Hyperconnectivity – the state in which the number of devices, nodes and applications connected to the network far exceeds the number of people using the network – is fast becoming a reality. It is demanding action now to rethink the way networks and applications are built, writes Magda Engelbrecht, country manager of Nortel.
The rate at which devices and objects are being connected is ever-increasing. And, clearly, they are not just PCs, PDAs, cell phones and iPods. They are cameras, sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, cars, appliances, medical equipment, industrial machinery, and even irrigation equipment on farmlands.
And they are not just physical entities being connected. More and more business and consumer applications are connecting to the network as they are enabled with communications capabilities.
Welcome to what is quickly becoming the Hyperconnected world – a new era in communications where anything that could benefit from being connected will be connected to the network. This has become the largest and most complex machine mankind has ever built.
This new era, however, is more than just sheer numbers of new network-connected devices, nodes and applications. It is about taking the concept of "always-on" to new extremes. It is about providing pervasive access to, and continuous presence on, the network, where anyone or anything can interact with anyone or anything else no matter where they are located. Being "out of the coverage area" will be a thing of the past.
Why? Because the independent, technology-specific networks of the past – which were deployed to deliver specific services, such as voice, data, and mobility – are converging and evolving into a single, intelligent, all-IP network. This network can support any type of traffic, all kinds of machines and devices, and every mode of communications.
And, while the network itself is far more complex than ever before, for users it is presenting a communications environment that is much more seamless and simple to use.
Because wireless will play such a prominent role in a hyperconnected world, it is critical that we extend the wireline-quality experience and the enterprise WiFi experience to the cellular wireless domain.
At Nortel, our drive to achieve this is focused on 4G wireless technologies. Why? Because today's 2G and 3G cellular systems (GSM, UMTS, COMA), although well-suited for voice and adequate for basic data, are simply not up to the task of meeting the huge bandwidth demands that hyperconnected services such as video will bring. While mobile video is possible on today's 3G networks, it can be delivered to only a limited number of subscribers and only a few basic broadcast services.
4G technologies such as WiMAX, Long Term Evolution (LTE), and Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) can provide mobile access at greatly improved speed, cost, capacity, and spectrum efficiencies.
4G provides a much simpler network model and method for connecting devices of all kinds while at the same time driving out complexity and cost. Here's why.
Unlike circuit-switch transport and its "nailed-up" connections, which is what today's cellular systems are based upon, packet-based IP transport (which is what 4G is based upon) enables all kinds of traffic (voice, data, video and multimedia) and all types of devices to be connected without customisation or modification.
Advanced radio access is changing the economics of the network because it is based on a combination of two breakthrough technologies: orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) and multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) antenna technology.
Combined OFDM-MIMO allows more users and more data per user for applications like video to be packed into available spectrum at speeds four to five times faster than HSPA. The latest 3G OFDM-MIMO technology, in fact, is the foundational technology for all 4G implementations.
Nortel has long been at the leading edge of OFDM-MIMO development, accumulating an impressive list of industry firsts while advancing the technology through the standards bodies and demonstrating calls and sessions using the technology.
We are, in fact, one of the key contributors to the development of the IEEE 80216 standards, which form the basis for WiMAX, and more than 60% of Nortel's 164 contributions submitted to the IEEE 80216 standards have been adopted.
With the demonstration in March 2007 of the industry's first live call over a UMB network delivering high-definition video and VoIP, Nortel became the first to complete live calls using MIMO advanced antenna technology in each of the major 4G technologies – WiMAX, lTE and UMB.
To support 4G and Hyperconnectivity, Nortel is also developing a robust ecosystem that includes infrastructure, chipsets and devices, working with industry leaders like Intel, LG Electronics and Kyocera to bring these products to market.