FEATURE: The case for all IP-CDMA

All around the world, the telecommunication industry is undergoing a rapid transformation. Emerging wireless and broadband technologies are enabling this transformation, effectively changing the way people communicate. People today demand and expect reliable, high-quality voice and high-speed data connectivity at all times, irrespective of geographic location or time zone. Traditionally, emerging countries and rural areas in developed countries have both lagged behind in technology adoption, especially with respect to landline and cellular penetration. However, as the purchasing power of the people in these regions has increased over time and the barriers to market entry for next-generation service providers have diminished, these regions are now aggressively deploying both basic and advanced forms of communications. In emergency life-threatening or life-saving scenarios, ubiquitous coverage and connectivity becomes even more critical. An optimal solution for ensuring ubiquitous access is an all-IP CDMA network.

The technical advantages of a CDMA-based network over other wireless technologies, including GSM, are well-documented. Based on a "spread-spectrum" technology, CDMA offers more voice and data capacity than other second-generation (2G) mobile technologies. However, the inherent advantages of an IP-based CDMA network are relatively unknown. An all-IP CDMA network utilizes an IP radio access network coupled with a soft switch packet core network, as opposed to the circuit-based mobile switching center (MSC) deployed in a traditional wireless network. Some of the benefits of an all-IP network include enhanced coverage, lower infrastructure expenditure, lower operating expenses due to the distributed architecture of an all-IP network and, most importantly, increased network reliability. As evidenced by network shortcomings in the wake of recent natural disasters around the world, network availability and reliability should continue to be among the most important criteria to consider when designing a communications network.

A distributed architecture enables local calls to remain in the local domain; instead of all traffic being backhauled to a central location, local traffic is directed to the nearest gateway. This results in reduced transmission costs and significant operational cost savings for the operator, when compared to a traditional wireless networks. Internal customer field data indicates that operators who utilize a distributed, all-IP CDMA network-based architecture can expect operational cost savings of greater than 80 percent, based on local calls comprising 70 percent of the total network usage. In a specific instance for a nationwide operator in a developing country, the projected net operational cost savings using the all-IP CDMA network architecture were in excess of eight million dollars per-annum. Savings of this nature are the key to profitable long-term growth. These operational cost savings are derived from the distributed architecture and use of alternate transport mediums, including satellite. The latter enables communication in remote areas of the world, previously unchartered due to terrestrial constraints or cost factors.

In an emergency situation such as a natural disaster, the need for highly reliable and always-available communication becomes even more imperative. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, most of the means of communication available to residents, emergency rescue workers and federal officers were adversely affected. In times such as these, high-availability of reliable lines of communication was integral to saving lives. An all-IP CDMA network provides not only high network reliability but also the significant advantage of mobility, as small pico-cell base stations can be mounted on poles and in military or other emergency vehicles and subsequently deployed in affected areas. The time needed to deploy a communication network using the all-IP CDMA architecture is minimal when compared to a traditional wireless or landline network.

Successful demonstrations aboard commercial airplanes with the use of in-cabin CDMA2000 pico-cell base stations, connected to the core wireless network via an air-to-ground satellite link, has the communication industry well aware of the underlying objective of providing ubiquitous, affordable coverage. There are numerous circumstances wherein subscribers lose network coverage--for example, in the basement of a building, driving inside a tunnel or traveling in a fast-moving train or other forms of rapid transportation. These examples undermine subscriber confidence in service provider claims of "always-on connectivity for voice and data." The use of a pico-cell based all-IP CDMA network can ensure cost-effective connectivity in each of the aforementioned instances, raising overall quality and improving user experience.

Affordable ubiquitous connectivity is the need of the hour. A connected global society with ubiquitous coverage at all times is the building block for the future. The users do not distinguish one access network or technology from the other. What is imperative is cost-effective always-on connectivity. A passenger on a cruise ship, railroad, or plane; a hiker exploring a remote wilderness region; an emergency worker in an area where a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane has wiped out power and landline telecommunications networks--in all of these instances and many others, what the people require is a reliable line of communication, which can be cost-effectively provided for by an all-IP CDMA network.

Manish Matta is director of corporate marketing at UTStarcom.