Why African operators need to alter their approach to cater for mobile data traffic?
WRITTEN BY LANCE HILEY, VP OF MARKET STRATEGY, CAMBRIDGE BROADBAND NETWORKS
While iPad and iPad 2 sales in Africa may trail behind Europe and North America, there are signs that mobile operators and consumer electronics manufacturers are optimistic about uptake of tablets across the continent. Samsung launched its Galaxy Pad in September 2010 in Africa, ahead of its European launch. Orange Senegal and Mascom Wireless have also launched the iPad.
Although internet access to date has been the domain of a privileged few, the poor fixed line infrastructure and ongoing power cuts in Africa are driving consumer demand for devices including smartphones and iPads. Therefore, many Africans will have their first internet experience on a mobile device.
Operators such as MTN Group are prioritizing 3G technologies for their new network site deployments so before long, the mobile data wave will come to Africa and with it rising data revenues for operators – far beyond the single digit contributions we see today.
To cope with the potential demand, African operators need to architect their mobile and wireless enterprise access networks to manage the characteristics of data traffic from smartphones and tablets.
Mobile data traffic is ‘lumpy’ – high data volumes may be generated at one cell site while little comes from another. A minute later the position might be reversed. That has significant implications for the backhaul network and means that the networks have to intelligently allocate bandwidth according to demand.
The alternative is to specify the network to cope with the maximum potential data rate, an option that is highly inefficient and capital intensive.
Microwave offers the required speed and capacity but traditional point-to-point microwave fails to deliver the flexibility required for peaks inherent in data centric networks. Point-to-multipoint (PMP) on the other hand, uses a different architecture, utilising a ‘broadcast’ format to link a single hub to multiple cell sites and intelligently manages the available capacity, and is therefore ideal for the variable data loads.
A priority for African operators is to control the costs involved in provisioning their networks to manage this increased traffic. A PMP solution meets this need by cutting the amount of installation time, spectrum and radios needed in half compared to a PTP backhaul solution. Therefore, PMP offers the time efficiently and saving in capital expenditure and operating expenditure which the PTP and fibre alternatives cannot.