It may seem quiet outside, but we’re in the midst of a revolution – a data revolution.
With the introduction of apps that allow smartphone users to stream music and video, the wireless industry has seen a sharp spike in data demand. Last week, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said the carrier has seen a data growth rate of 75 percent year over on its LTE network.
Though some carriers like T-Mobile would have consumers believe we’re living in the age of unlimited everything, capacity – and the data usage it supports – is a finite resource.
According to AOptix vice president of marketing Christina Richards, T-Mobile may soon find itself in a bind as more and more subscribers look to cash in on their unlimited plans.
“Certainly as they first roll out these programs, they can manage it when the penetration rate is lower, but as it grows it’s going to be absolutely untenable given our current network capacity availability,” Richards said. “People like to think that data is an unlimited resource and when carriers hike the cost they’re just being greedy but that’s not necessarily the case. There’s infrastructure and a lot of work that goes into getting all that data through the network that bottlenecks when you use large amounts of data.”
Though Richards acknowledged that a carrier likely wouldn’t take steps to launch a service like T-Mobile’s Binge On unlimited video streaming without having some extra room on the network, she said that issues will first arise in areas where congestion already exists. Analysts have previously said that about eight percent of T-Mobile’s network is congested in a given month.
“There are probably five percent of (a carrier’s) users that are really draining the network and depending on where they’re located in your network that’s where you’re going to feel the pinch first,” Richards explained. “Without knowing the inner workings of (a carrier’s) network, they’re going to very quickly run into problems in their urban areas where there’s already congestion, but they’ll be able to take on a lot more subscribers elsewhere in the next few months before they run into problems.”
“I would suspect that if I was [T-Mobile CEO] John Legere I would say I want to have that problem, I want to have so many people on my network that it starts to strain, but if [carriers] don’t build out their networks to match the demand that comes with these promotions they’re going to shoot themselves in their foot [with decreased network performance],” she continued.
According to Richards, as the need to build out capacity comes approaches with increasing speed, carriers will increasingly find themselves in a race to expand capacity quickly and efficiently – a task that has traditionally been complicated by the need to obtain more spectrum or secure rights of way to trench new fiber expansions.
Richards said a new option, called Laser Radio Technology (LRT), offers carriers the ability to grow without compromising on capacity, reliability or signal distance.
Achieved through a combination of Free-Space Optics (FSO) and Millimeter Wave Radio technology that transmits infrared signals through the sky, LRT provides the same functionality as fiber without the cost of trench digging. LRT systems are aerially mounted and are capable of transmitting multi-gigabits of data up to 10 kilometers per site hop, AOptix has said. According to the company, the LRT system can reach unlimited distances when deployed in a daisy-chained repeater configuration. According to Richards, the system retains its full operating capacity regardless of weather conditions.
With simple, cheap installation and carrier-grade reliability, Richards said she believes LRT deployments will fill a critical gap for carriers looking to meet data demands in the coming years.
“If they are successful with their campaign then they will be struggling with the capacity that needs to be deployed and will need to look to alternative technologies,” Richards said. “There really is a big gap that is only filled by laser radio. In the same way you would trench fiber through the ground you can deploy our product through the air.”
“When you’re talking about wireless, you’re always trading off between three things: capacity, availability (reliability) and distance,” she continued. “That’s what makes laser radio really unique, it gives you all three of those things without needing to compromise on any of them.”
Filed Under: Infrastructure