Phil Sorsky, CommScope’s VP Wireless Sales, Europe, gives an insight into what he expects will be three of the biggest wireless infrastructure trends in 2012.
These include the emergence of micro networks to support the core network, the growing demand for energy efficient solutions and reducing operating costs by managing infrastructure remotely.
1. Emergence of heterogeneous networks
As far as mobile users are concerned, data is data is data. Whether they stream or download content over one technology or another isn’t important to them, their main concern is having a connection capable of delivering the service they want, wherever and whenever they want it. Operators are well aware of this and are introducing the concept of heterogeneous networks (Het Nets) to help provide ubiquitous high-bandwidth connectivity.
Het Nets combine numerous micro networks, consisting of multiple low power technologies such as picocells, microcells, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wireless LANs, to reinforce high-usage hotspots. The micro networks seamlessly interlink with an operator’s core cellular network – or macro network – to deliver widespread coverage alongside additional capacity where it’s really needed.
The stakes are high to provide consumers with a flawless 4G experience, with European mobile broadband revenues expected to jump from approximately €10 billion in 2011 to nearly €16 billion by 2016. As a result, Het Nets will play an integral role in next-generation deployment strategies across the continent next year.
2. Remote controlling the network
One major area of expense that mobile operators will streamline in 2012 is their dependence upon network site visits. Currently, experienced technicians must regularly visit each site to configure equipment, perform maintenance and implement repairs. This inefficient use of a technician’s time can be considerably costly, especially for large networks with numerous sites in remote and distant locations.
Operators can be warned through “soft alarms” when equipment begins to fall below optimum performance, as opposed to simply being alerted when equipment fails, which is often the case. This not only allows network managers to solve minor problems before they become major issues, but to choose the best time to respond and solve multiple problems in one visit.
In addition, the ability to make remote adjustments, like altering thermostat settings, completely negates the need for visits to make simple changes to infrastructure settings. Base station efficiency can be further improved by using remote monitoring software to switch-off non-essential services when traffic is low, ensuring they only consume power as and when it’s needed.
3. Gathering green momentum
From an infrastructure perspective, the move towards energy efficient solutions was undoubtedly one of the biggest trends of 2011. The benefits operators have seen so far not only justify their initial investment but can clearly maximise a network’s long term profitability. With global telecoms revenue expected to fall by 5% by 2015, as predicted by Analysys Mason, green solutions will continue to be adopted progressively throughout 2012 to offset this.
To achieve many of their “green” goals, wireless operators will be investing more in clean and reliable backup power generators, remote shelter monitoring, amplifier upgrades, shelter cooling and hybrid cooling systems, and greater network intelligence.
As an example, switching to hydrogen fuel cells for backup power from traditional energy sources, such as diesel generators or batteries, illustrates just how far operational expenditure can be trimmed through ‘green’ solutions. In addition to their inherent energy efficiency, fuel cells require considerably less maintenance than diesel generators whilst taking up roughly 50 percent less space on site – which can help to reduce leasing costs. On average, the maintenance cost of fuel cells is 77 percent lower than diesel generators and the operational cost is 37 percent lower