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Convergence Of Multi Media Services

As the industry moves toward mobile broadband networks that go beyond current 3G capabilities, carriers are focusing their attention on considering and evaluating the deployment of technologies based on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), to prepare for the capacity demand of millions of subscribers consuming an aggregate of terabytes of data. In context, 1,000 subscribers consuming 1 GB of data per month, by themselves, means 1 TB of data has to traverse the radio access network (RAN), to the edge and into the network core. This proposition scares most carriers, especially when they will make broadband data services available to millions of paying subscribers.

Mobile networks in the near future will have to be capable of supporting millions of customers consuming gigabytes of data per month, setting the stage for "Triple Play" services of voice, broadcast TV/video and data.

This pending increase in consumption raises the issue of network and subscriber capacity, particularly regarding IP data traffic and the complexities of managing IP packets across a true end-to-end all-IP link. To make the Triple Play viable, a carrier's network must be capable of supporting up to a gigabyte of data traffic per subscriber, per month – and terabytes of backhaul traffic. For today's 2G and 3G networks, consumption is measured in megabytes. For tomorrow's networks, with Triple Play and true broadband access, the content and application traffic will easily shift from megabytes to several gigabytes per user, quickly becoming an imperative for carriers and vendor partners.

Triple Play creates the opportunity for carriers to access new customer segments, attain higher average revenue per user (ARPU) and sustain revenue for the next decade. Operators are faced with the dilemma of how to add capacity and lower costs of network operation to deliver new IP-based services. Carriers' requests to Santa Claus this year is for a network that can deliver 1 GB of data per subscriber, per month, at capex, opex and selling and marketing expenditures equaling $10 or less, per subscriber. Lower cost of operation translates into higher profit margins. It is no longer a war over which technology will win or whether a network is standards-based or not. Lower cost IP networks are where the margins lie, and subsequently will be the battleground for network vendors for years to come.

After almost 15 years of successful growth using circuit-switched technologies, the mobile telecommunications world is making the move toward OFDM-based mobile networks for higher capacity and IP services. OFDM is the technology earmarked for "beyond 3G" networks and is currently used in various audio and video broadcast standards, as well as in Wi-Fi and fixed wireless access technologies such as WiMAX and FLASH-OFDM for mobile broadband. 3GPP is currently reviewing submissions to use OFDM as a future enhancement to 3G, and the CDMA group has announced its future move toward OFDM-based air-link solutions. Global operators such as NTT DoCoMo, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telstra have publicly announced OFDM-based network trials. Nextel Communications has been testing FLASH-OFDM since 2002. Vendors such as Siemens, Nortel and Motorola have all demonstrated high-speed data solutions using OFDM, with more to come.

Carriers, cable operators and wireline service providers are increasingly competing for the same customers and are now evolving to create a new breed of communications companies. Some will be pure-play voice or "just data" providers; others will recreate themselves as truly integrated communications companies where mobile broadband voice, video, data and broadcast services are offered for bundled prices. Delivering a Triple Play solution requires a network that can be scaled to accommodate thousands of users per cell, consuming gigabytes of data per month at a cost at which operators can effectively compete and make a profit. Carriers and OEMs are making the migration toward OFDM for mobility and broadband – this is the reality for 2006 and beyond.

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