Telecoms networks are generally thought of as big machines. Although the days of mechanical switches are long gone, cellular networks still tend to consist of large switching centres, often in dedicated buildings with back-up power supplies and high levels of security. Developing such core networks is the preserve of a few large companies such as Ericsson and Alcatel.
Weightless has a similar structure to a cellular system, having a core network with many of the same functions. But rather than needing big machines it will run entirely in the Cloud. This might seem rather incredible when a machine network is likely to have many more subscribers than a cellular network. But a machine network has a number of simplifications over a cellular network including:
• All traffic is genuinely packet based. Hence a fully IP-based switching solution can be used without any need to support time-critical applications such as voice over IP.
• A Weightless network will typically only have around ¼ of the number of base stations of a cellular network.
• Seamless handover does not need to be supported.
• With longer latency than is typical for cellular systems there is much more time to process data allowing for lower performance platforms.
• Cellular systems support a wide range of services such as voicemail, short code dialling and much more that is not required for machines.
• Overall traffic volumes are much smaller. While a 4G base station might generate 100Mbits/s of traffic or more, a Weightless base station will typically generate 100kbits/s on average – some three orders of magnitude less.
• Cloud-based computing platforms are becoming rapidly more powerful. It might be that a re-design of a cellular network would result in some of the core functions being moved to the cloud.
Cloud-based hosting of the core network is extremely advantageous. It means there is no initial outlay for the core network, the processing power can grow as needed and backup functionality / quality of service can be provided by the Cloud supplier rather than through deploying redundant solutions. Upgrading to new functionality is simple. It may appear a rather radical idea to those used to buying, owning and operating their own infrastructure, but equally it could be seen as just another step along the lines of outsourcing the operations and maintenance of a network.
In the case of Weightless it means that the minimum outlay needed to become an operator is close to zero, scaling with coverage and usage and that the development of the core network can proceed much more quickly than would otherwise be the case. It opens the door to a wide range of new business models and allows new types of interaction between different networks.
One day all networks will be built this way….This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Can white space deliver reliable connections? Is cellular encroaching on white space? →