Mobile World Congress review - Playing it safe
Congress 2009 review - Playing it safe
The black suits were back, and the show was very
business focused, serious even. And Mobile Europe had its team looking out for
the most important news across the industry - from network equipment to
The main vendors and LTE:
At MWC, tier one vendors faced a difficult balancing act of pleasing MNOs with
widely diverging network development plans, kick-starting the network upgrade
cycle to recover considerable investments into OFDM/MIMO technologies, and
showing investors their optimised product portfolios that could be supported at
As a result, the Big Four vendors - Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia
Siemens Networks - moved in a tight pack announcing their strategies to deliver
end to end 4G portfolios, showing technical readiness to launch LTE and
demonstrating converged RAN products, some of which were announced in the weeks
leading up to WMC.
Ericsson exhibited the Evolved Packet Core portfolio for LTE and next-generation
broadband, including SGSN/MME and Mobile Packet Gateway - software upgrades for
the existing SGSN and GGSN - as well as Converged Packet Gateway. At the same
time, it announced HSPA network upgrades to 28Mbps for TIM Italy and trials of
42Mbps HSPA speeds with Telstra. NokiaSiemens Networks demonstrated LTE
interoperability between its recently launched multi-radio Flexi Base Station
and Qualcomm's terminal technology, while Huawei showed off its unified LTE FDD/TDD
Alcatel-Lucent stepped back in the game after Verizon's announcement that it
chose ALU and Ericsson as its two vendors for the initial LTE rollout in the US.
In Barcelona, ALU launched a new LTE software module of the node B, already
trialled by a Tier 1 MNO and on general availability from mid-2009. It also
completed a series of calls over LTE TDD on LG's devices.
Operators show LTE split:
Two distinct groups of operators emerged at MWC. The first is lead by DoCoMo,
Verizon Wireless and TeliaSonera, all announcing plans for a fast-lane
deployment and commercial launch of LTE in 2010. The rest, led by tier 1
European MNOs, are pushing ahead with LTE trials, but have made no commitments
to the short-term rollouts. T-Mobile stated that from a technical perspective it
would be ready for LTE from 2010, but plans to spend the next two years boosting
capacity of its HSPA networks. Orange expects the first commercial LTE services
to become available no sooner than 2011, with HSPA subscriber migration taking
place from 2012.
LTE holds out three main values to mobile operators: higher speeds, improvements
in latency and spectral efficiency. Although the former is the most frequently
quoted benefit, it is the latter two, along with the availability of spectrum,
that dictate the timing of LTE launch and migration strategies.
In Europe, where only a 5MHz TDD band is currently available for LTE, gradual
rollouts and a demand driven migration will be a norm, slower in such markets as
the UK, where MNOs face the most spectrum limitations. For all of Western
European MNOs, the availability of digital dividend spectrum will be critical to
provide indoor LTE coverage and better mobile data user experience. T-Mobile's
CEO Hamid Akhavan was outspoken on the issue, stating that "digital dividend is
absolutely critical for the development of mobile broadband on a large scale".
Give us the spectrum:
The GSMA repeated its call for governments to release digital dividend spectrum
in the 700MHz band in a harmonised way, and without entering costly auctions or
pricing the spectrum too highly.
"Governments are turning to the telecoms sector for a good part of their
economic stimulus, and the mobile industry is one of the few sectors not asking
for a bailout," GSMA CEO Rob Conway, said.
But Conway said that the industry risked running out of spectrum, due to recent
surges in mobile data usage. Although operators in Europe have assets at 2.1GHz,
1800MHz and 900MHz, they argue that setting aside 100MHz of the 400MHz of
spectrum released by the turn off of analogue TV would allow them to provide
true mobile broadband rural areas, and in-building in urban areas.
They say that LTE at 700MHz is 70% cheaper to roll out than at 2.1GHz, and point
to analysis that claims that a 10% penetration rise boost GDP by 0.6% . The
logic is that by providing a boost to mobile broadband, governments will boost
their own economies.
But although France and the UK, and other countries, are looking kindly on such
requests, a GSMA spokesperson said that Italy and Spain at the moment are
considering passing on all the analogue TV spectrum over to digital TV.
Have you got your ID?
Identity management in its broadest sense is going to be vitally important to
the future shape of society as well as to the revenue streams of service
providers. So far however, only a few seem aware of this, though some companies
are already staking out the ground, ready for an expected surge of interest.
For Doug Daberius, head of identity solution management at Nokia Siemens
Networks (who last year acquired subscriber data management specialist Apertio),
what began as a simple extension to subscriber data consolidation is now
morphing into a potentially critical core function for service providers. "At
one end, subscriber identity management is about simplifying the user experience
- through single sign-on features, for example. At the other, it's about the
service provider becoming a trusted intermediary with all sorts of other Web 2.0
applications and services like permissive advertising. There's also a very
strong case to be made that early adoption of an identity management strategy
will save considerable operating and capital expense later on as awareness of
the importance of identity issues grows amongst the wider population."
Many of these themes are echoed by Amardeo Sarma, a senior manager at NEC's
European R&D labs where work on an Identity Brokerage system is underway.
"Identity management isn't just about benefitting the privacy of the user -
though that's obviously vitally important," he comments. "The world of services
out there is getting more complex by the minute with new industries like finance
and advertising adding functions and features and traditional boundaries
breaking down. As an industry, we have to find appropriate ways to manage this
both for the end-user's benefit as well as that of the wider industry."
One of the other important angles on identity is its intimate relationship with
policy. Bridgewater Systems used MWC this year to launch its Subscriber Data
Broker solution to link policy and subscriber identity information with an
increasingly open service environment. David Sharpley, senior VP at the company
commented, "By federating dynamic subscriber data from existing data stores and
using sophisticated tools to broker this data to third-party applications, it
enables service providers to rapidly create and deliver personalized
applications such as mobile advertising."
NFC Ecosystem Builds:
Telefónica O2's Czech and UK operators have tested NFC-based transport ticketing
with Over-The-Air credit top up and an eWallet application for small payments.
The services were demoed on NFC-embedded Nokia 6131 handset using NXP's
MIFARE4Mobile standard. Field trials at Telefonica O2 will start around
end-2009, with a commercial launch tentatively slotted for 2H 2010.
NFC's adoption in Europe has been much slower than expected two years ago, but
recent trials brought it closer to commercial reality. The ecosystem is starting
to take shape: Telefónica worked with Visa, Barclays bank, Transport for London
and Nokia to support its trials. In France, ERGOSUM NFC initiative brought
together the largest supermarkets, such as Auchan and Carrefour, financial
services providers and mobile operators Bouygues Telecom, Orange and SFR, and
committed to field trials in 2009 and deployments in 2010.
The availability of NFC mobile handsets is now the main barrier for the
mass-market rollout in Europe, as fragmented market has limited the volumes for
handset component manufacturers. The recent announcements of universal security
chipsets promise to accelerate the release of new handsets. At MWC, Moversa, a
JV between Sony and NXP, demonstrated its Universal Secure Access Module U-SAM,
which will support three existing standards - Sony's FeliCa, used by DoCoMo
since 2004, MIFARE and Java.
ABI Research forecasts limited device shipments in 2009, growing to 300,000 in
2012. The initial trials have used embedded NFC handsets, but Telefonica
mentioned that many MNOs would prefer to use SIM-based NFC applications.
Contactless SIMs are seen as potentially more secure and flexible, easy to
disable when a handset is lost and transfer to a new device during a
OneAPI testing environment goes live:
With traditional mobile business models now under attack from a variety of
directions, a number of service providers in recent years have introduced
partnership programs with the application developer community - but with varying
degrees of success. It's only very recently that the explosive success of truly
open platforms like the i-Phone has forced service providers to confront their
destiny - hence the recent introduction of the GSMA's OneAPI programme.
While developer programmes have gone some way down the track to opening up
network functions and assets such as location and charging- taking the
internet's Web 2.0 vision to spawn the Telco 2.0 web-based services concept -
those developers have had to confront great variations in different technologies
and standards across those different networks.
To resolve these problems, the GSMA has partnered with open applications
specialist Aepona to create a platform where developers can experiment with new
functions and processes to rapidly create new applications. Currently, five
mobile service providers are interconnected to the network - Telenor, Vodafone,
Orange, Telecom Italia and Telus - with a number of others already expressing
strong interest. The current infrastructure exposes messaging and location
assets and its planned to soon add user and data connection profiles and
charging functions to the set.
Two major themes emerged at the Congress: the use of renewable sources of energy
to power mobile sites and the overall improvements in the energy efficiency of
mobile devices and network equipment.
Solutions integrating renewable sources with the base station were demonstrated
in the Green Pavilion of MWC by several start-ups, such as PowerOasis,
Flexenclosure and Structa Power. A small number of base stations powered by
solar, wind and hydro are already installed in Asia, Africa, Latin America and
the Middle East. Further commitments to deploy "greener" sites have been voiced
by Vodafone and Orange. By the end of 2009, Orange plans to bring the number of
solar-powered sites to 1,000 from more than 300 today. The CAPEX for these is
3-4 times higher than for the equivalent diesel-powered sites, but the reduction
in OPEX is as high as 80%, justifying longer payback period.
High-volume deployments will bring down the prices and improve the business
case. "We expect that 2011 will be the inflexion point for the adoption of
renewable sources in the mobile industry," said Juha-Erkki Mäntyniemi, Head of
Environmental Affairs at Nokia Siemens Networks. To enable the high-volume
turn-key deployment of mobile sites powered by renewables, Alcatel-Lucent
announced the new Alternative Energy Program.
In parallel, network vendors announced 3G/4G solutions with self-optimising
capabilities, reduced number of network elements, and lowered the power
consumption of single RAN base stations and IP packet core equipment. Most of
these solutions aim to improve the network efficiency, achieving the green end
by different means.
Svetlana Grant, Alun Lewis
Mobile Europe, 25 March, 2009