The Agile Wireless Network

By: Tim Young

You know the stats. Mobile data traffic is growing like crazy, and end-users’ expectations of speed and reliability are becoming more and more difficult to consistently meet. The Cisco VNI estimates that global mobile data traffic will increase nearly tenfold between 2014 and 2019, increasing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57 percent from 2014 to 2019, and hitting 24.3 exabytes per month by 2019.

Video will make up a big chunk of this, according to the VNI. Mobile video is forecast to increase 13-fold, accounting for nearly three quarters of all mobile data traffic by 2019.

The VNI also predicts that speeds will continue to increase, doubling in speed by 2019. The average mobile network connection speed (1.7 Mbps as of 2014) is predicted to surpass 2.0 Mbps by 2016, reaching nearly 4.0 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2019.

Simultaneously, mobile networks are becoming more complicated. According to Infonetics, the number of VoLTE subscribers will grow at a 145% compound annual growth rate until 2017, and a combination of over-the-top mobile VoIP and VoLTE services will become a $16 billion business by that year.

Juniper Research, meanwhile, has predicted that Wi-Fi networks will carry almost 60% of smartphone and tablet data traffic by 2019. Wi-Fi is forecast to carry more than 115,000PB (Petabytes) by 2019, almost a four-fold increase over this year.

Carriers face this landscape of massive traffic increases, growing complexity, increased competition from OTT plays, ever-increasing customer expectation and more. An agile approach to mobile networks may help providers capitalize on these challenges.

What does an agile RAN look like? From an Integrated Communications and Entertainment (ICE) technology standpoint, two big issues come to mind: network visibility across a variety of access technologies and a migration of IT services either directly to the edge or into the cloud.

Keeping an eye on complex mobile networks

Modern networks are obviously complex, and blind spots can occur in any number of locations, from leased backhaul to various cells within a hetnet. And this complexity is growing while it is simultaneously becoming more essential than ever to maintain quality of service (QoS) that is as close to flawless as possible.

“Right now, mobile operators are still adding subscribers – but this growth situation isn’t going to continue much longer, especially beyond the next three to four years," Cyril Doussau, senior director and head of the service assurance product line at InfoVista, told Pipeline. " It’s now time that mobile operators focus in on prioritizing network and service performance degradation resolutions based on how it is impacting their most important subscribers.” 
VIP subscribers have high expectations for their wireless carriers. But that's warranted, as they generate substantial revenue for wireless operators. With complex networks and increasing virtualization, providers need the tools to provide service assurance that never falters.


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