IEEE Globecom 2012- Are we going back to centralized networks?

I have attended GLOBECOM 2012 which is held in Anaheim, USA on 3-7 December. Unfortunately I could only stay for the first two days since I needed to attend another meeting in UK. You can find my notes in the upcoming blog post. :)

In this short period, I tried to find some interesting talks, tutorials and industry forums and here I will highlight the main conclusions I gathered. As my colleague Du Ho Kang summarized here, it seems that there is a growing interest in M2M, cloud services and still many discussions on small cells with the main question of how to cope with the data explosion in most energy and cost efficient way. Here are the important messages:

  • 1000 times more capacity: Dr. Sampath Rangarajan from NEC Labs gave a keynote talk on small cells and indicated his view on “How to achive 1000 times more capacity”. The solution proposal is more or less similar to our view where the main gain is expected to come from network densification despite the large interest on PHY layer to increase the spectral efficiency (expected 4X) or finding new spectrum in both licensed and unlicensed bands (expected 5X ). What was different and very interesting was that he envision the density of outdoor macro BSs will only increase 20% in 10 years which means that 52-84% of the total traffic needs to be offloaded by “small” cells. However, the definition of small cells was only including the outdoor micro/pico BSs whereas indoor femto or wifi solutions have not been much emphasized. Apparently business related concerns are still the barrier for people to see that indoor solutions might be the best solution for our main problem.
  • New hot research topic “M2M”: I have attended very nice tutorial given my Misha Dohler and Jesus Alonso from CTTC who made a great summary of potential applications and possible technologies to be used for M2M. Smart cities, building automation, smart grids and industrial automation were mentioned as some of the popular M2M market areas. On the other hand, external interference, multipath fading and lack of standards have been highlighted as the main challenges where the current standardization activities have been summarized in detail. One of the conclusions is given on “which kind of cellular technology is more suitable for M2M” and the answer was clear: “Even GSM is the best option due to its lower carrier frequency, lower complexity and constant envelope modulation scheme, LTE will be the leading technology despite the many challenges are waiting to be solved. For me the most important message was at the end of the tutorial where Misha Dohler predicted that update of M2M technologies will be much slower than anticipated since marginal business for very large corporations but too-long sales cycles for innovative startups.” It seems we will need to wait more than we thought to see the fancy M2M applications around.
  • Green Communication and Computing: Energy efficiency issue has been handled from different aspects in one of the industry forums. Different views on “how to decrease the growing electricity bill of the operators” have been presented. Due to my personal research interest, I have listened the talks even more carefully to understand the action items of the industry towards green wireless access networks. More efficient hardware, renewable Green BSs, traffic adaptive BS activation are some of the proposed solutions that are not “NEW” for anyone. However China Mobile’s emphasize on the efficiency of centralized RAN (CRAN) was very interesting. Dr. Chih-Lin claim that 70% energy saving is possible just by migrating from distributed to centralized processing which will also solve the main issues of CoMP. After we spend decades to make the networks more distributed to increase the efficiency based on other objectives, I feel very surprised to see the “u-turn” where centralizing is now being proposed as “THE” solution. Personally I am not fully convinced. Are you?
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