Thinking innovately about Wireless Broadband : Key Insights Reloaded


Mobile Broadband has seen feverish enthusiasm in the last two years, as evidenced by the number of LTE field trials taking place on a global basis. However full commercial deployments have been lagging because developing a coherent business case predicated on sound monetisation strategies remains an elusive and complex and process. The broadband market represents a tremendous opportunity, but there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about pursuing it.The industry needs an avant-garde approach that will leverage the inherent nature of an IP based architecture to accelerate the rollout out of profitable networks by paying specific attention to some critical elements which can make or break the LTE / 4G business case.

Today, communications service providers deliver traditional and IP services that span voice, data, video, content, prepaid and postpaid, fixed and mobile. To succeed, service providers must change to an infrastructure that supports new business models, real-time customer interactions, and new partners and channels. Driving this transformation are underlying business applications such as billing and revenue management (BRM), customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource planning (ERP). The new enterprise opportunity is a credible source or new revenue but there is still great confusion over where to start, how to scale and which divisions within telcos should be targeting these markets. Cloud Computing has captured the interest of enterprise customers because it offers flexibility and an ability to control costs. It fits well with the new Telco philosophy as it is about supplying assets as services’

Smart Billing means more revenue

When implementing billing and customer management platform several factors come into play : integration with existing systems, managing multiple billing systems, installation and service scheduling; trouble ticketing, billing blended services, managing channel relationships, automated provisioning, customer self-service, provisioning flexibility, and reporting. In fact, when properly integrated, a service based billing/CRM/Provisioning engine can evolve from an expense item to a revenue engine. If properly managed, efficient billing and CRM can translate into lowered costs, increased cash flow and increased profits.

As the telecom market becomes increasingly saturated, operators are looking for ways to stand out without resorting to price wars. Core services such as voice or data are becoming commodities; in order to avoid being limited to charging commoditized prices, operators must be able to create and deliver services that offer additional value, but are limited by the rigidity of many legacy service creation and OSS/BSS environments. A flexible policy management solution deployed either as a standalone implementation or as part of a larger OS S/BSS and service delivery transformation initiative, can enable value-added, differentiated services that can run on top of existing core services. While pricing can never be low enough from a consumer perspective, the ongoing quest for operators is to find a balance between competiveness and the ability to fund future investments.

Core Network Consolidation means reduced Capex

In an all IP world , multi-core processors coupled with powerful virtualization technology enables the consolidation of all the physically discrete carrier-grade servers into a very attractive platform for low-end scalability. Replacing 20+ carrier-grade servers with either 2 blades or 2 carrier-grade servers based on multi-core processors represents a dramatic way to lower the cost of the core network elements required to serve the first subscriber; this type of radical consolidation represents at least a 10:1 reduction in initial CapEx, plus a comparable reduction in recurring operating expenses. The greatest opportunity for revenue growth for wireless broadband presents itself in the form of smaller markets with less than 100,000 subscribers. By dramatically lowering the cost to serve the first subscriber using a consolidated core, new networks can be built on a campus or targeted community basis with new services tailored to the specific needs of these smaller, targeted markets.

Use of Smart Antenna technology : Radio technology factors into any multivariate ROI equation in three ways:

• Range: dictates the number of base stations required to reach initial coverage objectives, driving the peak negative cash flow point
• Capacity determines how much revenue will be received per unit of capital expenditures on spectrum, equipment, and site acquisition, as well as per unit of operating expenditures on site leases and maintenance
• Coverage will affect marketing costs through its influence on unit subscriber acquisition expense and churn rates.

Any successful broadband operator will find their network making a transition from range-limited to capacity-limited site density much faster than typical voice networks. Simply because subscriber usage is 10x higher for broadband data and available spectrum options are limited. One critical element responsible for the wide variance in network capacity concerns how Operators use their antennas. Modern smart antenna systems (eg : MIMO ) employ sophisticated techniques to control the distribution of radio energy in each sector Using average sector throughput as the measure, LTE can provide four times the throughput of 3G given the same amount of spectrum, but can scale to 10 to 15 times the throughput using a full 20 MHz of spectrum since LTE uses the most advanced antenna techniques.

Network Sharing can be beneficial

Site sharing entails two or more license holders to acquire and rent a common site to host the Base Transceiver Station and transmission equipment. In addition, common equipment such as antenna systems, masts, cables, filters, outdoor shelter, SSC etc. can also be shared. Analysis has shown that sharing infrastructure will deliver healthy savings in capital expenditures (10% – 30%) and operational expenditures (20% – 40%) over a ten-year period. The reduced environmental impact is the green bonus for Telcos.

Develop the Hybrid Infrastructure mindset

By cleverly combining the capabilities of a different technologies, the resulting broadband network architecture can provide high capacity for true broadband services ( full triple play ) and global coverage at an affordable cost. The various access, distribution and core network technologies in the hybrid recipe include:

• Wireless: Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), Broadband Fixed Wireless Access (BFWA), Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN), Free Space Optics (FSO), Satellite and Stratospheric platforms.
• Wire line: copper pair (for example xDSL), optical fibre, coaxial and power-line cable.

Mixing / bundling several technologies offers Flexiblility ( several deployment scenarios and supported services can be fulfilled ; Scalability ( for low-cost initial deployment ) and Enhanced technical performance: in term of coverage, capacity and throughput.

Telco Execs must understand role of new generation applications, content and platforms to generate revenue from broadband networks assets as well as the critical role of billing engines and CRM systems and how to convert these into revenue generating assets. Success in broadband lies not just in deploying exciting new technology, but specifically in deploying a network and service creation infrastructure that is both cost effective, and capable of delivering – over time – the range of services that appeal to potential subscribers .Operators evaluating broadband ( wired and wireless ) investments must extend their consideration beyond the accepted virtues of the technology and consider how the platform fits into their specific near and long term business model, measuring cost of ownership with potential for harnessing time-to-market advantages to grow subscriptions and generate revenue.

Final Thoughts

Telcos are being disrupted because the basis of competition in mobile has fundamentally changed. It has changed from “reliability and scale of networks” to “choice and flexibility of services”, representing transition from “mobile telephony” to “mobile computing”. Telcos need to move their innovation focus from technologies (be it HTML5, NFC, IMS, VoLTE, M2M or RCS-e) to ecosystems. That requires a much better understanding of how ecosystems are engineered, and how ecosystems absorb and amplify innovation. The change in the basis of competition is fundamental and irreversible.

Telcos need to architect an easily managed network infrastructure that combines all the main elements : a consolidated network core to reduce the capex /opex , an efficient billing , PCRF and CRM model that is generates revenue , smart antenna technologies that optimize the spectral efficiency , mixing fibreoptic and satellite for cost efficient backhaul and site sharing to accelerate the time to market. In the final analysis the end-users will get a full set of broadband services at an affordable price and Telcos will not lose money through ill advised investments in technology.

Networks are facing a lack of scalable and sustainable architecture to meet the challenges ahead in terms of data traffic increases, video uploads and downloads, and enhanced M2M communication. Employing software-defined networking (SDN) techniques can help mobile carriers overcome those hurdles and attract new data-centric revenue streams.the promise of total cost of ownership reduction. Wireless carriers must aggressively jump on the NFV and SDN bandwagon, targeting integration across a multitude of areas including radio access network, mobile core, OSS/BSS, backhaul, and CPE/home environment

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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