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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LTE for heavy mobile broadband users? A paradox

Various presenters at the LTE Summit have said things along the lines of:

- 5% of mobile broadband customers generate 70-80% of traffic (eg the Telenor subscriber downloading 230GB per month over HSPA)
- A few inner-city HSPA cells are overloaded (3 or 4 carriers) while the ones in rural areas are essentially empty
- Most of the traffic comes from PCs or iPhones

But what's certainly not obvious to me is that the 5% of heavy HSPA users suddenly become profitable if you give them LTE instead, especially in expensive new spectrum for 20MHz channels. Why not just give them a femtocell for use at home, implement strict caps, or just get rid of them entirely?

Or that upgrading a few urban "hotspots" to LTE solves all the problems, given the need for everyone to have new LTE devices (you can't really say "only upgrade your dongle if you think you might use it in London W1 some time in the next year")

The only argument for short-term LTE deployment at the moment seems to be around spectrum flexibility, and the option to use thin slivers in refarmed GSM bands, or awkward allocations elsewhere that don't map onto HSPA's 5MHz channels. For most operators, that's unlikely to be an easy business case.


Jonas said...

I thought one strong argument for introducing LTE would be to replace fixed Broadband (eg xDSL). If that's the case femto cells will not be applicable.

Todd Spraggins said...

It may be worse than you thought. After reading some other interpretations and taking my own crack at TS 23.272, it seems that SMS is supported on an LTE RAT via the MME over RRC/NAS signaling to get to the CS Network (MSC/MMSC). However, the UE has to have selected CSFB as its mode of operation and have done a CSFB attach procedure. So it deos not require a GSM/UMTS RAT switch (no degredation), but lots of cross domain signaling.

Here are the ifs and buts of permutations from the spec itself:
If the home operator has deployed SMS over generic 3GPP IP access and/or SMS-Instant Messaging Interworking as defined in TS 23.204 [15], and has configured the network and the UE for using SMS over IP or SMS-Instant Messaging Interworking, then an SMS or IM will be delivered over EPS in any visited network whether or not the visited network supports SMS over generic 3GPP IP access.
If the home operator has not deployed SMS over generic 3GPP IP access and the UE fails to successfully complete the combined EPS/IMSI attach procedure in the visited network (i.e. the visited network supports SMS over generic 3GPP IP access and does not support CS fallback for SMS capability), then the UE cannot execute MT or MO SMS procedures in the visited network.

Now for USSD/CISS you do have to fall back all the way to a GSM/UMTS RAT. I had heard this was a purposeful choice made to deprecate (more like cripple) what has been some successful uses of this technology where the operators are not getting compensated.

IMHO, combining this with the voice fiasco, either you will have full service islands in LTE (roaming nighmares) or it will be a data only gig leaving the voice and messaging barn dorrs wide open for the skype/ google wolves.

Digital Evangelist said...

Dean LTE will be deployed in a way very different to that of 2G in that it will be part of a hybrid network that operates on Software Defined Radios in the Access Network. This means that the Operators will no longer look at the Return on Capital but rather traffic by segment. Such an architecture means that the your model will need to change.