Developing a winning mobile broadband strategyBY ALLAN CHAN
With consumers demanding access to more content than ever before, anywhere and anytime, the mobile broadband market has potential for huge growth.
According to analyst house IDC, 916 million connected devices were shipped in 2011 alone, and this is set to double to 1.84 billion units by 20161. All of these devices will require mobile broadband access, placing huge demands on an already strained network. Clearly this creates a number of issues but also generates opportunities.
With mobile data consumption set to grow tenfold over the next five years2 as a result of rich, high- bandwidth app innovations, the demands on mobile broadband solutions are greater than they have ever been.
The dynamics of the mobile ecosystem are changing to meet these demands, with application and content providers, mobile operators and handset and equipment manufacturers required to work closer than ever before. It’s imperative that mobile network operators develop strategies to manage this huge increase in data, and enable smart applications to deliver what users require and get a slice of the growing mobile broadband pie.
The rapid pace at which the telecoms landscape is evolving means winning the game today requires a change in tactics. To gain ground, operators need to examine their strategies across all aspects of business – network, service infrastructure, operations and business arrangements – to optimize on three key success levers: efficiency, quality user experience, and innovation.
In short, mobile operators need to solve, in parallel, how to deliver existing services better with greater efficiency and build capabilities to quickly enable future services. In addition to tackling these challenges within their home networks, mobile operators also need to recognise the importance of interconnection with other operators or content providers to deliver quality services to users outside of their networks.
Effective interconnection and interworking between service providers, or breaking down the “walled garden”, is crucial to accelerating adoption of new broadband-enabled applications, such as video streaming, conferencing or multi-user gaming.
However, the complexity of interworking multiplies exponentially with an increase in the number of operators and the number of real-time services.
IPX was developed to facilitate effective inter-provider network interconnection, but mobile operators need solutions beyond IPX to tackle the full range of challenges.
So how can operators address the three success levers for interconnection to drive efficiency, deliver quality experience and monetise innovation? As users demand “more, anywhere, now”, and more over-the-top players enter the marketplace, mobile operators are under even greater pressure to deliver services more efficiently, while being agile enough to respond to changing requirements.
At the network level, a key challenge is to manage service-specific networks while adapting to growing bandwidth demand for each application. Operators can drive efficiency and improve utilisation by consolidating network infrastructure through shared access for multiple services over a common IP-based infrastructure. Scale, flexibility, low costs and multi-service support are required functions for the inter-provider network as for the core network. For existing services, driving efficiency translates to consolidating network for shared access, streamlining operations process, and simplifying interconnect arrangements. For example, access to a leading on-net mobile service community, as such signalling or video conferencing, allows operators to connect to a network of providers to expand coverage without the complexity of managing bilateral arrangements.
Moreover, operators can consider managed services from experienced third parties. This can further streamline inter-provider relationships, end-to-end service delivery, and operations. The industry has a strong track record of leveraging outside expertise and resources to augment internal capabilities. This managed option is gaining greater acceptance for inter-provider interconnect functions, such as managed roaming hub, managed international voice termination, security, and revenue assurance. Looking forward, operators should ensure that their service infrastructure can support the evolution of existing services, such as voice over LTE and LTE roaming, as well as the emergence of bandwidth- intensive interactive rich media applications. User experience is defined by not only customer service interactions but also service delivery experience, including service quality, bandwidth, availability and new service offerings.
By enabling their users to reach extended service communities through interworking, operators multiply the value delivered. The service delivery experience can be improved by having the right network support. Access to multiple service options over a common network allows operators to select the right transport mechanism, with the right mix of security and QoS support, to deliver the right customer experience. New services can be readily deployed without separate network infrastructure to satisfy user needs with a faster time to market. End-to-end QoS management with application enablement functions, such as media stream processing and policy management, enhance the customer experience by enabling rich media applications such as video and gaming. Finally, active network and service level monitoring and reporting allow operators to proactively address service availability and quality issues that could negatively impact the customer experience.
With significant investment in mobile broadband, operators are looking for ways to create new revenue streams. A multi-service IP-based network enables operators to roll out new services faster by reducing network setup time. Value-added application enablement solutions offer opportunities to monetise on differentiated user experience across services, particularly for rich media applications. By allowing application providers to leverage these application enablement or managed operations capabilities, operators create win-win scenarios for faster revenue growth.
A new playing field in the mobile broadband arena means strategic decisions have to be made in order to be a winner. Mobile operators need to consider network, services, operations, and business components for mobile broadband inter-provider service delivery and management in order to drive efficiency, deliver quality user experience and monetise on innovation. This may seem complex but with the right interconnect infrastructure, smarter IT decisions and simplified application enablement, it is possible. IPX has already attracted interest at a first step towards inter-provider connectivity for rich media applications. With the industry moving at such a rapid pace, I look forward to the next round of innovative developments.