Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Amitabh Sinha, Mike Wood, Michel Courtoy, Stefan Bernbo, Liz McMillan

Blog Feed Post

Forget 5G for Now, LTE Still Has a Long Ways to Go

It has been over four years since Telia Sonera Sweden and Finland launched the world’s first commercial LTE networks and ushered in the age of true mobile broadband services.  By the end of 2014 we expect there to be nearly 300 LTE networks serving upwards of 300 million users, with nearly 1,400 different devices connecting at speed up to 300Mbps. Users from the GSM and CDMA worlds have to think the pinnacle has been reached, but far from it.  LTE is just beginning to get its legs.

Advances such as VoLTE and LTE-A will expand beyond South Korea into the US, UK, Japan in 2014; and we have yet to see the impact of 40MHz channels, let alone 100MHz channels, which will usher in the Gigabit age for mobile networking.  LTE still has far to go to reach its full potential, in particular in areas such as SDN/NFV/Cloud architecture and Small Cells, and I fully expect standards bodies, MNO’s and equipment vendors to draw from the experience of LTE in these two key areas as 5G standards shape up.

Virtualization of LTE infrastructure holds promise, but faces significant challenges.

The mobile network infrastructure is roughly a USD50B market globally in 2014 according to our estimates of RAN and core investments across all network technologies.  A growing trend among the infrastructure vendors is to cannibalize their own hardware-based revenues streams to take advantage of the growing enterprise push towards software defined networking (SDN), virtualization (NFV) and Cloud architecture.  The major network equipment vendors have already been discussing their solutions in these areas.  These solutions are intended to lower mobile network solution costs through the use of simpler, commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) hardware running virtualized functions in both distributed and centralized architectures depending on the needs of the operator.

Every major MNO I spoke with this year at both our Singapore Research event in January 2014, and at MWC 2014 expressed interest in these new architectures to help reduce Capex and Opex costs, deal with network scale, and simplify network operations.  However, these MNO CTO’s have also expressed a uniquely similar set of concerns regarding Cloud-enabled/Virtualized network solutions:

  • What is the reliability of the virtualized solutions?  One comment from the CTO at a multi-national MNO underscores a general concern: ‘some of the LTE core systems today are not at five nines reliability.  How do they expect systems running on IT hardware to be five nines reliable?’
  • How do I troubleshoot virtualized systems? With network functions such as MME, BBU and the packet core running on COTS hardware, how do I pinpoint and remedy problems quickly and effectively? How do I isolate the network from rogue processes to minimize impact on my subscribers?
  • Will the systems scale as expected?  A number of CTO and network heads mentioned the early network failures at DoCoMo and Verizon as software issues not hardware failures and questioned whether or not the virtualized functions could handle the network loads.


Cloud RAN was also a key area of interest, but responses from a selected set of MNO’s revealed the fibre-rich requirements of Cloud RAN may limit its use in 4G network to somewhere between ‘0% and 1%’ of sites according to one European MNO CTO, with the high estimate being 5% of sites. Fibre-dense locations such as Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; Singapore and certain major cities around the world may find a home for Cloud RAN, but the fibre requirements may prove a hindrance to wider deployment.

MNOs technical leadership has clearly given the trends towards cloud and virtualization significant mind-share and we are seeing some tests, trials and commercial deployments of limited functions, for now. The challenge for the vendors is sharpening the deployment opportunities for Cloud RAN, and addressing the Telco-grade concerns regarding the virtualized functions.  The good news is that the CTO’s I spoke with see virtualization as a 10 year project, so lots of time for the vendors to address their concerns.

Small Cells for LTE will undergo an extended development cycle.

Small Cells continue to solve key coverage problems for the MNO’s in both 2G and 3G networks.  The expected market growth is in additional 3G expansion and especially in 4G networks providing capacity and coverage to the macro network and solving the increasing problem of indoor coverage for higher order (>2 GHz) 4G networks. The Small Cell Forum continues an impressive march towards market development with the release at MWC of its Urban Foundations release helping operators address Small Cell deployment in dense urban centres.

I expect that in 2014 operators will be moving to broaden their small cell installation activities, particularly in the dense urban areas where most of the high-use clients tend to congregate.  However a number of operators have also indicated a need for multi-band small cell systems supporting up to five bands, which are not yet on the market.  Vendors have dual-band small cells either released or in testing but the bulk of the market seems to be waiting for the more capable systems. 

As more operators turn towards LTE-A and carrier aggregation to combine multiple spectrum positions (28% of MNO’s have 3 or more spectrum bands according to the Analysys Mason Spectrum Auction Tracker) the need for the small cell to match or exceed the macro cell for band support grows.  We look for a wave of multiband small cells to be launched by the end of this year for installation beginning in late 2015.

5G and LTE: Friends, or Frenemies?

In the past four months I have seen six different vendor presentations of what is needed in the 5G standard and I’ve discussed with four major MNO’s their views on what issues 5G should address.   So I’m describing the current 5G development status as this: we are at the ‘Wish List’ phase. The numbers mentioned are impressive: 1000x data volume, Gigabit data rates, 99% reliability, 100% coverage, 1ms latency. The feature list is even more impressive.  Pretty much everything is on the table, and I’ll go into this in more detail in another post. 

For now, MNO’s and enterprises should be looking at the near future, the next 3-5 years, with a view towards how can multi-megabit mobile services change how the offer and how they do business?  If the old brick and mortar retail establishments are under fire from internet-based firms, what about other businesses as well?  If I can get the performance of my fixed office and provide tools for even better coordination and interworking for individuals and teams of people wherever they are, what does that do for my business?

About the Author
Follow Chris Nicoll on Twitter @Canicoll
View Chris Nicoll's Community Profile

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Deborah Strickland

The articles presented here are blog posts from members of our Service Provider Mobility community. Deborah Strickland is a Web and Social Media Program Manager at Cisco. Follow us on Twitter @CiscoSPMobility.

@CloudExpo Stories
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann and Aruna Ravichandran have been named Co-Chairs of @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley which will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "DevOps is at the intersection of technology and business-optimizing tools, organizations and processes to bring measurable improvements in productivity and profitability," said Aruna Ravichandran, vice president, DevOps product and solutions marketing...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Loom is applying artificial intelligence and machine learning into the entire log analysis process, from start to finish and at the end you will get a human touch,” explained Sabo Taylor Diab, Vice President, Marketing at Loom Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
When growing capacity and power in the data center, the architectural trade-offs between server scale-up vs. scale-out continue to be debated. Both approaches are valid: scale-out adds multiple, smaller servers running in a distributed computing model, while scale-up adds fewer, more powerful servers that are capable of running larger workloads. It’s worth noting that there are additional, unique advantages that scale-up architectures offer. One big advantage is large memory and compute capacity...
It is ironic, but perhaps not unexpected, that many organizations who want the benefits of using an Agile approach to deliver software use a waterfall approach to adopting Agile practices: they form plans, they set milestones, and they measure progress by how many teams they have engaged. Old habits die hard, but like most waterfall software projects, most waterfall-style Agile adoption efforts fail to produce the results desired. The problem is that to get the results they want, they have to ch...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
Wooed by the promise of faster innovation, lower TCO, and greater agility, businesses of every shape and size have embraced the cloud at every layer of the IT stack – from apps to file sharing to infrastructure. The typical organization currently uses more than a dozen sanctioned cloud apps and will shift more than half of all workloads to the cloud by 2018. Such cloud investments have delivered measurable benefits. But they’ve also resulted in some unintended side-effects: complexity and risk. ...
"We are a monitoring company. We work with Salesforce, BBC, and quite a few other big logos. We basically provide monitoring for them, structure for their cloud services and we fit into the DevOps world" explained David Gildeh, Co-founder and CEO of Outlyer, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
In 2014, Amazon announced a new form of compute called Lambda. We didn't know it at the time, but this represented a fundamental shift in what we expect from cloud computing. Now, all of the major cloud computing vendors want to take part in this disruptive technology. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Doug Vanderweide, an instructor at Linux Academy, discussed why major players like AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, and Google Cloud Platform are all trying to sidestep VMs and containers wit...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
The taxi industry never saw Uber coming. Startups are a threat to incumbents like never before, and a major enabler for startups is that they are instantly “cloud ready.” If innovation moves at the pace of IT, then your company is in trouble. Why? Because your data center will not keep up with frenetic pace AWS, Microsoft and Google are rolling out new capabilities. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Don Browning, VP of Cloud Architecture at Turner, posited that disruption is inevitable for comp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...