Mobile network predictions for 2012

As operators in highly competitive, developed markets continue to invest in mobile broadband networks during 2012, we expect them to focus on two key areas for the following year: technologies critical to maintaining a high user experience and initiatives providing additional profit growth opportunities while reducing costs. Key areas for network investments include backhaul, network sharing and traffic optimization.

As LTE starts to gain mainstream acceptance, operators will continue to invest in EPC and IMS to support VoLTE while rollouts of LTE in larger regions will accelerate. Planning and deployment of LTE networks will increase in 2012, generating growth for both major infrastructure vendors and specialist companies providing planning and testing expertise for these early networks. Network sharing will also gain traction as a way for operators to save costs and focus on core operational functions such as customer or brand management. This may well limit infrastructure revenues for network vendors but will also provide them with managed services opportunities.

Coverage will become a major issue in LTE, especially in markets where operators only have access to high frequency spectrum at 2.6GHz. Although LTE small cells are not yet deployed, 2012 is expected to be a pivotal year for the emergence of LTE femtocells. However, the wide scale deployment of LTE small cells for capacity improvements is not likely during 2012 due to several outstanding business and technical issues. Small cell backhaul in particular is an area lacking market approved solutions as operators are currently investing primarily in LTE coverage. These early adopters will want to see some level of payback from LTE services before investing in small cells for network capacity.

Moreover, small cell backhaul will be subject to R&D spend from vendors in order to provide an roadmap to mobile operators that may want to evolve early small cell deployments to more advanced networks, specifically with baseband pooling. Although fiber is currently necessary for fronthaul (the link between baseband and the radio remote unit in base stations called CPRI), we expect vendors to invest in optimizing CPRI and perhaps even research whether it’s possible to transport CPRI over microwave.

Traffic optimization for video is becoming a hot topic across the industry, with content providers, CDNs vendors and mobile operators all debating different options for delivering mobile content more efficiently. However, Tier-1 groups can be expected to prefer to own their own CDN/caching infrastructure, leading to a surge in CDN vendor revenues in 2012. The London Olympics will be a major event showcasing the success or failure of these technologies, especially due to the presence of several high-profile Tier-1 operators in the UK market.


  1. Avatar Marc Lippe 10/01/2012 @ 6:14 pm

    Dimitris, I agree that obtaining a high QoE will be a major focus for mobile network operators in 2012. And even more, our customers and prospects are telling us that QoE is becoming a key component of their strategy to reach their revenue objectives and increase their margin. In order to deliver high-quality services, they need to make sure they’re prepared to address the issue of rising mobile data traffic by implementing proactive service assurance and service quality visualization across the all-IP network, especially for the Ethernet backhaul and the wireless access networks. These are crucial steps to getting an end-to-end view of their network, application and service performance, proactively identifying instances of recurring congestion and degradation, and thus improving traffic management and end users’ Quality of Experience (QoE). In addition, performance management can assist wholesale backhaul service providers in meeting SLA agreements, and provides their mobile network operator customers with unique reporting opportunities to predicatively manage the capacity and performance of network infrastructure. What is your take on the role of performance management and service quality visualization when it comes to mobile broadband and backhaul?

  2. Avatar justin thesiger 26/01/2012 @ 9:28 pm

    Dimitris,you have it completely right with Operators focussing on increasing performance which will improve cusotmer experience. That is why Mobile Transmit Diviersity is now mandatory in Operator requirements and will become formally standardised this year. It enables a doubling of the data rate at the cell edge and a 40% increase in network capacity.Qualcomm are heavily promoting Uplink beamforming so other chipset providers must also get involved to stay with them!

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