Cameron Rejali, BT Wholesale’s MD for Products will be speaking at the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam from 17-18th May this year. Telecoms.com spoke to him about whether the future is fixed, network sharing, the practicalities of wifi offload and taking a heterogeneous network approach.
What are the biggest challenges facing LTE today?
How and where to implement LTE to get the greatest coverage at the highest speeds possible and the best performance. Another challenge is fitting LTE into the MNO’s coverage strategy– aligning with 3G, HSPA+, wifi, and small cells to ensure a cost-effective, high-performance and coherent mobile communications service is delivered to customers.
Is the future fixed?
The key here is that today’s ratio of fixed to mobile traffic on the UK’s national infrastructure is 95 per cent fixed and five per cent mobile. Next generation networks will be all-IP, but today’s fixed networks have been that for a decade, meaning that it doesn’t make sense for mobile operators to build big new IP networks. That said, while the future of IP is as a unifying technology, it’s also about achieving the lowest costs through scale, and sharing those scale networks. So the future isn’t about a single network, but rather a heterogeneous network approach.
How do you expect LTE to impact traditional carrier business models?
I think we can expect increased ARPU through end users paying for application performance such as streaming video.
What applications do you expect LTE to enable?
As I mentioned before, streaming video will be a big one but also ‘in car services’ such as internet radio (Spotify), apps and services (parking, real time traffic updates, 3D imaging to the in-built sat nav).
BT is running a multi-vendor lab trial. What sort of trials are you running and what are you hoping to achieve?
The lab creates an LTE environment to ensure we understand the impact LTE will have on areas such as transport networks and how synchronisation over Ethernet should be delivered to thousands of radio/cell sites to help us gain a better understanding of the new interfaces and standards LTE technology ultimately requires.
How practical a solution is wifi offload? Do you see many operators taking this route?
As part of a holistic mobile service, Wifi offload is a practical option for delivering mobile services. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a divergence in mobile access technologies as MNOs have deployed the most appropriate and cost-effective mobile/wireless technologies to end users. These have included 3G macro cells, 3G private small cells on home broadband, 3G public small cells for rural and urban locations and Wifi. In short, I think MNOs will embrace all technologies.
To what extent will network sharing play a role in LTE implementations?
In competitive MNO markets, network sharing is a commercial imperative. LTE is a major network change event. As such, it offers a real opportunity to evaluate all options for enhanced network sharing.
Does it matter that LTE is being marketed as 4G?
No, most end users are likely to view it as such because that’s been the convention to date – 2G, then 3G, now 4G.
Network deployments have traditionally been hampered by device availability. Do you see this as a problem with LTE?
There are a number of smartphones available today which could be adapted to use LTE. I believe the manufacturers are expecting to have 4G-enabled smartphones by early 2012 – but it will be interesting to see if the iPhone 5 due to launch later this year is 4G/LTE enabled.
What are your expectations for the TDD flavour of LTE?
TDD LTE will improve services by providing better use of spectrum.
How long do you think it will be before LTE Advanced reaches commercial deployment?
Optimistically speaking, I’d say mid-2014, but some of my mobile customers think 2015 if we’re lucky. In all probability, it will be 2016 before we see it in the UK market.
What are the benefits of the flat all-IP architecture that comes with LTE?
Reduced network costs but LTE also makes it easier to integrate third party networks and applications into the service.
Do you expect a worldwide land-grab for LTE spectrum?
Yes, most definitely!
What are the most important benefits delivered by LTE as a technology – is it all about speed?
It is about speed, but LTE will also provide the platform for streaming data and video to a mobile device, which will open up subscription opportunities to TV, for example. It will also give mobile network operators the opportunity to get away from the ‘all you can eat’ data plans that have caused them so many issues with 3G profitability.