The communications sector is synonymous with innovation and customer experience. This industry drives innovations that other industries latch on to. The Connected World or the Internet of Things are such innovations that are driving momentum across multiple sectors. It will be an understatement to say that Communication industry lives in a very disruptive environment. So what drives this industry to be the epicenter of redefining businesses? Why does this industry take technological leaps every third or fourth year and disrupt multiple areas?
The deeper we delve, the more it becomes apparent that it is due to what lies at the core of this industry— the customer. All technological advancements; past, present, and future have the customer and the need to enhance their experience at the center. For example, the relationship between high smartphone adoption and new LTE network rollouts can directly be linked to the increase in OTT content, and higher subscriber data usage which is contributing to the growth of mobile broadband data services. A recent survey reveals by by StatCounter that for the first time in decades, internet access on mobile/ smartphone outnumbered the use on traditional desktops or laptops.
Investments in infrastructure upgrade and associated technological developments are directly related to large-scale CapEx. And, the investment choices made today in new advances like small cell densification- Micro, Pico, and Femto does have a significant impact on backhaul data demands. With a focus on ARPU, customer retention, and the longevity of customer experience, CSPs along with original equipment manufacturers are playing their part in this disruptive world by making innovation the key theme.
Communication service providers are working to develop a common network strategy for all IP networking services to meet the ever-increasing demand for network data capacity. However, even though most service providers plan to expand their macrocell network and develop small cells to improve coverage and capacity, they are faced with flat or increased CapEx budgets.
Furthermore, the emergence of fixed-mobile convergence has increased the synergies between fixed and mobile networks, and the advent of 5G are driving the need for seamless fixed-wireless connectivity to support bundled services. Also, the discussion on the IoT/M2M to help the connected society smart cities, health, vehicles, utilities, mission critical services, etc. can never be left behind.
CSPS can find ways to make the most of these developing trends in spite of the CapEx issue. They can explore a phased adoption program to support 3G/4G/LTE (A) backhaul migration towards 5G. For example, mobile networks need to transition towards more distributed and virtualized architectures to meet the requirements of 5G services. The following can be some of the steps that operators can consider as part of their roadmap in the context of a 4G/LTE (A) to 5G migration:
1. Implementing Crosshaul or x-Haul can enable operators to support the future high data traffic requirements of 5G
2. x-Haul can combine elements of the existing backhaul and Fronthaul networks into a single IP network
3. A unified backhaul and Fronthaul network combined with virtualization can provide operators with the required flexibility needed to support evolving service needs
Within the mobile backhaul network provisioning additional capacity is often a manual process that is slow and tedious because it can involve multiple network management platforms, control software tools, and engineering teams. Though this can be automated the real challenge lies in automation and integration of each of the sub-systems like troubleshooting, network monitoring, and traffic engineering functions. Service providers have the choice of internally developing these software capabilities to automate the control of thousands of network elements or employing third-party solutions from vendors.
Dealing with mobile backhaul transformation and enhancing the network capacity economically is the most critical challenge that service providers will face over the next five years. Let’s look at ways CSPs will redefine their business strategy in my next blog.