The adoption of mobile internet access across the globe is a phenomenal success story for the telecommunications sector. Global mobile data traffic expanded by 69 percent in 2012 and is anticipated to grow by 72 percent in 2013 -- to reach 23,000 Peta Bytes.
Mobile internet usage will continue to skyrocket. By 2018 total mobile data traffic will likely eclipse 131,000 Peta Bytes, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
"There has been much doom-mongering about this growth in mobile data traffic but mobile carriers should not panic just yet. There are indications that mobile carriers have a number of options to handle the traffic loads," said Jake Saunders, VP and practice director for core forecasting at ABI Research.
Based on extensive research for the resulting report on this topic, ABI has detailed the strategic options mobile service providers can place at their disposal to manage the expanding mobile data traffic outlook.
Radio Access Technology Options: Carriers are commercializing LTE but there are additional benefits to be gained from quickly adopting the LTE-Advanced roadmap. LTE-A’s release 10 introduces enhanced Multi-In Multi-Out antenna technology as well as interference mitigation technologies such as CoMP and eICIC.
A crucial technology is Carrier Aggregation that will allow mobile operators to chain spectrum blocks for substantial capacity and speed gains.
Network Architecture Options: Mobile operators can optimize their network base station assets to make the best possible (re)use of their allocated spectrum. As of 1Q-2013, only a handful of mobile operators have fully engaged on a small cell strategy that incorporates Wi-Fi hotspots and small cell 4G LTE base stations.
Operators that have adopted a comprehensive small cell strategy include Softbank NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, KT, Uplus and in the last week, Verizon Wireless.
Spectrum Options: After speaking with various spectrum stakeholders, ABI Research estimates that the available spectrum for the mobile cellular community will increase from around 300 MHz to 1,500 MHz over the next 5 to 10 years.
Incumbent mobile operators and equipment vendors would prefer this spectrum to be allocated on a dedicated basis but the FCC, the EC, Ofcom, and a number of additional governments are keen to evaluate cognitive radio technologies, such as white space TV, as they would boost spectrum capacity while allowing cohabiting users. At the next World Radio Congress there would be a stand-off between cellular and broadcast stakeholders.