Until a certain announcement of a certain new device last week, LTE networks in the US and worldwide had not been especially capacity-challenged. There's a common consensus forming that this will start to change when the iPhone 5 starts hitting operator networks like AT&T's and Verizon Wireless' next week (to say nothing of other popular LTE-enabled devices like Samsung's Galaxy S III). After the holidays and throughout 2013, the LTE pipes will begin to fill up with fat multimedia of all stripes – video, audio, and images – and the data speeds that we've been previously measuring with 1 or fewer users, close to metro center towers, will not last. Speeds of 6-12mbps will undoubtedly begin to drop.
LTE networks have 3 to 5 times the spectral efficiency of 3G – the fastest network supported by Apple devices before last week's announcement - and yet we're looking at a 26x growth in data projected through 2016. Operators can only keep up with this sort of customer-led demand (primarily for over-the-top video) by embracing next-generation solutions that can adapt and optimize multimedia in real time, on the fly. Operators will need to have the ability to deploy flexible, lightweight engines of enforcement that allow them to claw back control of their soon-to-be-increasingly burdened LTE networks, quickly straining in an OTT world.
The new breed of cloud-based services, such as Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer, provides operators newfound flexibility and freedom from network bottlenecks. Understanding, and having the ability to optimize, all video formats streaming through their networks – whether adaptive or mobile-friendly – is now available to operators who choose to deploy cloud-based services on top of their existing infrastructure. The alternative is simply spending, deploying, spending, and then deploying still more inline hardware throughout the breadth of the network in a race to keep up with users' entertainment consumption. We think it's an increasingly false choice, and just as the iPhone 5 is a step forward in disruptive, next-generation device design, so too is the new breed of cloud-based network architecture to support it.
Image Credit: REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach