Ericsson is set to unveil a swathe of new products and demonstrations at Mobile World Congress 2013 focused around five key areas: network performance; operational excellence; customer experience; growth opportunities; and telecom/IT convergence.
Arun Bhikshesvaran, chief marketing officer Ericsson, said at a pre-MWC presentation in London on 13 February: ‘We need to give customers the tools to rethink the first three of those areas and realise the others.’
He said network performance was about delivering products that help mobile operators evolve from voice centric to data centric networks. Improving customer experience involves providing solutions for operators to manage this better and control the main workflows.
Bhikshesvaran also pointed out that operators are looking for new business streams, so helping them grow opportunities in areas such as rich communications, entertainment and M2M is vital.
Finally, there will be increasing convergence between telecoms and IT, so vendors need to look at the impact the Cloud has on both customers and themselves, as well as considering what effect software defined network (SDN) will have in shaping future networks.
Improving network performance and providing operational excellence
Introducing Ericsson’s solutions for meeting network performance and operational excellence, Magnus Furustam, VP Product Area Core and IMS, noted that 40% of mobile phones sold in 2012 were smartphones. ‘This is driving the evolution from a voice or circuit switched network to a data centric one,’ he said.
The company estimates that there will be 3.3 billion smartphone subscribers by 2018, while the data traffic generated between 2012-14 is expected to rise by 14 times. ‘That will put an enormous underlying pressure on the networks and this is what we intend to handle. The challenge is to give a good user experience,’ said Furustam.
Sebastian Tolstoy, VP Strategy & Business Development, Product Area Radio, said that Ericsson has developed a three step approach to improve network coverage:
• Improve the macro layer
• Densify the macro layer
• Add small cells
Improve The Macro Layer
Ericsson is launching a number of products and services to improve the mobile network macro layer.
Spectrum refarming: freeing up GSM spectrum for mobile broadband in 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz for WCDMA and LTE without jeopardising KPIs. Looking at the results from the 11 network refarming examples Ericsson has undertaken so far shows that KPIs were maintained even after an average reduction in GSM spectrum usage of 30% in 900MHz band and 38% in the 1800MHz band.
HSPA – boosting downlink with unpaired spectrum: Mobile traffic places more demand on the downlink than the uplink. Unpaired spectrum bands can be used to complement paired frequency bands to improve the downlink performance. The concept is referred to as ‘supplemental downlink’. Ericsson and Qualcomm will demonstrate the concept at MWC.
LTE Advanced – carrier aggregation: this makes more efficient use of spectrum by combining two or more carriers into a single channel. It can combine spectrum both within a single band and across multiple bands to provide higher peak data rates (up to 150Mbps over 20MHz), improved coverage and a better mobile broadband experience. Two carrier aggregation cases will be demonstrated at MWC, including one on TDD spectrum.
LTE TDD/FDD convergence: this allows carriers with a mix of paired and unpaired spectrum holdings to use them more efficiently to boost capacity. Ericsson’s convergence solution is designed to ensure seamless voice over LTE (VoLTE), data connection handover and carrier aggregation. All three will be demonstrated at MWC.
VoLTE – delivering HD voice and video services for LTE smartphones: Ericsson will be demonstrating what it says is the world’s first VoLTE and RCS (rich communication services) on an LTE platform with Qualcomm, as well as other VoLTE demos.
Densify The Macro Layer
Tolstoy pointed out that operators are struggling to find new sites for macro base stations and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to add new equipment to existing sites.
To meet this challenge Ericsson launched its antenna integrated radio (AIR) in 2012, which integrated 3G and 4G antennas into a smaller product, while increasing radio performance by 18% and data performance by 15%.
This year, Ericsson is launching its successor, the AIR 32, which will allow operators to introduce HSPA and LTE without needing to add additional antennas or radio units to network sites.
Compared with existing AIR products, Tolstoy said the AIR 32 enables 70% higher throughput and up to 25% increased indoor coverage; and because it incorporates multiple active frequencies in a single unit, it enables a 50% reduction of radio equipment.
Add Small Cells
Tolstoy said small cells should be deployed in mobile data hotspots such as stadia or crowded shopping centres. ‘We do not recommend deployment in an uncoordinated way, as that is not an efficient use of spectrum, make the cells harder to tune and may lead to dropped calls and lower data rates,’ he said.
Instead, Ericsson recommends small cells are deployed in a coordinated way as part of a heterogeneous network (HetNet) with advanced management features to avoid interference between the small and macro nodes, while optimising performance at the network edge, thereby improving the end user experience.
Other advanced management features mean operators can select cells within the different layers of the HetNet to support different needs. Tolstoy said: ‘The uplink speed increases by x 10, so you can reduce the number of small cells required and that lowers the operator’s total cost of ownership.’
A further feature is the ability to coordinate the radios from several sites to create one single cell.
Ericsson will also be showcasing what it claims is the world’s smallest 8 x 8 MIMO active antenna system. The antenna provides up to 1Gbps data speeds, which will enable users to enjoy fast data downloads and streaming of rich media when it is eventually deployed in networks.
The company’s mini-link PT3060 microwave small cell will also be on display at MWC. The small cell, which operators in the 60GHz microwave band, was unveiled as a concept at MWC 2012, but Furustam announced that it is now commercially available. The PT3060 is designed to help overcome the challenge of backhauling small cells once they are deployed in a HetNet.
Overcoming backhaul challenges is vital in achieving a superior network performance, as without it, bottlenecks occur to throughput.
Ericsson will be demonstrating both line of sight and non-line of sight backhaul solutions. ‘You can use microwave for non-line of sight connections between small cells and macro cells,’ said Furustam. ‘You can use reflections, bounce the signal off walls or use diffraction off buildings and still maintain a 300Mbps connection.’
Packet Core Improvements
Ericsson has also continued to improve the core of the network by upgrading its multi-application SSR 8000 family platform. Two additions have been made to the SSR 8020 base station: a Wi-Fi gateway; and a service-aware support node (SASN).
The Wi-Fi gateway enables mobile operators to integrate Wi-Fi into their core cellular network platform to provide a seamless user experience as customers roam between the two. The gateway supports a network controlled, clientless solutions for dynamic traffic steering between cellular and Wi-Fi. Operators can also leverage their mobile policy control and charging control on Wi-Fi.
The Service-Aware Support Node (SASN) provides policy control solutions that ensure a good user experience for customers and enables operators to provide differentiated services. For example, it allows the operator to differentiate between a Skype voice call and a Skype message and to set different policies accordingly.
Ericsson is also introducing its SON (self organising network) Policy Manager to help operators simplify the set up and running of their networks and help reduce operating costs.
Furustam said: ‘Operators can set policies, so that if something happens at a certain time of day in the network, they can programme the network to behave in a certain way to deal with it. They can pre-set policies.’
The Cloud will play an increasingly large part in the evolution of mobile phone networks. Responding to this the company is introducing the Ericsson Cloud System, which is designed to provide a comprehensive solution for the distribution and orchestration of cloud capabilities horizontally across the network – in short, to make networks more efficient.
Ericsson has concentrated its latest development efforts on two key areas; the Network- enabled Cloud; and the Service Provider SDN (software defined networking) concept. The solution also leverages the existing Ericsson Blade System and the Ericsson Smart Service Router.
The Network-enabled Cloud is designed to ensure every node in the network is capable of hosting applications, in effect providing a data centre close to the point of data generation and consumption. The idea is that this will ensure a telecom grade performance with the focus on providing a good user experience.
The Service Provider SDN concept is designed to ensure network operators have the carrier-grade tools to build real-time platforms that will allow them to offer cloud services to consumers and enterprises. Current data centre SDN switching and controller technology is not sufficient to provide that real-time platform, according to Ericsson.
Ericsson argues that there is too much focus on the data centre with SDN; instead SDN needs to be extended right across the telecom network. This would create a carrier-grade, virtualized, wide area network infrastructure that supports telecom services, as well as large scale OSS and BSS is also required – this is what it describes as Service Provider SDN.
What it does is link control of the cloud to the control of the network, integrating network control and orchestration, cloud management and service exposure. It will also secure a smooth migration from today’s network infrastructure to the virtualised wide area network of tomorrow, while still coping with the co-existence of legacy network components.
Two applications: network virtualisation and service chaining will be demonstrated at MWC. The Ericsson Cloud System is expected to be commercially available in Q1 2014.
Future cloud evolution
Ericsson has set up an open environment where it can collaborate with third parties to continue development of its cloud services. It has created the Ericsson Cloud Execution Environment – an open, distributed platform based on OpenStack and KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) and the existing Ericsson Cloud Manager for end-to-end orchestration of cloud development.
The overall aim is to provide systematic implementation of what Ericsson calls ‘end-to-end elasticity across network, compute and storage assets that enables the delivery of new services and business models’.
MWC 2013: Ericsson support solutions aim to simplify network and customer operations
MWC 2013: Ericsson offers device testing and new managed service model