Technology trends at CommunuicAsia 2012

Now, when the suitcases have been unpacked, I have some time to share the emerging trends we saw at CommunicAsia 2012. The main focus at the show was the transition of the market from TDM to packet based networks.

These are exciting times for Telco Systems, as a Carrier Ethernet and MPLS solution based company. But what were the main trends we’ve spotted at the show in the edge of the networks?

Here are some that I’ve captured:

First, extending MPLS to the edge is certainly starting to pick up with carriers and mobile operators, considering extension of their IP/MPLS cores to the edge of their networks.   Several major vendors, Cisco, Juniper and Telco Systems now provide customers the ability to migrate their TDM networks to packet based technology all the way to the edge of their networks.  There are several reasons customers are adopting this strategy: First is the need forscalability one of MPLS biggest values, especially in APAC where the scale of the edge networks can be huge. Secondly, MPLS’ dynamic and intelligent nature leads to highly elastic networks to help operators address today’s dynamic bandwidth requirements due to the mobile data explosion. Lastly, many in the industry believe that MPLS has a better price /performance ratio in terms of TCO for a converged network technology.

Another trend we saw in the show was the increasing demand for extended OAM functionality.  As operators are motivated to deliver premium services with differential CoS, they are required to prove to their customers not only the actual SLA, but also proofs and measurements (sometimes in near real time resolution) that their purchased SLA is being delivered. We’ve found Y.1731 measurements are used by our customers to count numerous SLA parameters and present end-to-end results to their end-user customers through various portals and service management tools such as our EdgeGenie system. Other tools like embedded RFC2544 test heads within the edge devices are used to minimize the track rolls and installation time, as the majority of actions can now be done from the central office rather than customer premises.

And finally, one of the hottest topics in the mobile industry was “small cells”.  The Cell site capacity and bandwidth crunch combined with the cost and availability of enough frequencies, calls for more creative distributed solutions in addition to typical macro cell deployments.

The term “Small cells” appeared to have a very broad meaning and it was very hard to meet operators with the same definitions and perception on what their “small cell” strategy would entail.  Whether it was femto, pico, carrier Wi-Fi or a combination of these new small cells technologies in combination with macro cell deployments, it was clear that most operators now recognize that limited spectrum coupled with the sheer cost/coverage model of only using macro cells cannot scale.

There is a large debate today in the industry how to differentiate pico cells and femto cells, and based on the discussion we had in the show I want to offer my interpretation: I will call “pico” to the cells that are owned and operated by the operators and “femto” to the cells that are not owned or operated by the mobile operators. Each of these categories presents different challenges in term of installation, radio planning and deployments, but will also use different backhaul technologies. Although most of the industry focus today is more around the RAN part of the small cells, some operators have realized that backhaulthe small cells traffic is a major challenge.  We started hearing more questions of the efficiency of PON in the “pico” scenario, especially around the latency, delay and jitter requirements of the LTE X2 interface.

Carrier Ethernet and MPLS are being considered and evaluated, each with its pros and cons as they bring better answer to this specific application. Also the devices size power consumption , physical attributes and obviously price are being looked at. So not only in the initial  CAPEX investment , but also the OAM capability to lower the operator ongoing OPEX, together with the TCO model. I think that this year we’ll see more focus around small cells backhaul and variety of vendors are trying to address the challenges with novel solutions and products (for example Symmetricom’s new small cell announcement just following the show)

While 3G data and 4G LTE continues to proliferate across APAC and mobile data continues to double year over year through rapid adoption of smartphones, it is clear some type of small cell strategy will be required to keep up with the demand.  As carriers and mobile operators deploy small cells, it was also recognized that while that may solve the spectrum and rate/reach issue when deploying 4G wireless, it  still will undoubtedly require significant” last mile or now last quarter mile” requirements for backhaul to these new smaller cell sites.   How this gets solved is still up for debate.  Maybe at the next show….;-)

I want to thank all of our guests and also our neighbors from MetaSwitch that brought these amazing guys to keep us in the EUROCUP atmosphere.

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