Operators still have a lot to learn about how growth in mobile subscribers and traffic will affect their networks, according to Ericsson.
The Sweden-based vendor has launched its second annual Traffic and Market report, which predicts that 50 percent of the world’s population will be covered by LTE in five years time.
In Western Europe, LTE is expected to penetrate around 25 percent of the subscriber base, whose growth will be limited to connected devices, over the same period.
Global smartphone subscriptions will increase to around three billion in 2017 from 700 million last year, while mobile data traffic will grow 15 times.
Western Europe will contribute just 15 percent of this traffic; interestingly, when compared to other regions, it will have the highest percentage of traffic coming from mobile PCs/tablets (70 percent) and the lowest from voice (five percent).
The remaining 25 percent will come from mobile phones.
Douglas Gilstrap, publisher of the report and Ericsson’s head of strategy, said that operators “recognize the business opportunity” that these trends provide.
However, there remains work to do at the network level if stats from the Netherlands and Finland are to be believed.
Although 51 percent of smartphone users in these two markets are very satisfied with their operator’s network, and just three percent are dissatisfied, that leaves nearly half whose experience could be improved.
Over 50 percent of respondents said they experienced usage problems on a daily or weekly basis, for example.
Consequently, coverage and speed of access remain the two most important areas that drive overall network satisfaction.
To improve user experience, Ericsson recommends accelerating content delivery through a combination of internet optimization and mobile prioritization.
Patrik Cerwall, head of strategic marketing & intelligence, told European Communications that Ericsson had worked with Akamai on this and, specifically, suggested operators need to cache content closer to the network as a way to “optimize” content.
Complicating proceedings are the large variations in traffic patterns between networks.
The report highlighted five key factors that are driving this differentiation: data plans; availability of content; device type, screen size and resolution; traffic management; and network quality.
“There is no typical network – operators need to understand how all these factors interplay to create patterns that are specific to their network,” co-author Elin Pettersson told European Communications.
Key to success is the back office.
“Without superior O/BSS network service providers will be left behind,” said Gilstrap.
As is common, this report serves to highlight many of the key trends affecting the industry.
But how does Ericsson think operators have progressed in the last 12 months?
“It’s very difficult to generalise,” said Cerwall.
“Some operators are doing better than others but all have lots of challenges in this field as consumer demand continues to evolve. What is certain is that their whole strategy must be consistent.”