Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Historically, there has been a one-to-one mapping between a mobile network and the reseller of the network’s services. Recent developments challenge this model. Virtual operators have emerged in GSM networks and during the rollout of UMTS networks, many operators built shared UMTS networks. This study analyses the impact of shared networks on the mobile network operators’ abilities to deliver unique products and services to their customers. Four sharing models that are in use today are analysed and presented in detail. These are site sharing, geographical split networks, shared RAN and spectrum sharing.
The research in this study has been done in two steps. In the first step, possible differentiation opportunities are identified through literature studies and interviews with key persons at network operators, equipment manufacturers, business analysts and the Swedish national post and telecom agency. In the second step, this study compares the implementation of these opportunities in the four forms of shared networks with their implementations in a wholly owned network. The opportunities are grouped in three categories: products, quality of service differentiation and multiaccess networks.
By setting quality of service attributes on bearers, such as latency and the attention/retention policy, quality of service differentiation is a possibility in common shared networks and geographical split networks. Although unlicensed access technologies, such as WLAN standards, can provide coverage differentiation in one sense, this study shows that this is not economical compared to UMTS pico-cells.
The study finds that implementing features in the underlying network requires extensive cooperation between operators in all sharing models except for site sharing. Certain services require quality of service parameters that are mutually exclusive without over-provisioning in terms of network resources. Such parameters include for example latency and capacity. Even though the 3GPP UMTS standard allow for a separation of the service creation layer and the underlying network, this study argues that many services will still be dependent upon network features, thus mitigating the advantage of developing services in the unshared domain.
2005. , 91 p.