Col. Mukesh Sareen, Vice President (North), Fastech India
The current year has been a mixed bag for the telecom Industry. Whereas commercial compulsions have forced operators to merge and consolidate causing temporary unease, the industry has gone through a technological upgradation in VoLTE and 4G services, as well as country-wide deployment plans for GPON. IPfication is finally and convincingly, all over the industry now, in voice and data services with all operators investing in large scale MPLS and CEN infrastructure for the backhaul.
Mobile operators have quickly adapted to the new environment of competition, not only on price (as is much talked about) but also in the quality of services. This quality is no longer evaluated with respect to connectivity (as was the case in the earlier days) but with three critical metrics for each class of service: packet loss, latency, and jitter. All performance analytics are now being focussed on these metrics, and the need to measure these regularly, accurately, and comprehensively. Adding bandwidth is no longer considered the cure of all IP related problems, and this paradigm is now being understood and acted on after making measurements of these three-key metrics. Mobile operators are using handheld test instruments and continuous IP network assurance tools to measure these metrics and qualify each hop of their network.
The surge in average subscriber consumption, from 750MB per month a year ago, to nearly 10GB per month, has compelled industry planners to swiftly provision multiple 100GE client links in the transport, and consider 400GE clients in the core, even while it is being standardized globally. The industry is rapidly adapting to the new challenges in performance posed by these new line rates and will need to train their personnel on the testing and O&M disciplines of these new technologies. Multirate test instruments for 100GE, OTU4, and 50G/25G/10G are being used to acquire the confidence in the performance of these circuits.
Similarly, operators have begun to utilize every hertz of their spectrum pushing LTE signals even on bands used hitherto for 2G channels. Channels blocked previously due to interference or lack of optimisation are being unblocked, as operators must use the entire band for facilitating FDD and TDD services on those frequencies. RF Interferers, caused by unauthorized repeaters, police jammers, defective WiFi CPE etc. are being detected and localized with the help of handheld interference analysers and reported to the authorities with specific location information for quick action. RF planners are planning to optimise each cluster and cell site, clearing cobwebs of interference and other impairments on the air. There is far more spectrum available today than in the past, (thankfully, our industry is less spectrum starved) but the operators have to manage their air waves for each site, in order to make sure there is no internal or external interference; in macro and small cells. The task of RF optimisation at each cell site for each technology is painstaking (and expensive), but provides a far better experience to the subscribers, at lower consumption of spectrum.
Gazing at the crystal ball, industry seniors foresee that after the current turmoil of consolidation, mobile operators will all be working towards measuring KPIs, and optimising network parameters to enhance the QoS provided to performance-aware customers. It is predicted that operators will invest in state of the art regression labs wherein the focus will be to scale services to meet the increased demand and performance expectations of subscribers. Operators will, in such a situation, be able to provide more focus on training their engineering and operational team members so as to quickly adapt to the benefits of emerging technologies as well.
This state, it is predicted, will lead to a harmonized growth with performance being the key differentiator amongst operators, rather than cost.