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6 Questions with Ericsson Malaysia [Q&A]

MalaysianWireless met with Ericsson Malaysia recently and we asked them 6 questions.

Two people from Ericsson was kind enough to reply, they are Todd Ashton (President of Ericsson Malaysia & Sri Lanka) & Petra Schirren, (Head of Engagement Practice – Mobile Broadband, Ericsson South East Asia & Oceania).

Ericsson-Todd-Ashton -Petra-Schirren[Todd Ashton, President of Ericsson Malaysia & Sri Lanka & Petra Schirren, Head of Engagement Practice – Mobile Broadband, Ericsson South East Asia & Oceania]

Check out the full Q&A below:

[1] From an Ericsson perspective, what is a perfect LTE network, how it should be deployed and what is required?

A “perfect” network from my perspective is based on Ericsson’s design philosophy:

A) Scalable: able to optimize and maximize the spectrum available to the fullest with the minimum hardware and software configuration.

B) Smart: able to dynamically deliver Quality of Service (QoS) end to end, from the access network, through the transmission  and core to the service enablers and applications.

At the same time, allow operators to monitor network performance in real-time with data coming from its OSS (Operational Support Systems) and BSS (Business Support Systems) systems and be  able to make informed decisions to optimize user experience.

C) Simple: can be controlled, orchestrated and managed efficiently with a common interface or network management system. At the same time, allow the network capabilities to be exposed to applications (e.g. data centers or application providers).

D) Superior Performing: able to deliver as good or better performance than alternative networks, be it via WiFi, ADSL or FTTH. This is possible with solutions that are scalable, smart and simple, as well as combining this with operational excellence and expert network optimization and tuning services.

In short, the “perfect” network will deliver on the operator’s brand promise and service commitments to its users, and at the same time, be operationally efficient to deliver profitable returns to the operator. The 4 S’ are embraced by Ericsson in its portfolio and design to deliver the best possible value to operators and their end users.

[2] At 2.6Ghz, more LTE base stations are required to cover a specific area compared to 3G at 2.1Ghz. Why do you say that LTE will help the operators save cost(you said technology is becoming more affordable) especially when we(Malaysia) are deploying in the 2.6Ghz?  

LTE is an “All IP Network” and  will deliver efficiencies in handling and managing traffic loads. The flatter architecture allow for better responsiveness and and lower latency and combined with a broader spectrum carrier for LTE a faster throughput and better end user experience  can be ashieved.  As a general rule, lower frequencies provide better coverage and propagation as compared to higher frequencies, and it is a matter of spectrum availability in any country. Lower frequencies such as 2.1GHz is currently occupied by 3G traffic, 1.8GHz and 900MHz by 2G.

However, “re-farming” is possible for certain markets where 3G device penetration is high, allowing for part or the whole of 2G spectrum to be “re-farmed” for 3G or LTE use. Advanced markets with high 3G device adoption such as Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong have adopted re-farming to introduce LTE on the 1.8GHz band.

Re-farming the 1.8GHz band does not mean that the 2.6GHz band will be redundant. The 2.6GHz band can be jointly used with other bands for “hot-spots” where high loads of traffic require the additional spectrum, and when devices support LTE Release 10 or LTE Advanced, the various bands can be aggregated to deliver even higher throughput. This is the vision of 4G where operators can deliver loads of 1Gbps and beyond.

[3] LTE offers faster speeds and it drives a consumer to consume more data, example watching more videos. Current data plans from the Telcos are limited from a couple megabyte up to 5GB in general. Do you think it should be this way and would consumers be paying more on LTE?

From our observations, end users tend to consume more data in markets where LTE is offered. I don’t necessarily agree that consumers need to pay more for LTE as they need to be cognisant of their consumption. Currently, consumers are used to being throttled once they use up their data buckets, and that could still be the case when they use LTE. The choice is still with the consumer and naturally the operators can differentiate themselves with different data plans that are relevant to the various segments. I believe healthy competition will eventually normalize usage and data tariffs in any market, and end users will just get better service quality for their current spend.

[4] You said in your presentation that “Lots to be done in Malaysia to improve quality of service and improve the network…” Can you elaborate further?

Operators are already engaging with us to help them improve their network quality and performance and we have proposed various solutions. This ranges from optimization and tuning services for the entire network from access to transmission to the core. We will also introduce new software and hardware features to improve the performance of Ericsson equipment outside of Klang Valley but generally the high growth of traffic occurs in the Klang Valley. Thus, one of the options given to operators include replacing their existing network elements with high performance solutions from Ericsson.

I dare say that our network solutions are used by  the operators with the highest traffic loads in the world, and they have used network performance as the differentiator to win market share. We also have the most number of LTE networks verified by Apple for the iPhone5, with the strictest of requirements.

[5] What is required for Voice over LTE to take off in Malaysia and do you think that call chargers would drop in the future, perhaps free calls within LTE network?

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) requires device compatibility and naturally the network components and features to allow this. One of the key components include the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystems) which acts as an IP switch, and MMTEL (Multimedia Telephony) as the application. Until there is significant VoLTE-compatible LTE devices adopted in the local market, it might be a little too early to introduce VoLTE. In the interim, operators offering LTE can offer CSFB (Circuit Switched Fall Back) that works well with LTE devices and relies on a circuit-switched network for voice calls (2G or 3G) and LTE for data.

It is not uncommon for operators in advanced markets to bundle voice calls with data plans, offering high quality voice calls as an option to best-efforts OTT (Over The Top) applications like Skype or Viber. I believe operators will differentiate themselves to OTT applications with high quality voice services through HD Voice or RCSe (Rich Communication Services Evolution) that works on 3G and LTE. We have already observed alliances by some of the largest operator groups in the world to offer RCSe.

[6] When will 2G come to an end in Malaysia and how soon can we expect a nationwide 3G network, what is your prediction?

It is very difficult to predict but logic prevails that by 2020, it would be quite a challenge to find a 2G-only phone for sale in the Malaysian market. Price points for 3G phones by 2020 would have come down to below 2G phone prices today, and the number of 2G phones in the market will probably drop down to an insignificant percentage. Adding to this, the regulator MCMC has already encouraged the purchase of 3G smartphones with subsidies to expedite the replacement of 2G phones. If I have to make a prediction, I would say 2025 would be a good time to predict operators switching off 2G networks and fully re-farming the spectrum for 3G and LTE.

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