Broadband internet service in the U.S. has been plagued by uncompetitive practices. Large, nationwide internet service providers (ISPs) have built monopolies that prohibit innovation, drive down levels of service, and block competitors from entering the market. In their 2016 Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) found that only 38% of Americans have more than one choice of broadband provider, and only 10% of Americans have access to broadband speeds of up to 25 Mbps downlink/3 Mbps uplink. Many Americans lack access to broadband internet entirely, especially in rural areas: 39% of rural Americans, 4% of urban Americans, and 41% of Americans living on Tribal lands do not have access to broadband services. In light of these factors, the FCC concluded that “advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”
Compounding this issue is the ever-increasing consumer demand for broadband access. Online media continues to grow in popularity, and as a result many wireline and cable service providers are experiencing customer churn. In the first quarter of 2017, 612,000 Americans cancelled their pay-TV subscriptions (referred to as “cutting the cord”), and an additional 10.8 million pay-TV subscribers are predicted to cut the cord by 2021. As pay-TV gives way to online subscription services, the need for fast and reliable broadband internet is being brought into sharp focus.
Some organizations have attempted to provide a better broadband option to consumers, through the deployment of fiber-optic networks. For example, Google Fiber, announced in 2010, offers fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) high-speed broadband internet with downlink speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Verizon Fios is another FTTH fiber solution that offers high speed broadband, up to a “Fios Gigabit Connection” of 940 Mbps down/880 Mbps up. Such networks serve to raise consumer expectations of broadband internet, pressuring ISPs to improve service. However, deploying fiber networks is a slow and expensive process, with an installation cost estimated to be approximately $1000 per home. Accordingly, despite the high speeds available with fiber, time and cost expenses prohibit fiber as a practical broadband remedy.
Therefore, to overcome the problems of anti-competitive ISPs and increasing demand for high speed broadband services, a new solution is required. A promising option is to adopt millimeter wave (mmWave) technology, which covers the spectrum from 30 – 300 GHz, to deploy fixed broadband wireless solutions. In 2015, to prepare for future Fifth Generation (5G) mobile services, the FCC proposed licensing for spectrum bands in the mmWave range, including 27.5 – 28.35 GHz, 37 – 38.6 GHz, 38.6 – 40 GHz, 57 – 64 GHz, and 64 – 71 GHz. Though mmWave bands show potential for future broadband services, many of them suffer from the existing problem of ISP monopolies. With recent multi-billion dollar acquisitions of smaller providers, large ISPs like AT&T and Verizon have already begun dominating ownership of mmWave bands. Together, these two companies own over 50% of available licensed mmWave spectrum in the U.S.
However, service providers that can’t afford the cost of licensed mmWave bands have another option: the use of unlicensed mmWave bands, such as the 60 GHz V-Band. With 14 GHz of contiguous spectrum available, and commercial chipsets and products already developed for this band, providers can deploy gigabit-to-the-home (GTTH), fixed wireless access (FWA) for nothing more than a minimal cost of infrastructure. Thus, the unlicensed 60 GHz V-Band offers service providers an excellent opportunity to offer competitive gigabit services.
We will soon be publishing a white paper on behalf of a client on 5G Fixed Wireless Gigabit Services Today- An Industry Overview, stay tuned!
Wi-Fi 360 provides market research and content marketing services (such as this blog)for the Wi-Fi and wireless industry. If you are interested in sponsoring a piece of research, white paper, webinar or need a more comprehensive content marketing plan, do not hesitate to contact us!
Artificial intelligence or AI for short has been described variously as a threat to humanity, a boon to economies, and many other things in between. All valuable technologies solve a pertinent problem. Until recently, Artificial intelligence (AI) and its favorite children, machine learning and predictive analytics, have had little impact on the world outside of academia and science-fiction. Now, AI is poised to help transform the processes and cost base of commercial organizations, and to change the way people interact with one another and the world. Read More
Whether on cellular or Wi-Fi networks, customers want the best connected experience at the best price. They expect the same quality of service no matter what network they are connected to. Carriers need to respond to that fundamental requirement by implementing consistent quality of service (QoS) mechanisms across various networks in order to satisfy their end-users. We define here quality of service as connection having high throughput, low latency, little packet loss and secure, resulting in a better quality of experience for the end-user. There has been good evolution on industry standards in recent years that allow a client device to seamlessly and securely connect to Wi-Fi hotspots broadcasting in unlicensed spectrum.
The 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.
The 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.
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.
LTE subscriptions crossed the one billion barrier in the last quarter of 2015, says the GSA, but revenues from 4G equipment have already peaked, according to IHS Technology.
The GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) and Ovum said the final tally of LTE subscriptions at the end of last year was 1.068bn, or one in seven of all mobile connections worldwide. Its growth rate has now easily outpaced that of 3G, even though HSPA remains the main data workhorse for many operators, and some countries have not yet embarked on 4G. In the fourth quarter of 2015, LTE gained 156m new connections, 75% more than 3G. However, the LTE total will not overtake the 3G installed base until 2020, believes the GSA. It also noted that GSM subscriptions fell by 141m in the quarter.
For the full year, LTE gained 552.2m subscriptions worldwide, a growth rate of 107% over 2014.
Alan Hadden, VP of research at the GSA, said: “A daily average of almost 1.7m LTE subscriptions were being signed up during Q4 2015 and the rate of LTE subscriptions growth is accelerating.”
The Asia-Pacific region has the lion’s share of LTE subscriptions, with 580m, or 54.3% of the total. By December 2015 China had passed 386m LTE connections, adding almost 84m in the fourth quarter alone. North America was the second largest LTE market with almost 237m, though its share of the world total is down at 22.2%, while Europe accounts for 14.8%.
In the Latin America and Caribbean region, subscriptions more than quadrupled to over 54m, while the Middle East ended 2015 with 32.5m – annual growth of around 110% – and Russia with over 11.7m. There are now 480 operators with commercial LTE networks in 157 countries, and the GSA predicts this will increase to 550 this year.
More than one-third of operators are now investing in LTE-Advanced deployments and upgrades, particularly focusing on the carrier aggregation options. In total, 116 operators, almost a quarter of all LTE operators, have commercially launched LTE-Advanced service in 57 countries.
As subscriptions rise, however, many of the biggest operator network roll-outs are coming to an end, creating a squeeze for equipment vendors, even as the carriers look forward to a capex breathing space in which to monetize their 4G users more profitably.
According to new figures from IHS, the fourth quarter of 2015 saw $13bn worth of macrocell roll-outs, mainly driven by LTE in India and China, but warned that the LTE market has now topped out and will start to decline this year. IHS said it expects the LTE market to decline at a compound annual rate of 13% between 2015 and 2020.
Worldwide macrocell revenues in Q415 were up 3% year-on-year and 11% on the third quarter, while mobile infrastructure software revenues grew by 17% year-on-year, led by LTE-Advanced upgrades. For the full year, the worldwide macrocell infrastructure market totaled $48bn, and quarterly LTE revenue is now $2bn higher than 2G and 3G revenue combined.
“The fast LTE roll-out ramp that occurred in China in Q4 caused LTE revenue to soar 20% sequentially, and 20% from Q4 2014,” wrote Stéphane Téral, IHS’s senior research director of mobile infrastructure. “China has reached the end of its massive LTE roll-outs led by China Unicom and China Telecom; LTE roll-outs in western and central Europe are also very close to completion, and in the Middle East 3G upgrades are complete.”
Debate continues to rage about the 5G air interface – will the new generation of mobile networks require an entirely new air interface, or several; or will it rely on evolutions of current OFDM technologies; or be primarily an umbrella framework tying different options together seamlessly and flexibly according to use case? The choices, and the companies supporting them, will become clearer as the standards process gets into gear, but it is a brave company which tries to propose such a fundamental element of 5G, if it is not one of the inner circle of giants Read more at our publication Wireless Watch
In the first instalment of Wireless Watch’s Mobile World Congress special edition, we looked at a selection of operator trials of pre-5G networks and services. Now we turn our attention to the vendors’ roadmaps, and the most interesting insights they provided in Barcelona, into developments which may well find their way into future standard or de facto technologies.
Nokia was the most aggressive of the big names in claiming to be 5G-ready – although it was a heavily overused term throughout the show. The Finnish vendor went a step further and said operators would be able to offer ‘5G’ services as early as 2017 using its new AirScale RAN platform (clearly angling for those operators which are promising ever-earlier ‘5G’ services, mainly around major sporting events in Russia and Korea, but which will, of necessity, have to use pre-standard or heavily customized kit).
AirScale will accelerate the transition to 5G when it comes by providing a smooth migration path from current LTE, Nokia promised, rehashing one of the most popular messages which vendors relay when a new generation of technology is looming. Somehow, when that upgrade becomes necessary, it’s never as automatic, low cost and software-based as the roadmaps suggest – virtualized flexible cores and software-defined radios will help, but there is still the question of the antennas, for instance. But Nokia, like its rivals, needs to persuade operators to keep investing in 4G now, rather than wait for 5G over the horizon.
CTO Hossein Moiin said the AirScale demo was “the industry’s first demonstration of how 5G will work in practice, going beyond previous experimental systems”, making 5G “no longer a distant vision” – ambitious stuff, considering the work on standards has only just begun. But some crucial elements of 5G are already accepted, Nokia argues, and these are the focus of AirScale – in particular, ultra-low latency, and a system designed with machines as well as humans in mind.
AirScale’s claim to be a vision of the future rests on its cloud-based architecture and open interfaces, which allow it to support all the radio technologies simultaneously in one base station; and to use any architecture topology with huge levels of scalability, all defined in software from the cloud. It also claims to use 60% less energy than Nokia’s current platforms. The server end of its Cloud-RAN solution uses Nokia’s AirFrame IT hardware, launched at MWC 2015, and Mobile Edge Computing is implemented on those same servers in order to harness information from the radio effectively and support low latency services.
Baseband units can be chained to support massive capacity and IoT connectivity, and a step-by-step road to virtualization is supported by Nokia’s NetAct and CloudBand offerings, which can work with legacy RANs and C-RAN at once. As well as the multiband AirScale base station, the vendor added AirScale WiFi (access points plus a WiFi controller, also running on AirFrame), and a common software layer which runs across small cells, macrocells and WiFi.
CEO Rajeev Suri said: “I believe that 5G not only must happen faster than expected – it will happen faster than expected”, which was why vendors could not wait for standards to be finalized before launching 5G products – a line also taken by ZTE with its Pre5G portfolio, though not by Huawei, which prefers the term 4.5G for its most advanced network offerings, and argues that these will meet operators’ needs for years to come, certainly until fully standardized 5G can be launched.
“5G is different. 5G must happen fast because important use cases demand it. If we know that 5G can help save lives, improve our environment and make our lives better, we need to move faster,” Suri said.
ZTE has unveiled the latest developments in its Pre5G range, the Ultra Dense Network (UDN), claiming this can provide a highly functional bridge to emerging 5G platforms. The UDN works with existing networking models but aims to enhance the user experience with a combination of techniques including interference management, suppression and mobility enhancement.
The system adopts system frequency multiplexing to address interference caused by
overlapping cells in dense networks. According to ZTE, this technique can boost downlink rates by 10 times in areas of cell overlap and will be an important component of 5G.
The equipment also uses other expected 5G technologies, but on current network infrastrucfture and sites – like Nokia, holding out the hope of a smooth migration down the road. These include massive MIMO and Multi-User Shared Access (MUSA), which ZTE has been testing for over a year. Early in 2015, it announced the first commercial base station to implement its pre5G architecture, particularly massive MIMO and MUSA, and this has completed field tests with a number of global operators, including China Mobile and Softbank.
Zhang Jianguo, wireless general manager at ZTE, said Massive MIMO “will be in commercial use in China and in other countries later this year”.
Qualcomm and Ericsson:
Qualcomm and Ericsson have announced their latest collaboration, and will work together on early trials and verification of key 5G technology components, to support the technical work required for 3GPP standardization in Release 15. The companies also said they would drive interoperability in alignment with 3GPP to enable rapid adoption of new 5G standards.
“As we did in both 3G and 4G, we are excited about collaborating with leading operators and industry stakeholders such as Ericsson in the development of a unified, more capable 5G platform” said Matt Grob, Qualcomm’s CTO. “Now that the vision and interest for 5G are well established, it is time to focus on the technical and engineering work required to support operator trials and commercial network launches.”
Intel was determined to put paid to any perception that it might be an outsider in the 5G race. Not only was it focusing heavily on virtualization and Cloud-RAN – changes to the mobile network where it has the most obvious opportunity to enter the inner circle – but it was talking up partnerships with Ericsson, Nokia, LG, Cisco and Verizon to develop technologies for the IoT, smart cities, driverless vehicles and augmented reality – all important drivers of 5G development.
“5G represents a significant shift for these networks and we think it’s essential to get ready ahead of the curve,” said Aicha Evans, general manager of the Intel communication and services group. “Rather than just being about a personal computing platform, it’s about everything that computing can connect and how it connects.”
Among the specific announcements were IoT-oriented connectivity solutions like the
Atom x3-M7272 wireless communication platform for “automotive applications capable of powering advanced security features”; and the XMM 7120M LTE modem, optimized for machine-to-machine applications.
Intel also announced a new collaboration with Cisco and its strategic partner Ericsson, to develop a 5G router. This will be submitted to the Verizon 5G Technology Forum, of which all there vendors are members, and will aim to improve speed, latency and IoT scalability for business and residential customers.
NEC has developed a prototype of a compact, A4-sized massive-element Active Antenna System (AAS) for 5G small cells operating in the lower SHF (super high frequency) bands, from 3 GHz to 6 GHz.
As well as its small form factor, the combined antenna/RF solution boasts fully digitized antenna beam control and MIMO pre-coding to improve the precision of beamforming and increase. The vendor said that, used in conjunction with NEC’s spatial multiplexing technologies, the AAS can achieve more than 10 times greater per-cell throughput than conventional LTE base stations. It is now working on trials of the AAS with NTT Docomo.
“5G communications achieve higher speeds and increased capacity through the utilization of high frequency bands which are capable of securing wider bandwidth. On the other hand, high frequency bands face the issue of heavy propagation loss in communications. As a solution to this issue, NEC has focused on beamforming technologies which improve communication distances and reduce interference,” said Nozomu Watanabe, general manager of the firm’s mobile RAN division.
NEC also issued three white papers related to 5G – ‘Optimum Network Architecture for Full-scale IoT’; ‘NFV C-RAN for efficient RAN resource allocation’; and ‘Massive MIMO for High-capacity Mobile Access’. These are the three areas which the company believes will be most central to 5G’s architecture and business case.
For the IoT, it considers coordination between Mobile Edge Computing and the cloud as well as full context awareness when allocating resources. The C-RAN paper outlines NEC’s approach to this architecture, including its proprietatry inter-cell interference mitigation techniques and its fronthaul design, and describes a migration to 5G based on “virtualization of cells”. And the third paper shows how Massive MIMO can be applied to small cells, using technologies like NEC’s new AAS.
NEC is also working with MediaTek to develop 5G air interface and chipsets.
This article is part of our Wireless Watch subscription service. Learn More
These were the biggest themes this year in Barcelona – no big surprises on the topic list, though there were plenty of unexpected twists within each area, many of them concerned with unexpected new alliances (Qualcomm joining the rebranded Open Interconnect Consortium; Facebook luring Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom into its Telecom Infra Project). In Wireless Watch’s two special MWC editions, published today and on Friday, we distil the essence of each of these big topics from a mass of announcements, debates and hype.
Inevitably at the center of serious discussions and marketing hype, though lent a touch of reality by the start of the first meeting of the ITU’s IMT-2020 working party, which will specify frameworks and assess candidate technologies and spectrum, around the world in Beijing. In addition to R&D wizardry, there was much discussion of real world use cases, many of them in vertical and Internet of Things markets; and endless permutations of operators, vendors and academic bodies announcing 5G alliances.
Small cells and densification:
Small cells have been on the ‘best of MWC’ list for years now, but in 2016 they are no longer in their own ghetto, but underpinning many of the year’s big architectural themes. Operators are starting to densify their 4G networks in the bid for massive capacity, and small cells are intrinsically connected to several of this year’s bid ideas, including LTE-Unlicensed and true HetNets. A significant uptick in adoption is being driven by the enterprise need for excellent mobile coverage indoors, and will be further increased by the additional of virtualization and multi-operator platforms to the small cell mix.
Virtualization and Mobile Edge Computing:
Rather like 5G, these key architectures made the shift from interesting R&D activities to concrete element of operators’ plans, in most cases a couple of years ahead of 5G, as well as being a key future enabler of the next generation of services. The European stakeholders may be concerned about dwindling influence over core modem standards, but ETSI is asserting huge influence in these higher level frameworks, via its NFV, Mobile Edge Computing and new MANO (management and orchestration) efforts, all of them creating a common platform for the most important new approaches to mobile networking.
Facebook and Google:
The two web giants had a very high profile in Barcelona, and while some of their activities mirror one another – like last year, there was plenty of talk of drones and balloons – they are certainly not forgetting that they are engaged in a bitter head-to-head, to drive the next generation of the web experience, which will be predominantly wireless. Epitomizing this fight was Google’s endorsement of RCS (Rich Communications Services), the GSMA’s ailing attempt to defend operators’ voice and messaging businesses against over-the-top alternatives like Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger; and Facebook’s Telecoms Infra Project (TIP), which seeks to bring open source and hyperscale technologies into the telecoms networks, not just the data center, to shake up operator economics.
While there was plenty of analysis of the decisions of November’s World Radio Conference about 4G and potential 5G spectrum, there was also a heavy emphasis on integrating unlicensed frequencies into the carriers’ mix, as well as adopting new, flexible licensing schemes such as dynamic spectrum access. The expansion of the Qualcomm-led MuLTEFire Alliance and the imminent trials of LTE-Unlicensed set the scene, and the US’s 3.5 GHz scheme was also under the spotlight.
Internet of Things:
Since the many manifestations of the IoT are the biggest hope, for most of the mobile industry, that revenues and profits can continue to grow in future, it was unsurprising that MWC was a show about connected objects, not smartphones (despite the high profile launch of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5). There was a real attempt to relate IoT technologies to real business models, and an improved presence for the vertical industries which will work with – or compete with – the MNOs to drive the new services. Connected and driverless cars grabbed center stage as usual, but there were many other aspects to the IoT-fest, from smart factories and Industry 4.0 frameworks; to an unexpected rapprochement between Intel and Qualcomm in the relaunched Open Connectivity Foundation. And in the home of the GSMA community, there was a starring role for the upcoming 3GPP standards for low power wide area networks (LPWANs) – NB-IoT and LTE Category-M – as they embarked on the quest to fend off unlicensed spectrum challengers.