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Wireless Infrastructure Newsletter

Alliances proliferate on the road to '5G' March 17 2015

by Caroline Gabriel, Research Director


There are some '5G' discussions and claims which are completely legitimate to have in 2015, especially if next generation networks really are to start appearing from 2020. Vendors, operators and research institutes need to identify the areas in which R&D dollars will be best spent, and it is vital for regulators and policy makers that there are some clear directions on how spectrum will be used in future networks.

There are others which are dramatically premature, particularly all the talk of the '5G air interface' in Barcelona at the recent Mobile World Congress, probably the aspect on which fewest parties are in agreement, and which really does have to wait for the 3GPP to kick off activities.

There are interesting projects in this area - for instance, Alcatel-Lucent and Intel are working on the Universal Filtered OFDM air interface, which had its origins in WiMAX, and could be one candidate for the next generation.

Separate air interfaces may be needed to support IoT nodes in lower frequency bands and high bandwidth applications in the 10-100GHz range. Since the official spectrum policies above 6GHz may not be decided until WRC-19, the industry faces the interesting challenge of "designing new air interfaces ahead of when spectrum is released", as Intel put it.

But there is not even consensus on whether a new air interface is needed at all. "I suspect that it will require a new air interface," said Alex Jinsung Choi, head of SK Telecom's corporate R&D center in South Korea, and Eduardo Esteves, VP of product management for Qualcomm, echoed this as both took part in a panel discussion at Mobile World Congress. But Tom Keathley, SVP of wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, told the same session: "I don't think we know at this stage whether a new air interface will be required. I think it will be a bit of time before we can answer that with certainty."

In general, despite all the marketing hype attached to so-called pre-5G demonstrations, Barcelona attendees were firmly focused on the short to medium term and the achievable. But that did not stop a large number of organizations using the event to launch their 5G manifestos, and seek to place themselves and their particular agendas in the driving seat.

Just ahead of the show, the European Commission fronted a paper which set out an inaugural 5G vision based around its previously announced '5G Public Private Partnership' (5GPPP). It stated the issues (the easy bit) and recited the usual mantras - data volumes of 10 terabytes per square kilometer; one million terminals per square kilometer; one-tenth of the energy consumption and one-fifth of the latency of current platforms; cutting network management to 20% of today's costs; data rates of 50Mbps to every user; location services to within a meter. Then it gave itself the familiar, but perhaps unachievable, deadline of five years to solve all that.

The EC received a lot of attention, but there were plenty of other alliances and proposals. Here is Rethink's selection of the ones which are likely to have a real impact on how '5G' pans out:

The IPv6 Forum has launched a new 5G World Alliance, with the lofty aim of achieving "seamless global network interoperability". President Latif Ladid said: "We are talking here about a 5G world where technologies such as an all-IPv6-based M2M, the mobile IoT, mobile cloud computing, SDN, NFV, fringe and tactile internet will converge over fixed and mobile networks to change lives and businesses everywhere." Ladid said the alliance was currently establishing board members and said it would work alongside the ETSI IPv6 ISG to share its findings.

Among the objectives that the 5GWA is looking to achieve are:

  • Global harmonization and synergies of the telecom and internet worlds
  • The creation of large-scale worldwide interoperable testbeds
  • Promotion of end-user empowering applications and global solutions
  • Promotion of interoperable implementation of converging and integrated standards
  • Developing educational and '5G-ready' programs
  • Resolving issues that could create barriers to 5G deployment

4G Americas has signed a memorandum of understanding with the 5GPPP, outlining the basis for cooperation and collaboration between the two organizations. The MoU specifically agrees to share information on basic system concepts for 5G frequencies to support the global regulatory process, and preparation of future global 5G standards by identification of common interest and consensus building.

The NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) Alliance has published a white paper detailing end-to-end operator requirements for 5G, intended to guide the development of future technology platforms and standards. A global team of more than 100 experts contributed to the white paper by developing the consolidated operator requirements. These are summarized predictably enough - "the capabilities of the network need to be expanded to support much greater throughput, lower latency and higher connection density. To cope with a wide range of use cases and business models, 5G has to provide a high degree of flexibility and scalability by design. In addition, it should show foundational shifts in cost and energy efficiency. On the end user side, a key requirement for 5G will be that a consistent customer experience is achieved across time and service footprint. NGMN envisages a 5G ecosystem that is truly global, free of fragmentation and open for innovations."

Ericsson announced its new '5G for Sweden' research program, involving companies such as Scania and Volvo, as well as several academic and research partners from across the country.

Ericsson said it wanted to develop and roll in ICT solutions into products and services built upon emerging 5G standards. An example of this is work it is doing with Scania, which will examine future transport solutions.

Nokia and Ericsson will collaborate with Korea Telecom on 5G and IoT following the signing of new memorandums of understanding. The first sets up an IoT and LTE-M lab to develop business models aimed at convergence and the automotive industry. This will be on KT premises and will involve all three Nokia business units (Networks, Here and Labs). The second builds on an existing 5G cooperation with Ericsson.

Nokia and NTT Docomo carried out a joint demonstration in Barcelona, of technologies they say will be part of the '5G' networks the pair plan to showcase at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. They achieved above 2Gbps in the 70GHz band.

China Mobile, NTT Docomo and KT announced that they would conduct a three-way 5G technical collaboration in an attempt to accelerate commercial deployments and drive standardization efforts. They will explore new services and vertical markets enabled by 5G, jointly identify 5G key technologies and prove the validity of system concepts. The operators will also work with global organizations such as ITU, 3GPP, GSMA, NGMN and GTI to facilitate global harmonized spectrum planning and a unified global 5G standard, the companies said in a joint statement.

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China set to dominate M2M globally as its home efforts lead the way June 12 2014

By Peter White


A report out from the GSMA this week claims that China will take on M2M leadership globally. The GSMA latest report is entitled, 'Connected Living: How China is set for Global M2M Leadership,' and in it the GSMA describes China's rapid M2M adoption growth, due largely to strong government support and its huge population.

The GSMA notes "the M2M market is growing rapidly, with the number of connections set to reach a quarter of a billion this year, accounting for 2.8% of all global mobile connections, double what it was in 2010. China is at the forefront of this growth. It is a country with the world's fastest-growing economy and is now the world's largest M2M market with 50 million connections (up from 11 million in 2010), putting it ahead of the US (32m) and Japan (9.3m) combined - a number that is set to grow exponentially."

The GSMA believes that the technology is key to the future, saying that "M2M is transforming the world around us, making our lives, homes and cities smarter and more efficient with a never-ending stream of real-time actionable data, whether it's smart meters monitoring our energy use or remotely checking patients with chronic diseases."

The GSMA reports that as of January this year, 428 cellular operators in 187 countries had launched M2M services. In 2010 there were 74 million global M2M connections comprising 1% of total global SIM connections, but now there are 242 million global connections accounting for 3% of all global SIM connections - a CAGR of 35%.

Developing economies have now surpassed developed economies in the share of total M2M connections, rising from 48% in 2010 to 52% in 2014. The fastest growing region worldwide was Asia (54% CAGR), then Latin America (43% CAGR) and Africa (42% CAGR).

But the rapid growth of M2M in Asia is largely due to the actions of China, the largest M2M market in the world by some way. With its strong government support for IoT projects, as well as Government ownership of the three largest telecom and mobile operators, it's no great surprise to find that China is leading the way in M2M adoption, given that "its sheer size offers economies of scale not available to smaller countries."

The Chinese government still actively supports IoT R&D, earmarking the industry as a development and investment priority in 2011. It is set to invest $603 billion in the M2M ecosystem by 2020, as part of the 12th Five Year Development Plan (2011-2015).

The three state-owned mobile operators - China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom - are all "experiencing tremendous growth, particularly in the agricultural, healthcare, automotive, retail and consumer electronics sectors and the country's rapidly expanding middle class."

The report quotes Alex Chau of Machina Research, who says that 180 million smart meters have been deployed in China, with a further 60 million planned. Haihua Li of the China Academy of Telecommunications notes that 26 Chinese provinces had deployed electronic toll collection systems, used by 5.1 million drivers. M2M systems are extensively used in Chinese freight transportation, monitoring the condition of perishable goods that are moved around the country by train.

219 Chinese cities had announced smart city rollouts by February 2013, aimed at tackling urban congestion and traffic flows in the dense metropolitan environments. Another uniquely Chinese approach is the 343 pollution management centers are used to monitor 15,000 contamination sources in real-time.

China Mobile is the largest MNO in the world, with 767 million connections as of the close of 2013. It is also the largest M2M operator, with 32 million connection at the end of 2013 (up 10 million in one year). In 2010 it launched its dedicated IoT wing, out of which arose its proprietary Wireless Machine-to-Machine Protocol. Although using the protocol allows manufacturers easy access to the vast China Mobile network, surely open standards are vital to the future of IoT. It will be interesting to see how the GSMA reconciles proprietary technology with its policy of creating a single common M2M specification.

China Telecom is the largest fixed line operator in China, with 156 million lines in 2013, and the third largest MNO, with 186 million mobile connections. It began constructing an IoT platform in 2007, working on system integration and constructing a purpose built lab in 2011. It manages 800,000 security cameras under its Mega Eye business, as well as 700,000 active subscribers for its Chinese version of the GM in-vehicle OnStar service.

China Unicom is the second largest telco in China, with 88 million fixed-line subscribers, and is also the second largest MNO, with around 281 million mobile connections. In 2013 it handled 10 million M2M connections, with global partnerships with Cubic Telecom (to link Cubic M2M devices using its cellular network), remote healthcare monitoring with Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, as well as a number of automotive partnerships for fleet management and IVI systems.

If China can turn its hand to exporting its wealth of M2M and IoT experience, the native suppliers could easily become dominant outside China as well, a move that is probably about to start happening this year.

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