Network infrastructure

  • 25% cost of ownership reductions by sharing RAN and backhaul with another partner

    Mobile operators in the more economically-challenged European countries will not be able to make "massive" LTE deployments unless the economics of rollout and operation are radically changed, according to Eduardo Duato, CTO of Orange Spain.

    Those changes include a shift to active RAN and backhaul network sharing, as well as new deployment models from the vendors.

    Duato said that even though LTE is 100% more spectrally efficient, and is 30% cheaper in total cost of ownership than 3G, it is still not cheap enough to enable operators to invest with confidence in "massive" rollouts.

  • Ubidyne has signed a deal with an un-named "major Asia Pacific-based manufacturer of telecommunications equipment" to develop an LTE active antenna for the 800MHz frequency range. The agreement follows network trials of Ubidyne’s 700MHz active antenna solution in the USA. UIbidyen said that it expects to sign a series of new contracts in the next 12 months with Tier 1 operators and OEMs and that the new 800MHz active antenna will be deployed with a major regional network operator in 2013.
    In the US trials, Ubidyne’s Antenna Embedded Radio technology with flexible beam forming and tilting capabilities,  delivered double throughput at the cell edge and an increase of over 40% cell capacity with the same output power. In addition to the uB700™ that supports 4G (LTE) for broadband mobile networks in the US, Ubidyne’s uB900™ supports GSM, UMTS and LTE in the 900MHz frequency band to address mobile networks in Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Middle East. This latest announcement will further extend this range with the development of an LTE 800MHz solution, while Ubidyne is also looking at high-band antenna up to 2.6GHz as well as multi-band solutions.
    “With the Ubidyne technology proven to exceed our theoretical performance predictions and demonstrate excellent reliability in independent trials, we are now getting a lot of real interest from operators and OEMs who need to meet the exploding demand for wireless data,” said Michael Fränkle, CEO of Ubidyne. “This was reflected at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While there was a lot of discussion about the move to small cells, this represents a major investment in time and money; whereas visitors to our stand increasingly see active antenna technology as a way to maximise coverage and capacity from their existing macrocells. In addition to the deal announced today, we are in advanced discussions with further companies in Asia Pacific and other regions around the world.”
    By removing the need for bulky coaxial feeder cables, remote electrical tilt assemblies and additional amplifiers on antenna towers and masts, Ubidyne’s patented active antenna technology significantly reduces installation costs and energy consumption while improving radio performance, deployment flexibility, coverage and network capacity. OPEX costs and outages are further reduced by Ubidyne’s Self-Healing mechanism that secures antenna coverage in the unlikely event of a system failure.

    Unlike other approaches to active antenna systems (AAS), Ubidyne’s LTE 700MHz, 800MHz and 900MHz AAS technology uses one transceiver or M-Radio per antenna radiator. This means that an antenna with 16 radiators - or eight cross polar radiators - will also have 16 transceivers. Results from the US trials demonstrated that only a full AAS can meet critical upper sidelobe suppression requirements with margin, while simultaneously providing the highest possible antenna gain over an electrical tilt range of more than 10 degrees. And because of the Self-Healing feature, Ubidyne AAS still delivers this performance with up to four transceivers out of 16 being switched off.

  • Swisscom has reported that "substitution by IP-based applications and the growing use of social media platforms" led to a 28% fall in revenue from directly billed SMS messages during the first quarter of 2012.

    Over the same period, the average price per megabyte that Swisscom realised from customers fell by 25%. That combination led to a fall in average revenue per mobile user per month of 4.3% to CHF44.

  • A report commissioned by Everything Everywhere from Capital Economics claims that LTE network investment would benefit the UK economy to the tune of tens of thousands of jobs, increase GDP by 0.5% a year, connect the unconnected and give a productivity boost to swathes of business and industry. Can we trust its findings?

    First, the background. Everything Everywhere is keen to get on with using chunks of its 1800MHz spectrum for LTE. The other operators are not so sure, thinking that Ofcom's willingness to give it the nod will give EE an unfair advantage over the rest of them, who have to wait for the 800MHz/2.6Ghz auction.

    So Everything Everywhere (EE) has launched a website campaigning for the swift introduction of LTE. As a cornerstone of its launch, it produced a piece of research that shows how much good LTE could do for the wider economy. EE also asked for celebrities and businesses to put their shoulder to the wheel, asking them to back its campaign for a 4G Britain. The message was: Let's get rid of the delay and politicking and just get on with bringing 4G to the nation, with all the attendant benefits that that brings.

    This puts the other operators in a tricky position. If they support the campaign, then they are effectively giving the nod to EE's swift re-farming of its 1800MHz spectrum, giving EE a nice lead in bringing LTE to the market. If they object, they cast themselves as "playing politics" with the nation's economic well-being, and keeping LTE from the mouths of starving rural businesses crying out for mobile broadband.

    So EE gets to play politics while steadfastly insisting that if only everyone else stopped playing politics, it would be OK. Now, I don't blame EE for this. It's all in the game. EE has a key asset that it could be using to develop an advantage, and that's business and that's fair enough. But let's not buy the holy "won't someone think of the economy" special pleading. Instead, EE should be making the case for why its huge chunk of 1800MHz spectrum, for which it pays only nominal fees, can be refarmed without that being seen as being bad for competition in the market. Please, no more Suzi Perry.

    Another interesting aspect of this was the report itself. Its headline findings were that operators are looking at a total investment in LTE networks of £5.6 billion. The report broke this down as £2.3 billion on base station equipment, £1.9 billion on installation and £1.4 billion on software.

    The report then used that £5.6 billion number to work out how that could translate into jobs and investment within the UK. It found that the impact of that investment could lead to up to 126,000 jobs being created or "safeguarded".

    That's some big numbers, so what to make of them? First off, let's look at the investment numbers, which are used to justify the whole caboodle. Mark Pragnell, the report's author, said that he arrived at the number by using specific numbers provided by EE, as well as using "other reports" to arrive at his costings. Fair enough - that looks like some specific knowledge, extrapolated and supported with some intelligent guessing. But even EE's numbers were not detailed, Pragnell said, and were more of the headline nature. In other words, the report relies heavily on EE's own headline estimate of its investment- and while we've got no reason to doubt its veracity EE does, at the least, have a dog in this fight.

    Nevertheless, if we accept the investment numbers we then move on to their impact. The report's author, Mark Pragnell simulated the impact of a £5.6 billion investment in 4G LTE infrastructure using input-output tables from the ONS’s (Office of National Staistics). He found that at ONS rates for previous telco investments there could be as many as 125,000 jobs supported right through the supply chain by the LTE investment.

    How were the jobs broken down? Well, at the upper end of the estimate, Capital Economics assumed that operators would channel more investment than in previous rounds within the UK — up to 20% more than in 2005, it said. Its reason for this was that operators would seek to spend more in the UK than "given current economic conditions". Why? Are our operators especially patriotic? Have the costs of doing business in the UK and, say, China, really converged so much?

    No matter, using the existing ONS tables, CE's report said that there could be 57,923 jobs created within the manufacturing area, supported by LTE investment. 52,000 of these would fall within a "Computer and Electricals" sector. That looks fairly phenomenal - that the UK's "computer and electricals" sector would benefit from LTE investment to the tune of 57,000 jobs?

    Given that the bulk of the investment (all but the £1.9 billion spent on installation, remember) will be in the network equipment and software area where the main players are all, well, non-UK entities, how does that translate? Just to restate that point. Any large LTE network equipment orders are likely to go to one of NSN, Ericsson, Huawei or perhaps Al-Lu, none of them, as far as I’m aware, with their main bases within the UK.

    Pragnell said that it was important to remember that the bulk of jobs in the manufacturing sector are not actually within manufacturing, but in sales and other jobs. But intuition tells us there aren't going to be 30,000 UK sales engineers, marketers and "other functions" benefitting from LTE.

    Where do the jobs come from, then? Are the major NEPs moving large parts of their workforce local to LTE contracts? Not at this level. There will be services teams, sales teams, post sales and the rest. But 57,000?

    Perhaps these new jobs will be in all the industries providing power equipment, cooling, towers, all the passive and peripheral elements? Even in silicon and R&D companies supporting the need for increased device and equipment performance? But Pragnell said that the report didn't go to that depth. It simply looked at previous investment input (in all telco, not mobile sepcific, not in LTE as the market is currently structured) and measured output, and projected that onto LTE investment. He did concede that the mix could be different for LTE, as mobile network rollouts often revolve around one or two very major contract awards. Well, yes.

    The question remains, then? How does a billion dollar network investment, made with a global NEP, benefit the UK economy to such a vast extent? The short answer is, we don't know. I'm not saying that there isn't evidence of a GDP lift from broadband. I'm not saying that there isn't evidence of a productivity boost from broadband. There may even be a case for a vast boost to the manufacturing sector. But this report only begins to make that case, and as such it provides poor ground upon which to build a case for LTE re-farming and a speeded up auction process.

    Keith Dyer
    Mobile Europe

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  • CEO confident in order pipeline and cost control to return to profitability

    No operating segment within Alcatel Lucent was profitable in the first quarter of 2012, with the networks, software & services and enterprise division all contributing losses.

    The company's executives, CEO Ben Verwaayen and CFO Paul Tufano, said that a combination of a lower than expected volume of sales, plus a higher than expected ratio of low margin business within its sales mix, had lead to operating losses for the company of €221 million for the quarter and a reduction in gross margin to 30.3%.

  • Ericsson's network sales in Western and Central Europe were down 29% year-on-year for the first three months of the year as a result of "cautious operator spending", the vendor said.

  • Nokia Siemens Networks has said that a reduction in infrastructure sales led to a 7% year on year drop in first quarter revenues. The company reported quarterly revenues of €2.9 billion, down from €3.1 billion from Q1 2012 and down from €3.8 billion in the final quarter of 2011.

  • Increased investments in Ethernet mobile backhaul and in packet microwave equipment drove 8% growth in the overall mobile backhaul equipment in 2011, according to market analyst Infonetics Research*. Infonetics said that the mobile backhaul equipment market totalled $7.4 billion in 2011, with over half of that $7.4 billion spent on either dual TDM/Ethernet or packet-only microwave equipment.

    However, despite increased unit shipments microwave revenue growth to 2016 would be slow, with the microwave market in 2016 worth only slightly more than in 2011.

  • Rupert Baines, of Mindspeed, tells Keith Dyer how operators' requirements increasing numbers and combinations of small cells are changing the make up of the industry.

  • Broadcom's acquisition of NetLogic will enable it to more than double its addressable market, most significantly into the wireless infrastructure and base station markets,  Scott McGregor, Broadcom’s President and CEO, said on an analyst call.

    McGregor said that the combination of Broadcom's switching and routing platforms with NetLogic's knowledge based and digital front end would allow the company to address the concerns of network operators as they deal with rapid growth in demands on their networks.

    "Network operators are struggling with the number of connected devices on the network and  the exploding demand for bandwidth. The need to handle a wider variety of apps is forcing corporations and operators to use more and faster switches and increase intelligence by integrating more embedded processors. In the long term our goal is to combine the multicore front end NetLogic processors with BroadCom's platforms, to integrate higher bandwidth functionality and intelligence into one solution, with a lower integration cost, enhanced system performance and lower execution risk."

  • Dell’Oro Group, a source for market information about the networking and telecommunications industries, has announced that revenues in emerging voice infrastructure markets, which include Session Border Controller (SBC) and Voice Application Server (VAS), grew 30% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2011.  The two largest market share participants in SBCs are Acme Packet and privately-held Huawei, while the largest VAS market participants are Broadsoft and privately-held GENBAND.

  • ZTE, a global provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions, has announced the company will deliver LTE infrastructure equipment to operator Hi3G, which plans to build the world’s first LTE TDD/FDD dual-mode networks in Sweden and Denmark. As part of the deal, ZTE will also deliver 3G infrastructure equipment to upgrade the operator’s 3G network.

  • In a recently published report by Dell’Oro Group, a specialist in market information on the networking and telecommunications industries, mobile infrastructure market revenues increased 33 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to $11.2 billion. The report indicates that the market expansion was a result of continued strong WCDMA sales, as well as a pick up in the 2G market. In addition, vendors started recognizing significant LTE infrastructure revenues during the fourth quarter, it says.

  • After months of collaboration with TEMs to migrate to 40G-ready ATCA platforms, Kontron today officially announced the rollout of an updated program that features two new carrier-grade, 14-slot 10G and 40G ATCA platforms: the Kontron Open Modular Core OM9141-10G and Open Modular Core OM9141-40G. Both platforms are integrated with new sophisticated and faster bladed data transport, switching and system management hardware that TEMs can use as a starting point to build multiple new equipment configurations using CPU, NPU, DSP, storage and even specialized 3rd-party ATCA-based line cards that meet the requirements for 3G/4G, LTE, WIMAX, GPON and IPTV network elements.

  • HP today announced that it is helping SFR, a leading French telecom operator, to generate new revenues by extending the advantages of cloud computing to its business customers.

  • When short message service (SMS) debuted more than 15 years ago, few could have guessed that a 160-character message exchanged between mobile subscribers was destined for such great success. According to Portio Research estimates, global texters sent nearly 3.5 trillion messages in 2008. To put that figure in perspective, that is roughly five-hundred times the global population. And, all those messages are creating impressive returns; SMS generates more revenue than all other data services combined (Frost & Sullivan, 2008). While operators have welcomed this dramatic growth, they are beginning to discover that success has a downside.

    This handbook presents the toughest infrastructure challenges and demonstrates how Tekelec's SMS Network solution is helping operators address them.

    • 1. Optimizing the Existing SMS Infrastructure
    • 2. Managing Application-Originated Traffic
    • 3. Protecting the SMS Business
    • 4. Delivering Mobile Advertising
    • 5. Offering SMS Personalized Services

  • New growth first, backhaul next - can we still differentiate 

    Vodafone and O2’s UK CTOs have told Mobile Europe that new growth will be the driver for most of their infrastructure sharing, with the consolidation of existing sites a minor factor.

    O2 CTO Derek McManus said that it was important to understand that the operators are not sharing every site in the country. “New demand will drive the majority of this consolidation,” he said.

    Both CTOs also insisted that they saw technical benefits from the partnership, rather than it being something purely driven from the financial side of the business. By working together on site costs operators would be able to expand and deepen coverage more efficiently, they said – improving service quality. They also both said that they envisioned working together on backhaul sharing to be the next step.

    So how and where will the operators decide to consolidate their operations?

    Jeni Mundy, CTO of Vodafone UK, said the operators would make cost the key priority, and look to combine investment in passive infrastructure where sites are in very close proximity to each other.

    “We will work together where it is most cost effective and we see a good payback,” Munday said. “We will optimise our design solution on a collective basis, for instance how best to cover a particular town with 3G coverage.”

    But the operators also insisted that they would retain the ability to differentiate on quality of service and coverage, despite sharing the same antennas where they do decide to share.

    “Our data strategies may be completely different – and that will remain up to the individual operator,” Munday said.

    McManus said that the same location can have different relationships with providers. “The driver for us is the opportunity for physical and geographical overlap, but that doesn’t stop us following different strategies.”

    Ricky Watts, Aircom’s solutions and innovation director, and a former network engineer within mobile operators himself, said that the operators would be able to change the power and capacity of their base stations, but would be aligned in terms of their geographical coverage, as they cannot physically change the height, direction and position of a shared antenna.

    “They can change their power output and some quality characteristics, but I’d say that’s about 20% of the overall ability to change things. The other 80% woul be determined by the cell position, antenna height and the direction its facing,” Watts said.

  • China’s largest equipment provider builds solutions around Apertio One-NDS

    ZTE and Apertio have today announced that ZTE, China’s largest listed telecoms solution provider, has selected the Apertio One-NDS (Network Directory Server) in its new generation core network infrastructure for communication service providers.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the Apertio One-NDS will become ZTE’s standard subscriber database - creating a flexible, resilient and scalable platform to underpin the equipment provider’s new generation HLR (Home Location Register). This new generation HLR released by ZTE is based on open, IT standards and it will enhance both its 2G, 2.5G and 3G propositions. ZTE has already deployed more than 20 commercial networks with a combined capacity in excess of 50 million subscribers.
    “Service providers in the region are growing rapidly and need to manage this subscriber growth and consolidate legacy HLR solutions,” said Xu Ziyang, General Manager of Mobile Core Network Products at ZTE. “This requires a massively scalable and telco-grade subscriber data platform to sit underneath our solutions. As the recognised technology leader in this space, it was logical to partner with Apertio, to work together to create a new generation HLR proposition that directly addresses our customer’s needs.”
    By liberating and centralising valuable data from multiple and complex network elements, ZTE’s new HLR proposition - underpinned by the Apertio One-NDS - will provide operators with a geographically redundant single HLR that will scale to meet the needs of the region’s operators. By delivering real time access to subscriber information, operators can achieve; dramatically reduced network complexity; reduced capital and operational cost; and increased revenue opportunities through the rapid deployment of new services.
    “ZTE’s adoption of the Apertio One-NDS at the heart of its business is both a reflection of the demand from service providers for an advanced, future-proofed network architecture, and a powerful proof point for Apertio’s global reach,” said Wallace Ascham, Vice President Partners at Apertio.  “We look forward to working with ZTE to create and deliver a new generation HLR infrastructure to customers in China and across the globe.” 
    The partnership will commence immediately. It is a successful win-win cooperation between the two telecom giants. Apertio will provide consultancy and technical support from its HQ in Bristol UK and on the ground from its local China office in Beijing. ZTE will utilise its global resources, including 13 R&D centres in China, Europe and the USA, and its global technical support platform to deliver a high performance-cost ratio.

  • Nortel has added 3GPP R4 functionality to its wireless packet voice core product portfolio for GSM and UMTS.

    The vendor says the changes will  significantly reduce operating costs and increase network efficiency while improving voice quality for subscribers.
    Release 4 enables more efficient use of transmission capacity and reduces the amount of network equipment required to support wireless backhaul.
    "Wireless operators recognise that packetising their voice core network is a critical factor in driving network efficiencies and improving the subscriber experience," said Peter MacKinnon, president, GSM/UMTS, Nortel. "Our R4 solution leverages our expertise across wireless, wireline and packet technology to position operators for success.
    Unlike traditional circuit-switched Mobile Switching Centers (MSCs), R4 technology makes use of Call Servers and Media Gateways that separate the call control software and the physical ports carrying the voice calls.
    Nortel's enhancements include the following:

    l Introduction of VSP4 Card --- The VSP4 card provides packet network switching and routing for voice channels as well as support for special functions such as lawful intercept, conference calling, tones and announcements.
    l IP based Signaling --- This will enable operators to deploy high speed next generation signaling interfaces and a greater number of signaling links. This functionality will reduce the footprint requirement by two-thirds for signaling equipment and reduce the backhaul cost significantly for signaling traffic.
    l Voice Compression --- This functionality provides a solution for compressed voice traffic over packet backbone networks. The enhancement will reduce the bandwidth requirement by almost 75% for traffic between media gateways on the packet backbone, Nortel claims.
    l Voice Quality Features --- The media gateway supports integrated Echo Cancellation as well as advanced voice quality processing features. Voice quality features are designed to ensure that wireless packet voice quality is as good as, or better than, traditional TDM voice service quality. 
    Nortel is currently deploying R4 technology in several major markets across Cingular Wireless' national GSM network.

  • This is the year that operators will genuinely start implementing open OSS systems to support high level service creation, hears Keith Dyer

    Speak to mobile OSS providers to operators and you will hear the news that at the back end of last year, and at the start of 2004, requests for tender were coming in from operators for open systems that would enable them to create, manage and support the rapid creation of content from a multitude of content providers. These systems need to be operable by the operators themselves, understandable to third parties, and support the deployment, in a month or two, of hundreds of new services a year.

    For a long time there has been talk in the OSS community about open, modular environments assisting operators in their endeavour to create new business models, but it does appear as if operators are now making that move. 

    Roberta Cohen, senior vice president at Telcordia, says that her experience reflects that recent move.

    "We have had operators in the past year looking to create two or three new services a week. They're basically creating marketing programmes that are essentially services."

    This demand, Cohen says, is driven from the realisation by operators that service creators is, essentially, what they are going to become, if they are not to become mere pipes for voice minutes and bits ever-decreasing in margin. Telcordia has a proprietary service creation environment called Space, which it is looking to evolve into a an open, probably Java based environment for next generation services. This shift from proprietary to open systems is typical of most of the major OSS vendors. This open approach allows operators to take a flexible approach to service creation, Cohen says.
    "Some of the operators we sold the ISCP [Telcordia's service creation platform] to have purchased Space for their own use and some have purchased Space for a third party to use on their behalf --- and others have us create services for them. So as they require new services they pay us to put it together.

    "But we have a programme for moving into next generation network services  under way, and that programme will include a Space equivalent in probably a Java execution environment --- so the programming skills that are required to do service creation will be more widespread in our customer community.

    "We will have still have customers that will pay us or third parties do it. They may not necessarily want to have the skills to do it in house, but we have heard recently from one of our major customers that they think going forward service creation should become their core competence. If they are going to be an effective operator in their market they need to have a core competency in service creation and they want our support in providing an environment in which they can develop that competency in house."

    Telcordia is introducing an ISCP Compact version, where operators will have the ability to purchase the platform as a separate purchase a service creation environment. It is also increasing the price performance at top end of that line. That price performance point will be a precursor to introducing a whole new architecture on the platform that will be more OSA Parlay focussed, Cohen says.