Small cells, wifi offload and VoLTE win strong support

Devices will continue to be the main driver of change in the telecoms industry, according to research published this week, but in terms of changing the behavior of users and their impact on mobile networks, they have only just scratched the surface. Analysis from Senza Fili Consulting, commissioned by Radisys and carried out in January and February, picked up on small cells, VoLTE and wifi offload as three main technologies operators will use to derive revenues from mobile broadband.

Monica Paolini of Senza Fili said that 100 per cent of European and Asia Pacific operators intend to deploy small cell networks within two years, while 100 per cent of North American operators will do so in three years’ time.

Small cells deployed in urban or other high traffic locations as an underlay to increase cellular capacity density are seen as a game changer, especially in Asia Pacific, where they are the joint highest-rated source of disruption. There are, however, obstacles to be overcome before deployments are widespread and many operators view small cell topologies as a gradual solution to capacity pressure points, rather than a radically new type of network topology.

However, in the meantime, wifi offload is seen as a stepping stone to small cell deployments, with 82 per cent of operators surveyed supporting the technology as a way to ease network capacity pressure. But even though wifi was in many cases deployed as a temporary solution, the operators surveyed are keen to retain their wifi infrastructure and/or roaming agreements after deploying LTE and small cells. Paolini believes that while the role of wifi may be reduced by small cell deployments, most operators see the two as complementary.

But the analyst said a consistent theme presented by the operators during the in-depth interviews was the feeling that it was impossible to predict subscribers’ behaviour and manage them effectively, improving the user experience and shaping services. However, those operators also recognised the advancement in technologies that would allow them to actively manage traffic, from the device through to the core – streaming video optimisation, policy management and service enablement in the core through advanced, high-speed platform capabilities.

The full findings of the research are discussed in a webinar, produced in association with Radisys and Senza Fili Consulting.

VoLTE got a warm response as one of these important future technologies, with 86 per cent of all operators expressing support for the specification that will be a must have at a later stage. Some operators want to deploy it sooner than others, but for most it is not perceived as an immediate requirement. Operators do not plan to deploy VoLTE because they need LTE to carry voice, but because they want to move to LTE-only devices, Paolini said.

There is little expectation that VoLTE will provide new revenues. On the contrary, VoLTE will put additional pressure on voice revenues if, as expected, voice services increasingly move to flat-fee plans. Among survey participants, 25 per cent expect VoLTE to have negative impact on revenues or customer experiences, the analyst said.

“Circuit-switched voice is not going to disappear over the next five years. But we do need VoLTE to gradually reduce our dependency on legacy 3G and 2G networks, to a point where we will feel comfortable to turn them off. But it will take a long time,” according to one APAC survey participant.

The associated white paper is available here.


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