Have you noticed in the last year or so that you have been considering how you use your mobile device a little differently? The priority in your bundle used to be how many free minutes do I get? What is the calling rate between networks or to fixed lines? How many free texts do I get? etc.
Now we are starting to think a little more about how much data we are consuming on a monthly basis and what our priorities are. Consequently the operators are starting to do battle on the data limits, notably 3 who are offering unlimited downloads (read the small print re. fair usage) The fact is however, that although the networks have been striving for some time to get more data traffic and consequently revenues, essentially the networks of the last 10 – 15 years were designed primarily to support Voice. This is the case even with 3G. Data has been an add-on and always in contention with voice connections which have been the priority. After all, the money has been in voice and even now continues to be so.
This is causing the networks a quiet crisis as they struggle to keep pace with user demands and the rush of access products flooding the markets in both smart phones and dongles/routers. Within new LTE and 4G networks the intention is that all traffic will be carried as IP data. In this situation the payload can be voice, data, video, IM, whatever it will be handled within an ‘all IP’ connection driven infrastructure. When this becomes the case the way networks are billed with regard to Data will become ever more critical and even if traditional voice connections may well originate or terminate within traditional ‘non IP’ networks.
The considerable challenge of these new networks is the dynamic nature of the traffic. In the past capacity has been engineered on the basis of factored numbers of dedicated switched channels within an area or cell site. In the future it maybe more difficult to predict what sort of capacity is going to be needed at certain points when access devices can potentially run at high Mbit/s speeds and demand being non linear.
What remains to be seen is will the new networks deliver on their promises in terms of capacity and provide a sensible charging medium to reflect the value offered in an all IP data world?