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The Carrier Network of the Future

By: Chris Piedmonte

In December, Pipeline magazine covered the 5G Revolution as part of the annual year-end Top Trends issue.  In that issue, Pipeline clearly indicated that 5G networks will not be fully deployed as the primary technology until the early to mid-2020s.  As that is still considerably far off, what should carriers, service providers and other members of the telecommunications services industry be focusing on in the near future while still on the road to 5G?  How can the network of the future be ushered in with existing or near-term technologies and business practices rather than waiting until the 5G revolution is upon us?

When speaking with both business and consumer telecommunications customers, certain key issues are always the topic of discussion when talking about their near-term needs, desires and expectations.  These key areas include improvements in convergence and interoperability, more predictable costs and quality of service, and truly available global support.  Above all, these five issues are most on the minds of consumers.  Further, they can all be addressed with existing hardware technologies in place, long before 5G becomes the dominant deployment standard.

Convergence

For many years, we have been dealing with multiple technologies when it comes to cellular voice and data encoding and transmission.  Both CDMA (used by Verizon and Sprint) and GSM (used by AT&T and T-Mobile) have been the dominant technologies in the United States since the inception of cellular telephony through what has been labeled 3G.  In Europe and throughout most of the world1 GSM technology has been the standard, enforced in many cases by legislation.


The recent introduction of 4G LTE, supported by all major carriers in the United States, has now introduced a third standard for cellular technologies.  In different parts of the world, different radio frequency spectrums have been reserved for the usage by mobile providers, further complicating and restricting access by mobile devices not intended for that region.

Enough already.  The world has become a much more connected, much more interactive place.  Business is now global.  A concerted effort should be made by service providers and governments to establish a single standard for mobile communications.  This will most likely be based on the convergence of the best that GSM and CDMA have to offer as part of a global 5G rollout, but can be started today.  

Global standards for mobile frequencies would also go a long way to improving the overall global mobile infrastructure.  By being on one standard, redundant and niche equipment can be eliminated from the infrastructure.  This will reduce costs, promote more rapid technological development through head-to-head competition, as well as increase overall coverage and reliability throughout the world.

Interoperability

In the past, the term interoperability has referred to equipment (cell and mobile phones, mobile tablets and other devices) being compatible with a variety of mobile service provider network technologies and frequencies.  Today, and in the future, interoperability is about crossing technology standards between mobile and wireless technologies and allowing users to have a seamless experience while their devices automatically and reliably switch between mobile and Wi-Fi networks.



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