Despite advancements, demand for mobile networks still might not be met

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The demand for more mobile networks is outpacing the ability to support it, and by 2020, network providers may not be able to fully maintain every need, according to a Bell Labs Consulting study.

The rise in internet-connected and mobile devices will cause a global desire for digital content and services to increase 30 to 45 times by 2020 but could leave 19 percent of all data demand unmet, according to the report released last week by the Nokia Bell Labs division.

In some cases it could even be worse.

“Our disruptive models indicate, however, that the demand could be 50 percent higher than the conservative forecast,” the report says. “If the disruptive forecast holds, operators would only be able to address 75 percent of the total demand.”

Many wireless experts anticipate the arrival of 5G networks by 2020 will help industry keep up with demand. Advances in signal processing and antenna technologies are expected to boost transmissions speeds to 10 Gbps, reduce latency and support more the 100 billion connections. But 5G development needs to be accelerated to meet the expected pace of growth as more enterprises move to cloud computing.

“To address this unmet demand, operators will need to accelerate their path to convergence and adoption of newer technologies, such as SDN (software-defined networking), NFV (network function virtualization) and 5G,” the report said. “These technologies will allow them to achieve the critical goal of delivering agile, elastic and highly personalized services, with optimized cost per bit per application…”

The government is demanding more spectrum too, to ensure IT systems are more efficient and reliable and can use more Internet of Things devices. Currently, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing more efficient spectrum bands that can handle more devices. Like other 5G researchers, they expect their tech to be ready by 2020.

Another solution could depend on using older or more common wireless technology. The report predicts about two-thirds of Wi-Fi will be able to fill the demand, while 3G LTE can meet 14 percent of the demand.

“We conclude that with 3G, 4G/Long Term Evolution (LTE) and small cells alone, operators will not be able to profitably address even half of the demand left untouched by Wi-Fi-like technologies,” the report said. 

Contact the reporter on this story via email: Jeremy.Snow@FedScoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyM_Snow. Sign up for the Daily Scoop — all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning — here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Bell Labs, Cloud, mobile and wireless, mobility, Tech, Wireless Networks
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