Capacity plan

Mobile capacity issues and LTE dominated the agenda at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

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By  Roger Field , Nithyasree Trivikram Published  March 9, 2011

It often seems that operators and vendors are forced to jostle for attention with device manufacturers at Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile event, and this year's edition was no different.

With a glut of new tablets and smartphones, including devices tailored for gaming, and a number of devices optimised for 4G, device manufacturers stole much of the attention at the show.

However, as smartphones and tablets continue to grow in sophistocation and fall in price, and as ever more mobile broadband applications lure more people to take mobile broadband packages, so the amount of data on operators' networks continues to surge.

In this respect, the attention that was lavished on many of the impressive new devices at MWC was mirrored by the attention given to vendors and operators, who raised awareness of the issue of network capacity.

On the first day of MWC, Ericsson's CEO, Hans Vestberg, highlighted the need for smarter networks in metropolitan areas, and he also offered an interesting overview of data traffic that will be placed on mobile broadband networks in the next five years.

"Last year, there were about 600 million mobile subscriptions, and we expect this to touch 1 billion by 2011 end, reaching up to 5 billion in mobile broadband subscriptions by 2016," he says. "The data consumption in mobile networks will be 25 times higher by 2015, and the majority of traffic in the networks will be related to videos and pictures. By 2016, there's equally going to be as much data on smart phones as on PC," Vestberg adds.

"The biggest growth for operators is in mobile broadband, and it will see different paces of growth across regions. While networks will become a key differentiator for operators, the three driving forces that are to transform into a ‘networked society' are mobility, broadband and cloud."

And while LTE will offer huge capacity for mobile broadband, Vestberg pointed to the need for "smarter" networks in metropolitan areas.

Smart networks

Vestberg adds that providing coverage in urban areas will become the biggest issue facing the mobile industry. He says that while the speed will be available, the challenge will be how to provide "heterogeneous networks" that can cater for different needs, including giving priority to certain data traffic.

He says these will need to work in a different way from today and will be "dimensioned" differently. Vestberg adds that in a fully "networked" society where everything that can be connected to the web is connected, the ability of networks to handle traffic in a smart way will be a key differentiator.

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