It might seem hard to believe, but it's only hours until tens of thousands of mobile industry mavens descend on Barcelona's Fira showgrounds for Mobile World Congress 2014.
With thousands of companies attending and wanting to grab the attention of existing and potential customers and partners, the marketing and PR machines run into overtime in an effort to attract MWC visitors to certain stands, meeting rooms, and tapas bars.
Nokia Networks (NSN) is one of the companies that hasn't waited for MWC to open its doors before unveiling its latest developments. The vendor has been pumping out its mobile infrastructure and service provider IT (SPIT) product and strategy updates for the past few weeks to update the market on its portfolio developments. (See NSN Preps Portfolio Update at MWC.)
The vendor has a number of particular areas of its mobile broadband-focused business it has been enhancing. Here are the highlights:
LTE-Advanced. NSN has extended the aggregation capabilities of its Flexi Multiradio 10 Base Stations and Flexi Zone Micro/Pico base stations to three carriers, enabling theoretical downlink speeds of up to 450 Mbit/s, made possible by the aggregation of three 20 MHz channels. Phil Twist, Head of Portfolio Marketing at NSN, says these capabilities have been developed for global commercial rollout as a result of the carrier-aggregation work the vendor has done with operators in South Korea. Twist notes that coordinated macro/small cell interference management and load-balancing capabilities can enable a network capacity boost of up to 30% in LTE-Advanced networks.
Small cell expansion. NSN has also expanded its small cell portfolio, adding an indoor pico cell that the vendor claims has the same capabilities as a macro cell, and also managed by the same software. It has also added LTE TDD and WiFi support to the portfolio, and developed a software version of its small cell controller that can be loaded onto a base station, enabling that base station to manage multiple small cells as if they were a single cell. So is there any demand for public=access small cells currently from mobile operators? “Operators need to be prepared now, but the business case is restricted, though we expect it to become a commercial opportunity in the future… it’s just a matter of when. Currently, the macro network is still good enough,” notes Twist. (See NSN Expands Flexi Zone Small Cells Portfolio and Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)
4G interference control. The vendor's Smart Scheduler tool, which can be integrated into NSN's base station platform, has been upgraded to enable coordinated scheduling between adjacent base stations (whether FDD or TDD 4G LTE), an enhancement that can help boost downlink speeds by up to 30% at the edge of a cell, according to the vendor.
Centralized RAN. This links multiple LTE base stations to work directly with one another to reduce interference between neighboring cells. In addition, NSN has added new features to its Liquid Radio software that migrates smartphone users onto 4G connections more quickly, even in mid-session, to free up 3G capacity and make more efficient use of LTE capacity. (See NSN Unveils Centralized RAN.)
Predictive network operations. NSN has made use of some analytics smarts to add "Predictive Operations" to its managed services offerings. The service, based around what NSN calls a "self-learning analysis engine," has been designed to identify mobile broadband network problems in advance of any outage or service degradation. NSN believes it is breaking the mold here by anticipating problems, rather than reacting to them.
Liquid apps. NSN got excited about this development -- the integration of an application server blade into its base stations -- a year ago, and with some reason. “We launched this a year ago and have undertaken a trial with SK Telecom. Now we’re working with multiple operators -- in the double-figures -- and the tests have proven everything we could have hoped for and more,” says Twist. That’s not its only hosted apps news -- NSN is now also offering a commercial cloud-based IMS that supports VoLTE services, which, NSN believes, can help operators provide better next-gen multimedia service than the OTT players. (See SK Telecom Completes Liquid Applications Proof-of-Concept and NSN: Understanding Liquid Applications.)
Virtualized OSS. This is one that could get the network ops team excited -- NSN says its centrally-hosted OSS system enables an operator to update the configuration of up to 10,000 base stations in just a few minutes instead of decades (or some very long time, at least). Hosting the OSS in the cloud also means that the management software can be hosted in more than one location, providing instant back-up if a network operations center goes offline. (See NSN Enhances Its Virtualized OSS.)
Customer experience management (CEM). Twist says NSN has developed a series of measurements that can be extracted from its CEM system that delivers a close match to a Net Promoter Score, which measures customer loyalty and the extent to which consumers are willing (or unwilling) to recommend a product or service to their friends and family.
In effect, NSN is saying an operator can derive a close approximation to a Net Promoter Score without having to seek feedback from customers -- a timely and costly process. It can judge what changes it needs to make to its marketing, customer care, and even some network settings to improve overall customer experience levels. As a result of these and other enhancements, Twist believes NSN can outperform any other mobile infrastructure vendor in terms of like-for-like network performance.
That could make for some interesting discussions on the MWC show floor. Let the battle commence…
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading