Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Telecom Networks Need a Little Help

Telenor, Norway's biggest telecom operator is struggling to deliver the capacity needed by their share of the 5 million people in the country. They are simply put out of capacity. Or to use their own words:

- We have a capacity challenge, Ragnar Kårhus, CEO of Telenor Norway said at a press conference today.

The press conference came after the second network failure in a week. Last week, the telecom network of Norway's biggest telecom operator was down for 12-18 hours in most of Norway. An embarrased mobile network operator voluntarily decided not to charge the 18 million USD they should have made from disgruntled customers the three next days following their little crisis. And then the network went down again today. Not as severely, but nevertheless. Are they experiencing a Friday curse?

3 billion American dollars
The three days of lost revenues amounted, according to themselves, to 18,1 million USD. This was during a weekend and a bank holiday when traffic is lower than during a normal day. 6 million USD a day still means 2,2 billion USD per year in revenues, probably closer to 3 billion given that usage is higher on weekdays. Not bad for the 5500 transmitters needed to cover Norway.

Telenor do not know for sure what really caused the problem, but being out of capacity is something that they should get used to. Internet traffic more than doubles every year. They are no longer encouraging data hungry services such as mobile TV, and they are moving away from all you can eat plans. But is that enough when more and more people are getting their first smart phone and 3G enabled tablet?

Most experts predict that mobile TV and mobile video will generate most of the data traffic in the years to come. I have heard figures that mobile TV and video will account for everything from 50% to 91% of all data traffic. How about relieving the networks and providing a better and more reliable service to all customers by porting all national live TV and radio to digital broadcasting technologies? How about starting to sell mobile phones with such technologies built in (as they do in Korea and Japan)? In Norway and over 40 countries on 5 continents, that means built in DMB/DAB/DAB+, in the US we're talking ATSC M/H and HD Radio while China boasts CMMB for mobile TV and DAB/DAB+ for digital radio.

Emergency proof?
With heavy data usage taking it's toll on networks, what can we do in case of emergencies? Even on every New Years Eve we see that text messages take hours to get through to recipents due to a widespread habit of sending happy new year messages to each other. What if there is an emergency and everyone needs to be notified? A telecom network will go down. A broadcasting network will not. And broadcasting networks can also be used to send messages and even maps or detailed instructions. To everyone. Simultaneously and instantly. Without the risk of going out of capacity or being taken down due to heavy usage. That is something to consider in these times of increasing reoccurences of natural disasters and terror.

Broadcasting and the internet make each other better. But when will Telenor understand that? Maybe not until governments will tell them that they have to.