Convergence is here, cost efficiency is next

As mobile data usage continues to skyrocket, the challenge going forward is to sustain this stellar growth in a cost effective manner.

According to David Banjo, head of research, technology and platforms at heavyweight infrastructure vendor Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) fixed network traffic is set to increase by a factor of ten this year alone, while mobile is expected to increase by a factor of 28.

Against a background of economic crisis, Banjo warned that it is more crucial than ever for service providers to understand and manage their customer experiences if they are to retain subscribers and generate profits. To this end, service providers need to pay attention to customer service, quality of service, cost and billing. And real time user profiling is also vital to help operators understand their users’ behaviour, preferences and usage patterns, such as the time of day a user makes a call, the location, and the application she or he uses.

These elements will be further facilitated by the deployment of next generation technologies such as LTE. Ihab Ghattas, assistant president for Huawei in the Middle East, expects a smooth migration from GSM/UMTS to LTE, with the technology eventually encompassing 85 per cent of the mobile world. Huawei expects 450 million LTE subscribers by 2015.

“Many elements from previous technologies will disappear,” Ghattas said, “making way for the simplified flat architecture of LTE.” Huawei expects the first commercial deployment, or at least trial, of LTE in the Middle East to take place in 2010.

Jay Srage, vice president of business development for the Middle East at chip vendor Qualcomm, added, “Now we need to focus more on the services side because technology is already at the leading edge.” According to Srage, the types of content and applications to be made available are as important as the devices – a sentiment that was echoed by Qtel chief Nasser Marafih.

Indeed, it is the services that pose a far more interesting question than the technology. “The move towards 4G highlights one important fact – convergence of fixed and mobile is finally upon us. The driver is broadband. Mobile is moving towards a broadband model in the longer-term, where the differentiation of basic functionality and services between fixed and mobile becomes blurred,” said Michael Kovacocy, telecoms analyst and sector strategist, Daiwa Securities. “That net neutrality – an issue first made relevant in a fixed-line context – is now being discussed within the context of mobile should serve to highlight that the lines between fixed and mobile have diminished. Whether it be Google and Skype in a fixed or mobile setting is increasingly an indistinguishable point.”

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