This blog is by Leslie Shannon from Nokia Solutions and Networks.
Here’s a quiz. Which one of these location types regularly tops the LTE usage volume charts in cities, regardless of whether it’s in a mature, emerging, or transition market?
A) Commercial office building clusters
When rolling out a new mobile broadband network, many operators worldwide have focused their initial coverage on options A and C: their cities’ business centers and airports. After all, it’s those travelling business people who are the most likely early adopters of a new mobile broadband technology, right?
The answer is actually B, hospitals. In market after market, we see base stations near hospitals routinely generating some of the highest traffic levels across entire networks. And it makes sense. Hospitals are a place where people wait (and wait and wait and wait) – both the patients and their visitors – so there’s plenty of free time to be filled. And since hospital visits aren’t always planned, you may need to rearrange your life on short notice. Hospitals are also a place where, in the case of children, distraction and amusement may be needed, particularly if the child is the patient. Case in point: My six-year old son recently required stitches in his knee. He barely even noticed the doctor sewing him up because he was using my LTE phone to stream Pink Panther cartoons. My LTE connection was worth its weight in gold to me at that moment.
As for office buildings and airports, they are already extremely well connected. No matter where in the world you are, from Michigan to Madrid to Mumbai, it’s the office buildings that will already have some sort of fixed connection and the airports that will already have some sort of Wi-Fi. This doesn’t mean that these locations shouldn’t be covered by LTE – just that operators will see much higher usage (and therefore generate far more revenues) in locations that do not already have good coverage, particularly in areas where people have time on their hands. Hospitals top this list.
Where else do people have time on their hands where they don’t usually have good coverage? Yes, you guessed it – commuting routes. Passengers typically use the opportunity to entertain themselves with their smartphones. This is a big part of what drives the high streaming usage seen in Korea and Japan – video and other entertainment during the daily train commute. (Daily! Imagine the opportunity here – after all, people don’t go to the hospital every day.) Coverage on the trains in Seoul and Tokyo is excellent and drives huge volumes of usage and revenues.
Compare this with cities in Europe – I was on the Paris metro recently and had to wait until the train rolled into a station before I could get a measly 1 MB of 3G coverage (during which I hurriedly sent my e-mail), a connection that was immediately lost again when the train rolled out of the station. All around me people were reading newspapers. I have nothing against the print industry, but it’s been a long time since I saw anyone reading any kind of printed matter on a train in Seoul. Cultural difference – or coverage difference…?
So next time you find yourself planning an LTE rollout, think less about where people currently use their smartphones, and more about where they could use them if coverage were improved. I guarantee you’ll see your city map and your coverage priorities in a whole new way.