Mobile network operators find themselves in a big race to enable their networks to deal with the exploding demand for capacity. Broadband applications such as video streaming or up-/downloading of photo or music files immediately tell users whether the mobile network is providing good or poor capacity.
The fast-growing demand for capacity cannot be met by 3G technology for long. Operators are under strong pressure to implement LTE (3.5G) and LTE-Advanced (4G) technology as early as possible. The pace and the efficiency of rolling out these new technologies will help decide whether paying subscribers are gained or lost.
- Operators are challenged by this fast technology rollout
Such a fast rollout of new network generations is a big challenge for operators’ organisational processes and financial strength. Planning and implementation processes need to be accelerated. The introduction of LTE and LTE-A requires numerous substantial changes and new concepts in the backhaul network as well as in the core area:
- Upgrade microwave link capacity to radio sites
- Further expand the optical network into the access area
- Build the aggregation area on a homogenous and highly scalable transport technology
- Synchronise time on all radio nodes
The necessary network investment needs to be made in a very tough time frame - much faster than for 2G and 3G network rollouts - and such a fast rollout demands very substantial financial resources. Operators that cannot afford to move so quickly risk losing subscribers and thus weakening their financial positions further.
The enormous cost pressure requires operators to drive their network rollout with optimized utilization of network resources. The Software-Defined Networking (SDN) concept looks very promising in its ability to achieve flexible traffic load distribution on network resources.
- Operators’ strategies to improve competitive strength
Mobile operators merge to put together their network resources, their subscriber bases, and the financial resources.
Other operators improve their financial position by stepping out of some regional markets and focusing all network investment on the remaining market regions.
Operators with mobile and fixed network assets can strategically link together their investments in both areas. Bundling mobile and fixed network resources allows operators to offer superior service capacity to subscribers and to optimise their investment. Therefore mobile and fixed operators are seeking for mergers to achieve the same benefit.
- New business opportunities
Operators see future opportunities to establish additional revenue streams using their mobile broadband networks. Machine-to-machine communication is expected to be new driver for growth, with about 50 billion M2M connected wireless devices by 2020. Many innovations with new applications for health care, security, power delivery, emergency services, fleet and asset tracking, home automation, mobile payment, and much more will appear in the next years.