Uncommon Wisdom

Feb 23 2011   3:54PM GMT

As operators speed 4G LTE migration, complications follow

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

The smartphone and tablet wars are putting pressure on mobile providers, and in particular, creating competitive drive to migrate to LTE. Operators tell us that their LTE migration strategies have been advanced by more than a year, and that this is creating its own set of issues because a faster move means a lot of users will either have to be driven to change out their phones or there will be a considerable number of older 3G devices still in service when 4G rolls in.

One impact this has had is increased interest among providers in using packet-mode infrastructure to backhaul circuit-switched connections. Running a single fast feed to a 4G tower is bad enough, but doubling it up with TDM backhaul for circuit-mode voice is truly bad news. Extreme Networks did a mobile backhaul announcement that focused on synchronous backhaul and integration of packet-sync traffic with TDM, and now Juniper has snapped up the IP of a startup with synchronous packet backhaul capability.

Another issue created by pushing 4G into the fast lane is the change in the dynamics of the metro network created by all the mobile backhaul paths. A typical metro area (LATA) in the U.S. today would have an average of about 200 central offices. There would likely be 10 to 20 times that many mobile cells (in addition to femtocells and WiFi sites). How will all of these new locations impact the metro mission? And given that 4G will almost certainly drive packet-mode voice over LTE (VoLTE) , could there be pressure to migrate wireline users to VoIP? Operations clearly has to contend with this.

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