By ABDUL AZIZThe proliferation of mobile devices has shifted user behaviour and this has empowered mobile operators to strengthen their networks for high performance and scale to meet the growing demand.
To build for this anticipated surge, mobile operators are investing billions to strengthening their networks through Long Term Evolution (LTE), a wireless broadband technology that supports roaming Internet access via mobile devices.
Asia Pacific is expected to be the largest contributor to this growth with a predicted eight billion smartphone subscribers. .
The region also boasts the world’s largest mobile market, China, which overtook the United States as the largest smartphone market in 2012.  The country, together with India and Indonesia, is expected to be among the fastest-growing smartphone markets over the next few years.
Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea, and some countries in the emerging markets are considered the most advanced mobile markets.
Amongst this diverse country mix also exists a diverse range of average revenue per user, which is correlated to GDP per capita.
And Malaysia, which has one of the highest GDP per capita in the region has an average revenue per user (US$16.80 or RM55.80) is more than double the regional average. 
The migration from 2G to 3G was expected to be revolutionary, promising higher speeds and greater capabilities.
In actuality, it proved to be more evolutionary because carriers made temporary and unsustainable upgrades to their infrastructure. This led to low capacity, long delays, spotty coverage, and a dearth of killer apps that exposed weakness in these wireless networks especially in densely populated areas.
Operators in some Asian countries have achieved the fastest migration from 2G to 3G/4G networks, especially in Japan and Korea, where 3G/4G represent more than 90% of connections.
Nearly 27% of South Korean connections are LTE. China and India are both seeing extraordinary growth in new subscriptions.
As LTE becomes the new standard, naturally the question remains: Can network operators create a revolutionary experience this time around for their end users? Absolutely. Enhanced services, better coverage through the use of macro and small cells and carefully planned inter-technology handoffs will all play a part.
What’s in it for mobile operators?
Aside from increasing performance of networks in the face of surging data usage, LTE is all about profitability. In more than one way, LTE is correlated to the customer experience: Happy customers lead to greater usage and less churn, both of which contribute to growth with new services and lower operational expenses on the bottom line.
A large portion of carriers worldwide have yet to fully deploy LTE, but useful lessons can be picked from the early adopters. The common end-user obstacles cited as carriers pursue a widespread adoption of LTE subscriptions include:
- High price of data plans
- Limited coverage in metro and rural areas
- Unclear value proposition for LTE
- Limited choices for 4G enabled handsets and consumer electronic products
Overcoming the obstacles
To avoid these pitfalls, operators need LTE networks that can:
- Adapt instantly to the capacity demands:This leads to faster time to revenue and enhanced coverage as new networks and services can be turned on in hours, not weeks or months.
- Expose additional network-monetising opportunities: Solving the pricing and value proposition aspects of an LTE rollout.
- Mitigate the threats and vulnerabilities: Protecting the brand is critical to securing and growing the existing revenue streams.
- Communicate: Explaining and demonstrating the advantages of LTE over 3G in terms of the overall quality of experience will be critical to faster adoption.
Because the available resources and subscriber demands vary by region, below is a best-practice chart outlining how carriers in Asia-Pacific can capitalise on LTE and suggested solutions for the inherent deployment challenges.
Monetising the network
Implement a pay-per-feature model with personalised service plans to increase Average Revenue Per User (ARPU).
Delivering what subscribers want
Beyond just the number of subscribers, what is the percentage that have smartphones? How many can afford the added services LTE offers? Create tiered pricing and value propositions for LTE.
Reliability is golden - with 40% of subscribers ready to leave their mobile provider due to quality of broadband service, improving access with small cell and other technology should be installed at the infrastructure level.
Big data analysis
Since LTE moves carrier traffic to an IP-based nature, it creates opportunities for operators to harness the data and leverage it for analytical and planning purposes. For instance, when voice traffic is treated as data, carriers can create a self-aware network that automatically reprioritizes traffic amid network log-jams. Additionally, new IP-based traffic can yield valuable insight into the way subscribers use networks, paving the way for future infrastructure planning and service roll-outs.
Contrary to common perception, not all over-the-top services are a threat to revenues.Through a carefully crafted Over The Top content (OTT) partner strategy, a rich set of personalised service bundles can be a good source for ARPU growth.
Securing the network
An LTE network is based on all-IP operating in an inherently less secureshared infrastructure rather than dedicated connections like legacy mobile networks. High-performance security needs to be installed to protect subscribers and the network from potential threats.
It’s a given that upgrading to an LTE network will benefit carriers and, in turn, end users. Better speeds and stronger signals will marshal in the next generation of mobile device usage along with new offerings such as high-definition voice and video chat.
But as we’ve examined, there’s a multitude of reasons driving carriers to invest billions into upgrading its infrastructure – and it’s more than just to keep up with the Joneses. Especially in our region, there are a sundry of strategies to realise a return on investment along the path to successful LTE deployments.
There is no single path to LTE, but ultimately it should all lead back to two things: profitability and customer satisfaction.
Abdul Aziz is country manager for Juniper Networks Malaysia. Based in Malaysia, Aziz leads the continued evolution from technology-focused selling to customer-focused engineering and solution selling. He is responsible for product segmentation, resource planning, product evangelisation, field enablement and overall technology leadership in Malaysia.