Arieso tracks smart device user trends

Telecomunications operators in Africa can gain advance notice of the prospects for emerging markets across the continent.Capacity versus Signal-to-Noise (SNR)

There are issues surfacing already - particularly, amongst those where smart devices such as the iPad, the Playbook and the Galaxy Tab have been introduced to subscribers. In that sense, it is interesting to note operator concerns over limited spectrum in markets experiencing extreme data usage.

In a new report on data usage by smart device network users - 'Recent Smartphone Trends & the Extreme Data User' - Arieso hints at implications for improvements in network architecture to get closer to the subscriber, and to respond better to subscriber behaviour. Should emerging market operators consider offloading strategies now - for instance, through the prospect of introducing microcells to manage traffic intensity?

Spectrum is fundamentally limited, subject to licensing costs, and made available in an infrequent manner. Since the capacity performance typically scales with the amount of spectrum, the capacity of a network is typically expressed per unit of spectrum (e.g., bits/sec/Hz).

The performance of any air interface (such as GSM, UMTS, LTE) is subject to the Shannon Limit. Progress in coding and modulation results in modern communications systems that are within a few deciBels (dB) of the Shannon Limit. While there have been substantial gains going from GSM to UMTS and from UMTS to LTE, there are diminishing opportunities for gains in the future.

This leaves network design as the final frontier in maximising the capacity of wireless networks. In the graphic on this page showing capacity versus signal-to-noise (SNR) data, the operating points P1, P2, P3 and P4 can be viewed as four different network designs where sites are placed increasingly closer to where the subscriber is located (going from the low SNR values of P1 to the higher SNR values of P4). These gains can only be accomplished by knowing where subscribers are located. Surgical placement of small cells not only results in the desired data off-load in the near-term, but also satisfies long-term optimality criteria.

While much of the emphasis has been on migration to LTE, offloading can also be accomplished using UMTS strategies. This may be done by placing small cells in the immediate vicinity of where the extreme data users are located.

Author of the report, Arieso CTO Mike Flanagan says, "The degree to which African operators may pursue UMTS strategies differs compared to Europe, or America, in the sense that may still be scope for the surgical introduction of new network infrastructure to address demand." Arieso worked with MTN in South Africa, and there were lessons learned from data usage patterns recorded and responded to around the time of the World Cup in 2010, with respect to locating smart devices, and identifying hotspots and utilising location-aware subscriber data solutions. This applies across the continent, for there are variances in penetration rates in most countries  - as the most advanced and affluent users at large in Africa look for the best data experiences. A prime consideration to take away is that it is imperative to process data to determine location and so to manage subscriber usage - especially since the wireless operator may be sitting on data traffic that hasn't been properly monetised.

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