Sep 24 2012
VanillaPlus: Why did you establish Arieso ten years ago? What need did you plan to address?
Shirin Dehghan: I started the company to focus on the then new 3G and the huge predicted growth in mobile broadband consumption. I based the decision on my experience at Vodafone where I was part of the team preparing for the UK’s 3G auctions, which gave me direct insight into the challenges that this new technology would pose. It was clear that it would generate masses of data that would need to continue to run over the same technical infrastructure, so I saw the need to plan for the impact that this was going to have on the network and, ultimately, customer experience. The first five years promised huge data traffic growth, although that took longer than I had envisaged to emerge into the market.
We started developing the products in 2002 but really this whole thing started in 2008 with the launch of the iPhone. Everyone knows the history and the really explosive growth and demand we have seen since that happened. Today, the highest data consumers are iPhone 4S users and the whole focus for CSPs now is around which subscribers are hogging the bandwidth. One per cent of subscribers now generate 50% of mobile data so the challenge for CSPs is in understanding where these subscribers are and efficiently managing the network in those high traffic areas.
The capacity crunch that I predicted ten years ago finally happened. We’d spent the intervening time developing the solutions to this problem and we’re now solving the same problem across five continents. The market is coming to us.
VanillaPlus: To what extent is the shortage of capacity a result of operators' getting it wrong when it comes to network planning and optimisation?
Shirin Dehghan: Traditionally, CSPs have been basing their network planning and optimisation on incomplete information. The light bulb moment comes when they recognise the source of data they are using is out-dated. For example, drive testing, with network centric data and key performance indicators, compromises the operators decision making when they deploy assets as the likelihood is that the network will have evolved since that data was collected and those KPIs developed.
It is really important to understand where the data hoggers are and which of them represent the hotspots of bandwidth consumption on the network because, if the hoggers are at the edge, they are causing far more damage. We estimated last year that the whole industry wasted $500 million in opex through poor siting of base stations.
A significant part of the reason for that is the incomplete nature of drive testing. Very few users consume bandwidth in the same way as drive testing. For instance, most people don’t download video while they are driving; they are indoors and traditional drive testing methods cannot monitor the network to this level of inbuilding granularity.
VanillaPlus: Where did they start going wrong and how are they fixing the issues they face now?
Shirin Dehghan: We think CSPs have been basing their decisions on poor data and that data has been costly to gather. The performance improvements achieved from conducting greater amounts of traditional testing wouldn’t justify the opex expense involved, because the cost of the equipment and processes used is so high. CSPs face increased demand on their networks and they have to address that efficiently. Many CSPs still don’t get it – they need new network performance engineering solutions.
That is only going to become more apparent as operators start to roll-out small cells to meet their users’ needs. You need a multitude of different solutions in this area because of the amount of capex involved. Small cells are of big interest as a way to offload data traffic but you can’t place them anywhere and they are not totally inexpensive. LTE is exactly the same. Now you have masses and masses of data rate but the more you give users in terms of throughput, the more they want. CSPs are starting to look at selforganising networks (SON), which will require far richer and more real-time inputs than traditional network-centric solutions can deliver.
Small cells, heterogeneous networks and LTE are ways to add more capacity than 3G is capable of delivering but what becomes important is that CSPs have to manage their network across 2G, 3G and 4G as a single network. There are a number of strategies needed to solve these problems.
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