The popularity of video, social media and Internet gaming across a range of new devices such as smartphones and tablets has created a surge of network data traffic. In addition, device to device connectivity – commonly referred to as M2M – is giving rise to a new universe of applications that will further stress network capacity. In the next three years alone, data traffic is expected to grow tenfold, creating a tremendous capacity crunch for operators.
However, data revenues are expected to only double during this period, creating a huge monetization gap. Therefore, telecom operators need to constantly review their data traffic patterns and implement traffic offloading mechanisms that can help them manage their network load and capacity more efficiently. Data traffic offload can help operators reduce the traffic on their radio spectrum lowering the operating load on base stations. It also provides an opportunity for service providers to charge users for offload solutions such as small cells, while helping customers reduce their usage costs by offloading data to alternate networks.
In the paper I recently co-authored –'Data Offload Approaches for Mobile Operators', we evaluate six different data offload options- Wi-Fi Hotspot, LTE Small Cells and Relay nodes, Integrated Femto and Wi-Fi, Direct Tunnel, Internet offload Gateway (IOGW) and M2M Gateway solution. We also analyze the benefits and challenges associated with each of these, and recommend the short-term, medium-term and the long term solution for operators.
Although these options are available, it is quite evident that service providers are struggling to manage the data traffic explosion. Data traffic is expected to continue to grow and to manage this growth efficiently, it is extremely important that operators start evaluating their capacity and networking requirements now. Service providers must also note that different types of offload solutions will continue to co-exist, therefore they need to carefully evaluate each of these options, or a combination of these based on their requirements, customer demographics and business objectives. A successful offload strategy will not only help operators minimize capital and operating expenditures, but also heighten the quality of service while improving customer experience.