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David Williams
Global Director of Sales, Research
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RAN Congestion: Breaking the 3G/4G Bottleneck
Radio access network (RAN) congestion is not just emerging as a major concern for wireless carriers worldwide; it is already here and with a vengeance. Take backhaul: Sprint says that some WiMax sites are backhauling 30 times more traffic than its CDMA2000 base stations. This workload highlights why most major carriers are planning to upgrade their backhaul from E1s/T1s to Ethernet, if they have not done so already. Doing so is a cost-effective way to help make good on their promises of multi-megabit speeds, particularly for Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax, for which super-fast connections are supposed to be a key market differentiator.

But backhaul is just one RAN bottleneck. Another major one is smartphones not just for the amount of bandwidth they consume, but more for the signaling traffic they generate. One of the worst-case scenarios thus far was a single Android IM application that generated so much signaling that it nearly crashed T-Mobile USA's RNCs in multiple markets.

The market for RAN congestion solutions is enormous and growing, not just because these products address real-world needs, but also because the market is global, with some of the biggest opportunities in developing markets such as Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. Carriers in these markets often cannot increase data tariffs due to market conditions, such as extreme price sensitivity and cutthroat competition.

Like any other network product, the cost of a RAN congestion solution varies widely based on factors like its features and scale. Policy control products typically cost around $1 million to $5 million, which is peanuts compared to alternatives, such as splitting hundreds of cell sites, deeply subsidizing femtocells, bringing Ethernet backhaul to every urban and suburban site, or building out a Wi-Fi hotspot network. It is also far less expensive than trying to overcome a negative market perception that the network is lousy.

Ask a carrier why it is deploying technologies such as HSPA+, LTE or WiMax, and additional capacity typically is one of the first answers. But it is expensive and futile for carriers to try to build their way out of congestion-related problems because the curve is so steep. Carriers are realizing that, which is why more of their discussions with vendors are shifting to policy-related strategies.

RAN Congestion: Breaking the 3G/4G Bottleneck identifies and analyzes key issues driving the market for policy control and other RAN congestion solutions. It analyzes the impact of RAN congestion on revenue and service quality and details the options available to mobile operators to improve RAN congestion control. The report is based on input from mobile operators and technology suppliers with solutions that address one or more aspects of RAN congestion.

Sample research data from the report is shown in the excerpts below:
Table of Contents (4gltei0311_toc.pdf)
RAN congestion products and strategies that center around policy control can be highly effective, because they tackle the root causes at a granular level, by identifying and managing the specific apps, services and customers that are most responsible for congestion. Policy control products differ from the probes-and-reports platforms that have been around for decades because they go beyond collecting usage information and other metrics, and instead enforce predetermined policies in real time. The excerpt below illustrates how a policy-control platform works.
[click on the image above for the full excerpt]
Companies mentioned in this report include: Actix Ltd.; Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU); Bridgewater Systems Corp. (TSX: BWC); BroadHop Inc.; Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT); Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO); Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC); Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA); JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU); Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE); Openet Telecom Ltd.; Openwave Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: OPWV); Sandvine Inc. (AIM: SAND; TSX: SVC); StarHub Ltd. (SGX: T54); Tekelec Inc. (Nasdaq: TKLC); Tektronix Inc. (NYSE: TEK); Telcordia Technologies Inc.; and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB).
Total pages: 16
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