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This post originally appeared on the TeleTalk blog on ETTelecom.com.
The outlook for data growth in India is extremely positive. Mobile data consumption is already exploding and is set to continue to accelerate. According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index, by 2017, India's mobile data traffic is expected to reach 900 petabytes per month, up from 15 petabytes per month in 2012. This growth will be primarily driven by video according to a report by Deloitte, in the next two to three years, video will drive 50 percent 60 percent of all the mobile data consumption in India. The burgeoning smartphone adoption (166 percent increase in the second quarter of 2013) and the growing number of mobile internet users (expected to have reached 130 million by the end of 2013) will only further drive the demand. This is where 4G will have its play in India.
Some telecom operators are already in full swing with the deployment of the infrastructure for 4G networks across the country. Other operators that recently acquired additional spectrum during the auctions are also planning to launch their 4G services soon.
However, post deployment, operators need to ensure that their infrastructure runs smoothly. Consumers are becoming more sensitive toquality of service, demanding the network to run smoothly and efficiently without interruption. This demand for high-speed service is taxing network capacity, leaving operators with the challenge of expanding network coverage and capacity to meet this demand that is growing at an incredibly high pace. Therollout of 4G services adds another dimension to this, leaving operators with several important considerations as they modernize and deploy their 4G networks:
Maximize downlink power and minimize noise. Deploying technologies such as remote radio heads (RRH) enables operators to maximize downlink power and reduce the equipment footprint at the site thus minimizing noise. The RRH architecture separates the radio head from the base band, thus by mounting the radio heads close to the base station antenna, it increases the efficiency within the network by reducing losses in the system and improving signal strength. This ultimately helps operators to achieve maximum network speeds. Of course, fiber to the antenna (FTTA) plays an important role in this as it offers the opportunity to simplify the installation of the RRHs.
Pay attention to backhaul links. Macro and small cell base station links are essential to the functioning of the network since they define the speed at which data from the wireless network can be fed back to the core network. Even though a majority of cell sites in India are already fitted with a microwave-based backhaul links, it is imperative for operators to invest in high-quality backhaul antennas and equipment to ensure that spectrum is used efficiently and that operators can obtain the best capacity and data throughput.
Implement standardization in co-siting deployment. Standardization enables operators to achieve greater efficiency, lower costs and improve network coverage and capacity. This is especially true, since it can be extremely difficult to secure new cell sites given real estate prices and regulations. A majority of the 4G deployments will be co-locations with 2G and3G networks. While implementing various standardization techniques to optimize their 4G infrastructure, operators also need to ensure that they do not compromise on their existing infrastructure. One good way to achieve standardization and increased speed of deployment is by installing a pre-assembled complete RF path solution. Furthermore, collaborating with stakeholders including network designers, installers and suppliers will enable operators to optimize their sites.
Limit interference/minimize signal overlap between sectors. 4G networks involve cell reuse, just like in 3G networks essentially assigning or re-assigning frequencies or codes repeatedly across multiple cell sectors to increase network capacity. Making the wrong antenna selection can lead to signal overlap between sectors, which affects the performance of a 4G network. Implementing sector sculpting techniques such as pattern shaping and deploying high performing antennas becomes essential to curb this, thus increasing spectrum efficiency, capacity and network performance.
Optimize signal to noise ratio. New generation networks such as 4G are extremely sensitive to noise and interference (especially passive intermodulation or PIM).To continue to deliver coverage and capacity, operators need to pay attention to optimizing the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of their networks. SNR is affected by both electronic and external noises in the RF path and the prevention and reduction of PIM starts with decreasing non-linearities in the RF path. PIM causes interferences in the network and occurs in the RF path where non-linear passive components such as cables, connectors and other equipment usually connect causing the signal to mix or multiply leading to intermodular distortion. Operators will need to pay attention to junction points in the RF circuit, where cables, connectors and other equipment meet because resolving nonlinearity (a main cause of PIM) typically means fixing connections throughout the RF path.
While 4G offers new revenue opportunities for operators, consumers demands for better quality networks will continue to grow. With service quality a key driver of subscriber loyalty, it is imperative that telecom operators pay close attention to optimizing their networks and addressing their coverage and capacity challenges as we move into the next generation networks.