This blog is written by Andrew Burrell at Nokia Solutions and Networks.
NSN recently released a paper charting two decades of innovation in Network Planning and Optimization which resulted in 55 patents:
This started me thinking about how different the world – and in particular telecoms – was 20 years ago…
In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president in South Africa; the world paid tribute to three-time Formula One world champion, Ayrton Senna; and Forrest Gump was running across the US.
In telecoms, GSM was starting to win the battle for worldwide domination – although I remember a lot of debate about the relative merits of analog versus digital (which seems quite incredible now!). Also in 1994, Orange launched commercial services in the UK with this futuristic ad campaign. The operator also announced what at the time were ground-breaking innovations, such as per second billing (previously you had to pay for a whole minute in advance, and then for 30 second chunks), and FREE itemized billing (before, you had to pay extra to find out why your operator was charging you so much). GSM opened up a whole world (quite literally) of opportunities with roaming – and you could even send data (maybe a fax, remember those?) at the dizzying speed of 9.6 kbps.
In 1994, NSN filed a patent application for the planning of a cellular radio network by creating a mobility model of subscribers on a digital map. Properties could be added and parameters optimized using statistical simulation based on network data. This helped operators take the guess-work out of planning a network, minimizing effort and expensive rework.
If we fast forward to today, we find that Nelson Mandela is still a visionary beacon – in fact, two of his grandsons have set up a social network around the inspiration their grandfather gave to the world. On the racetrack, Sebastien Vettel just became the youngest ever four-time Formula One world champion. And Forrest Gump? He’s probably still running… (Though now we could follow him live via mobile TV broadcast with the help of our TD-LTE network and a 0% bit error rate!)
At NSN, we have actually used that 1994 patent as one of the building blocks for our innovative Services for HetNets, which employs advanced geo-location methodologies to help decide the best place to deploy small cells as part of a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet). This approach helped one US operator reduce its costs by 20%, while boosting customer experience and 21% more users being able to access the highest data speeds.
So what else has changed in telecoms? Well, now it’s LTE that’s speeding along the adoption curve, and while no one is debating analog versus digital anymore, he or she might discuss LTE-Advanced and SK Telecom’s recent eye-watering announcement about an (admittedly theoretical) maximum speed of 300 Mbps with Carrier Aggregation.
Such data speeds seem quite abstract to many of us today (who needs 300 Mbps – and what are you going to do with it?), but it’s amazing how fast things change. Today, IOS7 is around 750 MB in size: pretty big for a mobile operating system – but it would have seemed incomprehensible 20 years ago when the average size of a desktop PC hard drive was around one GB. And can you imagine trying to download something as large as IOS7 at 9.6 kbps?!
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