Three Keys to Wireless Networks
Operators all over the world are scrambling to deploy wireless network upgrades for the support of VoLTE, LTE, and HSPA+. This comes at a high cost and time requirement for the simple fact that three main requirements are needed for any network upgrade. Each of these three network needs comes with its own cost, time, and availability constraints. Most operators are focused on the first two items, where the third item may actually be the most critical. The three requirements of any wireless network build-out are Spectrum, Network, and Devices.
Spectrum – The basis of all wireless networks, new spectrum comes (if made available) at a capital premium. For most operators, there is not enough spectrum to go around. This lack of spectrum often tasks operators with need to turn off or compromise network quality in order to free up spectrum for new technology deployment or growth.
Network – Operators need to select vendors, install core side equipment, build sites, and deploy basestations once the spectrum utilization plan is settled upon. After the initially deployment, the quality of service offered by the network needs to typically be evaluated and improved. Network build-outs are extremely costly in both money as well as time. Typically taking years to upgrade a network completely and up to a decade to finish a quality network from scratch.
Devices – Now that you have a network up and operating, the key is to allow the end user to utilize it. All the 3G/4G network planning that is executed, doesn’t mean anything if the end users have 2G only devices. It is this need to upgrade the end users to newer handsets that is critical. Without upgrade devices, networks will be required to support legacy systems far beyond their desires.
Many operators focus on the need for quality Spectrum and Network positions and are slow to adapt to proper devices on the network. Also, in certain models like the US handset subsidy model, where operators control device distribution, it is easier to stop the sale of lower end devices that will not take advantage of newer networks. However, in bring your own device and most prepaid models, these devices are typically the cheapest chipsets available which are often GSM only for example. Without operators having the ability to stop these older technology only sales, they will be limited on their ability to redeploy spectrum from legacy technologies, be slow to focus engineering efforts on the higher revenue customer layers, and have increased OPEX costs due to maintaining legacy systems at all levels of the network.