IEEE ComSoc SCV chapter meeting held on January 13, 2010 offered two hot topics of interest to attendees: the Mobile Packet Core (MPC) for 3G and 4G wireless networks and the outlook for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) in India. There were two presentations followed by a panel session which covered both the mobile packet core and BWA in India. This IEEE ComSoc SCV chapter meeting was chaired by Sameer Herlekar, ComSoc SCV Technical Activities Director. The meeting was well-attended, with the 72 people in attendance receiving the speakers’ presentations and panelists’ views with enthusiasm and often engaging the panelists in a lively debate on the issues involving MPC and BWA India.
Jay Iyer, Distinguished Engineer at Cisco Systems and Eric Andrews, VP of Product Management for WiChorus/Tellabs Company (who replaced Rehan Jalil, Senior Vice President, Mobile Internet, Tellabs) were the speakers who presented their respective companies’ perspectives on MPC and later participated in the panel discussion on the same subject. They were joined on the panel discussion by Arpit Joshipura, Vice-President, Strategy & Market Development, at Ericsson Silicon Valley who articulated Ericsson’s views on MPC as well as provided his views on BWA in India.
Presenting the first talk of the evening titled “The Mobile Internet Edge”, Jay Iyer elaborated on how intelligent networking built on an all-IP network foundation can help mobile broadband service providers monetize their investments while, at the same time, deliver a high quality of mobile experience to their subscribers. The user (subscribers’) experience will be marked by a rich suite of services including mobile video, enhanced voice and messaging, cloud-based services, other personalized services and featuring seamless interoperability over an array of devices. The talk also addressed how Cisco’s all-IP next generation network (NGN) architecture, named IP NGN 2.0 enables the ubiquity of these services. Noting that the mobile internet data traffic is projected to grow sixty-six fold by 2013-14, the presentation asserted that 64% of the mobile internet traffic by 2013 will be composed of mobile video, with speed of services and quality of service the key to user satisfaction and operator revenue generation. Additionally, the talk described the business models for new markets and services including collaboration cloud services and machine to machine (M2M) application services.
The second presentation of the evening, by Eric Andrews, was titled “Mobile Packet Core Trends” and focused on smart 4G packet cores for the mobile Internet. The talk observed that mobile operators the world-over are facing a severe shortfall of revenue following their introduction of mobile data services such as HSPA, in spite of actual mobile data traffic seeing an exponential increase over the same period. However, the talk also noted that the 103 million HSPA subscribers (as of Q4 2008) represented only 2% of the total mobile service subscribers. In order to meet this explosive mobile Internet data traffic growth, the mobile packet cores form a crucial network component within the new flat all-IP network architecture. Furthermore, the talk explained why smart 4G packet cores are well-positioned to not only handle the exponential volumes of data traffic (thereby enhancing the mobile subscribers’ quality of experience), but also enable network optimization and content monetization for the service operators’ benefit. Content and application awareness at the network, geographic and user levels, and a QoS guarantee enforced on identified content define the smart quality of these 4G packet cores. Additionally, the presentation elaborated on how a distributed core network architecture with internet offload at the network edge results in significant OPEX and CAPEX savings to the service operators while causing minimal operational impact on the network itself..
The three panelists concurred that the mobile Internet itself is the killer application for wireless communications, and that serious efforts need to be made towards extending the internet to help meet growing user demand for the mobile internet. Furthermore, the panelists asserted that the mobile packet core, in conjunction with either WiMax or LTE as the radio access technology is an ideal means to handle the exponentially-large volumes of data traffic expected from the mobile internet users. Eric Andrews noted that mobile users are demanding ever-increasing bandwidth for their mobile device applications and that the available bandwidth is never enough. This has been particularly true for the current state of the mobile internet, where the amount of bandwidth available to users has been far below the user’s expectations. A controversy erupted between a few of the audience members and the panelists on the question of whether off-portal services were threatening the traditional mobile operator business model and the walled-garden services. The audience members expressed their view that mobile operators have been restricting subscribers from accessing the services which they (subscribers) truly want while the panelists responded by stating their own case from the business angle.
The subject of BWA in India was then introduced by the panel moderator, Sameer Herlekar, who proffered his views on the topic, and was followed by each of the panelists who provided their own perspectives. Sameer Herlekar observed that the Indian government has initiated the BWA project in an effort to connect people in the rural areas of India to the Internet by leveraging wireless communication via WiMax as the transmission medium. This approach was mainly due to the inadequate reach of copper phone lines to the underdeveloped and remote parts of India. The three panelists observed that India is the single-largest WiMax market in the world and therefore offers mobile operators an invaluable business opportunity. However, according to Arpit Joshipura, the BWA in India will have to be deployed in the so-called metro (urban) areas first, and consolidation will need to take place among the operators before the rural markets can be tapped profitably. The panel and moderator also noted that bureaucratic hurdles are a serious impediment to the deployment of BWA in India, including the spectrum auction date which is still undecided despite a delay of over one year.
The opening of the airwaves to the Internet by mobile broadband is expected to spawn a host of new applications, user interfaces, services and technologies geared for mobile Internet subscribers. These applications and technologies promise mobile subscribers a whole new experience of the Internet by truly extending the Internet’s reach well beyond their desktops or laptops to their very person. Meanwhile, the mobile packet core (MPC) pledges to not only help the mobile operators monetize the tidal wave of mobile Internet data traffic expected to hit the backhaul networks, but also enable a brand-new user experience built on highly-personalized and innovative applications running on mobile devices. Companies like Cisco via their acquisition of Starent and Tellabs through their purchase of WiChorus are preparing for the aforementioned data traffic tidal wave, which has already begun. At the moment, MPC promises a win-win situation for both operators (from a business angle) and for subscribers for their Internet experience. If successful, the mobile Internet enabled by MPC and 4G radio architectures like LTE and WiMax could ultimately change the quality of our lives by providing true Internet access on-the-go. However, only time will tell if these prophecies eventually turn out to be as true as the operators are betting on, and as the mobile subscribers are looking forward to.
That the BWA market in India is potentially the single-largest WiMax market in the world is not in question. Please see this article by Alan J Weissberger for corroboration: Study Predicts India to be Largest WiMAX market in Asia Pacific by 2013
Additionally, the Indian government’s belief that the far-flung areas of India can be connected to the Internet wirelessly is reasonable, if one is to consider the astounding success of the cellular phone services in India where 442 million subscribers currently enjoy the services and, on an average, 10 million new subscribers have been added per month over the last 2 years. However, the promise of monetizing the Indian BWA market will depend on when the BWA spectrum is auctioned and allocated to operators, which, as of the time of the writing of this article, was still not finalized. Furthermore, as Alan Weissberger has noted, the BWA deployment in India will feature WiMax for fixed broadband wireless access rather than true mobile WiMax, as Indian mobile operators plan to use 3G services for mobile broadband access. This result is rather surprising, as one would expect the WiMax supporters to have left no stone unturned to leverage the vast Indian mobile broadband access market potential and showcase mobile WiMax’s capabilities versus LTE.