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Monday, August 31, 2015

5G: Emergence of Business Models driven by Cooperation of Nodes

Identifying attractive business models for the network/service provider and users based on cooperation is essential in order to secure the adoption of 5G technology. This article identifies the Cooperation of Nodes as a driver of new business models showing how we can exploit cooperation between user terminals and heterogeneous networks and operators.

The ability to use mobile terminals at any time and any place without being weary of battery supply seems to be a futuristic approach. However by exploiting smart cooperative networking concepts, this vision can take a step closer to reality.

Exploiting these technology paradigm in tandem, can lead to new radio topologies that are able to provide energy efficient connectivity and thus battery lifetime in mobile phones enabling the use of services that require greater bandwidth than legacy services currently provided by UMTS technology. Most of the research in cooperative networking technology has addressed the technical and engineering ways to save energy.

In present days, to support cooperative networking in the cellular network market, it is absolutely necessary to have good business models that show the main benefits of this new architecture and the revenues associated.

Cooperation is a strategy of a group of entities working or acting together towards a common or individual goal. Correspondingly, the connotation of cooperative networking is described as devices working together to achieve a goal, within a network. Wireless devices, controlled ultimately by human, can be considered as selfish, without any incentive to cooperate by nature.

The reason, that this phenomenon occurs, is that a wireless device is always interested in maximizing its own benefits. So cooperation adds costs to mobile devices, but bringing new services that can increase the performance of a mobile device. However, in any cooperation network, the communication ultimately depends on the willingness of the nodes to cooperate. Such cooperation can only be established and maintained if fairness and profitability are guaranteed among cooperating nodes. Therefore, to avoid the collapse of cooperation, robust cooperation rules and good incentives are required.

To understand the incentives and basic rules for cooperation, an observation from cooperation used in nature is needed. The cooperative network is often realized in the form of a composite access network, which is composed of heterogeneous networks. With the rapid development of technologies and mobile networks, especially with the arrival of LTE, certain characteristics have not been able to compete or keep up with the technology growth, mainly the battery autonomy of mobile devices and other features such as quality of service, higher throughput or spectral efficiency. Dealing with this paradigm provided the impetus for new ideas and possible innovations in the area of cooperation, aimed at combating the negative features resulting from the progress in mobile networks. This cooperation could create, through network operators, mechanisms to encourage customers to cooperate using their mobile devices.

As shown in the illustration besides, one of the main methods of cooperation is the cooperation among mobile devices that can be done through short-range communication technologies such as Bluetooth, UWB or WLAN. These technologies promote low energy consumption, while providing high quality of service. The main avantages of cooperative communications are ;

§  Reducing the power consumption of mobile devices and decreasing the transmission power of base stations;

§  Increasing the quality of service, since with strong signal, customers can achieve better services without failure, e.g. higher data rates;

§  Lower delay between cooperative users;

§  Possibility to create more services like context exchanges between nodes or parallel processing;

§  Decreasing the carbon footprint. Base stations and mobile devices consume much electricity in their use phase, which makes energy saving a valuable contribution for these facilities;

§  Better use of wireless spectrum;

§  Overcoming the limited cellular capacity. For multicast services such as video streaming or file downloading the benefit is obvious. In this case the cooperative devices receive partially the original stream and collaboratively merge it over the short-range communication links.

Nowadays, infrastructure networks (i.e. cellular networks) do not expect or anyhow permit cooperation among connected mobile devices. However, as some wireless environments enable the realization of ad hoc cooperative behaviors, it seems natural that infrastructure networks could also benefit from such cooperation.

From a general perspective, the most interesting business cases are related to battery power savings at mobile devices. Due to its locality and gain from statistical multiplexing (traffic aggregation), such energy saving gain can be observed with ad hoc cooperative networks. Still, wireless ad hoc cooperative networks are to be successful only if they are able to align the current individual and selfish assumptions of the mobile devices into a cooperative paradigm that succeeds to benefit all the entities involved in the cooperation. Current assumptions for wireless ad hoc networking are:

§  Mobile devices are expected to achieve selfish goals, enforced by users or running services;
§  Mobile devices belong to different users;
§  Mobile devices are served by different PLMNs (different network operators).

The enlisted assumptions, which are obstacles to cooperation, can be overcome with the introduction of motivational and incentives systems, which encourage various forms of cooperative behavior. Examples of such cooperative behavior are altruistic cooperation, non-altruistic cooperation or reciprocal cooperation. Each of these forms of behavior has its stability and thus, it has to be resilient to the number of challenges derived from the transient nature of the wireless communication system.

A number of cooperation challenges that need to be addressed to encourage cooperation in ad hoc networks and include;

Motivation and fairnessthe two concepts need to be addressed by the cooperative network to encourage cooperation among users, to provide fair access to the resources and to punish the adversaries (to discourage malicious and greedy behaviors). Fairness problems affect also the design of the motivational mechanisms. Furthermore, another known fairness problem is related to location, as mobile devices with more favorable location receive more incentives, leading to even higher income.

Malicious behaviorsalthough authentication and access control can reinforce cooperation through prevention against external attacker, there are still possibilities for users to exploit the cooperation even in the presence of effective authentication and access control mechanisms.

Privacy protection: the key to the success of any reciprocity based cooperation strategy is the ability to identify (and possibly also punish) the defective nodes, and thus, mobile devices cannot stay anonymous. Furthermore, the reputation ratings have to be assigned to correct mobile device and payments or reciprocal behavior returned to correct initiator.

Cooperation maintenance: as a consequence of mobility or in general, transient changes in channel quality, the node which realizes a cooperative scenario may experience reduction of the quality in provided relaying service or decrease in the reliability of provided information. This may lead to a situation where users are unfairly treated due to decrease in incentives or reputation. Thus, reputation system has to recognize faulty behavior and distinguish it from malicious behavior.

Observabilitythe results of the cooperation are highly dependent also on the ability to identify and distinguish cooperative behavior from selfish. In wireless networks, a typical situation is that nodes have non-equal information, leading to information asymmetry.

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