Deployment of HSPA+, set to save operators from costly CAPEX investment, deliver five times current network performance and open up new pricing models, says AIRCOM.

In its recent analysis, AIRCOM, a network planning and optimisation company, highlights why HSPA+ could make short-term commercial sense to a wide range of 3GPP operators contemplating their mobile broadband network migration strategies. ROI (return on investment) and new pricing models are the key factors.

According to Aircom, as operators continue to address the rapidly increasing demand for mobile data, further attention and financial investment has been committed to upgrade existing network infrastructure. “With peak download speeds above 100 Mbps being suggested, LTE has been widely hailed as the panacea for operators’ congestion troubles,” as the analysts say.

Based on analysis of network infrastructure requirements, AIRCOM identifies HSPA+ as a compelling alternative for operators’ mobile broadband strategies.

Available today, the technology offers up to 21Mbps without any additional antenna infrastructure or second carrier – allowing users to experience mobile broadband around five times faster than the current average of 3.6Mbps.

HSPA+ also allows mobile operators to control service provisioning and prioritisation, delivering Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees.

“Fundamentally, deployment of HSPA+ offers significantly reduced CAPEX investment compared to LTE. Reduction for a UK operator could be as much as £345 million in 12 months; as much as $1.19 billion for a US operator,” claims Aircom.

AIRCOM Services Director, Fabricio Martinez, responsible for providing the industry with the ‘cost of LTE’ reality check in late 2009, said: “There is great pressure on operators to upgrade their networks and improve the level of service they deliver to consumers and enterprise customers. The so-called ‘iPhone effect’ is piling pressure on to existing infrastructure. There is a real and immediate need for operators to upgrade their networks, but LTE is not the answer – today at least.”

HSPA+ is able to meet – and exceed – current data demands, delivering a theoretical maximum of 21Mbps and an average experience of around 16Mbps. “With average mobile broadband users experiencing around 3.6Mbps, this is a significant increase,” said Martinez.

According to him, the increase in speed enables operators to do two things: to combat price erosion, and to offer sophisticated service provisioning. “As operators are able to prioritise data traffic and users, QoE can be assured, data speeds can be controlled, and we will see a tiered pricing model emerge, mirroring the fixed line broadband business,” the analyst claims.

He believes that the most important factor in deciding a future network technology is ROI. “Due to the low CAPEX investment and new revenue opportunities, deployment of HSPA+ will allow operators to see ROI in three years; perfect timing to upgrade to LTE, when that technology’s ecosystem has matured, devices have come to market, and equipment prices have reduced,” he said.

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