Posts tagged ‘backhaul’

Bringing Accurate Synchronization to Small Cell Backhaul

This guest post was written by Alon Geva,Timing & Synchronization Expert, CTO Office, RAD Member of the ITU-T SG15/Q13 Sync Standardization Group

This guest post was written by Alon Geva,Timing & Synchronization Expert, CTO Office, RAD & Member of the ITU-T SG15/Q13 Sync Standardization Group

Delivering sub-microsecond time accuracy to the cellular base stations is one of the major challenges facing cellular providers as they deploy their new LTE networks. This is exacerbated by LTE-A’s stringent synchronization requirements and the growing use of small cells in 4G networks, which create unique challenges in the backhaul segment.

Before the debut of 4G, the standard way to deliver a time reference was to install a Global Navigation Satellite System, or GNSS (e.g., GPS) at every cell site. A GNSS receiver is usually referred to as a Primary Reference Time Clock (PRTC). This approach is impractical in 4G, however, given the far greater number of cell sites, the intended indoor location of part of the antennas (e.g. shopping malls), as well as the growing concern about possible jamming and spoofing. Furthermore, considerations of CapEx and OpEx render this approach highly ineffective.

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Heterogeneous Networks – How complex can they get?

It’s no secret that mobile networks are under tremendous stress, and data capacity is at an all-time high. Consumers want and require constant connectivity and the standards have become very high, making operators play catch-up with the higher set of expectations from customers.

Take airport Wi-Fi as an example…just a few years ago it did not even exist, and today, customers are outraged when it is not available or it is of poor quality. The feeling has become that Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity and the ability to connect is no longer a service, but a common human right.

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Interview: Engineer, Sri Lanka Telecom: “I see fewer engineering challenges and more commercial and financial challenges.”

Anuradha Udunuwara, Engineer, Sri Lanka Telecom

Anuradha Udunuwara, Engineer, Sri Lanka Telecom

Anuradha Udunuwara, Engineer, Sri Lanka Telecom is speaking on Day One of the 9th annual LTE Asia conference, taking place on the 23rd-25th September 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

In this Q&A Udunuwara tells us about the challenges facing Sri Lanka Telecom’s network, and what the most important technologies to look at for enhancing the network.

What are the major network-related engineering challenges you expect to face over the next 12 months?

In terms of challenges, I see fewer engineering challenges and more commercial and financial challenges. While technology and engineering enables us to overcome most of the challenges, the real challenge for operators will be how to minimize CAPEX/OPEX/TCO and increase revenue/profits. That requires innovation, common sense, changing plans and taking risks.

On the network side, what’s important is supporting the increased bandwidth requirements and optimizing packet transport techniques. Major challenges will arise in supporting migrations from legacy [Circuit/TDM (Time Division Multiplexing)] to next generation [Packet/IP (Internet Protocol)/Ethernet]. On the financial side the challenge will be how to best make future-proof investments.

How are you using analytics on your networks to gain more subscriber knowledge?

Network analytics are important in order to gain knowledge about the behaviour of the traffic in the network. If you correctly translate this knowledge, you can gain a good understanding of how the subscriber/user/consumer/customer applications behave, and eventually, how the individuals behave. This knowledge helps operators to perform the required network and service optimizations, introduce or change products to suit that behaviour, and finally to take informed investment decisions. We are working on these lines and would like to focus more on this area in the future.

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Interview: manager of network and services planning department, Telekom Srbija: “In general, the key challenge for LTE implementation is not on the technical side, but on the commercial side.”

Nemanja Ognjanovic, manager of network and services planning department, Telekom Srbija

Nemanja Ognjanovic, manager of network and services planning department, Telekom Srbija

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.

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Interview: Division Head Network Quality Assurance for Indosat: “Carriers need to start to migrate from radio backhaul to fibre”.

Jeremiah Ratadhi, Division Head Network Quality Assurance for Indosat, Indonesia

Jeremiah Ratadhi, Division Head Network Quality Assurance for Indosat, Indonesia

Jeremiah Ratadhi, Division Head Network Quality Assurance for Indosat, Indonesia is speaking on the challenges of providing backhaul for rural areas, on Day Two of the LTE Asia conference, taking place on the 18th-19th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore. Ahead of the show, we find out more about the challenges of providing backhaul for LTE in the region.  

What have been the main developments and major milestones for you over the last 12 months with regards to LTE?

Indosat plans to modernise 25,000 of our base stations to MSR BTS (Multi-Standards Radio Base Station) that already for LTE. It’s a major project and currently we have 50 per cent competed. However, Indosat is still waiting for the Indonesian government to issue licenses for LTE before we can launch our network.

How much of a challenge do you feel monetising LTE will be?

The challenge will be great since the amount of data traffic is set to increase significantly, while subscribers may not be willing to pay more for the higher speeds. At the same time, ever more OTT players will be able to sell their content thanks to the high-speed LTE networks.

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Interview: Access technology deployment plan manager at PT Telkomsel: “FTTH for backhaul is a must.”

Gunadi Dwi Hantoro, access technology deployment plan manager at PT Telkomsel

Gunadi Dwi Hantoro, access technology deployment plan manager at PT Telkomsel

Gunadi Dwi Hantoro, access technology deployment plan manager at PT Telkomsel, is speaking in the Mobile Backhaul & HetNets track on Day Two of the LTE Asia conference taking place on the 18th-19th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore. Ahead of the show we find out about the milestones and challenges facing the Indonesian operator.

What have been the main developments and major milestones for you over the last 12 months with regards to LTE?

PT Telkomsel Indonesia has primarily focused on regulation issues. We have tried to propose the frequency we want to use via trials and have produced reports on these to the national regulator.

How much of a challenge do you feel monetising LTE will be?

It will be a challenge. LTE will create the growth of a data boom and the problem is how to monetise that data that is generated from an LTE infrastructure.

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Interview: Senior manager, Packet One, Malaysia: “For P1, LTE is critical… to capture the high growth segment of smartphone and tablet users.”

Mariappan Chanachayai, senior manager, Packet One, Malaysia

Mariappan Chanachayai, senior manager, Packet One, Malaysia

Mariappan Chanachayai, senior manager, Packet One, Malaysia is speaking in the LTE Evolution track on Day One of the LTE Asia conference is taking place on the 18th-19th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore.  Ahead of the show we speak to him about how the transition to LTE is progressing for P1 and learn his thoughts in monetisation, Joyn, VoLTE and LTE handsets.

What have been the main developments and major milestones for you over the last 12 months with regards to LTE?

P1 was awarded 20MHz on the 2.6GHz spectrum band to roll out TD-LTE in December 2012. We have issued a request for proposal (RFP) and are in the process of selecting a vendor. As P1’s WiMAX platform on the 2.3GHz band is hardware and software upgradeable to offer TD-LTE it is important for us to ensure our TD-LTE network carries new features and has a higher capability system.  P1 has been active since 2011 to trial and showcase the technology and has showcased ease of transitioning between WiMAX and TDD LTE alongside ZTE Corporation. The demonstration, performed on the 2.3GHz spectrum, achieved 130Mbps on a 20MHz band during the peak downlink throughput in a cell.

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IP architect at Telefonica UK: “There will be organisational challenges as teams that previously worked separately are brought together in an IP-centric world.”

Andrew Davies, IP architect at Telefonica UK

Andrew Davies, IP architect at Telefonica UK

Andrew Davies, IP architect at Telefonica UK, is speaking on Day Two of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we find out what’s pressing most in his mind in terms of upcoming IP challenges.

What were the main technical challenges you face as you look to move from 2G/3G to 4G LTE?

As an IP Architect, from my perspective the issues are around the IP Infrastructure. The main concerns are how we can build sufficient capacity into the network. We are moving towards latest technology, such as 100Gbps, and in subsequent years, bundles of 100Gbps or alternatives. We need to build an IP infrastructure that supports potentially incompatible goals of both low latency for the user plane and physically separate paths for signalling traffic. We also need to secure our core IP infrastructure against as yet unknown threats from the all-IP enabled backhaul. The implementation of a shared LTE infrastructure with our partner operator Vodafone will also through up new challenges to us and our vendors. Finally, there will be organisational challenges as teams that previously worked separately are brought together as Radio, Access and Core collapse into one in an IP-centric world.

You’ve recently announced BT as your backhaul provider – what impact do you think LTE will have on your backhaul in the first six months after launch and then a year after launch?

The BT service gives us greater flexibility and resilience and for the first time will bring offer high availability, extending across the aggregation backhaul. We expect significant growth in our mobile backhaul, with it approximately doubling each year.

Is VoLTE on the roadmap, and what are the challenges in implementing it?

Voice over LTE will not be available for launch and will be carried using existing 2G and 3G networks. Voice over LTE will be considered as part of our roadmap of capability over the coming years.

Why is the LTE World Summit such an important event in your calendar?

The LTE World Summit is an opportunity to hear how other operators and experts in their fields are dealing with the challenges posed by LTE.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran: “Deploying a ubiquitous fibre network is a time and cost consuming project.”

IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran

IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran

Ali Tahmasebi, head of IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran, is speaking on Day Two of the LTE Backhaul Summit, collocated with the LTE World Summit 2013, taking place on the 24th-26th June at the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we delve into details over backhaul technology choices and find out what he is looking forward at the LTE Backhaul Summit.

What challenges will the move to LTE have on your backhaul strategy?

Our main strategy to make our backhaul LTE-ready is to have a hierarchical structure with access, hub and metro levels. In this regard, the rollout of the network is very clear and straightforward. Nevertheless, it does raise a number of challenges, such as the number of metro and hub sites per city, and leasing and building those sites in a technically coordination fashion.

The major challenges are technical. The final decision on RAN strategy and use of either LTE-TDD or LTE-FDD has a direct impact on backhaul product type and features. Planning an optimum synchronisation strategy to handle 1588v2, defining the advanced QoS and traffic engineering features to handle congestion, end-to-end IPv6 network deployment, interoperability between different backhaul products and backhaul to core connection topology are the main challenges.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

Is fibre always the preferred solution over microwave backhaul?

As a fibre optic connection can handle a huge amount of traffic on a long distance, without a negligible loss, it is very interesting for backhaul scenarios. However, deploying a ubiquitous fibre network is a time and cost consuming project and most of the time is out of a mobile network operators’ scope. Most of the fibre optic networks belong to companies that are not MNOs, so it is not cost efficient to lease fibre pass or leased BW for all the sites. The traffic of an LTE site with normal configuration is around 100-300Mbps. Todays, it is easy to handle this amount of traffic with MW radios from different vendors. As a broadband backhaul deployment scenario, the connections at metro level could be based on fibre optic rings, in hub level on high capacity nodal MW radio links and in access level they would be based on P2P MW radio links.

Some analysts say that the dedicated backhaul required for small cells could destroy the economic benefits that they might bring in terms of offload. What’s your view?

I don’t believe any dedicated backhaul is required for small cells. Full outdoor E-band MW radios are the best choice to handle the traffic. The main point is to offload Internet traffic directly to Internet without passing through the mobile operator’s core network. However, the charging and pricing method here is a challenge.

What is the most exciting development in LTE that you expect in the next 12 months?

From my personal point of view, the most exciting developments will be the move towards LTE-Advanced, standardization and releasing the new frequency bands, VoLTE improvements, small cells concept improvements and IMS deployments at the core of mobile networks.

Why is the LTE World Summit such an important show for you to attend?

This year, the LTE World Summit 2013, has been co-located with the LTE Backhaul Summit. Referring back to our experience at the LTE Asia 2012 and LTE MENA 2013, the event gives access to the leading LTE operators, vendors and opportunity to learn from the success stories of handling of data explosion, mobile broadband and LTE networks deployment. As the biggest LTE event in the world, I expect it to address operator challenges in data monetisation, OTT services, VoLTE and small cells.

Interview: Michael Wu, Director, Wireless Access Technology Development, Telus, Canada: “Monetising LTE investment was a key business challenge for Telus.”

telusMichael Wu, Director, Wireless Access Technology Development, Telus, Canada is speaking on the subjects of HetNets at the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to the Wu to find out more about backhaul strategy, network optimisation and business challenges.

What were the chief technical and business challenges you faced when you rolled out LTE?

TELUS first launched LTE services in 14 metropolitan areas across the country in February 2012, and since that launch we have expanded coverage to reach more than 70 per cent of Canadians, with plans to cover even more by the end of this year. From a technological perspective, the key challenge was really about making iRAT (inter Radio Access Technology) work between UMTS and LTE. The iRAT handoff between UMTS and LTE had very limited global deployment at that time and there were issues tied into the devices as well. As happens when implementing most new technologies, the timescale was underestimated and it took us longer than expected to complete the development. With the growth of social media, Internet mobilisation and consumerisation, monetising LTE investment was a key business challenge for Telus, as it is for all carriers. Customers expect to pay less but enjoy more data consumption at better speeds.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

What impact does LTE have on your backhaul strategy and technology choices?

LTE enables services to operate at faster speeds and at lower latency. This relies on much more stringent backhaul performance. When Telus launched UMTS in 2009, we implemented an all-IP backhaul deployment, which enabled us to prepare for the LTE upgrades.

Are small cells important for your roll out and how can they successfully be integrated into the network?

Small cells were not the key consideration for our initial LTE rollout. This is primarily because LTE small cell technology was not mature at that time, and there were no LTE small cells available. That said, at Telus we believe small cells will be the key element to address future exponential growth of data traffic. We are continuing to explore small cell technology and believe the successful integration of small cell into the macro LTE network will be made possible once key features mature, such as eICIC, and RE in LTE Release 10.

What are the key techniques for network optimisation in LTE and what effect can it have on the customer experience?

LTE introduced many new technologies, such as 2×2 MIMO and OFDMA. For these, the traditional RF optimisation techniques such as drive testing and antenna down‐tilt will not satisfy the requirements for network optimisation. In the market today, there are many different kinds of techniques: MIMO optimisation, RET based third-party SON tools, SON based real-time optimisation and others. Some of them are mature while others are still under development. These optimisation techniques greatly improve customer experiences by fixing network problems in real-time instead of potentially waiting week after week due to the nature of troubleshooting complexity in the LTE world.

Some fear that the dedicated backhaul required for every small cell installed will destroy the economic benefits that they bring in terms of offload. What’s your view?

Backhaul technologies for small cells are still evolving so it is too early to make that statement. In my view, the adoption of small cell backhaul will depend on each operator’s individual business case – what infrastructure they have today and what they will build in the future, and also whether they are looking for partnership to leverage others’ infrastructure or not. Ultimately, the winning strategy will be providing enough backhaul capacity for small cell traffic growth, while maintaining an attractive investment return.

Why is the LTE World Summit such an important show for operators to attend?

The LTE World Summit is the main event in the global wireless industry where all the key players are present. The Summit represents a unique opportunity to share information with other operators and key vendors, get a stronger sense of where the industry is at and assess new developments with other industry players. By speaking at the conference and representing Telus, I see this as an opportunity to recognise the success of Canadian business in the global marketplace, and more specifically showcasing Telus as a leader in technology innovation and introduction. By demonstrating that Canada continues to have a healthy balance of regulation and free market economics, we are ensuring the future of a healthy and vibrant mobile broadband sector.

Interview: “LTE and fixed-line will keep walking together for a long time”: CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo is speaking in the LTE Operator Strategies track on Day One of the LTE Africa 2013 conference, taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Ahead of the conference we speak to him about the particular challenges Africa is facing as local telcos look for roll-out LTE.

Please give me an overview of Equateur Telecom and tell me more about your customers and the wider MNO market in the Congo.

Congo is a country of four million inhabitants and there are more than 3.8 million mobile phone users; a penetration rate of 95 per cent. The MNO market Congo is composed of four operators : MTN Congo, Airtel Congo, Warid Congo & Equateur Telecom Congo (ETC),  known under the trade name of Azur-Congo. MTN and Airtel enjoy the largest market share (41% and 40% respectively) due to the length of time they have been established in the country – nearly 15 years. Warid, with six years market presence has 11% market share, and finally Azur Congo (ETC) holds 8% of the market after three years.

ETC is the fourth mobile operator in Congo Brazzaville and launched in 2010 in two main towns of the country – Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. ETC has a commercial 2G license at 900 and 1800MHz frequencies and currently ETC is engaged in a deployment to achieve nationwide GSM coverage by the end 2014. We also offers EDGE services.

The customer base is mostly composed of young people, ages between 16 and 29 years old who are addicted to new technologies.

What are the biggest challenges to rolling out LTE in the Congo and the wider continent?

Most of Congo’s networks are 2G networks with some 2.5G services. One operator has started 3.75G services, but success has been limited. The biggest challenges to an LTE roll-out in the Congo will be mastering the equipment swap from 2.5G to 4G. After the swap, the second challenge will be obtaining terminals that are compatible with LTE, in order to make the product accessible to the whole population.

The LTE Africa conference is taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the brochure for the event.

Will LTE act as a fixed-line replacement in Greenfield areas in Africa?

LTE won’t be a fixed-line replacement in Greenfield areas in Africa, but LTE is coming to reinforce the capacity and the diversity of services in Greenfield areas. LTE and fixed-line will keep walking together for a long time, because the availability of terminals constitutes a brake on the African LTE market boom.

What are the challenges around moving from WiMAX?

The challenges around moving from WiMAX to LTE are first and foremost adapting infrastructure to the Long Term Evolution technology and also ensuring the compatibility of terminals for the use of LTE services. Though they are close technologies in terms of development, the major challenges remain terminal availability.

FDD or TD-LTE – what is your technology preference and why?

Our preferred technology is Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD)-LTE because FDD is very good in situations where the uplink and downlink data transmissions are symmetrical (which is not usually the case when using wireless phones). More importantly, when using FDD, the interference between neighbouring Radio Base Stations (RBSs) is lower than when using TDD. Also, the spectral efficiency (which is a function of how well a given spectrum is used by certain access technology) of FDD is greater than TDD.

Are you considering network sharing agreements to lower costs and what are the regulatory issues surrounding this?

The strategy of sharing infrastructure is good as it reduces both CAPEX and OPEX. It reduces CAPEX for new operators entering into the business, because it does not have to raise large amounts of capital for its roll-out and it enables it to cover a large amount of territory through building sharing agreements. In return, the new operator will significantly reduce the OPEX of the site owner (fuel, electricity, maintenance, security, capacity) through its participation in the operational costs of the site. It will also enable the site owner to have a faster return on investment.

What particular challenges does Africa face in terms of backhaul provision?

The particular challenges are the availability of capacity at long distances from sites. Most operators use satellite links to serve remote areas but these links are very expensive and we cannot assure  quality during inclement weather. The emergence of different optical fibre platforms across Africa may be a solution.

How do small cells fit into your strategy?

In our strategy, small cells are a vital for 3G data off-loading, and we will also find also small cells vital for managing LTE Advanced spectrum more efficiently compared to using just macro-cells. The current cell architectures cannot support the exponential growth in demand for data transfer over the long term. The new radical concept of small cell networks can provide a viable solution economically and ecologically.

UK LTE – The Best is Yet to Come

This post is by Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of strategic wireless business consultancy, Northstream,

The intense UK media coverage around Everything Everywhere’s (EE) LTE service launch could have fooled people into thinking it was the first launch of its kind. There are, in fact, a total of 113 operators with live networks across 51 countries, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association. EE is trailblazing a new path for the UK mobile industry, but this route is not without its controversies and challenges. Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of strategic wireless business consultancy Northstream, discusses the UK’s first LTE network launch and whether EE’s gamble to go early will pay off.

4G or not 4G….

The UK regulator Ofcom, much to the consternation of rival operators, allowed EE to re-farm its 1800MHz spectrum to launch LTE services in October. However, prior to this, the regulator had earned widespread condemnation for displaying a lack of leadership in allowing the UK operator community to constantly appeal its decisions. This led to massive delays in the UK spectrum auctions taking place; which in turn has prevented commercial LTE service availability and left the UK trailing its European neighbours.

However, the UK is now catching up, with its first live LTE network. More are now set to follow, with the news that Ofcom will auction LTE spectrum licences, at a reserve of £1.3 billion. It is likely that the auctions will raise three of four times this amount of money. A staggering amount given the state of the global economy; and considering how energised the UK Government appear to be regarding LTE deployment. It seems an enigma why regulators make sense of taxing operators who are prepared to build out critical mobile infrastructure.

Despite the cost, these auctions will have the positive outcome that Vodafone, O2 and 3UK will now get their chance to launch LTE. At the moment though a marketing war has erupted – in which EE’s rivals scramble to differentiate themselves and retain their subscribers. For example, Vodafone has launched a £4.5m national newspaper campaign with the tagline “not all 4G networks are the same”; claiming that Vodafone’s signal will travel “further into your home” and is the only mobile network to “own a nationwide fibre backbone”.

A war of words is one thing, but it will be difficult for competitors to respond to EE’s latest move. Although UK 4G coverage is currently limited there is a genuine buzz among consumers about LTE, following the huge amount of publicity it has received. LTE is the service subscribers are keen on; and EE is offering that now. The reality is that operators will not have a fitting response to EE’s LTE offering, until they deploy LTE themselves next year.

The Price is Right?

EE’s 24 month LTE tariffs, ranging from £36 for 500MB up to £56 for 8GB, have drawn criticism on price and how much data they provide. Downloading a one hour programme on BBC’s iPlayer consumes roughly half the 500MB data allowance the lowest priced EE plan offers. It is commonplace for the first mover in the market to have the advantage. EE has done this by setting the bar high on its LTE tariff plans. However, this premium period should only last a short time. There will be a decline in LTE price plans as other operators enter the market. EE may potentially make an early move to lower prices as they seek to control the market as Vodafone, O2 and 3UK plan their entry.

Higher prices for LTE won’t trouble the initial audience; predominantly early adopters and corporate subscribers. There is also a huge market for LTE USB dongles. EE’s dongle tariffs start at £15.99 for 2GB, up to £25.99 for 5GB, and the device is available from free up to £49.99. This is an attractive alternative to ADSL from fixed line providers. Especially for residents of semi-rural areas who suffer slow speeds as they are far away from the switch. Young professionals living in shared accommodation will also find LTE dongles an easy, convenient and cost effective way to get online. This is a market in which EE can really outperform and provide challenging competition to fixed line players. Traditional telcos would have to deploy an increased amount of fibre to compete with LTE coverage; making it very costly for them to stay in touching distance of EE.

The Challenge Ahead

But deploying LTE does pose some technical challenges; and one of the biggest is backhaul. Fibre to the base stations is required to ensure they leverage LTE’s throughput capabilities. EE will need a lot of lead time to deploy fibre; and it is not an easily available off-the-shelf product. WiFi, a rapidly maturing and familiar technology, is not perfect, but could plug coverage gaps and be a solid foil for EE and its macro LTE network.

The other challenge is one that is unique to LTE over 1800MHz – limited indoor coverage. An 1800MHz base station grid just doesn’t penetrate buildings as well. It will be important for EE to deal with this issue as the majority of smartphone usage occurs indoors. Deploying base stations in buildings is not practical or affordable. Small cells remain a remote concept and a great deal more unrealistic than many perceive. Their unit cost, and the amount required, makes them increasingly unviable solution for operators. In order to provide a good user experience EE needs the combination of 1800MHz and 800MHz; with LTE deployed over 800MHz for better indoor coverage.

It will take time for EE’s LTE network to mature, but there was no reason it took such a long time to launch LTE in the UK. However, the country has not suffered due to the delay. Now 4G is live, the UK has a good chance of reaching the level the rest of Europe is at by 2014. But for a market with such a long tradition of being influential in mobile, the UK’s LTE delay has certainly dented its prestige.

Bengt Nordström biography

Bengt co-founded Northstream in 1998 and has been its CEO ever since. Prior to founding Northsream, Bengt held the position of CTO and Executive Director of Smartone in Hong Kong. Other management positions include Ericsson, Comviq and Netcom consultants. Bengt has also held been on the Executive Committee of the GSM Association as well as chairing its Asia Pacific Interest Group.

Pricing strategies will be a major focus of the LTE World Summit, taking place on the 24th – 26th June 2013 at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to pre-register for the event

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