In 2012, Asia-Pacific region has reached a capital expenditure in the mobile sector similar to Europe and North America according to a report from ABI Research.
In this reports, Jake Saunders, vice president of forecasting at ABI Research, said 62 percent of the mobile capital expenditure will be invested in radio access network (RAN) deployment while EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and gateway upgrades to the core network will make up 9 percent of spending. Another key
area which operators are looking at is improving in-building wireless coverage into dense urban centers at 5.7 percent of mobile capital spending.
One of the most striking illustration of the gap that was bridged in the region is the investment in 4G networks. 63% of Asia’s carriers have LTE rolled out, are conducting trials, or have announced plans. Out of 110 networks, 10 operators (9%) have commercial 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks up and running. Another 58 (53%) either have specific plans to roll out LTE or are conducting trials.
As an example, the research company highlighted several countries for which spending on LTE technology is following this trend:
In China, despite the absence of 4G licenses, China Mobile has already started investing in 4G facilities. The 655 million subscriber operator plans to ramp up its TD-LTE base station count to over 20,000 TD-LTE base stations by December and 200,000 by 2013.
The report noted that investment in telecom equipment in India also extends to 2G and 3G cell sites as the operator Idea Cellular has continued to roll out 2,270 2G cell sites and 1,176 3G cell sites in 2011.
In Southeast Asia, commercial networks were already up and running in Malaysia where WiMax is preferred over LTE, Singapore and the Philippines, it said.
In this context, Japan’s biggest carrier NTT Docomo announced it reached 2 million subscribers on its LTE service Xi, with a growth rate quadrupled between the first and second million. This demonstrates that there is a real demand from consumers for such a service and justifies the important investments observed by ABI Research.
Singapore’s third largest mobile operator M1 announced last week that they will be deploying the first commercial LTE (Long Term Evolution) network of South-east Asia.
LTE is the latest standard in the mobile network technology and often marketed as 4th Generation (or 4G). Although it doesn’t comply absolutely with IMT 4G requirements, it provides a notable improvement of download and upload speeds over 3G technology, peaking at 100Mbps for downlink and 20Mps for uplink.
M1’s chief technical officer Patrick Scodeller said the company will start installing base stations in about 1,400 locations across the island sometime in October this year. The full work should be completed by Q1 2011.
The deployment of the network has been granted to the Chinese giant Huawei. They will provide the core network infrastructure, with a five-year deal worth S$280m (US$225.4). This will include installation of macro base stations, distributed base stations and Evolved Packet Core (EPC).
With the constant growth of mobile device usage and cloud-based applications, reliable access to high-speed mobile internet connections are becoming critical for private users as well as businesses. LTE offers both, but what will decide of its success will be the pricing of the services.
As 2011 is advancing, operator’s strategies for this year appear more clearly and trends can already be spotted. One of the main lessons of these first months is the important activity surrounding MVNOs.
A MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator is a company that provides mobile phone services but does not own a licensed frequency of radio spectrum, nor does it necessarily have all of the infrastructure required to provide mobile telephone services.
MVNOs appeared in the early 2000s and there are now hundreds of them around the world, developed countries like USA, France or Germany having several dozens of them.
While Virtual Operators are not a new thing, there is a regain of activity around them as new technologies appear and telecommunication customers’ needs evolve and diversify, because these entities can offer more personalized services and approach targets that would be difficult to reach for the regular mobile network operators (MNOs).
In the UK for example, Everything Everywhere (the fusion of Orange and T-Mobile) is planning double digit growth in MVNOs over the next year as it launches an aggressive drive into the market. Jason Bellman, Everything Everywhere’s director of MVNO and wholesale operations, said ‘the operator is targeting the ethnic and b2b sectors’, where it is forecasting strong growth. It is also looking at ‘new commercial models that will move the traditional market forward’.
In the US, where the race for 4G is straining the network operators’ resources, structures are being reorganized. In their bid to keep up with the ambitious plans of the big two, smaller rivals are looking to cobble together combination of spectrum and MVNO partnerships. Sprint just announced they will provide 4G to their customers as MVNO on Clearwire’s WiMAX Network. These may enhance the scale and cost structure for Sprint but may also prove difficult to manage in future.
Additionally, some analysts see MVNO structure as a way for big actors like Google to enter the game of mobile communications. No official announcement supports this yet but the Internet giant has demonstrated in the past its ability to diversify with success.
One thing is certain, the MVNO model is nowadays attractive and a lot of activity is currently surrounding it. The participants to upcoming MVNO Industry Summit 2011 (held on 10th and 11th May in Barcelona) will certainly welcome these good news for their business.
Tiered pricing is one of the hottest topic for North American and European operators. The rapid development of mobile internet and the arrival of 4G networks in these countries sparked a lot of reflexion and changes in the way operators bill for their services.Canada, for example, has recently seen a lot of confusion around a new billing regulation regarding Internet services.
A decision taken last month by the Ottawa-based Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that would made it uneconomical for the providers to offer packages with no limits on Internet has just been overruled by Canada’s Industry Minister.
By comparison, emerging markets and Asia Pacific markets seemmore mature in regards to their pricing strategies.“It seems operators in Asia, for example, better evaluate the true cost of delivering services and they develop smarter pricing strategies as a result,” said Humera Malik, director of global marketing at for an international telecom billing vendor.Rather than look at service lifecycles, Malik believes it is the lifecycle of the subscriber that will inevitably become most important to track with 4G services.
The multiplicity of profiles for these users will force the operators to understand them better and offer packages that will appear attractive to them, including the non-savvy ones. This better understanding of customer profiles and desires can only be obtained through a complete convergence of provisioning, activation, billing and customer care.To manage services and build compelling price plans, operators will need sophisticated monitoring and analytics, as well as much more advanced marketing and customer care tactics.
Operators will have to be more flexible and offer a wider range of packages, options and promotions to optimize customer satisfaction and revenue. They should already make sure their systems provide this flexibility and adaptability.
After many month of confusion marked by the appearance of network services marketed as 4G by operators while they technically weren’t, the International Telecommunication Union admitted that the term 4G could be used for these technologies.
During the World Radiocommunication Seminar 2010 (WRS-10) held in Geneva, the ITU declared that “As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as “4G”, although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.”
This means that “evolved 3G technologies” like HSPA+ and WiMax offering a notable improvement on currently available 3G technologies can be labeled as 4G even if they don’t meet the requirements of IMT Advanced specifications.
While International Organizations like ITU, manufacturers and network operators seem to put more effort on standardization and collaboration, this episode shows that there is still a long way to go before customers can find their way in the jungle of contradictory designations.
The need for faster and sturdier mobile data networks push carriers around the world to accelerate their deployment and trials of 4G LTE Technology.
In the United States, Clearwire Corporation is announcing the start of trials expected to yield unmatched wireless speeds of 20-70 Mbps in “real-life” situation., significantly faster than the 5-12 Mbps expected from other local operators.
Meanwhile, a Samsung Executive declared last week that MetroPCS Communications Inc. will be the first US carrier to offer commercially 4G LTE services in the country. While Verizon, the nation’s biggest wireless carrier, plans to launch their own Long Term Evolution network by the end of the year, MetroPCS is expected to start its services no later than next month.
Europe is not late either. Sweden is leading the race, thanks to TeliaSonera who is already launching LTE services in a second major city in the country after Stockholm. They declare planning to rollout the service in 25 cities by the end of the year. Erik Hallberg, President of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera, revealed that the company’s rollout plan includes augmenting the 2600MHz LTE network with 800MHz frequencies, which it expects to receive via future bandwidth auctions.
LTE and WiMAX are the main pathways to 4G that MNOs have to pick between, and on which they can build their data handling capacities. While WiMAX has enjoyed a first mover advantage and a clear head-start, LTE is a natural progression for MNOs operating on GSM/UMTS networks, and that it offers the ability to lower the cost of delivering data services. For this reason, many believe that there will be a surge in the deployment of LTE networks in the coming years.
China Mobile has recently announced that Innofidei will be one of its preferred vendors for supplying 4G TD-LTE data cards. This is in-line with China Mobile’s aggressive roadmap to launch 4G services in China in 2010. Apart from Innofidei, China Mobile has also partnered with Shanghai Bell and Motorola. China Mobile has big plans for the Shanghai World Expo, 2010 event and the TD-LTE tender award to Innofidei highlights its plans to showcase 4G technologies at the World Expo which opens in October this year.
Though the specific share of the deal awarded to Innofidei is not known, it is expected that Innofidei will demonstrate the working prototype chipset for TD-LTE protocol in the first quarter of 2010 and will begin manufacturing the data cards and CPE terminals once it receives the green signal from China Mobile.
While the selection of Innofidei, a new entrant in the Asian telecom marketplace and known primarily for its CMMB Mobile TV, raised eyebrows from many telecom experts, the Innofidei management is confident that the deal would be very successful. Innofidei is no stranger to TD-LTE as it had already demonstrated it’s capabilities at the WMC conference in Barcelona, Spain last year.