February 08, 2019

The Business Case for Hybrid LTE Solutions in the Connected Home CPE Environment

By Olivier Lafontaine, Strategy and Product Management Director for the Connected Home Division of Technicolor

The rise of 5G, and new consumer demand dynamics are causing network service providers (NSPs) around the world to implement flexible solutions that improve broadband performance while optimizing network availability. This is driving a detailed exploration of Hybrid LTE solutions to support fixed broadband services to the home.

There are several key factors driving Hybrid LTE growth. First and foremost is the ubiquitous deployment of LTE that we have seen across nearly all geographies. It is now possible to get LTE coverage almost everywhere and this creates an opportunity for network service providers to address the important challenges they are currently facing.

For instance, while we have seen many headlines about ultra-broadband -- in which gigabit capacity is provided to consumers -- the fact of the matter is that these speeds have been available only to a lucky few. While Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) is being deployed in many densely populated areas, most homes in Europe -- and other developed markets -- are still serviced with conventional copper lines. many consumers have been enjoying broadband through digital subscriber line (DSL) services.

While these services may be acceptable to some, the challenge is that many consumers reside at the end of long telephone lines. This can be a problem because the farther away you get from a telco central office, the slower the service becomes. Moreover, many of these homes will not be served by FTTH for at least another five years, and some will never see fiber services at all.

Meeting Demand for Availability and Ultrabroadband Performance

This is where Hybrid LTE customer premises equipment (CPE) can be a game changer for NSPs. This integrated approach empowers providers by offering the option to use “fixed” LTE services either simultaneously -- with the traditional wireline solution to dynamically allocate traffic to improve performance -- and/or as a backup to the wireline service -- by using LTE when the wireline signal fails.

As more and more people work from home, both performance and redundancy are becoming big issues. Hybrid LTE manages both of these factors while offering an opportunity to improve network performance from the customers’ perspective. NSPs can dynamically route traffic to the network option that delivers the best quality of service.

Hybrid LTE Improves Time-to-Service

Hybrid LTE CPE is also in a position to accelerate important time-to-service issues, which contributes to improving customer satisfaction. By having LTE “in the box,” customers can immediately enjoy access to services, even as they wait for their terrestrial line to be provisioned by the NSP.

This provides a competitive advantage to operators that have both wireline and LTE infrastructure. By combining their assets, operators can differentiate their offerings more effectively -- and cost-efficiently -- compared to NSPs that offer only a pure LTE service or only a traditional fixed line service.

Advent of 5G Creates More Opportunities for Hybrid LTE

The rise of 5G will also give Hybrid LTE a shot in the arm by adding an important new option to the NSP service equation.

The operators that have been deploying a pure LTE play on broadband will point out the need to manage capacity by deciding which share of resources should be allocated to support a fixed broadband strategy, and balance this against the need of addressing mobile services. Now that we can deploy 5G, the picture has changed because providers now have access to a new spectrum of frequencies that have only recently been made available.

This creates new opportunities for technology developers serving the global NSP community.

At Technicolor, there will be several strategies that we will execute in parallel to harness the rise of 5G. For instance, if loT operators move their mobile users to 5G, then this will free up spectrum on LTE that can be used to serve broadband subscribers.

In the meantime, it is important to recognize that the broadband experience does not end at the point of access; it will be critical to ensure a positive and rich experience throughout the home by delivering performance to the growing number of devices and services that depend on fast access to internet resources.

For Technicolor, as well as other technology partners, it will be critically important to ensure that we deliver the best Wi-Fi connectivity in all rooms of the home by optimizing the consumption of LTE resources -- especially as service providers prepare for the transition to 5G. Determining the best mix and allocation of network resources is going to vary on a case-by-case basis. It is an operator-specific process because in each country the spectrum auctions happen at different times and in different ways.

As technology developers, Technicolor must tailor solutions for the different needs of NSPs around the world. The flexibility provided by options like Hybrid LTE CPE -- along with open gateway platforms -- will make it possible for new service offerings to be created and deployed more quickly and cost-effectively.  It provides new opportunities for NSPs to redefine and improve their relationship with subscribers as new technologies emerge, and the needs of their customers evolve.

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