Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Coming Mobile Network Capacity Problem

Today’s mobile operators are faced with a network capacity dilemma which will only become more critical as more smart phones and 3G-enabled laptops and devices are sold throughout the world.

The growing usage and penetration of high-speed mobile wireless services for both voice and data have created new challenges and opportunities for mobile operators, enterprises, and consumers. The requirement for always-on, high-speed communications both indoors and out is createing a capacity dilemma in the densely populated areas where enterprises are located (office parks) and high-rise office buildings in metropolitan areas. This capacity dilemma is not easily solved by adding more macro cell sites outside to ‘blast inside’ considering the expense and inefficiency of deployment in this way.

Attempts to provide the wireless coverage inside for voice and data has been cost prohibitive for mobile operators.  Wi-Fi, while offering a relatively low-cost wireless data access solution indoors, suffers from interference, integration issues, poor voice quality and issues with macro to AP and AP-to-AP handover. DAS and Pico-cell solutions are costly and require site and network planning. Existing solutions can either handle voice well or fixed data access– but not robust mobile voice and broadband inside the enterprise. UMA has its own issues and AP to AP handoff is not easily done over Wi-Fi (if at all). Show me a good working solution.

It will be interesting to see if FEMTO solutions can scale to handle dense areas without creating too much macro cell interference. Just adding a Femto AP does not solve capacity problems or coverage issues. Careful network planning is needed, otherwise we will face "Rogue" Femtos inside the enterprise (just like we experience with WiFi in '97 - '99 and beyond) and in dense areas which will only have a negative impact on the overal mobile network. The Femto Forum is on to the intereference issues and so are consumer femto vendors. The question is, when can they truely deliver a high capacity solution which address cost, coverage and capacity requirements for hundreds and thousands of people in a 1km by 1km square area?

SV Mobile Insider (twitter/mobileinsider

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