking about. I do believe right now every three years or five year we need to ‘grow a new cow’, in order to revive the network. And this is will put a huge burden on operators to continue the investment, and monetize.”
Presumably the cow Abu-Mutawe is thinking of is one made of cash, and proverbial –after all, a cow in a data centre would be almost as bad as a bull in a china shop, but we get the message.
Günther Ottendorfer, CTO, Telekom Austria Group was certain the NFV would be the change the industry needed describing it as “a revolution in the core”. But Günther was more cautious and said that telcos still needed to bring order to their infrastructure. “When you virtualise chaos, you still have chaos,” she said.
Finally, it was observed that the pact with Europe to work with South Korean operators on 5G was not enough, if Europe was going to take the lead in the area as EU Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes has stated.
Overall, it was a morning full of debate, insight and vision, and NFV was the technology that was never too far from the lips of many of the speakers. We’ll see if that’s a theme that is continued tomorrow, for Day Two of the LTE World Summit.