Alcatel-Lucent lays groundwork for next-gen mobile services

Alcatel-Lucent's Dynamic Services Controller is designed to let operators offer premuim subscriptions

Alcatel-Lucent's new Ultimate Wireless Packet Core is designed to let operators get a handle on the current mobile data explosion and offer subscribers more advanced services, the company said on Thursday.

These are challenging times for mobile operators, according to Basil Alwan, head of carrier strategy at Alcatel-Lucent. Next-generation networks must be able to handle new ways of offering services and an increasing traffic load, Alwan said during a conference call.

A key part of the Ultimate Wireless offering is the new Alcatel-Lucent 5780 Dynamic Services Controller, which uses a technology called PCRF (Policy Charging and Rules Function) to let operators offer more advanced services in both 3G and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile networks and wired broadband networks.

The 5780 Dynamic Services Controller can be used to improve performance for one application or service -- for example, the streaming of a football match -- or let operators offer premium subscriptions, boosting performance for all applications for some subscribers, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

The 5780 is currently in trials and will be available in the second half of 2010, Alcatel-Lucent said.

To achieve improved performance, the 5780 Dynamic Services Controller sends instructions to the 7750 Service Router, which is also a member of the Ultimate Wireless Packet Core, on the actual billing model to be used. The 7750 Service Router also tells the rest of the network to prioritize premium traffic, helping operators handle the increased traffic load they now seeing, Alwan said.

Ways in which operators can offer subscribers more than just flat-rate mobile broadband services was one of the hot topics at this year's Mobile World Congress, and discussions will likely continue at CTIA Wireless, which starts on March 23 and takes place in Las Vegas.

"The move to LTE gives all operators the chance to shift their business models and introduce new pricing plans," said Richard Webb, directing analyst at market research company Infonetics.

The big challenge for operators will be to convince users to pay for these new kinds of services. The flat-rate model is well ingrained, and it will be difficult to move away from that model of charging for access, according to Webb.

Also, the change isn't going to happen overnight, according to Webb. The fact that operators are still just talking about applications means it will probably take at least a year before they start offering these new types of services, Webb said.

There are now 59 operators committed to LTE network deployments in 28 countries, according to data from the industry organization Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA). That compares to 39 operators six months ago, the GSA said at the end of February.

Up to 22 LTE networks will be used to offer services by the end of 2010 and 37 networks will be commercially launched by the end of 2012, according to the GSA.

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