Telecommunications equipment giant Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU, news, filings) took the wrappings off its next generation mobile packet core product offerings. The announcement and much of the media coverage are filled with a very thick alphabet soup of technologies and standards and other acronyms regarding its capabilities that I’m just beginning to fully decipher, but Light Reading has one of the better articles. Basically, the solution is built around its 7750 service router, with a plethora of other new boxes designed to handle the intricacies of mobile traffic and survive the coming wave. One of the key features is support for 2G/3G traffic, allowing operators to build a unified core.
This is a critical step forward for Alcatel-Lucent toward the LTE fed mobile networks that will begin to take hold next year. The media spends so much time on the last mile of wireless connectivity, the details of the wired portion tend do to get the short end of the stick. That’s because the volume of traffic generated and consumed by mobile devices has always been relatively small, and the expectations regarding quality have been much more lax. But with the the advent of the iPhone and Android, we are now seeing growth both in traffic and in the public’s expectations. Mobile traffic presents network operators with new problems to solve in the core. For one thing, signaling traffic is dramatically different, since each device tends to communicate in lots and lots of very short sessions in an effort to save power. This is now thought to be behind much of AT&T’s iPhone woes.
So for Alcatel-Lucent, will this be enough to compete with Ericsson and Nokia Siemens, who have led this segment for some time? Well, the initial feedback appears to be good, but let’s see how it handles in the field. I suspect that large scale 4G network usage will challenge network design in ways nobody has yet considered, the complexity of the data flows will probably make mincemeat of all these plans. The key therefore for equipment makers will be flexibility and responsiveness when that happens. But a solid foot in the door is definitely a prerequisite, and that’s what Alcatel-Lucent’s goal was today.
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