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Vodafone CTO has high hopes for carrier aggregation

Mikael Ricknäs | March 13, 2014
Tests of carrier aggregation, a technology that will help increase the speeds of LTE networks, have been a positive surprise, but another technology called small cells needs to become more mature before it can help offload mobile networks, according to two executives at Vodafone Germany.

"There it has the potential to improve the customer experience tremendously. But we need to do a little more research on what information will be broadcast," Kuisch said.

LTE broadcast is somewhere in the middle between the lab and a commercial roll out, but the advantage is that it there is already a real-world need for the technology, according to Kuisch. That isn't always the case as the telecom industry develops new technologies.

"The other thing we need to find out is the economics. Where do we need to build it, because it is not something you do nationwide. That would be silly," Kuisch said.

The test Vodafone Germany announced last month has been extended and expanded.

Using more spectrum is the most straightforward way of increasing speeds in a mobile network. Another slightly more complicated upgrade path is adding Wi-Fi as well as smaller base stations or so-called small cells to offload existing mobile networks.

"Small cells is a buzzword. The challenge is going to be to find the right balance when you move traffic between Wi-Fi, the macro network and your small cells. It is possible, but it's quite complex," said Arash Ashouriha, chief network officer at Vodafone Germany.

For this to work, moving between the different networks has to be seamless to the user, and today that isn't the case, according to Ashouriha. The operator is working with both suppliers and some third-party application vendors on what could be the best way to make the switch between networks unnoticeable, he said.

"Small cells will be ready for mass roll outs sometime in the beginning of next year," Ashouriha said.

One of the hottest topics at Mobile World Congress was NFV (Network Functions Virtualization), which will allow operators to get many of the same advantages that server virtualization has provided enterprises, including lower costs and the ability to roll out new services faster using NFV.

"I think it's a blessing," Kuisch said.

Having to install new hardware with integrated software when a network needs to be upgraded is a really prehistoric way of working, according to Kuisch. It costs a lot of money and has a negative impact on the environment.

"Network Functions Virtualization will give us the possibility to minimize the impact on society and also on our own resources," Kuisch said.


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