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Didn't Make It to 4G World? Not to Worry: Here's a Snapshot!

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Naomi WeiserBy Naomi Weiser

It was going to take more than Hurricane Sandy to put off some of the more unfortunately located 4GWorld speakers, who like T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray, managed to join by video or audio link.

Being a 4G conference, all the topics you might expect were on the agenda from spectrum (Neville Ray: “In the long term I don’t think there’s an operator that can stand up and say there’s enough spectrum in the U.S. market") to innovation (Cisco’s Kelly Ahuja: “We need to use the network as a platform for innovation" and Samsung’s Kevin Packingham:“You can put an enormous amount of power into a device but the network has to be able to support it. You can’t innovate without it.") Attendees packed the auditorium at 4G World to hear big industry names speak about a variety of important topics.

There was a lot of discussion about business models and the best way to monetize 4G, and Juniper’s Brad Brooks offered an interesting take on this, explaining why “first to service" to take advantage of the first wave of growth and “fast to failure" will be the way we build and define platforms. (With fast to failure, an operator needs to realize quickly when an opportunity or a capability is not going to work, to be able to stop it and transfer efforts quickly to something else.)

He also focused on the “incredible importance" of investing in security, especially since the fundamental design of LTE networks is based on IP, meaning that the fundamental core of operators' business models (i.e. their subscriber information) is open to the Internet. He described high performance firewalls as “an absolute imperative if you don’t want them to turn into a chokepoint," as is the ability to accurately identify a specific address/hacker, rather than blocking a wide range of IP addresses.

Brooks also highlighted why strategies are needed around cache-management technology, especially when it comes to video traffic, citing the example of the Psy “Gangam-style" video viewed more than 600 million times on YouTube in the last two-and-a-half months.

The most unusual thing about this phenomenon isn’t how quickly this number grew (or why people are watching it in the first place) but rather the fact that people are choosing to watch it more than once. The takeaway about this demand for repeat viewing is how to manage and plan traffic intelligently – for example, how best to broadcast it, cache it, how to adapt the compression to suit different screens, and also the possibility of sharing sessions using  multicast.

This was a point echoed by Qualcomm’s Bill Davidson, who highlighted the importance of multicast in driving efficiency and improving spectrum utilization. He gave an example where two users might ask for the same screen on an NFL app in the same stadium at exactly the same time – if the users could share the session rather than getting an individual session, it would lead to 3x throughput gain.

Another big focus at the conference has been data analytics – not too surprising when you consider the ever-increasing quantities of data being delivered. I’m still reeling from all the stats thrown at me over the last few days, but here’s one that made me pause for thought courtesy of  Intel’s Steve Price, who stated that the amount of video watched in just one Internet minute in 2015 would take a single person five years to view – a challenge I think I’ll pass on.

Price explained that the extent to which business analytics will be a competitive differentiator with 4G, since so many intelligent devices are already (and will continue to be) connected and generating huge amounts of data. The problem is that we’re not mining it efficiently: “Only 15 percent of data collected today is harvested or analyzed." He also pointed out how much value we’re missing out on when it comes to unstructured data which is being generated by sensors, cameras etc., ranging from videos, IMs, Word documents to photos. The challenge is how to analyze this data in real time – a point repeated by Heavy Reading’s Ari Banerjee, who emphasized that without advanced analytics, creating a strategy is impossible.

Also on the agenda was M2M innovation, which isn’t all about telematics, eHealth and smart energy. Instead, 4G America’s Vicki Livingston’s offered up a slightly more unusual example of M2M innovation ... a scientific trial where sheep are being fitted with a collar to monitor their heart rates and detect when they’re in danger from a nearby predator (in this case, wolves). When that happens, the collar releases a wolf repellent, and the result: the sheep are (hopefully) saved.

I’ll leave you with an observation from Qualcomm’s Bill Davidson which had parents nodding their heads in agreement around the packed auditorium and which sums up how far we’ve come in the last few years (and where we’re going): “For my kids, the phone experience isn’t an on-the-ear experience."

With more than 10 years experience in the communications industry, Naomi Weiser is a frequent industry blogger, as well as the editor of the Amdocs Voices blog. (And she’s braved Hurricane Sandy to report live from 4GWorld)

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