According to John Cunliffe, the challenge today for service providers
revolves around getting the mobile broadband pipe to work effectively.
In this regard, the problems remain the same, he says. Namely that users
want good, reliable connections.
If those within the
industry can get this right and keep consumers happy, Cunliffe shares
the view of those analysts who believe we will see the number of
connections rising from 4.5 billion today to some 50 billion in 2020 as
we seek to deliver wireless connectivity in the home and workspace using
the likes of M2M communications, smart metering and mobile broadband.
Ericsson has been playing its part, and at this year’s Mobile World
Congress the company demonstrated mobile connections to smart meters and
connected vehicles. It has also been showcasing developments in ehealth
applications and Cunliffe sees its role as being one of demonstrating
what could be possible using fairly ubiquitous mobile broadband.
got the expertise in the radio access network and the core network; the
next question is how far inside the machine-to-machine market do we
go?’ he says. ‘Our role is to develop, demonstrate and bring together
solutions that actually help the operators see the potential.’
feels service providers need specialist units to address these markets
as they equip themselves to make the shift from dealing with live
end-users to the M2M environment.
Already he says Vodafone and O2
have established departments that do just that and, for them, it
represents a massive opportunity. ‘The growth potential makes it well
worth the effort for operators and the vendors and partners that work
with them,’ he adds.
Growth of usage is a challenge but it is not
insurmountable. The technology is there to support accelerating demand
and operators are very focused on delivering good and competitive mobile
broadband services, he says.
That’s why they’re investing more.
A recent report by Arthur D. Little found that 100% of operators in the
UK, Sweden and the Netherlands expect their capital expenditure to rise
by 20% in the coming year.
‘That’s very positive because it
illustrates that investments are being made in the network to address
the sharp rise in data traffic,’ explains Cunliffe. ‘The MBNL joint
venture, through which 3 UK and T-Mobile share infrastructure, has
already built improved capacity and early reports show that customers
have noticed the improvement.
‘However, I have noticed a recent
dropping off in the availability of unlimited mobile data packages.
Operators have got to generate revenues from their mobile broadband
investments so I’d expect to see packages of 1GB, 2GB and 3GB per month
being sold and, in a year or so, those rising to 4GB, 5GB or 6GB
packages,’ he adds. ‘It’s important operators are able to monetise those
investments they’re making in network improvement.’
emergence of reliable, high-speed cellular bandwidth having called into
question the need for wireless technologies like TETRA, Cunliffe says
the technology still has its place.
‘We have a good radio
solution based on conventional technology and we can effectively
complement what goes on in TETRA,’ he says. ‘We can provide good
equipment with good coverage and good bandwidth and there are advantages
to cellular communications. For example, speeds are higher and devices
are cheaper because of the broader ecosystem that surrounds cellular
As far as the public sector is concerned,
Cunliffe says Category 2 public safety responders can use normal, 2G or
3G types of device, while the company also has group radio solutions
coming in now that can also be used by emergency services.
works on enabling provision of good radio but also involves providing
specific equipment. For example, for public safety organisations,
Ericsson has developed a base station in a backpack that can be used by
emergency relief agencies to establish communications on site in a
disaster area in a matter of hours.
‘We also have portable
exchanges that can be rapidly deployed to a disaster zone to aid relief
efforts,’ he says. ‘There’s also huge potential in wireless
communications for emergency workers to send video back to their control
room and assist workers to protect themselves by enabling control rooms
to see what they’re doing. Wireless broadband enables that level of two
way high bandwidth communication.’
With 3G and LTE coming to
market, Cunliffe believes the scope for wireless technologies that
address applications in vertical sectors is widening.
think about where we are at the moment with mobile broadband, 7.2Mbps is
the theoretical maximum speed available but most people get 1Mbps and
are happy with that,’ he explains. ‘With 3G and LTE, we’ll see coverage
improve and we’ll see speed improve. The phase we’re in at the moment is
just the beginning.
'Mobile broadband is already very
successful with entry-level services and entry-level coverage and there
will be far greater user take up as speeds improve. The HSPA roadmap
extends from current speeds to 21Mbps and LTE will take that even
further. The availability of connection is the priority and applications
will arrive to make use of that.’
With countries across the
European Union already focused on cutting costs, the new coalition
government in the UK is expected to follow suit and pull funding across
the public sector to meet targets.
However, with mobility being a
basic need, Cunliffe says he’d be very surprised if budgets were cut,
especially in safety and security-related areas.
important to view wireless as a potential area for saving costs through
the efficiencies it generates,’ he adds. ‘It also will be relevant to
reducing CO2 emissions [that are increasingly becoming part of
countries’ legislations]. We’ll see it enable working from home and
reduction of journeys, for instance. It's in demand and has made the
case for its advantages so I don’t see budgets being cut in most areas.’