Feature Article

January 18, 2011

VSS's Andy Huckridge Disusses the Future of 4GWE Development

As the 4GWE and M2M industries grow with leaps and bounds, industry observers turn their eyes towards ITEXPO East 2011 in Miami to see what will demonstrated by those in the fields. Leading players in the 4G field have begun to examine the trends that 2010 exposed, and are looking ahead towards what 2011 will have to offer.

Andy Huckridge, director of marketing for VSS Monitoring, Inc., recently divulged his thought-provoking observations concerning the progression of 4G/LTE and where those technologies are taking us in an interview with Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director for TMC. As a speaker at ITEXPO East 2011, Huckridge will be leading an important discussion titled “Network Management Best Practices” for wireless carriers and service providers. In his opinion, the penetration of high-definition video will become more prevalent, and his session will include issues that crop up with the deployment of 4G technologies. Check out the full exchange below:

EL: What was the most significant technology trend in 2010 and what impact will it have in 2011?

AH: The rapid uptake of 4G/LTE by a long shot. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association recently said that LTE is the fastest-developing system in telecom history. This trend will only accelerate this year.

EL: The term 4G is being used by everyone regardless of the technology they have deployed.   When it comes to the mobile Internet, is the last mile the real place to put the emphasis? What other considerations impact the experience?

AH: 4G means multiple things, but for the user and operator alike, it comes down to Quality of Experience. QoE is what telecom operators need to test for. Many things can impact it. Key considerations should be:

--Interoperability issues among the competing 4G offerings, e.g., TD-SCDMA, WiMAX, LTE, LTE-Advanced, and WiBRO.

--Competing methods for the transport of voice within LTE. These can cause additional incompatibilities.

--Large parts of LTE are still at the standards body phase. Operators need to understand these in order to decide how, when, or if to implement updates.

Operators need to keep a firm handle on network Key Performance Indicators. This is essential to achieving a high QoE with maximum efficiency and ROI. The best way to do this is to build in packet-level, network-wide monitoring as the system is designed.

EL: Will the mobile winners in 2011 be the device companies, the app store companies the carriers? Who should be on our radar to watch?

AH: Carriers may need to become used to the idea of multi-platform. This has always been the case in Europe and it's beginning to happen in the U.S. Phones are personal items. Consumers want maximum choice. Apple and Android will continue to do well. I wouldn't count out the BlackBerry.

EL: Companies like Apple and Facebook are the darling of the Wall Street and the consumer? Should we see them as market leaders that are going to continue to dominate or are they the AOL and Netscape of this market?

AH: Google has shown that a company can successfully launch a new device going head-to-head with a hugely popular platform. They’re not going to fade away anytime soon. But good ideas can come from anywhere.

EL: Are there specific verticals that represent the best opportunities?

AH: A continually underserved market is the integration between the mobile office, and the enterprise & the large enterprise software vendor. Mobile employees need cut-down versions of their desk-top applications on their smart phones. But more importantly is that the backend systems need to be able to supply front end mobile devices with the same data and overcome any security hurdles in the process.

EL: How important are government mandates and regulations to your business plan? What concerns do you have for the future? The FCC has recently voted to support net neutrality.  Is net neutrality necessary, or will it present more challenges than it will solve?

AH: In 4G, regulations are more critical than ever. 4G devices are as versatile with data as they are with voice, making the potential for data leakage far greater. End-user organizations need to monitor traffic in-depth to ensure compliance. That may include DPI. Operators and service providers need to continue to work the regulatory authorities to assure access for lawful intercept.

EL:   What are you using personally for your phone? Have you deployed WiFi in your home? What are you children, family and friends teaching you about our industry? As a speaker at our events you are probably a mobile traveler? Do you feel that provides you a better perspective on what is needed in the market?

AH: Within the group Apple, Android & Blackberry devices are popular. Yes WiFi deployed at home and work. In previous roles I was a frequent traveller and greatly depended on the mobile device to be my second brain – in terms of notes, appointments and the like. To get an idea of what is needed by the new mobile workforce, having down a lot of travelling – which being dependant on a single converged device definitely allows you to have a unique viewpoint on the industry.

EL:      What impact has social media had on how you interact with your customers?  How do you measure its effectiveness? Where has social media impacted you the most? How have you leveraged social networking as an internal collaboration tool?

AH: VSS Monitoring has benefited from social media such as Twitter and Linked-In, and we're exploring additional platforms. Social media can be great at disseminating information and in staying current with industry trends. It helps internally in providing new ways to access information, and in reaching employees and partners in different geographies.

EL: What will be the greatest technological development in 2011? Why? Make one prediction based on based on your expectations for this year?

AH: Greater penetration of high-definition video on mobile devices. Wireline users expect 1080p via YouTube. Mobile users want it. LTE delivers it and more. Trials show data rates exceeding those of Blu-ray.

EL: Our event from a content perspective breaks up M2M, 4G and SuperWiFi as separate tracks. Who needs to hear your message your session  in Miami?  Is the mobile Internet similarly fragmented? How do your customers talk about the business?

AH: Any wireless carrier, service provider and equipment manufacturer deploying 4G should come to our session.

Here's why:

4G technologies are indeed fragmented. They represent a new and still mostly unknown set of technologies with unknown problems. There are multiple vendors which raises compatibility issues. In addition, deploying services across multiple-4G architectures will cause interoperability issues at the service interaction level. And there's a general lack of UE equipment deployed in consumer hands.

On top of this, 4G is being viewed skeptically by some in the news media and by some market analysts who have seen a plethora of acronyms and marketing claims with little real-world experience behind them. In addition, 4G requires a huge CAPEX and higher than ever OPEX. So, there's a lot at stake!

The only way forward is for carriers and providers to have total visibility of their networks, from core to tower. And it must be at the packet level in order to identify key performance issues impacting performance such as jitter, latency and microburst’s. Conditions like these are visible only at Layer 2, before a switch assembles packets into frames.

EL:  Why is your session a must attend for attendees in Miami this February?

AH: The session “Network Management Best Practices” will cover essential information for service providers to understand the first hand issues we are seeing when being involved with deploying 4G topologies and services. The session will give real world feedback that highlight where the issues are, set down some best practices for new deployments and explain how to overcome some commonplace mistakes to date. 

EL: Why is 4G disruptive and how can service providers and carriers take advantage of that?

AH: For the first time, telecom networks are using all-IP technology. The previous introduction of disruptive technologies —VoIP, FMC, IMS, triple play—saw unexpected problems. Customers were dissatisfied, service was lost, churn increased, and revenue was impacted. Service providers and carriers need to head-off such disruptions. The time to do this is at system design, by building in packet-level monitoring.

Only with the implementation of thorough testing practices pre-deployment and by flexible monitoring of the network and services post-deployment can service providers / NEMs get an understanding of how their network / products are performing.  This will help them determine capacity to offer new revenue services with satisfactory QoS while providing operational information on key performance indicators.

To find out more about Andy Huckridge and VSS Monitoring, visit the company at the 4GWE Conference. To be held Feb. 2-4 in Miami and collocated with ITEXPO East 2011, the 4GWE Conference will focus on the realities of deploying 4G technologies and delivering broadband wireless applications to a growing community of wireless broadband consumers. Huckridge is speaking during “Network Management Best Practices.” Don’t wait. Register now.

Juliana Kenny graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double degree in English and French. After managing a small company for two years, she joined TMC as a Web Editor for MobilityTechzone. Juliana currently focuses on the call center and CRM industries, but she also writes about cloud telephony and network gear including softswitches.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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