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Turn on your smart phone and it works like charm. But explosive global adoption of smart phones with feature-rich applications is stressing mobile networks like never before. For mobile network providers, the challenge couldn’t be more acute: Find new ways to deliver more mobile bandwidth even as the average revenue per user remains flat.

In this AIS interview, LSI’s Jeff Connell, director of mobile networking product marketing, talks about how network providers are turning to heterogenous networks (HetNets) to reduce the cost of deploying, scaling and managing mobile networks. One way network providers are streamlining deployments is by using equipment built with smart silicon like LSI Axxia. The highly integrated ASIC helps customers cut the cost and power of new network equipment designs.

Reducing network latency
Speed is the currency of smart phone communications. Users want their information without delays. Here, Jon Devlin, director of networking ecosystem at LSI, discusses the importance of reducing network latency for applications including mobile video conferencing and voice over IP.

 

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The staggering growth of smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices is sending a massive flood of data through today’s mobile networks. Compared to just a few years ago, we are all producing and consuming far more videos, photos, multimedia and other digital content, and spending more time in immersive and interactive applications such as video and other games – all from handheld devices.

Think of mobile, and you think remote – using a handheld when you’re out and about. But according to the Cisco® VNI Mobile Forecast 2013,  while 75% of all videos today are viewed on mobile devices by 2017, 46% of mobile video will be consumed indoors (at home, at the office, at the mall and elsewhere). With the widespread implementation of IEEE® 802.11 WiFi on mobile devices, much of that indoor video traffic will be routed through fixed broadband pipes.

 

Unlike residential indoor solutions, enterprise and public area access infrastructures – for outdoor connections – are much more diverse and complicated. For example, the current access layer architectures include Layer 2/3 wiring closet switches and WiFi access points, as shown below. Mobile service providers are currently seeking architectures that enable them to take advantage of both indoor enterprise and public area access infrastructure. These architectures must integrate seamlessly with existing mobile infrastructures and require no investment in additional access equipment by service providers in order for them to provide a consistent, quality experience for end users indoors and outdoors. For their part, mobile service providers must:

  1. Offer indoor and outdoor access solutions
  2. Put in place agreements and collaborate with traditional fixed broadband service providers to offload mobile traffic seamlessly
  3. Continue to drive carrier-grade Wi-Fi specifications across traditional indoor access infrastructures (like Wi-Fi Access Point) while meeting the disparate reliability and management requirements of different carriers.

The following figure shows the three possible paths mobile service providers wanting to offer indoor enterprise/public can take. Approach 1 is ideal for enterprises trying to improve coverage in particular areas of a corporate campus. Approaches 2 and 3 not only provide uniform coverage across the campus but also support differentiating capabilities such as the allocation of application and mobility-centric radio spectrum  across WiFi and cellular frequencies. A key factor to consider when evaluating these approaches is the extent to which equipment ownership is split between the enterprise and the mobile service provider. Approaches 2 & 3 increase capital expenditures for the operator because of the radio heads and small cells that need to be deployed across the enterprise or public campus. At AIS, LSI is demonstrating approach 2.

The last but certainly not least important consideration between approaches 2 and 3 is whether these indoor/outdoor small cells employ self-organizing network (SON) techniques. For service providers, the small cells ideally would be self-organizing and the macro cells serve any additional management functions.  The advantage of approach 3 is that it offloads more of the macro cell traffic and makes various campus small cells self-organizing, significantly reducing operational costs for the service provider.

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The United Nations finding that mobile broadband subscriptions are surging in developing countries, reported by The New York Times on Sept. 26, is no surprise. Equally unsurprising, the growing number of users, density of users and increasing bandwidth needs of applications likely are continuing to strain existing wireless networks and per-user bandwidths not only in developing countries but worldwide.

But rising pressure on bandwidth, coupled with increasingly data-intensive applications, isn’t the whole story. Minimizing end-to-end latency – from user to network base station and back again – is crucial in enabling banking, e-commerce, enterprise and other important business applications. Why? The greater the latency, the more likely visitors are to lose interest if the responsiveness of the website is sluggish. A connection may have plenty of throughput over a period of time, but response time determines the user experience.

The bandwidth-per-user and end-to-end network latency constraints are bound to drive changes both to the front haul and backhaul access networks. LTE and WiFi seem to be clear winners for the front haul network (replacing wired LAN technologies). On the backhaul, given the capacity needs, wired and wireless networks are bound to converge but will likely offer many options that will continue to co-exist like LTE, Fiber, Cable, xDSL and Microwave.

For our part, LSI has deep experience building mission-critical networks for service providers and datacenters – an expertise that has been brought to bear on the development of LSI® Axxia® networking solutions. These smart chips help solve the latency problem by enabling reliable, deterministic network performance to, ultimately, quicken response times and improve the user experience.

And that, after all, is just what network providers and users are after as mobile devices continue to support more applications and rising performance expectations worldwide.

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