Next year will see mobile operators requiring fewer small cells, thanks to LTE's improved indoor coverage, and the market power of device vendors shaping the evolution of mobile R&D. Outsourcing and managed services will become more focused on promoting vendors to actively address operator network opex as a whole. And, to round it off, operators are going to face a looming rivalry from Microsoft and other IT players in the enterprise communications market.
Highlights of Northstream’s 2013 predictions:
‘Small cell debate’ ended by LTE rollouts (with some support from Wi-Fi)
Global LTE rollouts have sparked discussion about the rapid take up of small cells to extend high speed data coverage to public venues, enterprises and homes. However, Northstream believes that LTE rollouts will actually result in operators requiring fewer small cells than before.
Obviously, the pure macro network, even with the combination of best spectrum assets, does not serve all indoor broadband needs sufficiently; including coverage, QoS and capacity. Allocated LTE spectrum includes a combination of sub 1-GHz (700-MHz, 800-MHz and 900-MHz) and higher bands. Building LTE networks that combine sub 1-GHz and higher spectrum assets actually helps to improve mobile broadband experience indoors.
However, heavy traffic generators like tablets and data modems will require further enhancements to improve indoor coverage. Operators will need to find economically viable solutions to cater for these devices. Non-licensed spectrum will be of assistance, and Wi-Fi has been established as a feasible option for indoor coverage.
Advent of device sector dominance to impact evolution of mobile industry R&D
The rise of smartphones is placing the industry on a path to Apple and Samsung achieving enough market power to drive and finance a bigger portion of industry innovation, R&D and standardization efforts. This could result in a lack of open standards, interoperability issues and a smaller amount of harmonized solutions. Operators and infrastructure vendors need to watch out.