Up next in our interview series, we spoke with Ulf Ewaldsson, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Ericsson. In November, Ericsson released its latest Mobility Report which provides insights into the current traffic and market trends. In this edition, the company takes a further look at app coverage. We talked to Ulf about their findings, mobile coverage in the EU, big data and the digital economy.
Alberto: What are the main new items that you identify in the report?
Ulf: I would say that the App Coverage part is the most novel and interesting piece of this report. While seeing 3 or 4 bars on a basic mobile phone had meaning for users interested solely in placing voice calls, those old metrics don’t capture what’s becoming increasingly important: app coverage. For a user who wants to watch a movie, or stream music, we need a different metric. I’m excited that we’ve begun to look beyond the bars in the latest report: we analyze the probability that the network will deliver sufficient performance to deliver an app at an acceptable quality level. We are going from talking about cell phone coverage to app coverage.
Alberto: Regarding the Apps evolution, operators need new ways to assess performance against reliable access metrics. Can you elaborate on the new approach to network performance – app coverage – presented in the Mobility Report and the impact on the European market?
Ulf: If we generalize, one could perhaps say that we have built a pretty decent Mobile Broadband 1.0 so far. It’s built on a good foundation but with quite traditional design strategies (focusing on voice coverage). In order to move towards our networked society vision, we need to cater for ALL Apps, whenever and wherever. Taking that step basically means that we now start to move ahead with our Heterogeneous Network story which consists of the following 3 steps:
- Improve – Means tuning and optimization, capacity enhancements and technology enhancements (like moving to 42Mbps 3G etc…)
- Higher density – Means adding some Macro sites (if possible), adding Micro sites but still outdoors and in the Macro network, and cell splitting on existing sites (typically splitting sectors in half, which leads to six sectors if you do that on an entire site).
- Small cells – Going indoors and street level with small cells that have a rather limited coverage. Complementing with Wi-Fi where applicable (typically indoors in office buildings and the like). In general putting capacity more or less exactly where it’s needed.
All of this should be done as part of a coordinated network, which means that the smaller cells are managed in concert with the larger Macro cells. In layman’s terms, the small cells are told when to transmit and when not to by the Macro network, in order to eliminate interference and maximize capacity and coverage.
From a network management and control perspective, the requirements are also raised. So there is pressure also on the OSS systems to keep up with the new requirements. This applies to any market, but particularly to more mature markets which will be leading this development. Europe is part of that of course.
Alberto: Having good mobile coverage is an important aspect of life for today’s consumers. How is the mobile coverage in the EU and what are the main differences in the various member states? If Oslo and Copenhagen are currently the only cities with 90% probability of receiving 1 Mpbs downlink speeds or higher, how are the other major EU cities performing?
Ulf: The analysis that has been done was focusing on cities, and only on cities where we had the data in such a way that a relevant comparison could be performed. We have looked at Stockholm as well, and there we also have around 90% probability for 1Mbps (88-89% in the greater Stockholm area). For the rest of Europe we don’t have complete data in such a way that I can give a full answer. However, if I make an assessment based on other measurements that have been made by us and others, I would say that the results in most major cities in Europe are probably in line with or below London.
Alberto: In your view what is the “big role” of “big data?”
Ulf: At Ericsson we believe that we are on the brink of the next technological revolution. We see this every day around the world as communications networks migrate to all-IP. As ICT and in particular mobile and digital technologies are expanding into more areas of society, public institutions and business, opportunities for radical and disruptive innovations are emerging across industries, public services and private life. Ericsson calls this new emerging society, of which we have only seen the beginning, the “Networked Society.”
In the Networked Society things will be made differently, created with higher efficiency and productivity with new and enriched experiences. In the information age we have known to date, data was the outcome of our experiences as part of the knowledge society; now with the advent of the Networked Society we will have a knowledge society that knows how to best use information to optimize its benefits and to achieve its key purposes. This is ultimately what Big Data is all about.
Alberto: Today 40 percent of the world’s mobile traffic goes through Ericsson networks and Ericsson supports customers’ networks servicing more than 2.5 billion subscriptions. What do you think about the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (T-TIP)? Is this key to achieving a truly transatlantic digital market?
Ulf: T-TIP has the potential to establish a model for handling key digital market issues, like cross-border data flows, data protection, etc. It is at least as important that T-TIP can establish a transatlantic process for continuous close cooperation on digital economy matters.