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Mobile Carriers to Adopt All-IP Architectures

The growth of data application traffic carried by wireless networks will likely force mobile service providers to accelerate their efforts to upgrade their infrastructure to a flat all-IP architecture, according to the latest market study from Heavy Reading.

"The steep rise in data traffic volumes being carried by wireless networks is unmistakable," says Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst with Heavy Reading and author of their report.

"In 2007, some large operators in Europe were carrying 2,000GB of data traffic per day -- an eightfold increase over traffic volumes compared with 2006. Mobile operators have to manage rapid traffic growth across a network infrastructure that simultaneously provides lower cost-per-bit and greater flexibility in the pricing structures of end-user services."

A major key to achieving that goal is to adopt flat, all-IP network architectures to replace the hierarchical architectures that characterize legacy wireless networks, Brown says.

"IP affects all segments of the mobile network architecture, including the radio access network, voice core, packet core, integration of non-3GPP/3GPP2 access, and the transmission network," he adds.

Other key findings of the Heavy Reading market study include the following.

Lower prices and higher data rates are the main reasons for the huge recent growth in mobile data traffic. Usage is dominated by laptop modems, while small-screen services on handhelds is not yet generating significant traffic volume.

Mobile data revenues grew more than 40 percent in 2007 and revenue growth could be higher this year, as more users take advantage of less expensive services. There now appears to be evidence of positive elasticity of for mobile data, but growth in the market to date is very much driven by the early-adopter community.

A 3G network capacity crunch isn't likely before the end of 2009, which means operators still have time to hone their transition strategies -- but the clock is ticking.

Operators will use a mixture of software upgrades and deployment of additional carriers to enhance 3G cell site capacity for the time being. But within two years, operators of 3G networks will have to begin to migrate to Evolved HSPA, offering peak data rates of 28 Mbit/s, and then 42 Mbit/s.

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