There's no denying that the Gulf's mobile broadband penetration is growing fast. But are the networks prepared for this growth? And, if not, what can they do to accommodate this new demand for mobile data? We speak to Dory Chakour, Mobile Broadband Manager, Ericsson Middle East, who explains how using small cells to build heterogenous networks will enable the region's operators to deliver seamless mobile broadband, no matter how great the demand.
To start off with, can we ask what your definition of a heterogeneous network is?A heterogeneous network is a network involving a mix of technologies and cell types working together seamlessly. Ericsson believes that the operators should always start to enhance the existing capabilities of their infrastructure. If that is not enough, the next step is to add more sites to improve coverage and capacity. The final step in building heterogeneous networks is to introduce small cells that could vary in size from Micro to pico or Wi-Fi. These small cells can be placed in squares, restaurants, offices or larger shopping malls to provide a better end user experience.
Can you explain how heterogeneous networks will help in coping with the data explosion that is expected to take place with the rise in data usage via smartphones?
A heterogeneous network — based on 3GPP-standardised and coordinated radio network with integrated Wi-Fi, advanced traffic management and high-performance backhaul — can help deliver a consistent, high-quality and seamless mobile broadband experience. Making the right technology choices at the right time is the key to supporting operators in smooth capacity expansion and with maximum efficiency.
How far have the Middle East's operators come in terms of building heterogeneous networks?
Well, we see that data is growing in the Middle East. Of course, not every operator has the same type of growth on data, but we see at least some operators that are experiencing a huge amount of data growth. And these operators have already started to look into the heterogeneous network options.
I would say that the Gulf's heterogeneous networks are quite new — small cells in general are quite a new concept. I would say that most operators will be interested in the heterogeneous network at a certain point in time. However, I would say that maybe four, five or six operators are already engaging in looking at the options for going forward with heterogeneous networks.
Is it all about data, or are heterogeneous networks' uses more far-reaching than that?
Of course, with heterogeneous networks, a part of it is about improving the coverage as well as the capacity. Voice as well will be benefiting from the introduction of heterogeneous networks. But, of course, the main driver for it has been data, because, other than that, if you look at GSM networks, they've been good enough to handle the voice traffic so far.
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