Ken Wirth is President, 4G/LTE Wireless Networks at Alcatel-Lucent and is responsible for end to end LTE solutions. Prior to this appointment, he was the Customer Unit leader for a major U.S. Carrier. Previously, Mr. Wirth was President of Lucent’s Multimedia Network Solutions organization and held various management, marketing and sales assignments at AT&T and Lucent. Ken Wirth is a graduate of Seton Hall University, New Jersey.
Mobile user behavior has changed dramatically in the past few years and with the adoption of 4G LTE, mobile communications is set to provide users with an enriched wireless experience, bringing it closer to the wired broadband experience. 4G LTE unlocks new business models for service providers and enterprise/business users. Thanks to innovations in technology, in networks, in applications and in the device ecosystem, a revolutionary transformation to our lifestyle is about to happen.
The convergence of economic and technological factors is driving the proliferation of a wide range of wireless devices from sophisticated smartphones to broadband-enabled laptops, which is whetting peoples’ appetites for broadband services outside of the typical home or office environment. Increasingly, people want to be connected wherever they are, at any given time. Additionally, with recent, dramatic reductions in the cost of devices for basic connectivity – see the success of USB dongles – the world is poised for massive adoption of mobile broadband. Just think about the 6.5 billion applications that have been downloaded on just one operating system from Apple’s app store and consider that the Android operating system (launched recently by Google) is witnessing similar growth. At the same time, wireless networks have come a long way since their introduction to consumers two decades ago. Two key factors essentially contributed to this evolution. Firstly, the move from analog to digital in major parts of a radio network (such as radio access and core network) that has dramatically improved cellular network performance and capabilities, and secondly, the continuous optimization of the usage of precious radio resources, enabling more and more data to be transmitted over the air. Consumers are excited by faster speeds and the ability to remain broadband connected when on-the-go. Findings from recent European research indicate Live Messaging, Next Generation Music and Enhanced Mobile Video are the top three applications consumers would love to get permanent access to. Businesses also see the value of wireless multimedia for increased efficiency in business processes. Both market segments have different drivers for wireless broadband adoption. However, they both expect to increase their use of mobile online data activities as they see the benefit of new, high-value applications such as Mobile Collaboration or in-car connected services. An extensive study conducted in several developed countries was reviewed by the Bell Labs Business Modeling team. It confirmed that consumers and businesses are ready for 4G LTE applications and the interest in new LTE-optimized applications could be translated into a significant market opportunity for service providers. Participants ranged in age from 14 to 65 and used both mobile and broadband services. Enterprise respondents included decision makers in small, medium, and large companies responsible for the purchase, implementation, or deployment of employee mobile devices and services. In fact, consumers and enterprises report a notable willingness to switch operators in order to obtain such new services. In the European countries surveyed 51 percent of consumers and almost 80 percent of medium to large enterprises said they would sign up for 4G LTE service to enjoy the benefits of this technology innovation. Wireless network goes IP One technological change inherited from the wireline/Ethernet world is at the heart of current cellular networks evolution: Internet Protocol (IP). Today’s 2G and 3G networks – to a large extent – are primed to transition and implement IP technology. But LTE (Long Term Evolution), as the 4th Generation of the evolution of cellular networks, is natively built on IP architecture and extends network transformation and capabilities substantially further than the previous generation of networks. 4G LTE is sure to bring dramatic improvements to the subscribers’ mobile broadband experience thanks to higher data speeds and lower latency. 4G LTE is three times more spectrally efficient than 3G. 4G LTE boasts technological innovations such as Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) and Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO). When coupled with an all-IP end-to-end connection between devices and the network application servers (or between the devices), with each and every equipment using IP, these innovations significantly boost network efficiency. Besides providing the user with increased speeds more than 10 times faster than 3G, one of the key attributes redefining the LTE user experience is the lower latency. With three to five times better responsiveness when compared to 3G, bringing the wireless experience closer to the wired broadband desktop experience enables real-time applications like voice, video, and gaming to be delivered to the mass market over a pure wireless IP network. As a result, LTE promises to support the same kind of rich, broadband multimedia services (such as high-definition video, music, multiplayer video gaming) that people have come to expect at home, delivered wherever they are, any time of the day. In addition, LTE’s massive bandwidth and real-time capabilities offer the prospect of delivering a wide array of new services that haven’t yet been defined. Think about for example, the introduction of fixed broadband and how it spurred the growth of the web and the myriad services that have become available over the past decade. New business model opportunities for service providers Changes in users’ behavior and technology innovations open tremendous opportunities and perspectives for service providers. Opportunities to better serve their customers and increase their competitiveness, while at the same time exploring new business models and getting new revenue streams from untapped user demand. Examples of new business models enabled by 4G LTE broadband wireless are multiple. Early LTE adopters will be younger, more affluent and more open to advertising-subsidy models. This is a new and immediate source of revenue for operators, at almost no cost. Lower subscription prices would attract more users and in turn generate more data traffic, while advertising companies would find a new media for their targeted campaigns. Another example illustrating the huge potential of 4G is the ngConnect Program’s “LTE Connected Car”, a solution concept that drives an innovative ecosystem of devices, applications and content. The concept has a strong appeal among the under-35 age group, with Internet connectivity perceived as highly desirable. Along with always-on connection to the Internet, it offers an array of entertainment, traffic, navigation, car maintenance and safety features. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) is another key segment that is growing rapidly. Although it does not require a lot of bandwidth, it can strain the network because of the scale of the connections which run into millions in a small coverage area. LTE will support this demand more efficiently. Recent research from Technology Business Research Inc. showed that the volume of M2M connections will grow to more than 55 billion devices in this decade. Seizing such business opportunities also means addressing challenges for operators. To play the game, service providers require several assets. First, they need a high bandwidth, scalable and cost effective intelligent network with a high quality of experience (QoE). LTE’s advanced capabilities are set to deliver on that even if implementations differ from one vendor to another. Second, they need ‘application enablers’ to monetize the broadband data explosion. Only by combining the trusted capabilities of their networks with the speed and innovation of the web, will operators give end-users and enterprises what they demand: a richer and more trusted web experience. In this area, relying on an industry partner with experience in both wireless and IP multi-media solutions is vital. Finally, and this is a recurrent concern for operators, they need to mitigate risk of business and network transformations. Few mobile service providers are familiar with wireline networks and the IP transformation they experienced in the past decade. They need the help of a trusted partner. Business transformation for enterprises For many businesses over much of the world including verticals, broadband services are becoming a necessity – an indispensable feature of our daily lives that extends well beyond the simple connectivity that today’s networks have provided. In light of this ever-increasing demand for data, the need for a mobile solution to bridge the connectivity gap between home and office has become an important market driver. A recent study by Alcatel-Lucent in North America shows that messaging comes as the first wireless activity that will increase dramatically (87 percent of respondents), followed by download/view of documents (67 percent) and access to Internet/Intranet (60 percent) and video activities (59 percent). Among eight typical applications spanning Group Video Calling, Location-based Project Updates, Mobile Broadband File Sharing, Video Calling, Navigation Helper, Presence Contact List, Mobile Collaboration Tools and Priority of Critical Applications, respondents said they would use them daily with mobile broadband file sharing coming first on the list. Enterprises with over US$1 million in revenue and more than ten full time employees are the most likely to endorse such 4G applications. As a proof-point of 4G attractiveness, the majority of enterprises (74 percent) responded they would definitely or probably sign up for 4G service. 4G LTE: A huge potential and a revolution to our lifestyle In a fast-changing world with ever-increasing competitiveness, 4G LTE is set to unlock new business opportunities for both service providers and enterprises alike. It’s up to them to get ready to leverage the huge potential this technology offers in terms of business efficiency and revenue streams. 4G LTE promises to redefine the user experience and the way we communicate. It will revolutionize our lifestyle.