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Future Trends and Technologies That Will Shape the Wireless TELCOs (Available in Spanish)

Researching for this blog I’ve encounter a lot of good quality material addressing the “OTT threat” and how Wireless Telecommunications companies should react in order to monetize efficiently and to avoid becoming a service pipe. But I think we’re reaching the point where the discussion is wearing out, and as we’ve seen in the past, the pace of technology evolution doesn’t slow down and even if the right business case is not ready or at the same level of this progression, eventually such business case emerges, as I commented in a previous blog entry for IMS (Read it here). So my intention is to highlight industry trends and future technologies that weather a Communication Service Provider (CSP) commanding head wants to recognize it or not, from my point of view, will impact current organizational structure and the way businesses are being conducted now.

 

Adopt the Pace of Technology: Her Secret Is Embrace

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Inspired by the quote of Mr. Emerson, I cannot help but think in the way wireless industry breakthroughs had been adopted by mass public, first generation of cellular communications was around ten years before digital second generation started to be implemented, six years later and phones started to be sold with all kinds of features, five years later and we witnessed the appearance of the smartphones. Now we face continuous data consumption growth forecasts, global governments consider broadband penetration as the main objective to feed national growth, and economic stimulus is being injected to the industry, telecommunications for developing countries is first in the list of national infrastructure development, wireless industry research continued despite world economic turmoil, and the competition is fiercer than ever among manufacturers, CSP and OTTs. So we have an industry were product life cycles are much shorter and service is migrating towards a user centric scenario, I’d like to mention the following trends and future technologies that will shape organizational infrastructure of CSP and how each one of them impose challenges on current company models, these being: M2M, Cognitive radio and Dynamic Spectrum Access, Heterogeneous Networks, Context Aware Networks, Quality Models for NGN networks, NFC and innovative short range technologies, and MBB (Mobile Broadband Adoption) and the new services of the Internet. 

 

All My Life I’ve Been Taught Not To Die, But No One Ever Taught Me How To Change In Order To Grow Old

All my life I’ve been taught how to die, but no one ever taught me how to grow old–Billy Graham

 

Right now there are markets around the world experiencing fixed to mobile convergence (FMC) at various levels, but this was not a gracious move, resistance to change was experience and it was not till substitution figures started to be significant that something changed in the industry, usually these moves are slow but end up taking place. We have wireless companies that react against the so called “Dumb Pipe Syndrome” stating that they’ll become the most efficient pipe in the world, and others that take action building synergies with employees and content owners to focus away from the network and centering their attention in the user, whatever the case, the following trends and technologies will force CSP to do some changes:

 

  1. M2M: Machine to machine networks envision a huge interconnection of appliances and things through the wireless networks without human assistance, such communication translate into different data traffic patterns to that produced by smartphones, as well as different service performance needs; service must work in a myriad of new devices, and the network will have to be equipped with specialized gateways to centralize communication, manage authentication and provide some kind of security, on top of that many OTT will want to offer several services to such network so a new potential universe for walled wardens will be opened.
  2. Cognitive Radio and Dynamic Spectrum Access: Right now CSP have a tough job managing their licensed spectrum in an efficient way, but Dynamic Spectrum Access will pose an even major task. There will be geographic areas where two services and even two different CSP can share the same frequency bandwidth which could be licensed or not, so basically the RF team will have to manage a whole new interference ecosystem, the network might have a new Spectrum Coordination function, and traffic planning teams will have to model traffic considering the new interference challenges. This comes not without its opportunities for CSP in the form of wired backbone replacement for wireless relay nodes for rural coverage, and traffic offloading.
  3. MBB Adoption/Cloud Services/Internet of the Future: The change of internet usage pattern towards a totally mobile environment is driven first by the continuous growth of smartphone adoption pushing towards an ever growing mobile data consume, secondly cloud services and a new Internet where open APIs and new browsing intelligence and pattern discerning algorithms are constructing the possibility of service on the moment for the user, where CSP and OTT no longer create the service, but you do! As the situation or need you have are the inputs to deliver a service in the moment you need it.  The problem is that as much as the technology has a good pace, wireless service cannot compete with wired data service in terms of speeds and reliability, so networks of the future need features like SON and Self configuring networks in the RAN to handle efficiently the capacity and content caching in the core to move content more closer to the user to optimize resources.
  4. Heterogeneous Networks: The above trend demands bigger speeds of wireless networks, and the industry is betting on HetNets to fulfill the requirement, having antennas and base stations more and more closer to the user creating a cell with several layers can effectively increase speed; the problem with this approach is that with a lot of layers comes a lot of traffic and the network will require a strong backhaul, wireless nodes will be introduced to relay the signal and this complicated cell layers will need a different management approach, site acquisition process has to be redefine, and again the interference and traffic models have to be carefully studied.
  5. NFC and Short Range Technology: Having the possibility to use your phone as your primary form of identification, mode of payment, access to services, physical access to buildings and home are some of the opportunities that NFC can provide, but a lot of security challenges manifest with this type of technology and CSP are the main point of thrust for the user. As already discussed, a new ecosystem of devices needs a specialized effort from the CSP, carefully watching potentially new holes of security and in a better manner actively helping to construct the applications that will be running on such ecosystem.
  6. Context Aware Networks: A young field of study, which promises that the delivery of telecommunication service can be so complex and complete that, can expand to every aspect of our lives. But how do you provision such a service, how do you charge for it, can you even control it? Will you allow it to grow by itself once you set up a basic flat plan? How CSP legacy networks can fit in such a service? So a lot of questions, but one thing is sure, this is the ultimate concept of convergence and I think it can be built upon IMS.
  7. Quality models for NGN Networks: If such future scenario where all of these and other concepts interact through several service flows become real, the way these flows are delivered to the user become the main aspect and asset of a CSP, since the service is going to be focused on the user, then the quality of the network should be focused on him as well, QoS models will still have to be applicable but the main objective must be QoE, the way a user experience the service through the CSP network can set it apart from other CSPs. This approach asks for the deployment of a new network function, the QoE Controller acting from an E2E perspective, modifying the way services are triggered, this element should evaluate your location, your device type, and other aspects to ensure that your experience using all the above services will be enjoyable.


Because Things Are the Way they Are, Things Will not Stay the Way they Are

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are–BertoltBrech

EasyCapture2.jpgImage courtesy of Paola Buelvas Saad ([email protected])


 

Current CSP organizational structures cannot face the challenges these trends and technologies will bring, I agree that cost will be higher and segmentation at various levels of the organizational structure will result as a consequence of technology adoption, next I’ll briefly highlight the main challenges of a regular CSP organization structure regarding the considered trends and technologies:

 

  • For RF areas future networks will require them to be a lot more segmented and specialized. The size of RAN networks calls for the use centralization and self-organizing and self-configuration features and probably some management functions will be moved to the cloud.
  • Core areas of a future wireless Telco will operate under the big umbrella of data services but housing several enablers, concentrators under strict centralized quality considerations, the challenge of providing E2E QoE can be so overwhelming for an operation that the area in charge of this aspect will claim a major importance along with user databases management that will become more complex requiring a more specialized team and higher security schemes.
  • Charging departments will have to be technologically strengthen; in-house SW and processes will have to be replaced by more flexible tools that enable a quicker reaction to support deployment of ever coming new services, and dynamic charging for services created by the user.
  • O&M must be carefully divided and distributed to keep up with the titanic task, I find hard to conceive a future wireless Telco without outsourcing a major part of its O&M.
  • Legal departments must be ready to embark in new agreements negotiations for share usage of spectrum, a special board of conflict resolution must be created between parties that infringe interference, service usage, security and other signed pacts of such future environment.
  • Service provisioning it’s going to have a major restructuration; a lot of concepts from OTTs must be used to enrich current CSP provisioning, complex models of service bundling will see the light, new types of users and ways to interact with the network will demand flexibility and a fast reconfiguration of the user profile. 
  • Network Security departments will face an ever growing challenge because the way I see it, security treats will extend from internet servers towards CSP servers.

 

So this is in my opinion the panorama that a wireless service provider must face in the coming years, I left out a lot of functional areas of a company but the subject is broad and the evaluation of a new model it’s a topic that makes for a complete post of its own.

 

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The articles presented here are blog posts from members of our Service Provider Mobility community. Deborah Strickland is a Web and Social Media Program Manager at Cisco. Follow us on Twitter @CiscoSPMobility.

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