IDC Directions 2012: Mobility and NexGen Wireless Network Architecture for the 3rd Platform

The prestigious IT Market Research firm IDC believes that we are on the cusp of a “Third Platform” that will dominate the IT landscape till 2020 and beyond.  That platform consists of some mash up of: Cloud computing, mobile broadband, mobile services/devices/software platforms-OSs/apps, social networks, and big data- analytics.  Many or all of those technologies will be integrated or combined to offer new types of services to both business and personal IT end users.

IDC predicts a CAGR of 15% for Third Platform IT spending, with cumulative growth (2013-’20)  of 70.4%!  Scale, Community, and Competency will determine the Third Platfrom winners, according to IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens.

This article focuses on the mobile network- new architectures to deal with congestion and how mobility intersects with cloud computing.

Take aways from John Byrne’s outstanding presentation (best of conference) on NextGen Mobile Architectures: Solving the Congestion Dilemma.  The IDC chart below shows global cellular revenue by RAN technology:

Key point:  Exponentially Increasing Mobile Data Traffic Is Driving Major Network Changes. 

In particular, smartphones, tablets and dongles (oh my) driving major changes in wireless network infrastructure:
• Heterogeneous network” architectures required, with the focus rapidly turning to microcells, picocells, femtocells, distributed antenna systems, “cloud RAN”
• Backhaul chokepoints must be resolved through a variety of solutions, including fiber, Wi-Fi offload and other fiber-to-the-cell deployments wherever feasible
• Operators must be able to utilize every spectrum band available, as efficiently as possible, to keep pace with demand

Continued exponential data traffic growth requires a variety of solutions.  A capacity crunch is coming or is already apparent in today’s cellular networks, e.g. AT&Ts 3G network: 

• Operator assumptions regarding network traffic growth have been significantly exceeded
• form factor for video, download and upload
• New M2M applications/form factors will develop to take advantage of high data throughput

IDC believes that network operators must take advantage of every solution available:
• Wi-Fi more closely integrated into wireless network architectures
• Multi-technology, multi-spectrum radios are the main focus in the macro-environment
• Heterogeneous Network solutions to solve urban hotzoneand in-building coverage challenges
• FDD, TDDand FDD/TDDcombinations to take advantage of all available spectrum bands

The chart below shows mobile data growing at a 10.9% CAGR- higher than any other type of information transported on carrier networks.  This is what will cause the capacity crunch and mobile network congestion. 

In the Macrocell Environment, Focus of Deployments Turning to support of Base Stations that support multiple frequencies and multiple RAN technologies (e.g. 3G, WiMAX, LTE-TDD/FDD).
Flexibility is the focus, allowing customized approach for each operator’s unique situation
• Ultimately multi-mode, multi-band base stations will be part of the solution for operators in most regions
• Sprint “Network Vision” project represents a good example of network modernization to adapt to the new environment –multiple technologies & frequencies using a single multimode antenna

Heterogeneous Networks represent the “Next Phase” of Wireless Network Development

Wireless telcos and network equipment vendors are focusing on “HetNets”
• AIR, Liquid, Light –regardless of vendor acronym focus is on 10x increase in # of radios to keep pace with network traffic growth
• A host of vendors (and being driven by China Mobile) spending significant R&D on “cloud RAN” and other HetNetconcepts
HetNetSolutions will vary by operator and scenario:
• Pico cell base stations
• Femto cells moving into the enterprise and outdoors
• Microcells
• Managed, carrier-grade WiFi for mobile data offload of the cellular network

As shown by the IDC chart below, wireless access network backhaul represents a major challenge to robust mobile boadband. service.  Operators and vendors will need to solve the backhaul challenge at two main chokepoints:
1. The connection between the base transceiver station (BTS) and the base station controller/mobile switching center (BSC/MSC)
2. The “metro” handoff from the BSC/MSCto the core network

M2M Represents a Great Example of the Third Platform:

• Digital Signage:
–Remote billboards/digital ads (in areas where fixed broadband is not available and/or cost prohibitive)
–Major areas of opportunity: taxis, buses, limousines, ferries and trains; targeted possibilities are enhanced further when combined with location awareness
• Personal Fitness/Healthcare Monitoring:
–Business(B) to Consumer(C): Operator could provide aggregated data to a consumer focused on fitness
–B to B to C: Operator could provide active monitoring directly to clinic or hospital and react in the event of an emergency (call ambulance, forward relevant patient data, contact doctor, etc.
–B to B to C: “Glowcaps” is such a model

“Third Platform” networks must support Trillions of Transactions, which poses challenging new requirements:

• OSS/Policy Management/Device Management:
–Automated response is key to profitable M2M
–Automated customer/service provisioning, authentication
–Device/chip/module certification
• Billing/BSS:
–Revenue sharing among thousands of partners
–Myriad of business models: per MB, per transaction, per month, etc.
• Analytics:
–Value of data gathered rests in the ability to make sense out of it
–Intelligence will rest with network operators –ability to monetize depends on developing and packaging meaningful insights
• Ecosystem:
–In order to get to trillions of transactions, service providers must do much more work to bring application developers into the ecosystem

Essential guidance from Courtney Munroe’s presentation on Mobility and the Cloud:
• Cloud Applications and Traffic will grow exponentially by 2015
• All Applications Providers must have a cloud Solution
• Consolidation/Partnership inevitable
• Apps will expand from basic categories to include HD Video/Business Analytics
and LBS (Location Based Services) Apps

Mobile OS/ browser issues:

• Native Apps vs HTML5? The former has many advantages, but the performance gap will close.
• OEM Device Optimization for Cloud Integration
• Mobile Device Management: Blackberry Mobile Fusion: 2012
• Storage/Sync Services- iCloud/SkyDrive: Consumer Oriented
• Cloud Productivity Apps: Google Apps, MSFT Office Web Mobile Operating Systems


It will be a very interesting few years as network infrastructures evolve to accomodate both fixed enterprise premises and mobile workforce access to a variety of cloud resident services.

We think that the network will be a gating item to cloud adoption and that privacy concerns (as well as security threats) have been underestimated.  Also think that social networks will NOT be used as much as forecast for enterprise apps due to security and privacy issues.

Here are a few other opinions, expressed by IEEE ComSocSCV Discussion Group members:

“Maybe the time is ripe for Self Organizing Networks (SON) to finally go mainstream. That could help with the management problems, if done well.

As for carrier revenues, the GSMA’s OneAPI initiative is one of the ways that telcos would try to revenue-share, by providing a platform and APIs for 3rd party software providers to build upon rather than go over-the-top. But I wonder how is its momentum these days. Also, there has been talk about carriers charging developers for the bandwidth their software consumes, so something like a netflix could be forced to share revenues that way (even skype – less bandwidth per call, but multiply that by the massive number of calls). Any discussion on these types of approaches at the IDC? Also, some VP of a telco (was it t-mobile) recently spoke out against continuing the practice of heavily subsidizing mobile devices.
As for native apps vs html5, if html5 becomes dominant, the browser becomes the platform rather than the mobile OS, but then, it becomes the browser wars (which browser, rather than which mobile OS).”

“I think there will be is a subtle and un-stated result of this huge traffic explosion: the  substantial  use of cognitive radio(CR) techniques. CR was originally conceived as a means to expand utilization of existing and very limited bandwidth. CR Research has evolved under the general assumption that all the traffic sources would be wireless. But with all this monster core network traffic, there is now strong economic incentive for TELCOs to use every means possible to avoid having to make major capital investments in FO and cables. So they can use some basic CR, like spectrum band splitting and adaptive management, to use existing TELCO bands better. If my speculation is right, then CR will finally get some non-military money driving the research.”

“I believe CR now has started to wear what I call the “AI Invisibility Cloak”. Remember when AI was all the rage and there was even a company called the AI Company? Or, Expert systems Firm? well all those guys disappeared, simply because you have to focus onproducts and not just horizontal technology. So AI is deeply i mportant now, but no one talks about it–it’s buried in the fabric of all adaptive systems. It’s like “calculus”.

So, I think CR is moving the same way. Weirdly, as I write this, I believe my original claim about core traffic driving CR use makes even more sense!”

Author’s Note: 

Cognitive Radio (CR) was not discussed or even mentioned at IDC Directions 2012. So it wasn’t included in this article.  Closest new technology to CR which got “air time” at IDC Directions was Software Defined Network (SDN) in a presentation from Rohit Mehra (see referenced article below for more details on what he said about SDN and Open Flow..


Please refer to the Agenda for IDC Directions 2012 

IDC Directions 2012 on the Cloud Ready Intelligent Network
Fox News Opinion piece- Burden on FCC to find more spectrum:

WSJ article:  Wringing Out More Capacity- Wireless Carriers Use Tricks to Ease Data-Traffic Jams, Including Multiple Antennas, Remote Controls

This article assumes the FCCs hands are tied and won’t be able to come up with enough spectrum to alleviate the capacity crunch caused by continuous exponential increases in mobile data traffic. WSJ On Line sub required to access the full article: