The telecommunications industry has embraced convergence of various forms throughout its history. Voice, video and data—once distinct applications—have converged into VoIP, and the underlying signaling and control converged with SIP and IMS infrastructure. The history of wireless technology also shows convergence toward a single standard: LTE.
An area that is currently getting a lot of attention is the convergence of LTE and Wi-Fi, and with it the convergence of 3GPP and IEEE standards. There is value in both technologies independently, but combining the two yields something better: more uniform coverage, better Quality of Service and greater access to low-cost data as users roam. It will also create new opportunities for the mobile ecosystem.
Small cell access points are an ideal place for convergence. The combination of LTE and Wi-Fi is designed to enable users to take advantage of the cost-effective Wi-Fi bandwidth where 4G is installed, while still enjoying the reliable performance and coverage associated with 4G networks.
Globally, mobile traffic has been approximately doubling each year, and the industry is now preparing for a staggering 1000x increase. This is partly due to the dramatic increase in the number of connected devices. By 2020, the number of devices in the average home alone is expected to jump from 9 to 25 (Source: Machina Research 2014). A majority of that traffic is offloaded to Wi-Fi networks, but most users wander during consumption—from the office, at home or in coffee shops, or to hospitality venues and sporting events.
We are innovating to meet the 1000x challenge head-on. The technologies we deliver are designed to ensure wireless networks can handle the increasing demands of mobile devices and other “things” joining the network, so users have a seamless experience. This is particularly important in big, busy environments such as enterprises, venues, stadiums, campuses where performance matters because there is a ravenous appetite for mobile content.
Our innovation in Self Organizing Network (SON) features already enable widespread deployment of unplanned small cells, while providing carrier grade performance and operator control. Qualcomm UltraSON, from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., solves several challenges of hyper-dense environments including “unplanned” small cells, robust mobility, and a reliable user experience.
The next step is to deliver small cell infrastructure that converges to support both Wi-Fi and LTE concurrently at one access point allowing network operators to optimize small cell access points on their networks for range, throughput and cost. Most important, convergence of these two technologies can help address the last mile problem of delivering sufficient network bandwidth. With converged access points, networks can deliver the capacity they need using the best technology available to them—without user intervention—thereby providing an optimal experience. Converged access points are designed to enable operators to optimize:
- Connectivity: Optimized or select best network
- Co-existence: Manage potential interference from licensed to unlicensed (i.e., harmonics)
- Carrier services: Handoff and interworking
- Spectrum integration: Access the most appropriate spectrum
Already, handsets include both licensed (LTE/3G) and unlicensed (Wi-Fi) technologies. Now is the time for those technologies to also converge in SMB and enterprise access points. To that end, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, is already working on reference designs and software to enable hardware and software integration for small cell access points with shared hardware (antenna), shared spectrum, and shared software (processing).
We believe these solutions will provide the universal coverage required so consumers don’t drop a call as they move about their lives among the office, home, in coffee shops, hospitality venues and sporting events.
Do you also see the value of convergence? Let us know by using in the comments section below. And if you're attending Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, be sure to see us in Hall 3, Stand 3E10!