By Charlie Ashton, VP of Marketing for 6WIND
I attended the LTE Asia Conference in Singapore this week. I talked with people from both service providers and OEMs, while also listening to a large number of presentations by industry experts. It was fascinating to hear many divergent opinions both on the state of LTE rollouts worldwide and on the key issues that must be addressed by the LTE community. Some of the most interesting topics seemed to be:
- Spectrum allocation was probably the number one concern discussed in presentations at the conference. The LTE standard allows LTE services to be deployed not only in different spectrum bands, but also in different amounts of spectrum. Currently, operators around the world are using multiple different bands, including 700MHz, 1.8GHz, 2.1GHz, 2.3GHz and 2.6GHz plus a couple of others that I have probably forgotten. One implication of this is that it will be exceptionally difficult for handset suppliers to deliver “world-phones” that permit global roaming. There’s a major concern that, if true global roaming is delayed because of this problem, the adoption of LTE will be severely constrained. There was some discussion about 1.8GHz (“re-farmed” from GSM) becoming a de-facto standard, but it was clear that the industry needs to much more work on this before operators and handset manufacturers will be confident of a clear direction.
- There were a number of discussions about new pricing models that need to be adopted by operators to reflect a world in which data traffic is 100x (or even, in a few years, 1,000x) voice traffic. There’s not much point in worrying about pricing of bundles of voice minutes if voice only represents a miniscule portion of the overall load on the network. There seemed to be general consensus that consumers can be educated to accept volume-based data plans (as opposed to flat-rate) and CSL (an innovative Hong Kong operator) has seen good success with just such an approach, marketed under the tag-line of “why pay more?”.
- Several operators presented their experiences in starting from scratch with LTE deployments, rather than bridging from a previous history of GSM and 3G services. It’s interesting to see that there are still niche segments and services that provide opportunities for brand new operators to enter the mobile broadband market successfully.
- There was a general consensus that heterogeneous networks (macrocells overlaying picocells which in turn overlay residential femtocells) are an absolute requirement for efficient use of spectrum and for cost-effective networks.
- Cloud RAN deployments (or “Smart Cloud” in Samsung’s terminology) are clearly happening in a small set of locations (e.g. Seoul) where the benefits of centralized basestations outweigh the logistical problems of running fiber to the Remote Radio Heads.
- And finally, since this is supposed to be a post about multicore-related topics, it was good to hear Ericsson explain how network capabilities may actually provide greater opportunities for value-added differentiation than handsets over the next few years. Several speakers talked about the need to maximize network capacity and minimize network latency (especially for high-value gaming customers), leading to some very interesting offline conversations about the advantages of 6WIND’s high-performance packet processing software for achieving these goals.
The above is just a quick summary of my impressions from LTE Asia. Were you at the conference? What were the highlights from your point of view?