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A brave new world

The industry seems to have learned its lessons from 3G, which was beset with problems when it came out ten years ago, and is now focusing on robustness and quality of service in the 4G. Though these are early days for LTE, the mobile industry is bullish about the next-generation, which is all about data.

At the show, mobile gear manufacturer Ericsson presented its vision of the world in 2020. Called Networked Society, which envisions a world with 50 billion devices with microprocessors connected to network, many of them wirelessly. Buoyed by a high demand for mobile broadband solutions, the Swedish giant is betting on a world where all microprocessors that not connected today will be connected, resulting in the number of connection in tens of billions.

“We have deployed networks all over the world. Next 20 years will see those networks being used in ways never imagined, with a huge impact on people, enterprise organisation and society in general. We believe three components will make the difference in a networked society – mobility, broadband and cloud,” says Hans Vestberg, President and CEO.

Ericsson’s vision is one of machine to machine (M2M) communication, which means we can actually start using machines in a way that they talk to each other and this is a major change relative to how we have been communicating in the past. The technology enablers for this universally connected world are broadband ubiquity and the declining cost of connected devices, he added.

Vestberg’s talk on machine to machine networking ecosystems included descriptions and examples of smart networks, smart services and smart cities.

Ericsson says 5.3 billion people are connected worldwide today, which is expected to reach 7-8 billion by 2015. “Broadband penetration has, of course, been the most important factor for operators around the world. Every 1000 new mobile broadband subscriptions generate 80 new jobs, which is why governments need to think about broadband infrastructure. We expect one billion people to have mobile broadband subscriptions this years, which can reach up to five billion by 2016; the data consumption will be 25 percent higher, with video accounting for the major chunk of traffic,” said Vestberg.

Ericsson says 500 million smartphones are already on networks and by 2016 there will be as much data on smartphones as PCs, and more data capacity on networks than voice.

To support M2M communications and hook up operators to cloud, Ericsson has launched Device Connection Platform at the show, which makes it possible to create tailored connectivity and price plans for M2M services. Ericsson provides a complete service that the operators can adjust to serve its enterprise customers’ needs, including a self-service interface, flexible billing, charging and connectivity plans for all devices connected to the network. Since machine to machine applications can communicate using any existing IP protocol they can be accessed and share data via internet. In addition, the operator’s customer will be able to manage their subscriptions and devices in real time.

In tune with the shift from host-to-host connections to a focus on connections from users to networks and vice versa, Ericsson is expanding its IP networking portfolio, with several new solutions to be rolled out during 2011. At the show, it has taken the wraps off its first solution in the portfolio – Smart Service Router, which the company says will form the basis of the new mobile core network needed in 4G/LTE networks.

Though the show this year was all about LTE, which is expected to come early, Ericsson says HSPA will continue to evolve in parallel to LTE. The manufacturer has demonstrated multi-carrier HSPA with 168Mbps on the downlink and 24Mbps on the uplink using a prototype consumer device and commercial network equipment. This is said to be a world record for the highest HSPA speed achieved on commercial network equipment.

To reach 168M bps, Ericsson used a number of radio tricks, including antenna technology MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) and sending data over several channels at the same time. MIMO uses multiple antennas in the base station and on the device to increase speeds.

Besides HSPA at 168M bps, Ericsson has also demonstrated HSPA with 42M bps using a single channel and 84M bps using two channels. Operators already offer HSPA at 42M bps, but they have to use two channels. By only using one channel aided by MIMO, operators can “be much more efficient with their valuable radio spectrum”, Ericsson said.

Today, 79 commercial HSPA networks offer download speeds of 21M bps. Add to that 13 commercial HSPA networks that can offer up to 42M bps, and five operators that have committed to HSPA at 84M bps, according to the latest statistics from the Global mobile Suppliers Association.

Another major area of push for Ericsson is manager services, which accounts for 10 percent of the net sales for the company. Its services organisation now boasts of 45000 professional and has won 54 managed services contract in 2010.

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