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Is meeting data demand child’s play?

Would you believe that meeting data demand can be as easy as child’s play? No? Check out this video (after reading my blog of course)!

Thanks to the popularity of smartphones, data growth continues unabated. Strategy Analytics forecasts a data growth of 10-12x between 2010-2015. So, how is the wireless industry bracing itself to meet this demand?

One way to summarize all the efforts underway is to look at these three aspects:

1) better techniques to squeeze more out of existing networks;

2) more spectrum, either new or refarmed from 2G networks; and

3) small cells to bring network closer to users. 

All the 3G/4G technologies – LTE, HSPA+ and EV-DO are working on these three fronts, albeit at different levels. Actually, some of these enhancements have already been commercially deployed. Let me explain each of them briefly.

Being that spectrum is a scare resource, wireless technologies have always worked hard to squeeze more out of existing assets. Many of the techniques to improve efficiency are already implemented, but these techniques, such as MIMO, multicarrier, advanced receivers, etc., are also being enhanced. 

There are also more techniques that are being worked on such as smart networks and increasing voice efficiency. The former exploits uneven network loading to increase capacity where and when needed, while the latter frees-up more resources for data.  The improved techniques as a whole usually only need software or hardware upgrades to the existing networks, hence are very cost-effective, as compared to deploying new infrastructure or additional  spectrum.

Spectrum is the life-blood of wireless networks. However it's a limited resource. So having more of it is always welcomed. But getting it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive these days. Refarming—migrating 2G networks to 3G in the same spectrum is attractive proposition for operators to substantially increase capacity without new spectrum.

Many operators are also leveraging WiFi to offload traffic from 3G/4G networks. The offload strategy will continue to proliferate and more intelligent ways of doing it are on the way.

While better techniques provide incremental benefit, and spectrum is a limited resource, deploying small cells is a third option that is getting lot of attention. The number of deployed 3G femtocells has already surpassed the number of 3G macrocells.

Small cells are deployed where most of their data traffic is generated – homes, offices, shopping malls, airports etc. – They bring network closer to user and provide a leap in performance. But, more importantly, optimizing the small cell networks makes the leap even more significant.  

The first level of optimization is interference and mobility management that our UltraSONTM offers. UltraSON enables dense deployments of femtocells that use the same spectrum as the  macro network.  The next level is implementing features such as ”range expansion” that substantially increases the utilization and adapts the small cell networks to the continuously changing load.

The newer releases of all 3G/4G technologies are currently focused on bringing such features to fruition. The overarching objective of all these optimizations is to is to provide higher capacity, higher data rates, as well an excellent user experience, where and when needed.

Along with the above strategies, operators are also experimenting with different pricing and business models to offer all the capacity needed in a cost-effective and profitable way. We can all agree that meeting the demand is not exactly “child’s play”(don’t forget to the see the video though!), but the industry has many options at their disposal to effectively address it.

If you would like to know more, visit  www.qualcomm.com/meet_data_demand.

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