Test & Measurement

VoLTE and HetNets will Continue Driving Test Equipment Needs in 2016

by Olga Yashkova 11 Jan 2016
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VoLTE is expected to enhance profitability of network operators by offering them various other revenue streams through Rich Communication Services such as video sharing and file transfers.

Up till December 2015, there were 40 operators who had launched VoLTE services in 27 countries.

While incorporating this technology in their networks is a huge opportunity, there are also a lot of challenges related to quality that need to be addressed. For the communication testing community, these challenges provide revenue opportunities to capitalize upon.

The obstacles associated with developing VoLTE compliant mobile devices include handover related issues when switching between circuit switch networks to a complete IP based network. End-users could face latency problems when transitioning between area covered by VoLTE to another area in which the network deployment is different. 

This is becoming even more complex when you factor in roaming, where the caller moves from a region covered by certain telecommunications policy to a region that is governed by a different set of policies. 

In addition, the battery life of the VoLTE enabled mobile device is still a big concern. And as the demand for VoLTE continues to grow, the need for testing equipment that can test the performance of these devices against the heterogeneous network will also increase. 

As most of the components which constitute the infrastructure are multi- vendor sourced, interoperability becomes an issue when these components need to come together in order to provide exceptional customer service. 

The carrier community needs innovative testing and monitoring solutions which can pin point anomalies in an infrastructure built up of different proprietary components in very short time frame and at low OPEX. 

They also require effective end-to-end solutions which can test and monitor legacy based network infrastructure and ensure efficient handovers and adequate coverage. 

Engineering the phone around the VoLTE concept of seamlessly moving from licensed spectrum to unlicensed LTE spectrums is a significant challenge for mobile device manufacturers. 

In 2015, Frost & Sullivan estimated that the revenues generated by the VoLTE testing and monitoring equipment stood right above $600 million. This number is expected to increase to exceed $1.74 billion by 2022.

In 2016 Frost & Sullivan expects this market to reach $699 million and grow at 15.7% from 2015 mainly due to continual VoLTE deployments globally.

In 2016 Frost & Sullivan expects the deployment of more VoLTE services globally and it will continue as a significant trend offering many opportunities to communications service providers and, of course, test equipment vendors as more test and monitoring solutions will be required to make sure that the customer experience is positive.

The deployment of VoLTE will without any doubts increase the heterogeneous nature of the network infrastructure. 

Prior to 2014, the HetNet market was mostly in trial phase. There was a number of HetNets and small cell deployments taking place in 2014 and 2015 and it will continue into 2016 as well.

According to our latest research, the Global HetNet Test Equipment market exceeded a $1.8 billion mark in revenue in 2014. In 2016, this market is expected to generate $2.4 billion and grow at 14.8% from 2015.

This market is forecasted to reach $4.2 billion in revenue in 2021, growing at CAGR of 12.4% from 2014 to 2021 due to continued small cell deployments.

Factors, such as the need for continual network coverage and capacity, OPEX and CAPEX savings as well as new technologies such as LTE, LTE-A, and 5G, drive the demand for HetNet deployments that, in turn, drive the need for HetNet testing solutions.

The deployment of small cells specific to LTE is expected to be a significant driver for the VoLTE testing and monitoring market as they enhance spectral efficiency significantly. 

Challenges such as interference and latency issues need to be addressed during handovers between small cells or between a small cell and a macro cell for that matter. In addition, these small cells are deployed over a greater area, and it would not be feasible to send testing engineers to each base station in order to ensure the uptime of the base station. Carriers would instead require testing and monitoring solutions which are deployable across such small cells and proactively monitor them from a remote location. 

I also wanted to point out that 4G small cells were the fastest growing small cell type in the market for 2015 mainly driven by venue and dense deployments in cities. Tier 1 communications service providers such as Verizon, Sprint, China Mobile and Vodafone, among others, are investing in network densification heavily. 

T&M is to play a critical part in 2016 as Network Operators need to provide a superb quality of end user experience to their customers. With so many emerging technologies in the market it becomes more difficult and complex. Thus, the demand for effective and integrated test and monitoring solutions will be high in 2016.

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