It would only be fair to say that we are truly experiencing some very interesting times in telecom. Convergence is driving a seismic shift in the market and we are witnessing well-established giants stumble as new powers rise to capitalize on new opportunities.
Recent quarterly earnings from two major US carriers – AT&T and Verizon – show strong growth. More importantly, the underlying market driver for both of these carriers was increased “data traffic.” AT&T witnessed growth on the heels of adding more than 1.3 million net wireless subscribers, in part thanks to the iPhone, while Verizon enjoyed success largely due to FiOS, the operator’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband service.
So where do we go from here? In my opinion, what the market needs to focus on today are emerging technologies that will: Carry more data traffic to the network and manage increased data traffic in the network.
Wireless broadband is the primary growth opportunity for driving more data traffic through the network. Industry pundits predict an increase of two billion wireless broadband consumers by 2015. Two billion! How will operators add more capacity to their networks while continuously driving price per bit down?
Femtocell technology provides a compelling answer to effectively address this problem of adding wireless capacity in a cost-effective manner. Hmmm, two billion consumers by 2015… how many femtocells would that translate into? Your guess is as good as mine, but with each femtocell driving 14 Mbps of data traffic using High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), multiply 14 Mbps by your femtocell guesstimate to determine how many terabits per second it translates into.
Now let’s take it one step further. The long-term future of wireless broadband is LTE – Long Term Evolution of 3G networks, which is currently being standardized by 3GPP. This technology is expected to deliver 100Mbps+ downlink data rates over true mobile broadband networks, which is 7X of what today’s 3G HSPA networks can deliver. So, multiply seven times your terabit number above and what does it look like? Pretty darn big, isn’t it? By now you might already be thinking of what comes after “tera”: peta, exa, zetta, yotta, etc....
An LTE network is a true converged network – All Internet Protocol. The beauty of a converged IP core is that it helps carriers easily manage their networks and significantly lowers their capital and operational expenditures. The beast is not far behind either, because IP networks can carry traffic for all kinds of applications. So, if real-time voice traffic has to compete with file-sharing peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic over a best-effort IP network, chances are that the voice quality is not going to be very good. And these IP networks are more susceptible to security attacks, denial of service attacks, etc. Throwing additional fiber into the network has been a crude but effective wireline strategy so far, but clearly such an approach won’t work for wireless LTE networks because any wireless network is inherently capacity-limited by the radio frequency access spectrum.
And herein lies the pot of gold: Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) platforms will enable carriers – both wireline and wireless – to effectively manage their converged IP networks. DPI enables a plethora of new applications in the areas of Traffic Management, Quality of Service, tiered bandwidth allocation, tiered Service Level Agreements, Unified Threat Management, intrusion detection and prevention systems, to name a few.
With DPI, mobile operators can better monetize their networks and simultaneously thrill consumers by delivering rich quality of experience. 10 Gbps full duplex DPI solutions on a single ATCA blade are available today and markets will need 40Gbps/blade DPI solutions in the near future to cost-effectively manage ever-growing data traffic. Demand exists and DPI solutions are available – now.
Telecom’s growth rate has been exponential. Just 25 years ago the first cellular voice call was made, and the words spoken were, “Hello. Can you hear me?” What tremendous evolution this market has undergone and continues to experience today.
Now is the time to listen to the market’s call and to consumers’ expectations. Our industry’s response should be “Yes, we can hear you – and you can count on us for help.”