Mobile Broadband : A Balancing Act By Nishant Batra, Head of Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

Mobile-Broadband:-A-Balancing-Act-By-Nishant-Batra

Nishant Batra, Head of Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

Mobile Broadband : A Balancing Act By Nishant Batra, Head of Engagement Practices, Ericsson India

Operators need to provide mobile broadband for all but need to do a balancing act of providing high-quality user experience and also maximizing revenue potential for operators as they roll out 4G networks

The proliferation of smartphones and rapid uptake of mobile broadband are inducing new behaviors amongst the Indian users. Mobility is increasingly becoming a part of their daily lives, triggered by the need to be ‘always connected’. It is interesting to note that it is not just Gen Y or Gen Z which is rapidly embracing smartphones and mobile data, but also the older generations.

Ericsson ConsumerLab study shows that the proportion of smartphone users above the age of 50 has quadrupled in India over last 2 years, from 1 percent in 2013 to 4 percent in 2015. Additionally, mobile data users in the age bracket of 31–40 years have increased almost 3 times in the same timeframe. Voice no longer dominates, but today’s smartphone users are most interested in internet browsing, social media, instant messaging and mobile app usage.

As per Ericsson Mobility Report released in June 2015, global smartphone subscriptions are set to more than double by 2020, reaching 6.1 billion. By this time, 70 percent of the world’s population will be using smartphones, and 90 percent will be covered by mobile broadband networks.

With an increase in the number of smartphones, the pace of development in WCDMA/HSPA has also accelerated. WCDMA is the predominant mobile broadband technology in use today. By the end of 2014, more than 35 percent of the Indian population was covered by WCDMA/HSPA, which will increase to over 95 percent by the end of 2020. WCDMA/HSPA subscriptions are also expected to increase from over 120 million in 2014 to around 620 million by 2020.

A major factor that has contributed to this success is the falling average selling price of WCDMA/HSPA smartphones, which is expected to drop further. This is why mass market mobile broadband is being driven by WCDMA/HSPA-capable smartphones in many parts of the world, and will continue to be for some years to come.

Recently, a report titled ‘3G Wireless Investment Motivations’ by Current Analysis found that the top reason why operators continue to invest in 3G networks is to support growing voice traffic. Another key driver is 3G provides an important complement to LTE. Moreover, 40 percent of them cited cost-effective 3G device supply as a reason for continued investment in 3G networks. The big question for operators is how to satisfy demand for GSM and WCDMA/HSPA efficiently, maintain a high-quality user experience and maximize their revenue potential as they roll out LTE 4G networks.

Given WCDMA/HSPA’s key role in delivering mobile broadband to the mass market, operators will need to find ways of building and enhancing their 3G coverage and capacity. This way, 3G will offer an excellent mobile broadband experience both in its own right, and as a complement and supporting technology to LTE 4G. This is especially important as a growing number of subscribers become accustomed to mobile broadband and will be more inclined to switch service providers if they are not getting the performance they expect. A WCDMA/HSPA network that can handle smartphone users’ demands well outside LTE coverage may also enable operators to sustain a premium LTE consumer experience.

To maintain and grow mobile broadband share, operators need to carefully balance their investments across GSM, WCDMA/HSPA and LTE over the next three to five years. Operators can also optimize WCDMA/HSPA usage by considering smartphone functionality and applications, capacity, coverage, feature evolution, spectrum refarming and transport strategies in a multiband, multilayer and multi-access technology context. Live network experience shows that simply getting the existing WCDMA/HSPA 3G network into shape, through tuning, optimization and introduction of the latest features, can boost traffic capacity by as much as 100 percent (using the same spectrum).

Evidence from existing operators also demonstrates that when subscribers have access to faster, more responsive networks, their data usage increases – providing recurring revenue boost. Typically, the changes that many operators need to make to their 3G networks include adjusting parameter settings, activating existing features in the right way, and introducing some newer features. For example, they can prioritize voice while allowing users to stay connected to 3G (and not fall back to 2G). Also, they can introduce powerful HSPA enhanced uplink functionality to improve mobile broadband performance, make radio parameters consistent across all sites, and activate important smartphone features like Enhanced Uplink Forward Access Channel, High Speed Forward Access Channel and Continuous Packet Connectivity. By introducing newer WCDMA/HSPA capabilities, such as multi-carrier technology, operators can substantially increase the throughput offered by 3G networks.

This way, operators can continue to provide GSM coverage as efficiently as possible, and ensure WCDMA/HSPA offers the best possible mobile broadband experience – not only as a high-quality complement to LTE, but also as a way of delivering mobile broadband coverage to very large populations for the first time. With a suitable investment, WCDMA/HSPA will support LTE (and not just be a fallback), and will enable operators to maximize revenue by delivering good network performance and a seamless experience across their 3G and 4G networks.

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