Today, people take for granted their ability to communicate with each other, regardless of distance. As we move toward the Networked Society - with its predicted 50 billion connected devices - the telecommunications picture is becoming more complex, and the amount of traffic and signaling that has to be transported across networks is growing at an astonishing rate. Ericsson’s David Giaina, Marketing Director, Mobile Transport, explains the factors affecting mobile transport.

For mobile broadband, which is driving the requirements on mobile transport networks, three key trends exist.

The first is the rising popularity of connected devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops. In the few years that smartphones have been commercially available, shipments have risen drastically, reaching almost 500 million units in 2011, when they surpassed PC shipments for the first time (1). Smartphone users are consuming more data than ever before – an average of about 500MB per month (2) – and they have downloaded more than 25 billion applications from Apple’s App Store alone since it first opened for business in 2008 (3).

The second trend is the move toward cloud services. What we are experiencing now is clearly related to our vision of the Networked Society; anything that can benefit from having a connection will have one. The implications are significant. For example, instead of having a limited number of songs stored on a secure digital (SD) card in MP3 format on a mobile phone, users have unlimited access to songs stored online. In this context, consumers have very different expectations for network performance – for the apps to work, greater levels of capacity and coverage are required, and what was acceptable before in terms of performance is no longer good enough. This trend alone is driving the requirements on network performance.

The third trend relates to what is actually consumed; regardless of the applications we are talking about, be it Netflix in the US, YouTube, or even Facebook, more and more video on demand is being transmitted across the network.

Ericsson’s vision of the 4th generation IP network defines the key properties that the networks must have to support the trends we are talking about: smart, simple, scalable and superior performance.

Superior performance will be a critical factor for end users when they select a network for their smartphone. They want to be able to access their cloud services and consume video on demand wherever they are.

In addition to the fundamentals of capacity and coverage, quality of service (QoS) and service assurance are key considerations for operators who want to provide excellent mobile broadband services that can be quickly deployed to the market.

Superior network performance

Mobile transport networks connect the core and the access parts of the network. As such, they transport all services, and so they are critical from a network performance perspective. Any negative impact that the mobile transport network has on traffic will result in lower quality of experience for the end user – even if the quality of the radio network connection is good.

Capacity is a key concern in the management of mobile transport networks. To provide sufficient capacity in a cost-effective way, operators will need to evolve their mobile transport networks and adopt packet technologies, such as IP. As they do so, operators will have to find the best strategy for evolution to IP, based on their specific situation in terms of network legacy, operations, planning horizon, service launches, and so on.

Moving to IP also means making the transition from dedicated capacity to a network that has shared resources. For this transition to succeed, operators need to ensure the highest possible utilization levels for these shared resources are made possible without reducing network performance. The opportunities are great – from an efficiency perspective, but also from a revenue growth perspective. However, when a shared resource is used at full capacity, you introduce congestion to that network. This will, in turn, introduce a new challenge: how to prioritize traffic. The mechanisms to support the prioritization process therefore need to be reliable, and must deliver on QoS requirements end-to-end.

Building on competence in the radio-access network (RAN) and core domains, Ericsson also offers an end-to-end, verified mobile transport QoS solution that delivers proven performance across our range of network technologies. Ericsson’s leadership in mobile broadband and experience from key projects results in an unmatched insight and understanding of what to expect in terms of traffic profiles, traffic mix, and requirements on the network.

The focus on superior network performance places additional demands on operators to collect and analyze data about performance from across the entire network, including the mobile broadband network where services are actually delivered. To achieve this, Ericsson offers service assurance with RAN integration, which essentially means end-to-end network transparency. At Ericsson, we can offer guidance and know how to work with that data to address optimization opportunities, as well as congestion and other network challenges.

The implications are clear: operators must review their mobile transport infrastructure to maintain competitive service levels in the future, and to ensure they do so cost efficiently. However, reviewing the transport network in isolation is not enough. Only by applying 360-degree analytics to the network data – based on our knowledge of end-user requirements, the services that operate on the network, and our additional knowledge of the mobile network – can we help our customers maximize the end-user experience in an efficient way.

Supporting the Networked Society

In some parts of the world, societies are still being transformed by basic voice connectivity and have not yet been affected by the rapid rise of mobile broadband. Here too, operators can benefit from cost-effective solutions to their challenges. Ericsson offers solutions to help operators make tremendous improvements to the ways in which they use network resources even when these are very scarce – for example, by reducing network load when people are not speaking during a session.

Often, the introduction of connectivity to new geographical areas improves local economies and is often followed by rapid traffic growth. As traffic growth occurs in networks, Ericsson software upgrades can secure the required network capacity upgrades. These upgrades can be provided from a remote location, without site visits, to both the transport and RAN domain, reducing costs and minimizing time to market for new revenue-generating services.

Mobile transport is a key performance asset for mobile broadband – and our advancements in this domain have been comparable to and perhaps even more extensive than those achieved in RAN technologies such as 2G, 3G and 4G.

Find out more about Ericsson’s range of mobile transport solutions here.

(1) Canalys, February 2012, Press Release, Smartphones Overtake Client PCs in 2011 [PDF], Available at: http://www.canalys.com/static/press_release/2012/canalys-press-release- 030212-smart-phones-overtake-client-pcs-2011_0.pdf

(2) Ericsson’s Traffic and Market report, June 2012, p13. Available at: https://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2012/traffic_and_market_report_june_2012.pdf

(3) Apple, March 5, 2012, Press Release, Apple’s App Store Downloads Top 25 Billion, available at: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2012/03/05Apples-App-Store-Downloads-Top-25-Billion.html