News From Telecom World

Mobile network evolution: How does UMA meet LTE?

Posted on: October 22, 2008

Macro networks offer great opportunities for service delivery, but there are also many advantages in combining in-building networks with LTE deployment.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) may be closer than we think. LTE, the name for the mobile community’s next-generation broadband IP access network, evokes images of a distant, foreign land. Yet a report released by ABI Research in June 2008 projected 32 million subscribers will be using the technology by 2013, a mere five years from now.

There is still a lot of work to do between now and then, but operators are moving quickly towards LTE. In fact, ABI Research Analyst Nadine Manjaro was recently quoted saying some operators may choose to bypass 3G and jump directly to LTE, putting increasing pressure on the vendor community to meet accelerated timelines.

As an access network, LTE holds the promise of a true ‘mobile internet’, a native packet access network with peak data rates in excess of 100 mbps. In an all-IP mobile world, what is the role dual-mode Wi-Fi handset services based on UMA technology?

As a backdrop, UMA is about delivery of mobile services provided by the core network (circuit, packet, IMS) over broadband IP access networks and Wi-Fi. It enables mobile operators to leverage the cost and performance advantages of the Internet to make mobile services work better and cost less where subscribers spend most of their time, at home and in the office.

When considering whether UMA is competitive or complementary to an LTE macro network, it is important to understand the underlying benefits of UMA in dual-mode handset services. From an operator’s perspective, there are three clear benefits:
– Offload the macro RAN
– Improve the performance of mobile services indoors
– Create new ‘home zone’ services

Offload the macro RAN

With data rates projected to exceed 100 mbps per cell site, it’s clear that a tremendous increase in backhaul capacity in today’s RAN is going to be required to support an LTE macro network. Many of today’s cell sites are provisioned with just one or two T1/E1 circuits for backhauling data service traffic.

But if we consider traffic usage patterns, it’s likely that subscribers will consume the majority of bandwidth when at home or in the office. In this case, consumers at home are typically within range of their existing broadband internet connection.

Therefore it makes good economic sense to offload traffic from the macro RAN to a local Wi-Fi radio when the subscriber is in the home or office.

In addition, it stands to reason that when a subscriber is connected to a local radio, they are not connected to a macro RAN base-station. This frees up valuable spectrum for nearby subscribers who are truly mobile.

Improve the Performance of Mobile Service Indoors

In this case, the word ‘performance’ is a euphemism for both coverage and data-rate. Consumers expect adequate coverage for mobile services, but getting radio signals to penetrate walls is only part of the issue. If subscribers expect multi-megabit data rates, it’s not enough to simply ‘get a signal’. The signal must be strong enough to allow devices to connect at high data rates.

With Europe’s LTE frequency band at 2.6 gHz, the performance issues experienced with 3G deployments (at 2.1 gHz) will only be exacerbated. Therefore it will likely be a necessity for LTE’s macro deployment to be carried out in parallel with an in-building local radio resource.

Ironically, Wi-Fi penetration in European households with internet access is already at 46% (source: “E-Communications Household Survey”, Directorate-General for Communications, European Commission, June 2008), providing a broad installed base and strong foundation to improve the performance of mobile services.

Create New “Home Zone” Services

A key benefit of UMA service is the ability for the network and the handset to identify the specific service zone, and consequently behave differently. For example, when a subscriber enters the home and the handset associates with the local Wi-Fi radio, the network understands the subscriber is at home and connected over a very fast, very low-cost broadband access network.

Today the most popular home zone application is differentiated billing. When subscribers are in the home zone, they receive unlimited flat rate calling for a fixed price. T-Mobile, Sprint, Orange, Rogers, Telia, Cincinnati Bell and others provide this type of home zone service.

But discount voice is the just first of many home zone services. It’s possible to offer trigger-based services, such as sending or receiving SMSs when a user enters or leaves the zone. Meanwhile, developers are creating a set of applications that are location specific, providing services like music or photo synch, based on the subscriber being at home.

Outlook

The macro mobile network offers unbelievable opportunity for service delivery. But there are practical economic and service advantages in leveraging an in-building radio network in conjunction with an LTE deployment.

The ability to offload traffic to a broadband network, improve the performance of mobile services indoors, and create new, differentiated home zone services is even more important given the characteristics of LTE.

UMA-based home zone services, is a pragmatic, proven mechanism for mobile operators to extend their circuit, packet and IMS services onto the fixed broadband IP network. It’s clear that UMA provides the perfect complement to tomorrow’s LTE networks.

Steve Shaw is associate vice president of marketing at Kineto Wireless.

Source: Total Telecom

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