Expanding LTE in the region

Operators are aware of the opportunities LTE offers, not only in the customer market.
Anite, BICS, CommScope, Ericsson, Growth, Increase, LTE; Middle East, Operators, Small cells, Telecommunications, Telecoms, Data

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Operators are aware of the opportunities that LTE offers, not only in the customer market, but also in the enterprise sector and they are enhancing their networks to support the coming LTE demand.

THE EXPERTS:
Raphael Glatt, head Of Mobile Signalling at BICS
Mohamed Nadder Hamdy, Director Wireless Network Engineering at Commscope
Rakesh Lakhani, head of Mobile Broadband at Ericsson in Region Middle East
Kai Ojala, chief technology officer at Anite
Divya Wakankar, head of Voice Innovation at BICS

CommsMEA: Which markets are ready for LTE?

Hamdy: By the end of 2009, when LTE networks started their commercially deployments, devices were very limited and costly. This has confined mobile LTE deployments to high ARPU markets. However, fixed LTE deployments were still feasible in many places, especially in countries lacking fixed broadband infrastructures.

Today, LTE devices costs are almost in line with the 3G ones. However, LTE surpasses 3G in its efficiency and flexibility to deploy over a vast number of spectrum bands and bandwidths. Many industry analysts forecast 3G networks phasing out before 2G does, maintaining 2G networks for low throughput applications.

In summary, LTE is deployable everywhere, for fixed or mobile broadband, for big or small spectrum availabilities and for a wide range of ARPU levels.

Glatt: All markets are ready except for Africa which is still in the development stages.

Lakhani: We are seeing data growth in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Sudan market and going forward WCDMA networks will not be able to sustain data growth in terms of user experience, network performance and application coverage. These markets are ready for LTE and once the license is available, LTE will be launched in the named markets.

CommsMEA: How should operators sell LTE to their customers in the region?

Wakankar: Today, MNOs are under pressure due to the omnipresence of OTT communication applications. End-users with smartphones are using OTT apps as they offer free usage models. The usage of OTT apps is also fuelled by the increase of WiFi accessibility.

In order to overcome these challenges MNOs have to innovate their next generation services by leveraging the benefits of the LTE technology and sell these services with a disruptive commercial retail model to keep the customer relationship intact.

Also, next generation services, such as VoLTE and RCS are the foundation services to enter in to the digital world. In the coming years, digitalisation is going to reach its peak wherein there will always be a need to communicate with the end-user. Therefore it is the right time for MNOs to embrace these next generation services to provide APIs over them. This will enable MNOs to develop new revenue streams with innovative business models.

Hamdy: Operators can sell LTE to their customers through video and mobile internet.

CommsMEA: What benefits will bring to operators to offer VoLTE?

Ojala: For operators and their end customers, the advantage of VoLTE is guaranteed quality. OTT services are usually free of charge for the end-user, but they cannot guarantee the quality of the service, as they use best effort data; voice for example requires a good and reliable packet data connection to function.

VoLTE, on the other hand, uses guaranteed LTE bearers for connection. For business critical calls, reliability is the key. On top of that, the quality with VoLTE calls is better than with legacy systems. Compared to OTT services, VoLTE is more bandwidth efficient, leading to less battery consumption in end-user terminals.

CommsMEA: How important are small cells to develop LTE in crowded and urban areas?

Hamdy: Small cells are one of the many solutions for urban areas. A toolkit approach is best as different settings require different solutions. Concealment, site acquisition and power remain critical components to urban/suburban site deployments.

As data traffic continues to rise while spectrum availability remains limited, operators are forced to densify their networks infrastructures. This can be achieved by multi beam antennas or small cells integration. Small cells are useful in providing localised coverage that is limited to a small area. However, operators usually face challenges in the resulting interference mitigation and concealed deployment. CommScope has designed special metro cells antennas that can be electrically tilted to confine this interference. Mounting solutions have also been designed to support operators for almost invisible installations.

CommsMEA: How can LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) help operators in the region?

Hamdy: Spectrum availability has always been a main limiting factor in providing wireless broadband services. LAA is one of the proposed techniques to overcome such shortage. The technology utilises unlicensed bands, such as the 5GHz typically used by WiFi, to widen the data channel pipe once in need. Even though this might sound as an economical solution, it still imposes interference risks that have to be carefully considered.

CommsMEA: Are operators thinking of the 5G ecosystem when developing their LTE structure?

Hamdy: Whether or not 5G ecosystem is being thought of, future-ready solutions should definitely be considered.

Ojala: Firstly, 5G test networks have already been launched. Still, these 5G test networks mainly allow for testing the performance of new technologies, and verification of new concepts in real environments.

Commercial deployment is still far away, and many phases of LTE-A will be deployed before 5G really starts, so that’s the priority for now.

First we need to have standardisation in place, then network and device development, followed by trials and initial deployments. So even once the standardisation is on the way, commercial deployments and 5G ecosystems are still a way off yet and are having little impact on LTE structure.

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