Some operators and vendors insist that, once the 3GPP’s Narrowband-IoT standard is widely deployed, from late 2016, the specialized LPWA (low power wide area) networks will disappear into a niche.
There will certainly be consolidation – there are too many platforms for all of them to survive in the public access mainstream, though some may hang on in private networks. But if the LPWA players can come together to support some common frameworks and allow interoperability, there is a strong possibility that some of the technologies which are being deployed now – LoRa, Sigfox, Telensa and so on – will have a long life, and perhaps gain a migration path into future 5G platforms.
As in broadband data and even mobile voice, an unlicensed spectrum option will be essential – to increase the available pool of spectrum; and to lower barriers to entry for a variety of service providers, thus encouraging proliferation of machine-to-machine services of many kinds. WiFi will hope to provide that unlicensed spectrum platform in narrowband M2M communications as it has in broadband, but its HALOW specification is behind the pack (on a similar timescale with NB-IoT, though the 3GPP system is already benefiting from a growing list of operator trials).
For now, certainly, the proprietary LPWA systems are hanging on in there. Several large cellular operators, including SK Telecom of Korea – also an early triallist and exponent of NB-IoT – have announced large-scale projects based around the existing M2M platforms. This indicates that LPWA roll-outs, despite looming NB-IoT, will not be confined to non-MNOs with no licensed spectrum option, but will be used within a patchwork of networks by cellular providers too, in the same way that WiFi is integrated into their mobile broadband plans. Technologies like LoRa give MNOs a relatively low cost way to move into new IoT services right now, and perhaps to free up their GSM spectrum, the main carrier of the MNOs’ existing M2M activity.
Nordic operator Tele2 (see separate item) illustrates well the mixture of connectivity options and tools which operators will adopt to build M2M services and revenues. SK Telecom is building a nationwide LoRa network, sourced from Samsung. The first city, Daego – Korea’s fourth largest – will go live this month, supporting services such as smart lighting and weather collection.
The largest Korean cellco has said it will invest &84m in IoT projects, from network roll-outs to its own modules, between now and 2019. Like Orange and others, it is planning LoRa and LTE deployments in parallel, addressing different applications according to their urgency, QoS requirements and other criteria. Eventually, operators like Orange have talked about migrating to a virtualized multi-network platform which will enable their first generation roll-outs to converge and interoperate, though that may well be a 5G iteration.
Another operator, Tata Communications of India, is also using LoRa for its M2M build-out in major cities, starting with New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. While SK Telecom says its deployment will be the world’s first nationwide IoT network, Tata insists its project will result in the largest, in terms of numbers of devices connected to it.
Amit Sinha Roy, VP of marketing and strategy, said the target is to cover almost 400m people though he acknowledged that “the traditional known models are changing and the use cases and revenue models of IoT have to evolve”. He added: “We decided to go for LoRa because interoperability is important for the efficient functioning of the IoT network.”
LoRa is not fully open, as the Weightless standard aimed to be, and its intellectual property is in the hands of its originator and major chip supplier Semtech. But it has a broad Alliance behind it which carries out interoperability testing and certification; a growing set of APIs and other higher layer technologies; and a business model which aligns better with cellular strategies than some of the other LPWA systems like Sigfox and Ingenu. They offer a full managed service approach while with LoRa, MNOs can control their own build-outs and devices, and work on future interworking with LTE.
Proprietary systems have become de facto standards before, and Microchip has given LoRa a boost in that direction with an end-to-end development kit. It contains two LoRa sensor nodes, a LoRaWAN gateway, pre-configured radio modules for 868 MHz or 915 MHz, and local server software.
This saves developers from having to integrate elements from different vendors like gateways, cloud services and mobile apps themselves. Steve Caldwell, general manager of Microchip’s wireless solutions group, told EETimes: “For a LoRa network to work a node must talk to a gateway, which talks to a network server. In the past these elements have involved separate development kits with different providers. To help the ecosystem grow, Microchip felt there needed to be a one-stop solution for developers.”
It is not just LoRa which is standing up robustly to the coming threat of NB-IoT. Sigfox has announced that Finland has become the nineteenth country to adopt its technology, with a new company called Connected Finland adopting Sigfox to deploy networks in large cities, and eventually to cover 85% of the population.
And Sigfox is also working with video game veteran Atari, developing connected devices that runs over the French firm’s network. Those products are currently under wraps, but there are currently 10 different ideas in development, according to Atari CEO Fred Chesnais. The first will be a geolocational luggage tracker, due to appear in the fall, with Sigfox saying its LPWAN tech will be providing location, status reports and button functions to those who license the brand. The mass market categories Atari identifies include automotive (telematics, tracking, panic buttons), family (child tracking, personal safety alarms, asset tagging), pet tracking, sports (activity and route tracking), and travel (luggage monitoring).
Chesnais is very confident in the plan, saying that Atari’s brand is well-suited to being used outside of its traditional games market, and noting that the most ardent Atari users, raised in the 1980s, are now heads of households, with disposable income to spend on such devices.
As it stands, Atari sells very few physical products, mostly just its range of Flashback consoles. It has been licensing its intellectual property, mostly its brand, to companies looking to profit from the association of a video game pioneer – which is currently owned by Atari SA (formerly Infogrames Entertainment), which acquired the company from Hasbro in 2001, and has operated under the Atari brand since 2009. The company has over 100 partners in its various studios – which take on the different apps and ventures, in cooperation with Atari, in amuch the same way that movie and content creators operate, and a plan Atari is extending to its IoT devices.
“Sigfox is transforming the way people are connecting to their objects in a simple and intuitive way. By partnering together and using Sigfox’s dedicated IoT connectivity, we are going to create amazing products with our brand,” said Chesnais, in the official announcement. “We look forward to our collaboration, and releasing new products to the mass market on a global scale.”
Last year was the first time that Wi-Fi carried more mobile traffic than cellular did, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast (2015 to 2020), which cites Maravedis’ research. That trend is fundamentally changing the telecom market in a variety of ways.
For example, the more that mobile operators and their customers rely on Wi-Fi, the more important it is for 802.11 to provide good quality of service experience (QoS/QoE). (One way to define “good” is a connection that’s at least as fast, reliable and low latency as what cellular offers.) Otherwise, many customers will choose cellular, and mobile operators will pay the price in terms of having to buy additional base stations, backhaul and spectrum – if there’s even any spectrum available for them to buy. Hotspot owners and aggregators also will pay the price in terms of less revenue, both from end users and from their mobile operator partners.
To avoid those problems, the Wi-Fi industry has spent the past couple of years developing “carrier-grade” 802.11, which aims to provide a better user experience than traditional “best-effort” Wi-Fi. By the end of 2017, carrier-grade access points will start to outnumber best-effort ones, Maravedis predicts. By 2020, more than 90 percent of hotspots will be carrier grade.
The Business Case for LTE Coexistence
When it comes to Wi-Fi QoS/QoE, one looming wild card is LTE’s use of the same 5 GHz band that many hotspots inhabit. LTE Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) technology aggregates signals across licensed and unlicensed bands in order to deliver more bandwidth than the licensed spectrum alone could support.
Note that “support” doesn’t refer only to the maximum amount of bits that a slice of spectrum can handle. Support also can be viewed in financial terms. For example, a mobile operator might configure LTE-LAA so that the LTE “anchor” carrier is used for minimal traffic because that licensed spectrum is scarce and expensive. The bulk of the traffic then would go over the unlicensed carrier(s), thus reducing the operator’s cost of delivering service and in turn increasing its ability to achieve a profit.
Whatever the scenario, LTE-LAA also highlights why mobile operators – and their vendors – have a vested interest in finding ways to ensure that their traffic coexists peacefully alongside Wi-Fi. If LTE-LAA pollutes the unlicensed spectrum, then the interference will undermine Wi-Fi’s QoS/QoE, making offload less attractive to customers. That would shift more traffic back into licensed spectrum, which is already crowded in urban areas.
For example, Qualcomm and Verizon Wireless are among the companies developing “listen before talking” (LBT) technologies, which enable LTE-LAA devices and infrastructure to check to see if a nearby Wi-Fi application is already sending traffic on a particular frequency. If there is, LBT would look for another, clear frequency before transmitting.
Time and real-world deployments will show whether LBT is a viable way to enable coexistence. In urban and suburban areas, unlicensed spectrum is already crowded, so there will be times and places where LBT inevitably struggles to find clear frequencies. Many of those times and places also are when and where cellular spectrum is overloaded, such as city centers during the workday. The likely result is that there will be times and places where mobile operators and their customers would benefit the most of LTE-LAA offload, but LBT will be unable to broker it.
Offloading to Other Bands, Including New Ones
The good news is that other technologies are emerging to help shoehorn more traffic into unlicensed spectrum. Some of these technologies also complement one another to maximize their benefits. For example, self-optimizing Wi-Fi networks (SON) can identify when a dual-band Wi-Fi device could and should move to just one of those bands, thus freeing up the other band for other users. That alone would help reduce congestion, which could be further reduced if LBT devices also are active in that area.
Another example is WiGig, which uses unlicensed 60 GHz spectrum. If it achieves significant market share, that would mean less traffic clogging up the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The 802.11ah and 802.11ax standards could have similar effects by shifting some traffic into new bands between 900 MHz and 6 GHz.
Maravedis is the leading analyst firm covering Wi-Fi. If you need market research on Wi-Fi or would like to produce unique content as part of your content marketing strategy, contact us today.
Wi-Fi is a decades-old technology, but it remains as relevant as ever because it continues to evolve in ways that benefit vendors, service providers and their customers. The Wi-Fi Alliance’s 2015 annual report is a convenient opportunity to look back and forward at some of the latest ways, such as how the organization has developed new technologies and membership tiers to ensure Wi-Fi remains highly competitive in the Internet of Things (IoT) market. Read More.
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.
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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.
In last week’s edition, we looked at how the major OEMs will need to tread a careful balance, at this year’s Mobile World Congress, between being ahead of the pack on the 5G roadmap, and injecting plenty of life into that nearer term source of revenues, LTE-Advanced – in particular, the last full 3GPP 4G releases, 13 and 14, known as LTE-Advanced Pro.
Huawei has been calling these ‘4.5G’ for some time, and for once this is not just a marketing slogan but a real summary of how the Chinese vendor – and much of the industry – sees LTE-A Pro. A stepping stone to 5G, yes, but one which will continue to evolve in parallel with the new generation, and with significant overlap. Operators will not tolerate a complete step upgrade again, and even if new air interface technologies are introduced alongside the current OFDM-based ones (especially for the IoT), they will look to virtualization and software-defined networking to enable them to evolve their platforms gradually, in line with real customer need, and to support multiple technologies at once.
All of which makes 4.5G quite a meaningful label, for once. Huawei, the last of the big OEMs to preview its major MWC announcements, said it believed more than 60 commercial 4.5G networks would be deployed this year, ushering in a “golden five-year period” for Releases 13 and 14. “4.5G is the natural evolution of 4G and necessary transition to the 5G,” said Ryan Ding, president of products and solutions. “It can effectively protect operators’ investments and enable them to provide faster services and better user experience on the basis of existing infrastructures.”
Huawei’s definition of 4.5G, which it unveiled over a year ago, includes gigabit download speeds – which are supported in Qualcomm’s latest modem, the X16 – and sub-10ms latency. In particular, the new releases will make LTE – initially designed almost exclusively for faster mobile broadband – more suited to the Internet of Things, with new specifications like Category-M and NB-IoT, and the ability to support up to 100,000 connections per cell (the latter another of Huawei’s 4.5G criteria).
Huawei said it had already demonstrated or tested 4.5G technology with more than 20 operators in nine countries (Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Norway, Singapore, Turkey and the UAE.). It added that operators in China, Hong Kong and Singapore had all achieved gigabit transmissions using pre-standard Huawei 4.5G kit. In addition, it added that Korea and the UK had started building LTE integrated trunked radio networks, and MNOs in Korea and China had launched commercial trials of NB-IoT.
By 2020, Huawei predicts the average mobile customer will be using about 5GB of data per month and there will be around 3bn “connected things” on cellular networks. “The answer to this vision now is 4.5G,” it says.
It also said it was engaged in 5G trials with some operators, but refused to follow Ericsson in putting a number on it this (the Swedish firm claims “nearly 20”). “We will have to wait for five years or even longer for 5G,” said William Xu, Huawei’s chief marketing strategy officer. “That is why Huawei has proposed 4.5G.”
Among the actual products to support 4.5G, Huawei unveiled a new family called GigaRadio. The first members are a blade remote radio unit (RRU) and an active antenna unit. The former is 20% smaller and 50% faster than other products targeting the same space, Huawei claimed, and can support gigabit speeds.
The OEM was not only reiterating its 4.5G mantra at its pre-announcements, even though its label is coming into line with the wider LTE platform with the appearance of LTE-A Pro on the horizon. It also set out a five-point plan to address the future needs of telecoms operators undergoing the transformation to digital. The five are Big Video or video everywhere; Big IT; Big Operations, mainly focused on agility; Big Architecture, or elastic networks; and Big Pipe for ubiquitous connectivity.
The big message was clear – for digital transformation, telcos need to rethink their platforms from end to end, and only very few vendors can address every link in the chain (Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson/Cisco). And as many observers pointed out, there was a clear overlap between Huawei’s five initiatives and the key areas Ericsson identified as growth drivers in 2014. The Swedish firm saw those growth areas – video and media, cloud platforms, IP, OSS/BSS and ‘industry and society’ – growing their revenues by 20% to total $5.3bn in 2015.
To achieve similar results from its new five-point plan, Huawei said it would invest $1bn over five years in a “developer enablement program” to expand the ecosystem around its framework, and says it already has 600 partners in its 10 open labs in China, Europe and other regions.
Meanwhile, other vendors were far less coy about overusing the ‘5G’ term than Huawei. The head of Samsung’s Network business unit, Youngky Kim, previewed the Korean firm’s own MWC infrastructure plans, including what it said were key enablers of 5G such as “multilink connectivity technology, centralized radio, IoT and mmWave radio access solutions”. Kim said: “5G technology will offer us a new level of experience, which is immersive, tactile and ubiquitous. Thanks to seamless mobility, higher throughput and low latency of 5G technology, new services like hologram calls, virtual reality broadcasting of live football games and self-driving cars will enrich our lives.”
In Barcelona, Samsung promises to “make 5G technology a reality” with a demonstration of millimeter wave radios, transmitting eight UHD 4K videos at once with latency below 1ms.
On the LTE-A Pro side, it will also launch solutions to support LTE in 5 GHz spectrum (LTE-U and LTE-LAA), plus MP-TCP (multipath transfer control protocol), Distributed-RAN Inter-site Carrier Aggregation and Samsung Smart Multi-Link. It names MP-TCP as one of its “key priorities”. The technology allows aggregation of two or more separate networks running different RATs, such as WiFi, 3G, 4G, 5G and LPWA. It does not just connect to them simultaneously, as in dual or multi-connectivity, but merges the data streams from each network at the IP layer, to make aggregation simpler and faster. The technology has already been commercialized in Korea.
Meanwhile, Smart Multi-Link is based on Samsung’s Unified Core architecture. This is designed to support backward and forward compatibility by supporting cellular networks from 2G to 5G, plus non-3GPP technologies, using NFV and SDN approaches to enable multiple distributed RANs to behave as a single pool of capacity around a single core.
Also on the virtualization front, it has upgraded its Cloud-RAN platform to version 2.0+, integrating new SON (self-optimizing network) and scheduler elements. Among the improvements are the ability for base stations to detect interference at the cell edge and control radio transmission power in real time, to boost data throughput by an average of 40-50%.
For the IoT, Samsung will show off a range of offerings including an IoT-optimized core, a specialized standalone base station for IoT, gateways, and support for the LPWA technology LoRa. It will also be offering a package of equipment, sensors and services for public safety IoT applications, claiming to be preparing “beyond standards” implementations to address mission critical use cases, as well as supporting Cat-0, Cat-1, Cat-M and NB-IoT.
The operators will be vying for 5G glory as enthusiastically as the vendors. Vodafone, AT&T, NTT Docomo, Telefonica and SK Telecom are among those which will demonstrate pre-5G technologies or announce major trials. Vodafone, has announced an extended set of partnerships – with Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Intel and Qualcomm – to research 5G technologies and prepare its networks for the transition, whatever that may involve in the real world.
Pre-standard operator trials are important because they help to define real requirements and shape the platforms in the direction of concrete business cases rather than technical wizardry. Vodafone aims to work with its partners to “define industry standards, establish technical guidelines and prepare product roadmaps”. It will evaluate the emerging 5G technologies to decide which it believes should be part of the standards; test hardware and software in its group Innovation Labs in the UK; conduct trials in global markets; and prioritize the benefits of 5G that can be brought to market by 2020.
CTO Johan Wibergh said: “The telecoms industry is still establishing what technology will deliver the benefits we expect from 5G, so it is important to establish dedicated research programmes with these leading global companies.”
Vodafone also chairs the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) 5G Requirements and Architecture group.
Over the pond, AT&T is working with Ericsson and Intel to launch a trial 5G network in Austin, Texas, in order to test emerging concepts like millimeter wave radios and virtualized RAN. Lab tests will take place in the second quarter of this year, and outdoor trials in the second half. By the end of this year, AT&T says it will provide real world connectivity to certain locations in Austin, using its selected ‘5G’ technologies, though these will initially be for fixed access only.
John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations, said: “New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before. These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality. 5G will reach its full potential because we will build it on a software-centric architecture that can adapt quickly to new demands and give customers more control of their network services. Our approach is simple – deliver a unified experience built with 5G, SDN, big data, security and open source software.”
Ericsson will also be showing off its 5G partnerships with Korea Telecom and NTT Docomo at MWC, demonstrating radio prototypes which support Multiuser MIMO, and beam tracking in millimeter wave bands, to boost throughput beyond 25Gbps.
Seizo Onoe, Docomo’s CTO, said in a statement: “Both companies are already conducting joint outdoor trials to understand how 5G will really perform in the field. This will enable us to plan for the new and enhanced services that we will be able to offer with 5G. We will be in a good position to highlight our commercial 5G capabilities in 2020.”
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As always, the World Radio Conference has had to attempt a difficult balancing act between competing claims on spectrum resources, and that gets harder on each occasion, particularly as the mobile industry's demands for ever-greater broadband capacity grow. While recognising the social and economic impact of mobile broadband, the WRC also has to be mindful of the needs of other user. In the 2015 conference, which concluded at the end of last week after more than three weeks of discussions, it particularly had to address the concerns of the broadcasting and satellite sectors.
The broadcasting industry generally reacted favourably to the decisions made in the 700 MHz and sub-700 MHz bands. The first major outcomes of the event allocated the 700 MHz spectrum as a global mobile broadband resource, which will variously be used for LTE-Advanced, IoT and 5G services. However, although spectrum below 694 MHz is being repurposed for cellular networks in some countries, notably the US, the WRC resisted lobbying from the mobile industry and kept it in the hands of the TV sector in Region 1 (EMEA).
This conference was not specifically tasked with looking at 5G spectrum allocations, though that will be a central agenda item in the 2019 event. However, some of the decisions, including 700 MHz harmonization, will influence how, and when, some MNOs can deploy 5G. And WRC-15 delegates approved several agenda items for 2019, which will be directly related to 5G, particularly related to high frequency spectrum. Many 5G activities are focused on bands above 6 GHz, and right up to 100 GHz and beyond, with the view that exploiting these high capacity and underused airwaves will be the only way to keep meeting the levels of demand for mobile data.
However, the first wave of 5G standards and deployments are likely to remain concentrated on traditional sub-6 GHz bands, so that WRC-19 can set the stage for a second phase of work, which will need to address the considerable challenges of creating efficient radio designs for high frequencies.
John Giusti, chief regulatory officer of the GSMA, said in a statement: "We acknowledge the agreement at WRC-15 for a new agenda item for WRC-19 to identify high frequency bands above 24 GHz for 5G mobile services. This is a critical first stage in the journey towards a new wave of mobile innovation, considerably faster than existing technologies and driving a hyper-connected society in which mobile will play an ever more important role in people's lives."
In the shorter term, the mobile industry now has three additional globally harmonized bands - harmonization, as Giusti commented, is "key to driving the economies of scale needed to deliver low cost, ubiquitous mobile broadband to consumers around the globe". As well as the 700 MHz (694-790 MHz) spectrum, the others are 200 MHz in the C-band (3.4-3.6 GHz), which is seen as an important capacity band for small cells; and the L-band in 1427-1518 MHz, which provides a balance of coverage and capacity.
The GSMA may not have got its way on the sub-700 MHz band this time, but its tone was optimistic. Giusti said: "The GSMA particularly commends the vision shown by many countries seeking the flexibility to use the sub-700MHz band (especially 610-694/698 MHz) for mobile broadband. Not only can legacy television services in the band be delivered far more efficiently using less spectrum, but the reality is that consumer habits are evolving as video content is increasingly accessed via mobile devices. Allowing both mobile and broadcasting in the band gives these governments the ability to respond to the changing needs of their citizens."
The satellite industry had lobbied heavily ahead of the Geneva event, aware that some of the bands which the cellular operators are eyeing for 5G are currently used for satellite. A group of global and regional satellite industry assocations issued a statement, under the auspices of the Satellite Spectrum Initiative, which was generally upbeat about the WRC outcomes.
The statement read "The world's governments resoundingly affirmed a clear vision for the importance of many vital and irreplaceable services provided today over satellite. They also agreed on a clear framework for future access to spectrum for innovative satellite communications." The groups pointed out that, while spectrum in the L and C bands was harmonized for mobile IMT use, there were clear measures to protect adjacent satellite users in 1518-1559 MHz, and there was no reallocation of the upper portion of the C-band, in 3.6-4.2 GHz.
The conference did not include any globally harmonized bandsi, currently used for satellite services in the C, Ku or Ka bands, within the WRC-19 agenda item to identify future 5G spectrum, leading satellite delegates to boast that they had preserved the Ka band, in particular.
Several agenda items were adopted for future WRC conferences, including a study for 2019 of additional fixed satellite service (FSS) airwaves in 51.4-52.4 GHz. In addition, an agenda item for WRC-23 was adopted, focused on additional satellite spectrum in 37.5-39.5 GHz. And a resolution was adopted, which paves the way for using FSS links for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drones.
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Ever since the mobile access network started its migration to IP, the narrative has centered on whether Ericsson, the mobile king, or IP giant Cisco, would be the winner in the new market. That made the news that the two companies are entering into a deep partnership seem shocking at first - but then completely logical.
The two companies announced on Monday that they will cooperate from development to delivery of systems for carriers and enterprise customers, and predicted a full $1bn each in additional revenue by the end of 2018, as a direct result of the alliance. They will focus their efforts heavily on cloud computing the the IoT (internet of things), and Ericsson will receive patent licence fees from its new friend. The Swedish firm also expects to save SEK1bn ($115m) a year from the deal.
There are huge challenges in achieving workable cooperation between two companies with such different approaches - Ericsson still R&D-heavy and increasingly services-driven; Cisco a sales machine focused on hardware and software, and tending to buy the new technologies it needs.
But the deal has fewer risks than a merger (even supposing that got past antitrust) and is a decisive move to preserve both partners' markets in the face of the rise of Huawei and the merger of Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent. Both companies are traditionally wary of major mergers and Ericsson resisted all pressure to follow Nokia's lead and acquire a router company like Juniper. "I don't believe in big mergers - this is by far the best solution you can get," Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg told Bloomberg. "This is much faster and more efficient."
The wireless infrastructure business is consolidating as traditional hardware becomes a game of scale and the value shifts to virtualization and SDN, services and cloud platforms. In these areas of future growth, Cisco and Ericsson are far more complementary than they are in their traditional markets. While Cisco had little chance of penetrating Ericsson's mobile RAN fortress, nor Ericsson Cisco's enterprise IP heartland - despite strong attempts by both around the edges - they can target one another's customers with their software-oriented platforms.
Ericsson has a far more developed services offering - Cisco's structure and roadmap is still mainly product-focused, though the cloud, IoT and SDN markets will inevitably bring elements of managed services into the mix. Their strengths and weaknesses in virtualization, orchestration and SDN are different, and while Cisco has a more end-to-end approach to the IoT, Ericsson has been developing the links between a hosted cloud service and billions of endpoints.
And of course, they both have a core customer base of large service providers, though they usually sell different products to different departments. Even that is changing - as seen in AT&T's Domain 2.0 and many other operators' bids to shake up their supply chains, the providers of base stations, routers and other kit are being brought together around SDN.
Better then, to play nicely in those playgrounds than try to muscle each other to the sidelines, and in doing so, wrongfoot the other competitors, without the disruption of a huge merger or joint venture, Nokia/ALU-style. Indeed, as those two vendors spend much of 2016 working out the details of their marriage, with the aim of offering a full scale IP/mobile platform plus software, Ericsson and Cisco could leapfrog them and provide a similar combination in a simpler way.
Both partners will have the chance to squeeze rivals - Huawei for both of them, Nokia/ALU for Ericsson, Juniper, ALU and agile SDN specialists for Cisco. Even Huawei will have to look nervously at an axis which boasts $75.4bn in combined revenues in the last fiscal year and has 76,000 professional services staff.
They proclaimed their new alliance as one which would create the "networks of the future", and offer customers "the best of both companies: routing, data center, networking, cloud, mobility, management and control, and global services capabilities."
As well as offering an end-to-end portfolio, they outlined two other key goals - to create a new mobile enterprise platform based on a "highly secure technology architecture for seamless indoor/outdoor networks", which would presumably tap into Cisco's WiFi and Ericsson's LTE and 5G work; and the acceleration of platforms for the IoT.
Among the details of the deal are commitments to create reference architectures and products;
systems-based management and control; a broad reseller agreement; and collaboration in key emerging market segments. Also, a combined team will start work on a joint initiative focused on SDN and virtualization.
They will cross-licence each other's patent portfolios - they have a combined 56,000 patents, though clearly the weight is towards Ericsson, which will receive the revenues from the agreement. They will also discuss Frand (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) policies.
Vestberg said in a statement: "Foremost, we share the same vision of the network's strategic role at the center of every company's and every industry's digital transformation. Initially the partnership will focus on service providers, then on opportunities for the enterprise segment and accelerating the scale and adoption of IoT services across industries. For Ericsson, this partnership also fortifies the IP strategy we have developed over the past several years, and it is a key move forward in our own transformation."
His counterpart at Cisco, Chuck Robbins, said: "With the pace the market is moving, the successful companies will be those who build the right strategic partnerships to accelerate innovation, growth, and customer value … We have worked with Ericsson during the last year on developing a strategy for future industry leadership, and can start executing together today."
The firms secured public support from the CEOs of key customers including Vodafone and AT&T, welcoming the potential to accelerate innovation in the integration of wireless and IP, and the move to the IoT.
And Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect at Verizon, summed it all up, saying: "This global partnership has the potential to reshape the industry."
Wireless Broadband Alliance Research Shows More than Half of Operators Plan to Deploy Carrier-grade Wi-Fi
Internet of Things, Smart Cities and Converged Services Driving Demand for Next Generation Wi-Fi
San Jose and Singapore – 12th October 2015 – The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the industry association focused on driving next generation Wi-Fi and its role in Public Wi-Fi services, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Converged Services, Smart Cities and 5G, today published its annual report on the state of the Wi-Fi ecosystem, compiled by global research company Maravedis-Rethink. The report reveals that 57% of Operators have firm timelines in place for the deployment of Carrier-Grade network architecture. In addition the research showed that by 2020 80% of respondents plan to have deployments in the areas if IoT/M2M, and more than half already have plans for Converged Services and Smart Cities. This year’s survey also highlighted that, as confidence grows in Carrier-grade Wi-Fi, the shift away from Best Effort networks will continue to gather speed. At current growth the report estimates that Carrier-grade hotspots will outnumber best effort in the installed base by the end of 2017, and by 2020 only a small legacy base of best effort hotspots will remain – less than 10% of the total – with all new deployments being Carrier-grade or better. Such findings indicate how rapidly the Wi-Fi services landscape is changing, driven by the new business imperatives which are the baseline for further innovation and deployments.“Increased Operator confidence in Carrier grade Wi-Fi technology has led to a surge in the growth of deployments over the past 12 months and set a trend that will to continue. Within 5 years there will be as much as a 70% rise in the number of Carrier-grade public Wi-Fi hotspots deployed, vastly outnumbering current best effort,” said Shrikant Shenwai, CEO of the WBA. “These shifts mean that the themes of the WBA’s Vision 2020 are equally applicable to all the ecosystem’s stakeholders; Accelerating development of relevant technologies to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape, Diversifying in time with the changing face of the Wi-Fi ecosystem, and Increasing investment in development, testing and deployments to continue the push towards Wi-Fi ubiquity, unlicensed wireless, IoT, 5G and beyond.”“This year’s survey has demonstrated a growing momentum within the ecosystem away from talking about the benefits of Carrier-grade to actually realising its potential in high-growth areas such as IoT and Smart Cities via deployment. Next Generation Hotspot and Passpoint technology have been fundamental enablers in the transition to Carrier-grade Wi-Fi and as investment increases so the potential returns will grow as new revenue streams develop.” said Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis-Rethink. The report also discovered the growing use of Wi-Fi as a strategic platform by an increasing variety of service providers including pure-plays, aggregators, MNOs, MSOs and vertical market operators. In 2015, almost one-quarter of the business value of Wi-Fi relates to reduced costs and overall ARPU improvement, but by 2019 these companies expect to be harnessing Wi-Fi, often in combination with their own networks, to generate incremental revenues directly. The biggest opportunities are seen in smart cities, Wi-Fi First and multiplay bundles including everywhere access to content and applications. The survey carried out during Q3 2015, had a total of 212 respondents: 38% of those being operators. Other significant respondent groups were Wi-Fi equipment and device vendors, with 28% and consultants/integrators, 17%. The majority of responses came from North America (40%) and Europe (26%), followed by Asia-Pacific (16%).To download the full report please go to: http://shop.maravedis-bwa.com/products/from-2016-to-5g-wireless-broadband-alliance-industry-report About Wireless Broadband AllianceFounded in 2003, the mission of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is to champion the development of the converged wireless broadband ecosystem through seamless, secure and interoperable unlicensed wireless broadband services for delivering outstanding user experience. Building on our heritage of NGH and carrier Wi-Fi, WBA will continue to drive and support the adoption of Next Gen Wi-Fi and other unlicensed wireless services across the entire public Wi-Fi ecosystem, including IoT, Big Data, Converged Services, Smart Cities, 5G, etc Today, membership includes major fixed operators such as BT, Comcast and Time Warner Cable; seven of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) and leading technology companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Huawei Technologies, Google and Intel. WBA member operators collectively serve more than 2 billion subscribers and operate more than 25 million hotspots globally. The WBA Board includes AT&T, Boingo Wireless, BT, China Telecom, Cisco Systems, Comcast, iPass, KT Corporation, Liberty Global, NTT DOCOMO, Orange and Ruckus Wireless. http://www.wballiance.comAbout Maravedis-RethinkMaravedis-Rethink is a premier wireless infrastructure analyst firm focusing on broadband wireless infrastructure as well as industry spectrum regulations and operator trends. Since 2002, Maravedis and Rethink Research have provided clients worldwide with strategic insight to help them achieve key business objectives. Its services include disruptive reports, webinars and online databases, analyst support and briefings as well as custom consulting engagements. www.maravedis-bwa.com Press Contact:Ed HowsonTemono for Wireless Broadband Allianceed.firstname.lastname@example.org
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As growth potential for mobile services shifts from consumers to 'things', it is increasingly urgent for the 3GPP community to control the networks on which that internet of things will run. LTE in its current form is not fit for purpose, so vendors and operators have been working on ultra-low power variants which could support very long battery life and very cheap chipsets, among other key IoT requirements. However, a major split is looming as Ericsson, Nokia and Intel range themselves against Huawei Qualcomm and a group of major operators.
This week sees a 3GPP meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, where many groups and companies will present submissions for future LTE releases and for the 5G program, which the standards body kicks off at the event. On the IoT front, a stand-off is brewing, which represents most of the great rivalries of the industry - Ericsson vs Huawei; Intel vs Qualcomm. And perhaps more telling, the two camps epitomize, on one hand, the traditional state of affairs in cellular - the old 2G/3G vendors leading the way, with a few US operators in tow - or on the other, the new order, with far heavier input from global operators, and a Chinese giant at the helm.
Huawei has pushed the need for a new air interface for the IoT in Release 13, to get around the compromises inherent in repurposing LTE. Its Cellular IoT 'clean slate' proposal claims to achieve a $10 module cost and 10-year battery life. It has harnessed expertise gained with the acquisition of IoT chipset specialist Neul, and gathered considerable early operator support, including that of Vodafone and China Unicom.
Early versions of the platform have been tested by China Mobile for smart parking, and in future, Huawei sees this '4.5G' technology, as it calls it, converging with LTE and moving forward into 5G.
By contrast, Ericsson's Narrowband LTE (NB-LTE) proposal makes far greater use of existing LTE technologies. This is the main conceptual difference between the two approaches, which the backers say will accelerate adoption by leveraging existing technology investments and ecosystems, and so create superior economies of scale to Huawei's approach, which requires new chipsets and may only work fully with the LTE platform in future releases.
The NB-LTE approach is not the surprise - the timing is. Discussion of a way to reuse LTE standards for the IoT have been rumbling for years. Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson have all discussed variations on this theme in GERAN meetings and hustled to get support for their particular approaches.
At the start of this year it seemed that none had got significant backing, and last month the two network vendors joined forces and signed up Intel to support their NB-LTE proposal. Sprint and Verizon Wireless were also part of that initiative. That threw a cat among the pigeons, especially for Huawei, which had been taking the high ground with the progress on Cellular IoT.
Ericsson, it seemed, had mainly been concentrating on its enhanced GPRS proposal for Release 13, so the unleashing of a concerted effort to seize the LTE platform too, at this week's Arizona summit, has come as a surprise. The Swedish market leader has succeeded in getting most of the large vendors - Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung, ZTE and Cisco - on its side, along with Intel (though fewer operators than Huawei).
Members of the Huawei camp mutter darkly that the Swedish firm's agenda is to create sufficient confusion to get eGPRS adopted as the main solution for Release 13, and push the question of clean slate vs adapted LTE into Release 14, cancelling out Huawei's early mover advantage.
The end result is perhaps more critical for Intel than anyone else, since it represents its chance, at last, to secure a leadership role in a mobile platform, something which has eluded it. In the early showdowns over 4G standards, it sought to push WiMAX, an alternative to LTE whose ecosystem it could control, but backed the wrong horse. That left it well behind in 4G, but it sees the IoT as its chance to get back into the game on equal terms with Qualcomm.
Intel said it will provide a roadmap for commercial NB-LTE chipsets and product upgrades beginning in 2016. Nokia and Ericsson pledged to provide the required network upgrades to support an extension of existing LTE networks with NB-LTE optimized for low power M2M communication.
"We are excited to collaborate with Ericsson and Nokia on the next wave of wireless innovation to connect the growing IoT market segment, and to further grow the momentum for Intel's LTE portfolio and roadmap with NB-LTE," said Stefan Wolff, general manager of Intel's multi-comms business unit, in a statement.
There will be other proposals on the table but they will be overshadowed by these two. There has already been significant work already on making LTE suitable for the IoT - breathing new life into neglected specs like Category 1, moving towards Category 0 and LTE-MTC - there remains little consensus about the M2M-oriented technologies for the upcoming Releases 13 and 14. Some specialists in low power wide area (LPWA) networks, such as Sigfox and Semtech, are presenting their own systems with a view to converging them with the 3GPP program.
This debate is relevant to 5G too. The Arizona meeting marks the start of the 3GPP's work on those standards, and enhancements made in Release 13 and 14 will point the way to future platforms. For instance, the decision to adopt either a clean slate or an LTE-based path will indicate current thinking in the cellular community and may help shape the 5G conversation about continuity versus clean break - though of course, that one will go well beyond the 3GPP's remit and take in IT, virtualization, licence-exempt spectrum and many other topics.