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Wireless operators face rising cost pressure for network expansion

Wireless network operators face growing cost pressures for network expansion as subscriber data use soars and average revenue per user (ARPU) begins to flatten. The challenge is that slow ARPU growth threatens to erode the bottom line as operators clamor for more network gear. One way operators can reduce network expansion costs is to maximize efficiency of their equipment, focusing on the volume of data traversing the operator network for each dollar spent on capital equipment (CapEx) or to cover operating costs (OpEx).

LTE networks operate at a significantly higher spectral efficiency than most advanced 3G infrastructures, reducing the cost per bit and delivering significantly more bandwidth per user. While initial LTE networks have been delivering up to 100Mbit/s of bandwidth to handset, LTE-Advanced will increase bandwidth to at least 1Gbit/s. In addition, the advent of heterogeneous LTE networks (HetNets) – a mix of macro base stations with strategically located small base stations and Wi-Fi offload hotspots – is driving significantly higher bandwidth per user while enabling operators to better control CapEx and reduce OpEx.

The shift to LTE also requires an IP-based packet core infrastructure, an enhancement that distributes cost-effective backhaul, content caching, policy management and other intelligence to base stations to support high data throughput. This next-generation LTE equipment allows operators to deliver new services and higher bandwidth while reducing network operating costs.

High integration requirements

Deploying LTE network infrastructure is a major investment for operators and represents a significant challenge for telecom equipment providers to deliver systems that both increase performance and reduce operating cost. To fulfill the performance potential of the LTE network architecture, base stations must deploy high-performance multicore processors powerful enough to handle system management, control plane processing and transport functions. The multicore processor may also handle baseband processing and value-added functions such as content caching and deep packet inspection for policy management.

LTE networks powered by a HetNet base station architecture enable operators to optimize return on investment. The challenge for network equipment manufacturers is that they must support a wider range of scalable LTE base stations to meet operator requirements. Base stations also must support legacy 2G and 3G connections, and a growing number will also need to support LTE-Advanced features such as carrier aggregation. Carrier aggregation allows operators to use multiple bands for a single LTE connection, increasing data bandwidth and network efficiency.

Reducing operating costs

The deployment of highly efficient, highly integrated multicore processors in LTE base stations can significantly reduce OpEx. The latest multicore processors are far faster than previous generations, and in many cases require less power, an efficiency improvement that enables more processing at the base station. This improvement slashes overall power consumption per megabyte by reducing communications overhead and packet core processing requirements.

Cutting-edge multicore processors are highly programmable and support in-service upgrades, allowing operators to roll out new services and features without costly investment in new hardware. Multicore processors that scale to support both macro and small base stations enable operators and telecom equipment manufacturers to invest in common software and perform testing, validation and other tasks across the entire network, reducing support and upgrade costs.

LSI multicore processors

The LSI® Axxia® AXM5500 family of multicore communication processors, based on highly efficient ARM® processor cores, provides the scalability to address LTE base station requirements in heterogeneous networks. The family supports up to 16 ARM processors, integrates multiple hardware acceleration processors for traffic management, packet processing, and security functions, as well as Ethernet switching, significantly reducing power consumption and costs of LTE base station deployments. ​​​​​