Middle East telcos can give customers what they want
By Ammar Enaya, regional director at Aruba Networks Middle East and Turkey
May 20, 2014 6:43 by kippreport
In May last year, Samsung declared that it is working on a breakthrough that could see us achieving download speeds of up to 1GB if we’re close enough to a mast. And, earlier this year, Etisalat announced that the company will be laying the foundation for the next generation of super-speed connectivity by conducting trials of fifth-generation mobile and broadband services in the Middle East. This is an impressive and exciting prospect, but there is no reason why mobile operators can’t be offering fast and reliable speeds to customers today by utilising the right WiFi technology.
With a growth in consumption driving more than a billion smartphone shipments and the 4G uptake off to a flying start, there’s no hiding from the fact that the mobile industry is shifting from voice to data. For consumers too, mobile data and video traffic are exploding and there are many reports citing that consumers are lapping up bandwidth-hungry applications, such as Skype and Netflix, on their smartphones.
However, while those services may be free and great to use for subscribers, handling the traffic is not free or easy to manage for 3G/4G networks – often resulting in poor and broken service, which remains one of the biggest complaints among mobile users. Yet, in such a competitive marketplace and with regulators keeping a close watch, operators have to be fully prepared to satisfy this appetite of users at the lowest price available.
In the UK, British Telecom (BT) recently launched an app that gives customers access to their landline plans from their smartphones, as they seek to benefit from customers looking for ways to minimise their mobile phone bills. This is a smart move by BT, as the telecom giant is focused on its customers and providing an integrated experience, as well as cost savings. We might well see the same thing happening in the Middle East. However, for a mobile operator, this type of announcement adds more pressure to deliver – how will it do this when the network infrastructure often struggles to keep pace of demand?
Unlike cellular networks, WiFi allows the IT administrator to own the connection experience. This ultimately means understanding the device type, profiling the user and mapping that information back into its existing CRM system. This equals huge customer insights and revenue opportunities for the operator and, crucially, allows it to reduce bandwidth and networking costs dramatically.
In addition, service providers, retailers and other organisations can use these WiFi platforms to deliver finely tuned content such as targeted advertisements and special programming in locations, including coffee houses, retail outlets and restaurants.
The technology is already available, thanks to the new wireless standard 802.11ac. This is the first in the industry to deliver gigabyte WiFi, combined with device density and application intelligence that are required by today’s WiFi networks.
802.11ac is more evolutionary than revolutionary, building on what were revolutionary technologies in 802.11n, most notably MIMO. Among key innovations in 802.11ac are wider 80-160 MHz channels and standard beamforming. It also offers better modulation for faster throughput, as well as multi-user MIMO, which transmits individual data streams to multiple receivers simultaneously.
Imprecise roaming, sub-optimal load balancing and related WiFi performance challenges have been perpetual thorns in the side of IT and network operations managers for years. Enabling client devices to always connect to the most available, highest-performing AP helps ensure that enterprises can benefit from the enhanced throughput and capacity that 802.11ac offers.
As WiFi has become the de-facto network for smartphones and tablets and, as more and more of these devices pour onto company networks, mobile operators need to make use of this bandwidth in order to keep offering their customers the service they have come to expect. So now, operators can offload their ultra-fast 3G or 4G traffic onto WiFi networks.
Rather than looking for a data solution that is a number of years away, cellular networks simply need to embrace the right technology today to ensure that customers experience the best possible speed and reliable connectivity.