Mobile World Congress 2015: What to expect (and hope for)
By Vish Nandlall February 26, 2015
- MWC to present cutting-edge products and technologies that define future of mobile
- It will also discuss issues such as dealing with the data explosion
THE Mobile World Congress (MWC) is the world’s largest annual gathering of mobile and related industry C-level executives. It includes a conference and an exhibition with more than 1,800 companies displaying the cutting-edge products and technologies that define the future of mobile.
Organised by the GSM Association, (GSMA), MWC 2015 will take place March 2-5 in Barcelona.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.
Here’s what we can expect at this year’s Congress:
1) Drivers for software-defined networks
The driver for the software-defined telco has moved beyond capex (capital expenditure) reduction to operational efficiency and service agility.
There is no ‘Moore’s Law’ for operating a network, and there has been little innovation in service operations and management to meaningfully change this diseconomy of scale.
Technologies such as Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) have embraced these value propositions, but they are falling short of owning them. We cannot forklift our whole infrastructure and start over.
Consequently, the industry will not secure the benefit of these new technologies unless we can solve for a common operations framework that can manage and orchestrate both physical and virtual parts of the network.
This can only be realised through a high level, multi-vendor model of services and infrastructure.
There is a solution deficit in the industry addressing this operations modernisation – many operators are looking to build this capability on their own or through bespoke system integration programmes, but this runs the risk of fragmentation in the long run.
The industry needs leadership, and I hope to see who is in the running at MWC.
2) Ways the industry should tackle data growth
According to the GSMA’s The Mobile Economy 2014 report, Asia Pacific is expected to dominate capex forecasts aimed at managing the growing data volumes, due to the sheer number of connections and the expectation for strong data traffic growth in the region.
Simultaneously, consumption drivers have shifted from subscriber growth to subscriber usage, while the penetration of LTE (Long-Term Evolution), connected devices, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) will form an increasing percentage of mobile data traffic for years to come.
Estimates range from a 7x to 10x increase in data volume over the next five years, with video being the largest contributor.
New compression schemes such as HEVC (high-efficiency video coding), and mobile broadcast services such as LTE-B provide a toolkit to help reduce data volumes, while spectrum efficiency gains delivered through the LTE-Advanced roadmap provide near-term capacity relief.
At MWC, I will be looking for emerging technologies, such as full duplex wireless, and the maturity of the LTE-U ecosystem to evaluate how soon or how far-out they fall in the planning cycle.
3) Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)
The core challenge is how we take a native approach to managing and operating NFVs, which explicitly decouples resources from services, while still being able to manage the existing physical network using existing operations principles.
I am looking for leadership in TMF (TeleManagement Forum), the ETSI Industry Specification Group and Open NFV for how we can meet this challenge effectively as an industry.
4) LTE and LTE-A
There is growing interest in the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Programme) study item ‘License Assisted Access,’ whereby a primary cell transmitting on a LTE carrier in licensed spectrum is complemented with an additional carrier in the unlicensed 5GHz band in a carrier aggregation (CA) configuration.
Because all signalling and control information is sent on the primary cell, an ongoing data transfer can rapidly handoff from an LAA-LTE back to the primary carrier when the unlicensed signal deteriorates.
This could present an elastic capacity function for sports stadiums or help load level during flash crowd environments.
I am interested to see how this same technology could be used to test 5G architectural concepts, such as how a primary cell operating in the licensed spectrum is used as an overlay macro cell and secondary cells’ unsung unlicensed spectrum is transmitted from a small cell.
This would allow ease of setup for the unlicensed small cell at a capacity limited site, given the access point would not have to be registered as a cellular transmitter – it would be equivalent to installing a WiFi access point.
A second area of interest is in LTE-Broadcast. It is predicted that video will comprise over 69% of mobile data traffic in 2018, much of which will be driven by a growing segment of tablet users watching videos over cellular.
Historically, mobile networks have been optimised for voice, text and data – but with video growing as a percentage, we need to evolve towards a media distribution network.
At MWC I will be looking to meet and partner with other operators and providers intent on building the LTE-Broadcast ecosystems.
While 5G (Fifth Generation) is still at least five years away from deployment, technology foundations are being developed today.
I am interested to understand the trends around how NFV and SDN design patterns can be applied to the radio access network architecture, as well as how millimetre-wave technologies can unlock new spectrum for higher bandwidth services.
A key question is whether we can dynamically ‘slice’ the radio network for different services (such as a high bandwidth, low latency service for video and a low-power, low bandwidth service for IoT sensors) or will we need separate networks to economically serve distinct service needs?
Of equal concern is whether we, as an industry, can wait five years for low-power wide area networks to power the IoT.
Vish Nandlall is the chief technology officer at Melbourne-based telecommunications and media company Telstra Corp.
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