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August 24, 2009

Amdocs: 4G Technologies to Push 'Creativity' of Internet, Mobile Devices

By Amy Tierney, TMCnet Web Editor

Fourth-generation wireless technologies require a major transformation of the network, a representative for a St. Louis-based provider of customer experience systems, told TMCnet in an interview.
Despite that, the technology will bring new meaning to the word mobility and give users the option to take services anywhere they go, according to David Chambers, solutions manager, mobile OSS, Amdocs.
“4G will extend the creativity we’ve already seen unleashed on the Internet so that applications and services follow us wherever we go,” Chambers told TMC CEO Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) in an interview (printed in full below).

 “Few visionaries would claim to know precisely which applications will be the biggest winners,” Chambers told Tehrani. “Location and context will be important capabilities allowing devices to present different screens and options depending on where you are and what options are available.”
Chambers, who is participating in a pair of sessions during ITEXPO West next month, “FemtoCell Solutions” and “Leveraging IMS and 4G Through Multimedia Fixed to Mobile Convergence,” also said that with any new service, such as 4G, ease of use and the ability to offer high quality customer experience will likely be the most important aspects to propel the technology.
Their full exchange follows.
RT: Much of the communications and tech worlds – including companies focused on broadband and healthcare technology, for example – are now availing themselves of money available through government stimulus. How will stimulus packages, including the United States’, affect your company, if at all?
DC: The stimulus packages are likely to increase broadband investments for both wired and wireless services, particularly in poorly served areas. While we don’t expect any direct funding ourselves, there are likely to be some knock on benefits to software vendors where service providers use this funding to accelerate their build-out programs.

RT: The WiMAX Forum’s certification process promises releases at the end of this calendar year. Any thoughts on that?
DC: High levels of interoperability are essential to establish the high volumes from a variety of competing device manufacturers that are required to achieve low prices. Each wave of WiMAX certification has improved the level of interoperability. The recent commitment to certify equipment across 2.3GHz, 2.5Ghz and 3.2Ghz bands is likely to lead to higher aggregate volumes, lower prices and international roaming.

RT: Though analysts say the ceiling for long-term evolution subscriptions is very high, carriers increasingly appear to be stalling in their LTE (News - Alert) rollout plans. Realistically, when are you expecting to see these roll-outs?
DC: LTE is being rolled out most rapidly in North America and Japan with commercial service in 2010. There will be smaller/soft launches in Europe in this timeframe, but continued heavy investment in HSPA will defer mass take-up. LTE is particularly attractive for CDMA network operators, but AT&T has also announced early adoption of LTE. As with 3G, handset availability and price point will be a key tipping point to enable mass market take-up. We expect USB dongles to be widely available at an early stage and create those initial high volumes in LTE/multimode chipsets which can then be reused in smart phones and other devices.
RT: Apple’s business model for peddling applications for its iPhone 3G, the virtual App Store, is seeing copycats across the industry, and analysts expect to see more. But is that what’s best for the mobile space? What other models, if any, can we expect to see?
DC: No individual business can lock-in its customers – it has become too easy to switch to another provider. Dominant brands have won market share through excellent personalized service, great products and/or low prices. Today’s service providers can expect to share in customer revenue by matching this approach, and building on the existing brand relationships they already have with their customers.
Amdocs (News - Alert) today provides the platforms, which enable service providers to offer their own AppStore, building on existing billing and customer relationships to create a simpler and lower risk approach. This helps the service provider create a valuable and extensive partner ecosystem through which customers can benefit from a constantly replenishing source of innovative and valuable services.
RT: Many of us who cover or work in the mobile space are a rarity among parents who can relate to their children and kids’ obsessions with smart phones and mobile technologies in general? What does the next generation teach us about wireless usage and services?
DC: It’s easy to forget that most children today don’t know what a rotary dial telephone is. Even the concept of long distance is strange. Future generations will expect to be “always on” and “always connected,” changing the way we interact, plan and run our lives. But what we have seen is that person-to-person communication is still valued most highly, whether by voice, text, e-mail, instant-messaging or social networking.
We are all familiar with the saying that “our children keep us young.” I think this is also the case in mobile communication trends. In 20 years, our own children will be struggling to divine what new applications their children – our grandchildren – are excited by. Innovation in our industry is a continuing process, not an end goal.
RT: VoIP dominates the way voice is transported on the PSTN, but the end-user rarely connects directly. What can we expect in terms of a parallel for wireless migration to 4G?
DC: VoIP was initially popular because it provided voice compression - and thus lower costs - over long distance lines. This was then extended over the last mile, where Internet broadband could handle calls at minimal or no additional cost. Various VoIP providers such as Vonage then offered a range of services to match the traditional PSTN. This has been replicated by Cable providers such as Comcast (News - Alert), who compete with PSTN type services using VoIP technology.
Wireless is different because all digital wireless systems already compress voice into packets and don’t transmit during quiet periods. Even with header compression, native VoIP is still less efficient than the standard voice capability provided by the network – the opposite of what was found in wireline.
So what is important here is the service being delivered and the end customer experience. Customers will seek out better quality voice, or capabilities, which make it easier to communicate such as presence, parallel chat/instant message and file sharing. These services already exist in popular VoIP applications such as Skype and have been developed to run under IMS using RCS (Rich Communication Services V2).
RT: Think about feature devices that leverage the wireless Internet – such as GPS systems and netbooks – or may someday do so – think of Flip-brand camcorders. What cool new features and functionality might be coming down the road for these devices?

DC: 4G will extend the creativity we’ve already seen unleashed on the Internet so that applications and services follow us wherever we go. Few visionaries would claim to know precisely which applications will be the biggest winners. Location and context will be important capabilities allowing devices to present different screens and options depending on where you are and what options are available. They will learn your preferences and prioritize the choices presented.
But most of all, the underlying complexity and sophistication of the systems providing these services must be hidden from view. Ease of use and providing a high quality customer experience remain the most important aspects of any successful new services.
We should also expect to see increasing levels of personalization and take-up of payments made using mobile phones and other wireless devices.
RT: Talk to me specifically about your speaking engagement at the 4G Wireless Evolution conference. What will you be discussing and what people or companies should come?
DC: 4G is itself a major transformation of the network and needs an accompanying transformation in the way it is planned, built and managed. Rather than being a voice network carrying some data, these networks will be predominantly data with a small percentage of voice traffic. The classes of traffic will be dynamic and variable in nature.
The LTE standard has included several features intended to improve utilization and handle outages and black spots. Features such as Self-Optimizing and Self-Organizing Network take over some of the work previously required to tune the network and accommodate moves and changes.
These and other features have implications for planning how, when and where network capacity is built out. Direct network measurements must be used more effectively to assess demand and usage patterns. Backhaul transmission between cell sites and major switching hubs will become a more costly component of the network and must be planned independently from the radio capacity.
This session will primarily focus on interest planning and design engineers looking to understand what the impact of 4G will be on their role. It will also be appropriate for those wishing to understand more of the technical implications of 4G on the network and its operations.

Learn more about Amdocs at ITEXPO West — the biggest and most comprehensive IP communications event of the year. ITEXPO (News - Alert) West will take place in Los Angeles, Sept. 1 to 3, featuring three valuable days of exhibits, conferences, and networking opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Don’t wait. Register now!


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Amy Tierney is a Web editor for TMCnet, covering unified communications, telepresence, IP communications industry trends and mobile technologies. To read more of Amy's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Amy Tierney


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