Wireless Infrastructure Newsletter
The Convergence Towards Spectrum Sharing March 21 2017
Why spectrum sharing?
Commercial access and use of spectrum has traditionally been authorized in two ways: either through individual licenses or in accordance with license exempt (unlicensed or ‘commons’) rules. It is believed much of that spectrum is lightly used or even not used. At a time when most observers believe people, organizations and businesses will need vastly more Internet and communications capacity, that is a waste of scarce resources. To move incumbent users to a new frequency band is also a very costly and time consuming proposition. Thus, spectrum sharing offers a cheaper and quicker way to maximize use of scarce resources.
The 5G vs WiFi False Debate January 13 2017There is a growing number of 5G skeptics that are engaging on a 5G vs WiFi false debate concluding that 5G is not needed as Wi-Fi is available now and provides all that is needed. I don’t share the over-simplified arguments about 5G from of the old-fashioned WiFi vs 3GPP.
5G is impossible without full convergence November 21 2016The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), in partnership with Maravedis-Rethink, has published its Annual Industry Report for 2016, revealing that the Internet of Things (IoT), the hyper-dense network and 5G will not be economic or practical without the convergence and coexistence of licensed and unlicensed technologies.
Business Models Enabled by Heterogeneity November 15 2016The introduction set out a picture of the wireless world, in which many types of spectrum and network increasingly work together to create a seamless pool of capacity for service providers, enterprises and consumers to use.
The Road to Network Convergence November 08 2016
A year ago, when the Wireless Broadband Alliance announced its Vision 2020 program, it was moving away from a specific focus on Wi-Fi, and towards a far broader platform based around many unlicensed spectrum bands and technologies. This recognized the fundamental and exciting role that unlicensed spectrum will play in pushing the boundaries of wireless experience and business cases between now and 2020; and in the platform that becomes 5G.
Unlicensed spectrum technologies have come a long way from being the disruptive younger sibling of the licensed-band networks, to having an equal place at the table. Indeed, this year’s upcoming WBA report looks beyond unlicensed spectrum on its own, and towards the rising levels of convergence with licensed technologies, to enable new performance levels and flexibility for service providers of all kinds.
Coexistence, and increasingly, full convergence will drive the next generation of wireless technologies, along with some key enablers of the heterogeneous network (HetNet) – network virtualization, new management techniques such as self-optimizing networks (SON), flexible approaches to spectrum licensing and aggregation.
Without convergence, the Internet of Things, the hyper-dense network, and indeed 5G will not be economic or even practical. These are three cornerstones of new emerging business cases for wireless service providers, whether mobile operators, pure-play Wi-Fi or machine-to-machine operators, or wireline carriers with a wireless element to their platforms. All of them will depend on different unlicensed technologies coming together, and often working with licensed networks. For instance, for the IoT, over two-thirds of operators expect to deploy two or more different technologies in parallel.
Converged networks will enable or enhance many business cases which rely on massive IoT connectivity or on hyper-dense data networks. Many of these will be seen in the context of the smart city, a key area of focus and activity for the WBA in 2016, and this year’s report devotes a full section to the massive potential of these environments to drive social and economic improvements, and in so doing, to influence future wireless technology roadmaps.
Those roadmaps will lead eventually to 5G – not just a radio upgrade, but an end-to-end platform, spanning the core to the edge of the network, and a top-to-bottom one, from the radio to the applications layer. Current developments in the Wi-Fi market, including the next wave of 802.11 standards and moves towards virtualization, will feed into this new platform alongside those from the cellular and M2M worlds. The result will be a flexible, radio-neutral 5G environment in which a whole new generation of business models will be able to thrive in unlicensed as well as licensed spectrum, building on a long history of innovation in the Wi-Fi community.
Join us at the Wireless Global Congress in San Jose November 14-17, 2016, to learn more about the WBA’ vision in this four day event, featuring a two day conference programme and two days of membership meetings and invitation-only sessions.
The end of hardware as a mobile business October 14 2016
Exploding handsets aside, Ericsson’s crisis shows the need for all players to accelerate their shift towards software and services
It’s been another week of exploding smartphones, and the growing fall-out from the problems with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. Once a flagship product and a genuinely innovative design, the latest Note has turned into a nightmare. Samsung has halted production and the recall and refund process – and more importantly, the loss of future sales – may hit its profits to the tune of $5.3bn.
Of course, Samsung is a big enough company to weather this storm, despite the awful timing, just as its handset business seemed to be in recovery mode. This will likely see it redouble its efforts to shift revenue and profit to non-smartphone businesses like memory, processors and displays, and to try to boost its efforts in software.
The trouble is, while the company is having some success with services like mobile payments, the classic software/content model for a device maker is to use those services to drive additional usage, and upgrades, to the smartphones, by creating an optimized and highly usable experience. Apple is the star at this, and the failure of the new Note – whose pen interface can support some interesting applications – will be a blow to Samsung’s hardware/software hopes.
Google is also chasing that integrated device/services dream with its new Pixel smartphones, just when the model is set to decline. The ascendant players will not be the hardware/software providers, which lock users into a particular device or brand. They will be the web content and applications firms, which can create a differentiated and attractive user experience across a whole range of current and future gadgets.
Amazon is leading the way, because this is its natural territory – despite the Kindles and Fires and Echoes, it is not a device maker and those products exist purely to drive more usage of its content and stores. That also gives Amazon a whole different approach to margins compared to actual hardware manufacturers. As it hurls its rocks at Apple and Samsung – it new low cost music streaming service, tied into its Echo and Prime platforms, is the latest example – it is even more strange that Google, which could go head-to-head in this game, is being distracted by the old-fashioned world of devices.
It isn’t just the device end of the mobile market where the old guard are being squeezed out. Network vendors and operators are faced with painful adjustments too – Ericsson’s huge job cuts of last week were followed this week by news of 3,200 layoffs at Verizon.
Ericsson followed its cuts with a profit warning, turning its investors’ harsh scrutiny on its plan to restructure its business around new realities. Of course, it only has an interim CEO, and a strong new leader is badly needed, but it does have a well articulated roadmap laid out by ousted CEO Hans Vestberg, with a set of targeted growth businesses and a potentially game-changing alliance with Cisco.
However, those growth businesses – which include virtualization, cloud and media – delivered only about $60m of additional revenue in the second quarter, and account for only $1.2bn of sales in a total of $6.1bn. That total is falling (down by $460m in the quarter) and the new businesses are not expanding rapidly enough to fill the gap, hence the cost slashing and general pessimism.
The Cisco deal is not cutting in sufficiently quickly, in terms of sales, to reassure shareholders or many customers, while the new targeted businesses are not greenfield markets where Ericsson can make the rules as it used to do in mobile networks – most of them are already occupied by powerful and defensive companies from IBM and HPE to Amazon. Ericsson has neutralized the potential competition from Cisco and will make other partnerships – or perhaps the big merger it has always resisted really will be on the cards once a new CEO arrives.
Acting CEO and CFO Jan Frykhammar told Bloomberg, after the Q3 profit warning: “This is absolutely not the beginning of the end for Ericsson.” That is likely to be true, even if Ericsson ends up in a merger. After all, its death has been predicted before, most recently in 2003 when its spiralling fortunes were rescued by CEO Carl Henric Svanberg. There is still reason to hope that Ericsson’s next CEO could be as effective as Svanberg in turning the ship, but it will be a big job. As in 2003, the company is not just facing stepped-up competition or seasonal fluctuations – it is in the midst of a complete redefinition of its industry. A decade ago that was centered on the shift to the Internet; now it is about the convergence of telecoms and IT and the rise of the software-driven network and the cloud.
Like Google and Apple, the big RAN vendors are still over-preoccupied with hardware. Of course 5G is important, but the strings of tests and pre-5G announcements – Huawei and Vodafone are the latest to boast of a field trial of the ‘New Radio’, based on preliminary work in 3GPP – do not convince anyone that these companies are ready for the next phase of their industry. Tactile Internet, artificial intelligence, massive IoT, hosted and virtualized RANs, everything delivered from the cloud, network slicing – these will be the foundations of the next wave of mobile and web experiences and business models.
The hardware will need to evolve to support them but it will be an enabler not a business driver in its own right. If Samsung’s exploding phones push the company to step up its software and user experience efforts, it may prove a bonus in the end, and a shift which companies throughout the mobile value chain will need to make too.
WiFi roaming gathers pace in US and beyond September 05 2016
WiFi roaming on a grand scale is the order of the day as a rising percentage of wireless data travels over the unlicensed-band technology, and as a wide range of service provid-ers put WiFi at the heart of their networks.
Just weeks after the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) – the grandfather of WiFi roam-ing – announced agreements to allow movement between 23 operators of city networks, CableLabs, the cable industry R&D organization, pledged to launch a roaming hub for as many as nine US cable operators, by early 2017. That could further accelerate the creation of a nationwide network of cableco-deployed hotspots to supplement the CableWiFi Alli-ance’s huge roll-out.
A nationwide roaming agreement of that kind, which could provide seamless access to many hundreds of thousands of hotspots and homespots, would be a threatening thing for mobile operators, despite their potential use of the network for offload. But it would mini-mize the need for WiFi-first operators – expected to include the largest cableco, Comcast, soon – to rely on cellular MVNO partnerships. That, in turn, would tip the balance of pow-er against the MNOs, in terms of the ability to keep mobile users on their networks to monetize them; and in discussions with cablecos about fees for WiFi offload versus MVNO access.
Mitch Ashley, president of CableLabs’ Kyrio for-profit subsidiary (formerly NetworkFX), said in an interview with FierceCable that his unit expects to launch WiFi roaming ser-vices for up to nine US cablecos in the next three quarters; and that it aimed to sign roam-ing deals between this collective of smaller operators, and the major players, most of which are also members of the CableWiFi Alliance. That Alliance was formed in 2012 by
Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cox Communica-tions and now has about 500,000 locations. Non-member Charter recently acquired TWC and BrightHouse while Altice of France acquired Cablevision but, so far at least, the roam-ing arrangement remain the same.
Ashley said in the interview: “We will connect into members of the Cable WiFi Alliance. We are a complement to it. I don’t see us joining the Cable WiFi Alliance. But we will inter-connect with their members.”
He added: “The WiFi roaming hub is a service that we put together targeted primarily at the mid-tier operators to provide them roaming capabilities across their footprint as well as to larger cable providers. It drastically increases the footprint of a mid-tier operator such as Midco.” Midco is upgrading its public WiFi network in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to support the hub. Kyrio recently completed technical and field trials of its hub with two other unnamed mid-tier cablecos.
The organization is also in talks with non-cable WiFi operators and Kyrio says it is open to aggregators like Boingo or telcos like AT&T, though it has not signed deals with these companies.
Kyrio will move from its current AAA authentication method to the WiFi Alliance’s Passpoint technology at some point in the future, adding seamless access for SIM-enabled devices and improved security.
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We tend to take broadband availability and affordability as a given, at least in large cities! That’s not what we found in a recent research we conducted on behalf of the wireless broadband alliance. In fact we found that More than half of world’s urban population has no broadband access. 57% of world’s population are urban unconnected, with 37% of these people living in some of the world’s wealthiest cities like New York or Shanghai.
This report presents the findings of research conducted by Maravedis on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance regarding the state of the urban unconnected population in 18 large cities as well as each of their related international regions.
The conclusions presented take into consideration an analysis of urban broadband adoption at both the city and regional levels.
- The digital divide phenomenon is not limited to rural or remote areas. A staggering 57% of world’s urban population remains unconnected, either with fixed or mobile broadband. That represents more than 2.2 billion people living in cities across the world.
- Wide differences exist in broadband access when comparing metro areas. This means that an important segment of the population inside large cities are being left out of the digital age, either because they cannot afford the service or because the service is simply not available in their neighborhood.
- Large, sophisticated cities are still lagging behind in terms of broadband penetration. Los Angeles, New York City, and Shanghai are good examples. More than 25% of their population unconnected.
- Affordability and social inequality represent the primary obstacles to urban connectivity. Urban citizens still remain unconnected either because they cannot afford the broadband service or the device. The research methodology is explained at the end of the paper.
Findings at the City Level
First, analysis at the city level reveals a huge contrast when it comes to urban broadband access between large cities around the world. Among the cities researched, the lowest proportion of citizens without broadband access is in London (UK) where only 8% or 683,095 of the population is unconnected. However, in Lagos (Nigeria) the portion of unconnected is 88.2% or 10,168,090 people. This demonstrates a wide gap between cities. This is not a surprising result and is well in line with overall regional differences, explained by differences in economic, social, technology and telecom regulatory environments.
The disadvantage experienced by the citizens of Lagos is not surprising at all since the average of unconnected citizens in all the cities examined is just 37%. Also, most of the cities surpassing the average are located in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. On the other hand, the cities located in more developed regions, such as North America and Europe, and two APAC countries (Seoul and Tokyo) show considerable lower proportions of unconnected, and are below the general average.
Findings at the Regional Level
The analysis of broadband access at the regional level provides results which are consistent with those at the city level. Figure 4 and 5 show the region with the highest proportion of urban unconnected is MEA (Middle East and Africa) with 82% or 515 million unconnected citizens. That region is followed by APAC (Asia Pacific) with 68% or 1.2 billion urban unconnected citizens. This staggering number can be explained by the high proportion of urban population without broadband access in highly populated and countries, such as China and India.
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