Winning bidders in the upcoming 4G Auctions will be building new 4G networks in the spectrum acquired. Both TRUE and DTAC already offer 4G service, so they may already understand the challenges of building a modern 4G network. AIS, and potentially Jasmine Mobile, have not yet launched 4G service and will be working hard to catch up. This follows our previous article in our series about the Thai 4G Auctions.
Let’s consider the issues operators may face when building these new 4G networks.
- Generational differences in coverage characteristics may require more sites, possibly many more, to provide comparable service quality. Some of this effect, but probably not all, was addressed when 3G was added.
- Some sites may require a new cabinet to hold 4G equipment. This can lead to negotiations will with landlords and construction contractors, etc. The net effect here is to increase costs and slow the implementation.
- Newer technology sites will likely cost more than the older technology sites. The initial purchase price might be lower. The current capacity licensing models from the equipment vendors will cost much more as the 4G network is loaded with subscribers.
- New antennas and radios for the spectrum. Antenna size depends upon the spectrum they use. To expand the service into new spectrum new antennas will be required, and probably radios to power the mobile transmissions.
- Backhaul Bandwidth requirements increase 100-fold or more. Although the operators already have extensive fiber optic networks, the greater throughput of each site, plus the need to add sites, for both coverage and capacity, means many extensions will need to be run.
- Expertise with Layer 1, 2 and 3. A resilient, high bandwidth, low latency backhaul is simply impossible without a deep understanding of the protocol stack. The RF and Transport teams will need additional training days.
- Reporting and Analysis via the OSS is more complicated, while the demand for this information, both from within the technical groups and from without (Sales, Marketing, Roaming, etc.) will increase.
- 4G Roaming imposes many new demands. First, to enable LTE roaming, TR.21 will have to be retested with all roaming partners.
- LTE Roaming requires a DIAMETER signaling platform. This is especially important to reduce roaming costs by eliminating the “trombone” of 2G/3G data roaming.
- PCRF (Policy Control Routing Function) is also required. In combination with a DIAMETER platform subscriber-specific roaming policies can be enforced even when roaming.
- Near Real-Time Roaming Data Exchange (NRTRDE) is not actually a requirement. However, the benefits are significant and yield a pretty quick ROI. NRTRDE helps to spot fraudulent usage, or unwitting excessive usage, very quickly. It also makes the operator a member in good standing with GSMA, meaning more inbound roaming revenue.
- Telenor and SingTel and maybe China Mobile will send planeloads of people to help with the implementation. The costs of foreign partner expat packages may cause a boom in the Thai property market and the restaurant and taxi businesses.
This list is far from complete. But it shines a light into the many areas the mobile operators must address as they rush to launch and expand their 4G services.