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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beyond 3G –the Need for Beyond 3G Systems

When looking into the future, the main question for network operators and vendors is when and why Beyond 3G wireless networks will be needed. Looking back only a couple of years, voice telephony was the first application that was mobilized. The Short Message Service (SMS) followed some years later as the first mass market mobile data application. By today’s standards comparably simple mobile phones were required for the service and little bandwidth. In a way, the SMS service was a forerunner of other data services like mobile e-mail, mobile Web browsing, mobile blogging, push-to-talk, mobile instant messaging and many others. Such applications became feasible with the introduction of packet-based wireless networks that could carry IP data packets and increasingly powerful mobile devices. Today, the capacity of current 3G and 3.5G networks is still sufficient for the bandwidth requirements of these applications and the number of users. There are a number of trends, however, which are already visible and will increase bandwidth requirements in the future:

 Rising use – due to falling prices, more people will use mobile applications that require network access.
 Multimedia content – while first attempts at mobilizing the Web resulted in mostly text-based Web pages, graphical content is now the norm rather than the exception. A picture may paint a thousand words, but it also increases the amount of data that has to be transferred for a Web page. Video and music downloads are also becoming more popular, which further increases in bandwidth requirements.
 Mobile social networks – similar to the fixed-line Internet, a different breed of applications is changing the way people are using the Internet. In the past, users mainly consumed content. Blogs, podcasts, picture-sharing sites and video portals are now reshaping the Internet, as users no longer only consume content, but use the network to share their own ideas, pictures and videos with other people.
 Voice over IP – the fixed line world is rapidly moving towards VoIP. It is likely that in the near future, many of todays fixed line circuit-switched voice networks will have migrated towards IP-based voice transmission. Likewise, on the network access side, many users will use VoIP as their primary fixed line voice service. The beginnings can already been observed today, as the circuit-switched voice market is under increasing pressure due to declining subscriber numbers. As a consequence, many operators are no longer investing in this technology. A similar trend can be observed in wireless networks. Here, however, the migration is much slower, especially due to the higher bandwidth requirements for transporting voice calls over a packet-switched bearer.
 Fixed-line Internet replacement – while the number of voice minutes is increasing, revenue is declining in both fixed line and the wireless networks due to falling prices. In many countries, wireless operators are thus trying to keep or increase the average revenue per user by offering Internet access for PCs, notebooks and mobile devices over their UMTS/HSDPA or CDMA networks. Thus, they have started to compete directly with DSL and cable operators. Again, this requires an order of magnitude of additional bandwidth on the air interface.
 The broadband Internet is not a socket in the wall – this statement combines all previous arguments and was made by Anssi Vanjoki, Executive VP of Nokia’s Multimedia division, at a press conference. Today, many people already use Wi- Fi access points to create their personal broadband Internet bubble. Thus, broadband Internet is virtually all around them. In the future, people will not only use this bubble with desktop computers and notebooks, but also with smaller devices such as mobile phones with built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. Smaller devices will also change the way we perceive this Internet bubble. No longer is it necessary to sit down at a specific place, for example in front of a computer, in order to communicate (VoIP, e-mail, instant messaging), to get information or to publish information to the Web (pictures, Blog entries, videos, etc.). When the personal broadband bubble is left, mobile devices switch over to a cellular network. As we move into the future, the cellular network will extend into areas not covered today and available bandwidth will have to increase to cope with the rising number of users and their connected applications. Moving between the personal Internet bubble at home and the larger external cellular network will become seamless as devices and services evolve.

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