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19 November 2014

The future of mobile…is fixed

Dr Tim Whitley

The distinction between fixed and mobile networks is diminishing and will eventually disappear.

And, according to Dr Tim Whitley, MD of research and innovation at BT, the successful network operators of the future, mobile or fixed, will be those who are prepared to evolve from traditional approaches.

Tim’s predictions were at the heart of a lecture he gave to an audience of academics and technologists at Cambridge University. The lecture was organised by Cambridge Wireless - a community for organisations involved in wireless and mobile technology research and development.

In his presentation, Tim argued that after decades of divergence, mobile and fixed line technologies are finally coming together. He identified the key driver for this shift as the ‘ever-increasing demand for mobile traffic - especially from indoors’.

Parallel lines

Said Tim: “For years we have seen the amazing ingenuity of scientists and engineers whose task it has been to come up with more and more sophisticated ways of transmitting information over copper or fibre, or in the case of mobile, over radio spectrum. Yes, they’ve been successful, but they’ve made their progress in parallel along totally separate tracks.”

“However, if we are going to deal with the explosive demand for data now and in the future, predominantly delivered to customers on wireless devices, parallel tracks aren’t going to work for much longer. We are going to need technologies that span traditional fixed and mobile networks to address the challenge.”

Tim identified a number of ways in which mobile technologies were already being applied to the development of fixed networks - and vice versa.

“BT is looking very closely at ways in which we can apply radio techniques to the business of transmitting data over copper in order to take performance to the next level,” he said. “We are using advanced signal processing methodology in initiatives like G.Fast and vectoring which give us the realistic prospect of delivering speeds of a gigabit per second over copper.”

Great experience

He added: “Similarly, we know that mobile technologies such as LTE complement wi-fi really well. By mobile-enabling the edge of the fixed network - for example by putting femtocells into the home, we can give consumers a consistently great experience.”

Concluded Tim: “BT recognises the need for evolution, so we’re adopting an inside-out approach to network development where fixed meets mobile, to deliver solutions based on the best of both worlds for customers - the freedom of movement from mobile together with the capacity and throughput of a fixed network.”