Operators cannot shift responsibility for reducing network strain entirely to device makers. The need to offer a high quality mobile data experience is proving a bonus for testing companies like Spirent, Anite and others, as carriers seek to understand how a particular model will behave on their networks before it goes live.
And the cellcos cannot get away from the fact they will need to invest more in capacity and IP handling intelligence. After its own problems, DoCoMo said it would increase investment in infrastructure to expand its LTE services and to support rising data loads more effectively.
President Ryuji Yamada promised about ¥50 billion ($637.5 million) in additional spending over the next three years to fix any problems and strengthen the mobile infrastructure. Within that, ¥4 billion will be spent in the coming year to fix weak spots in the networks, while the rest will be added to the previous capex budget of ¥115 billion for upgrading the whole 3G and 4G infrastructure to be capable of supporting 50 million smartphones effectively.
That makes a total sum of ¥160 billion for that project. Yamada expects data traffic to expand by about 12 times between 2012 and 2016, mainly because of smartphones. Moving to LTE, and particularly LTE-Advanced, will open up new options in terms of designing access networks and packet cores in new ways, to handle data loads more effectively.
Small cells, Het-Nets, smart antennas, carrier aggregation – all these techniques will be important in boosting the efficiency and capacity of 4G and even 3G systems. In the short term, the most immediate tactic for many cellcos is data offload, to femtocells or Wi-Fi. This is significantly boosting investment in Wi-Fi hotspots which cellcos can control – directly or through partners – and eventually integrate into a multi-network pool of wireless capacity.