Power-hungry networks force mobile broadband rethink
By Maggie Holland
Posted on 7 Dec 2006 at 12:04
The increasing power demands of networks represent a huge problem for mobile operators, according to ABI Research. The issue will pressure mobile operators into re-evaluating their mobile broadband offerings to ensure they can deliver services cost effectively, it believes.
But Wi-Max and Wi-Fi could be saviours behind operators' current dilemma of spiraling power consumption and associated costs, believes the analysts.
The analysts warn that industry players should ready themselves to ingest a bitter pill as the issues of power consumption reduction and mobile broadband network deployments collide.
While operators continue to channel heavy investments into 3G and, longer-term, 4G network deployments, they will need to look beyond cellular technology to drive revenue and maximum margins.
'As soon as data consumption reaches between two and three times today's levels, a tipping point is reached, at which cell shrinkage and capacity degradation for WCDMA and CDMA2000 networks mean that carriers will need to install extra network elements that support the subscriber base, at considerable expense,' said principal analyst Stuart Carlaw.
'More importantly, the power consumption required to support these upgrades will destroy any potential benefit carriers see from data revenues.'
That's where WiMax and Wi-Fi will shine, particularly when they are integrated with current cellular offerings to create a mixed network in dense high-traffic areas.
These hybrid networks offer potential savings, according ABI, which suggests that the cost, in terms of power consumption operating expenses, of delivering wireless services to WCDMA customers is around $14 a year.
In contrast, the same power overheads for Metro Wi-Fi work out as low as just over $1.
Many operators are already wise to these benefits.
'Some wireless operators are already laying the groundwork for these developments,' said ABI's study entitled Energy Efficiency Analysis for Mobile Broadband Networks.
'Sprint has nominated WiMAX as its 4G technology of choice, while T-Mobile is moving toward integration of its Wi-Fi hotspot and cellular networks. Others, such as Vodafone, with businesses based solely on cellular, may find themselves at a real disadvantage unless they act fast to consider other technologies.'
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