Wi-Fi NOW AND the Challenges of Keeping the World Connected

We’ve presented at the two most recent Wi-Fi NOW conferences (in Washington DC a few weeks ago and just last week in Cape Town, South Africa).  Our sessions titled “A New Platform for Wi-Fi and Cellular” were well attended, and we weren’t surprised given the overall interest in bandwidth aggregation, network convergence and wireless access management that were pervasive throughout the conference.  The audiences at both events were quite diverse, coming from very different parts of the world with different customer bases and infrastructure realities, but one thing remained the same: users want and need to be connected, and making sure the capacity and quality of the networks can handle that flow will be key to keeping them happy.

Connectivity is becoming a basic human need, and Craig Moffett, partner and senior analyst at MoffettNathanson and one of the leading researchers in the U.S. telecom, cable and satellite space put it bluntly: if Maslow were alive today, his hierarchy of basic human needs would be very different.   The industry is racing to fulfill this need by rolling out 5G.  Wireless networks will become denser and denser, cell sites will have smaller radii, and each will be underpinned with a wired backhaul connection.  Wireless networks will begin to look more and more like wired networks – and wired networks will look more like wireless ones.

As the industry sees this distinction between wired and wireless networks begin to disappear, the quality of the networks on both cellular and Wi-Fi were a constant topic of conversation at the conference.  Analytics, gapless handover between networks and bandwidth aggregation are needed more than ever as customers spend more time on their mobile devices, using data-intensive apps like video streaming, augmented reality and connected car technologies.  Currently, half of all Internet traffic is carried on Wi-Fi, but we’re also seeing a greater blurring of the lines between being at the home or office and being on the road, and users want a seamless transition when they’re using voice and data on the move. 

While the consumer appetite for doing more connected things in there, the mobile industry as a whole needs to bring the capability to go broader, faster and more reliably, and we need to meet that need soon: 

By the year 2021:

  • 20 Billion Wi-Fi-connected devices will be in use
  • 4 Billion Wi-Fi connected devices will ship per year (currently there are 3 Billion shipped)
  • 466 Million smart home systems and products will be in use
  • 63% of all cellular and mobile traffic will be offloaded to Wi-Fi
  • Half a Billion (541.6 million) public Wi-Fi-venues will be available to users
  • 5G will likely be limited to urban markets, and therefore a lot less of the population than we might think

Connected cars are one of the hottest and most exciting areas for the industry, with a projected 236 million Wi-Fi connected cars on the road by 2021 communicating in the cabin, to maintenance, to tolls, smart parking systems and more.  It also won’t be long before the connected home is a mission-critical environment.  But we ask ourselves “what if the home’s Wi-Fi goes down?”  All of these products and services will need a seamless backup and transition to cellular when the need arises.  For our increasingly connected world to all work as expected and needed, it all must be powered and connected seamlessly, securely, continuously AND inexpensively.

At Carnegie, we see a lot of mobile operators expressing serious interest in Wi-Fi now more than ever.   Where “Wi-Fi First” may have been a projected goal for many operators, now it’s become a very successful reality, and in many cases a business necessity.  While is used to be rough around the edges, new technology solutions, such as Carnegie’s, have proven to smooth those out.   With deployments across the globe, we now have the understanding and experience to know which Wi-Fi business models will work and which don’t, what users will accept and not accept, and what makes for the most efficient and most successful implementations.   The successful Wi-Fi First operators are growing mainly because of customer referrals, despite drastically smaller marketing, advertising and technology budgets.  When customers are happy, they tell their friends.  Wi-Fi is proving to be about three-times faster than cell speeds today, and the gap will likely widen, resulting in better voice experience and faster data speeds over Wi-Fi.   These Wi-Fi First operators deliver better coverage indoors, even reaching into basements, attics and those commercial building black-holes we’ve all experienced, along with lower prices as traffic is offloaded.  Being able to charge half the industry average for monthly service, it’s easy to see how these business models are disrupting the industry.

The above truths and predictions were pervasive at both events.  But what we discovered in Cape Town specifically is that the needs in Africa are unique because of bandwidth limitations.  We see Bandwidth Aggregation being an even bigger need in these markets as they’re limited to ADSL and 4G connections.  While ADSL is being replace by fiber in established areas, rural areas still rely on Wi-Fi (be it patchy) and 3G/4G connections.  Data bundles continue to come down in price, which makes mobile data a reality for more people, and Wi-Fi is being made available for free to people living in rural areas.  Carnegie has a great opportunity to improve the end user experiences here and provide more bandwidth when switching between and aggregating over Wi-Fi and mobile data.  When you can offload that traffic to more ubiquitous access, now you can service your customers as they expect and need.

The next great leap in Wi-Fi technology is 802.11 ax and 5G (HetNet model with multi-layers of connectivity including, 5G, etc.).    Carnegie is well positioned for this leap as our technology helps carriers aggregate voice and data across all different network types, maintaining gapless handover of connectivity as the user moves from one to another. 

As the conferences wrapped up, there was a consensus that as the role of Wi-Fi in our daily lives continues to grow, more unlicensed spectrum is needed.  Amazingly, there hasn’t been an increase in 16 years.   One study showed that data volume will exceed spectrum capacity by 2020, if none is added, and there was a sense of urgency for the industry as a whole to advocate for more.   

While some of the industry’s future remains an unknown, at least one wish can be answered today:  the reality of true bandwidth aggregation and ubiquitous, gapless roaming between various networks and various network types in here already, and at Carnegie Technologies we’re proud to be the leader in delivering this vital component to our industry. 

Highlights from Mobile World Congress 2017

We once again had the opportunity to attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  This is one of the highlights of the year for the mobile industry, as it brings together the most respected thought leaders, innovators, manufacturers and developers in the industry.  It’s always a dynamic and exciting event, and this year proved to be no different. Here’s an overview of what we saw and some of our observations and thoughts:

Overall themes of the MWC 2017 conference:

  • 5G fixed wireless field trials are starting up at nearly every major operator.  Most of these trials will be experimenting in the new 28 GHz Frequency Bands.
  • Wireless connectivity for IoT was touted across many technologies including  via cellular using CAT0/1 LTE  modems and via unlicensed band wireless based on technologies fromthe LoRA Alliance, Sigfox, Ingenue, and others.
  • Bandwidth Aggregation was an expanding topic of interest. The goal of this technology is to augment licensed LTE/5G cellular with simultaneous use of available unlicensed connections using the new LAA standard from 3GPP or via Wi-Fi.
  • SDN and NFV technology to virtualize cellular networks has been a topic for several years at MWC.  This year we are finally seeing tangible solutions arriving out of trials and into deployment.
  • Some new cellphones were launched but to little or no fanfare… no Samsung launch, and that is what the industry is looking for (since Apple never attends MWC).
  • We did see an impressive electro-optic camera zoom show by Sony, which seemed to be stellar in terms of quality.

What were the big takeaways from MCW 2017?

  • DATA, DATA, DATA: voice is dead as a driver in the industry, and there is a growing requirement for Bandwidth Aggregation to provide successful data delivery.  Where giving the end user the ability to optimize the use of all available networks used to be a great option, it’s quickly becoming a necessity for both providers and end users alike.
  • We are going to see a shift from a world where the consumer pays for two connectivity services (for example, fiber/cable and wireless) to paying just one single broadband wireless service provider that covers everything.
  • The cellular carriers will take on cable and fiber by having massive wireless broadband in the last 1000 feet.
  • The cable players will become mobile carriers using both their Wi-Fi assets and moving from an MVNO to acquiring spectrum and building out their own cellular networks.
  • Everyone will be using dense femto cell deployments.
  • The smart phone is becoming very tired. Only minor innovation is happening and much of that innovation is either useless or not finished.
  • The consumer app world is also becoming a bit long in the tooth with too many analytic or advertisement players.  We don’t see a lot of solutions that solve problems and offer a real value to the consumer end user.  Most of the valuable solutions are for enterprise and business apps. 
  • IoT is becoming a legitimate business. But our observation is that too many vendors are providing components of a system, and there are no end-to-end solutions for customers. We think vertical markets need vertically integrated solutions, which is why Carnegie Technologies is working diligently to develop those. 

In the end, we saw some things that interested us, and we saw some things that bored us.  But overall the industry has some really exciting times ahead of it, and we’re confident that Carnegie is on the right track to help the industry evolve, grow and provide the marketplace with products and services it wants and needs most.  We think Bandwidth Aggregation is going to be one of the most critical components to providers’ success, and our Network Convergence Platform is perfectly positioned to help deliver the faster speeds, higher reliability and smoother transitions across networks that will make providers more efficient and customers happier and more loyal.

Carnegie and Code/Design to Win

Carnegie is excited to be a part of the upcoming Code/Design to Win event at Communitech Tech Jam January 20-21, 2017 in Kitchener, Ontario.   Its purpose is to connect “kick-ass companies” and qualified talent looking to work in the Waterloo region technology community.  
 
The event includes two competitions that are geared towards those who love computer science, programming and/or design (UX/UI) and are attending one of the many participating universities.  Students will be vying for their share of the $5,000 prize.
 
Carnegie will be on-site to support the tech community in Ontario but mostly because we’re looking for more than a few good men and women to be part of the Carnegie team in our Kitchener offices.  We think this will be a great opportunity for us to connect with some of the best and brightest minds coming out of our universities, and much like the NHL draft, we’re looking to grab them early!


We’re even hosting the very first LEGOLYMPICS at this event.  Come see us and compete with fellow students to see who can recreate a LEGO® set most accurately in the shortest amount of time!   We’ll be having a blast and look forward to the opportunity of introducing grads to Carnegie. 

Besides great pay, competitive benefits and a chance to work with some of the most respected people in the industry, here are some other cool reasons you should join our team:

 

Carnegie Technologies is a great place to work with awesome people, a creative and inspiring culture and great opportunities for learning and growth.  We encourage great technical minds to come meet our team, discover our leadership and be a part of creating something great!  For more information on the event by Communitech, click here.  To apply to be part of the Carnegie team, click here or send a resume to dev-jobs@carnegietechnologies.com.

The Race to Space: Winners and Losers as Providers Try to Connect the World

By Paul Struhsaker
CTO of Carnegie Labs & Contributing Analyst, Tirias Research

 

There has been a great deal of press covering Google’s LOON and Facebook’s AQUILA high-altitude communications demonstration projects to provide broadband access to rural and underserved customers, however, that is not the entire story. If and when the LOON and AQUILA systems reach commercial operations, they will be competing with next generation satellite systems from ViaSat, Iridium, and OneWeb which are fully funded and moving to launch and deployment.

Communications for the Underserved

More than half of the world’s population is underserved by the internet.[i] These potential users are either too remote or lack affordable internet infrastructure.  A number of companies are creating or upgrading systems to directly address these underserved users.  In the near term ( 2 to 5years),  competitive solutions will begin deployment addressing those underserved.  In general, these systems fall into two categories:

  • Satellite platforms: Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or Geostationary Orbit (GEO)
  • High altitude platforms: balloons, dirigibles, or high altitude autonomous planes

Satellites operate form 700Km(LEO) to 42,000 Km (GEO) above the earth.  The lower the orbit, the more satellites are required to provide coverage of the earth’s surface. LEO systems have anywhere from 40 to over 600 satellites in their earth coverage constellation. GEO satellites require just three satellites for the equivalent coverage of the earth. In both cases, the satellites are expensive to launch and have a roughly 15-year service life in orbit.

By contrast, high altitude platforms, dirigibles, balloons or autonomous planes operate at an altitude of 20Km to 30Km, which is roughly 5Km above standard aircraft cruising altitudes. At these altitudes, the air is very thin so there is a tradeoff in weight and power generation vs the size of the platform needed to keep the system aloft. Unlike satellites that have short periods of time blocked from the sun, high altitude platforms can spend up to 12 hours blocked from sunlight every day. The communications footprint of each high altitude platform is roughly 80Km to 100Km in diameter.  To put that into perspective, 1000 to 2000 platforms would be needed to cover the lower 48 continental United States as opposed to just one GEO satellite or 5 to 15 LEO satellites.  These systems have at most 100 days of flight operations before they must return for maintenance.  High altitude platforms require significant launch operations to maintain coverage. As an example, Google’s LOON system would require 22 launches per day to maintain coverage over the continental United States.   

Both systems must deal with rain and cloud cover losses.  This limits their up and down RF links to frequencies below ~40 GHz due to fading. One advantage of high altitude systems is that the radio link can be designed to use cellular 4G-LTE, which can operate directly with standard cell phones. Google (LOON ) and SpaceData are testing prototypes for this direct usage model. For optimized data throughput, a majority of solutions work with a specialized radio link and use a bridge/access point to distribute data and services to the end user.

 

Satellite systems:

Satellite systems have been in use since the 1960’s.  These systems have been plagued by very high costs for both service fees and end user equipment.  However, this is about to change.  Significant technology improvements and entirely new satellite systems are being launched over the next few years.  Let’s briefly review three upcoming systems from Viasat, WebOne, and Iridium:

 

ViaSat3 system

ViaSat is about to launch three geostationary (GEO)  VisaSat 3 satellites that will deliver 1Tera bps per satellite and 3Tbps system capacity. To put that into perspective, that is more capacity in a single satellite than in all of the satellites that have ever been launched to date combined. The company is already financially successful providing nearly 700,000 users with its Excede broadband service in North America.[ii]  The next generation of Excede will supply 100Mbps residential service.  In addition, the system also supports aircraft~1 to 10 Mbps and up to 1 Gbps to high-speed terminals for ships or ground services.

 

OneWeb

WebOne is privately funded Low Earth Orbit (LOE) satellite system consisting of 648 satellites on 20 orbital planes.   The major backers are Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Europe’s Airbus Group along with Qualcomm and other investors. [iii] The OneWeb system will use micro satellites weighting 150-175 kilograms and is expected to begin launching in 2018. Operations are expected begin in 2019.   The satellites will fly in orbits about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) above Earth.

The network will provide more than 10 Tbps with each satellite delivering ~ 16 Gbps. The system is designed to use a bridge or access point using beam steering array antennas to support fixed buildings (schools, hospitals, emergency services, etc. ) and backhaul for remote cellular microcells. Smaller portable terminals are also contemplated for airplanes and vehicles . These terminals are designed to deliver up to 50 Mbps.

 

Iridium

Iridium is launching an upgrade this year called ”Iridium Next” based on a 66 satellite LEO constellation orbiting at 750Km above the earth.[iv]  Each Iridium satellite can provide ~3Mbps of voice and data with a system capacity of ~200 Mbps.  Iridium Next does not provide the massive capacity of the Viasat 3 or OneWeb , but it can support simple and inexpensive satellite phones and small internet bridges to end users.

 

High Altitude Systems:

Balloon, dirigibles and airplanes have been used as radar and communications platforms since the early 20th century. The new generation of platforms, such as Loon, is driven by miniaturization of electronics, improvements in solar technology, improved battery density and better construction materials. The combination of these technology improvements has allowed Google, Facebook, and balloon communications pioneer Space Data to deliver a “poor man’s satellite” high altitude communications platform. Despite these improvements, however, questions remain about the ability to create a profitable and sustainable communications operation using such high altitude platforms.

Let’s look at three of the major players: Space Data, Google’s Loon, and Facebook’s Aquila:

 

Space Data

Space Data is an early innovator of high altitude weather balloon communications technology having operated systems for the better part of a decade.  The company specializes in lofting communications packages of less than 12 lbs attached to a large latex balloon. Holding to these weight restrictions, there are no FAA rules or waivers needed to launch. Depending on the communications payload, flights last between two and seven days. Solar cells are not used due to both weight limitations and the lack of any rigid surface facing the sun.[v]

Space Data has launched communications packages in 900 MHz unlicensed bands and UHF bands for military and boarder security. It has performed successful experimental flight tests in 2.4GHz and 5.x GHz WiFI, GSM cellular, and an LTE cellular package.  Each balloon platform has up to a 640 Km diameter area of coverage.  Roughly 38 platforms would be needed to cover the continental United States and deliver roughly 200 Mbps across the coverage area using a WiFi link.

 

Google’s Project Loon

Project Loon is a variation of the high altitude balloon system pioneered by Space Data. Loon will be a much larger and heavier platform, powered by solar cells (100W) and is designed to stay aloft for roughly 100 days. Loon’s balloon envelopes are made from sheets of polyethylene plastic, and they measure 15 meters wide by 12 meters tall when fully inflated. The electronics include LI-Ion batteries, balloon to balloon cross links, ground link, and micro LTE BTS for direct communications with user LTE phones.[vi]

Each balloon platform provides an 80 KM area of coverage. Roughly 2,400 platforms would be needed to cover the continental United States.  In this configuration, the system would deliver 112Gbps based on roughly 45 Mbps of delivery per platform.

The project is in the early stages of development. There is no committed date for commercial deployment.

 

Facebook’s Aquila

Solar power flight is not new. Since 2003, NASA developed a series of experimental solar planes to under project Helios. They were built to develop the technologies that would allow long-term, high-altitude aircraft to serve as "atmospheric satellites" which would perform atmospheric research tasks as well as serve as communications platforms.[vii]

Facebook’s Aquilla project builds on the Helios project solar powered concept to provide a high-altitude, long duration flight platform based on advances in carbon fiber materials, improved Li-Ion battery technology and solar cell technology. The platform is a mono wing design (like a B-2 bomber) with a wingspan of a Boeing 737 passenger jet (~120 ft / 40m) weighing between 400 and 500 Kg.  Half of the platform weight will be taken up by Li-Ion batteries that provide propulsion and communications power during the night.  Like balloon based systems, the platform will drift between 20Km to 30K in altitude and is designed for roughly a 90-day flight duration.

Each Aguilla platform provides 100Km area of coverage. Roughly 1,100 platforms would be needed to cover the continental United States and would deliver 1,100 Gbps based on the ~1 Gbpsclaimed to be delivered by each platform.

The project is in the early stages of development. There is no committed date for commercial deployment.

 

Conclusions

Satellite companies are committed, funded, and moving to deploy an impressive array of technology upgrades to economically reach the nearly half of the earth’s population that is unserved and underserved. With no committed deployment dates and the massive scale of deployment needed for wide scale coverage, high altitude systems seem destined to provide only short to mid-term communications in limited areas until low cost terrestrial systems replace them. Unless there is acceleration in development and commitment to wide scale deployment, high altitude systems will lose “the race to space.”

 

[i] https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/research/projects/oneweb

[ii] https://www.viasat.com/products/high-capacity-satellites

[iii] http://oneweb.world/

[iv] https://www.iridium.com/network/iridiumnext

[v] http://www.spacedata.net/

[vi] https://www.google.com/loon/

[vii] https://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/history/pastprojects/Helios/#.V6EYcmgrJeU

 

New Brand, New Management – What it Means for the Industry

A couple of weeks ago we announced a complete rebranding of Carnegie Technologies, bringing CablEnable, SpectrumMAX and Pravala Networks under one consistent umbrella brand and integrating these three powerful technologies into our new Network Convergence Platform.  Today we announced our new management team, some relatively new to us and some have been working with Carnegie for years under our other brands. 

Peter Feldman (COO/CTO of Carnegie Technologies), Paul Strusaker (CTO of Carnegie Labs), Kurt Bauer (Managing Director of Global Sales and Business Development) and Matt Hovis (CMO) are all part of the team that will be helping to change and shape our Company and the wireless communications industries for years to come.   At Carnegie, we believe that human capital is the most important resource we can cultivate as an organization, and we’re proud to have attracted such outstanding leadership to drive our product development, sales, marketing and operations as we move forward and grow. 

Not only will this fine team impact Carnegie and our success, but, together with our game-changing technology developments, we’ll have far-reaching implications on the mobile telecommunications industry as a whole, benefitting both consumers and providers alike.  As we deliver our Network Convergence Platform to the marketplace, mobile operators, wireline carriers and internet service providers can expand their pool of data and voice capacity as well as add wireless services, new applications and new business models that rely on access anywhere.  Consumers will also get the benefit of better coverage, lower costs and no gaps of service when switching back and forth between cellular and Wi-Fi networks. 

You’ll be hearing a lot about Carnegie’s mobile communications innovations in the near future and better yet, experience them for yourself as wireless customer experiences improve and carrier business strategies evolve and expand.   Stay tuned to our blog for thought leadership from this great new team as we blaze new trails and make the wireless industry stronger and better for everyone.

We’re Now Carnegie with a New Brand

It’s been an exciting year at Carnegie Technologies, and it’s culminating in a complete rebranding of the Company and its wholly owned subsidiaries.   We are now moving forward in the marketplace under one cohesive, fully integrated brand with technologies and services that are already having a tremendous impact on the wireless communications industry.

We started by acquiring Pravala Networks, which is focused on intelligently managing a vehicle’s connection to the Internet in order to improve the safety, reliability, functionality and efficiency of connected cars.  We then brought our CablEnable and SpectrumMax products under our new brand and integrated these three powerful technologies to create the Network Convergence Platform™ by Carnegie Technologies.  This is a true example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and we’re excited about its impact on the wireless, connected car and cable industries.

With the Network Convergence Platform, mobile network operators, wireline carriers, Internet service providers and smart car manufacturers are improving customer experiences while supporting new revenue streams- all without adding additional infrastructure.   The CEO of Cloud Connect, a leading provider of hosted Wi-Fi and VoIP services in the Netherlands, commented on why his company selected and deployed Carnegie’s Network Convergence Platform™:

“Seamless integration of fixed and mobile telephony is a requirement in our key markets of retail, hospitality, and medical practitioners and institutions, and the Network Convergence Platform has allowed us to deliver that always-on connectivity that our customers need and want,” said Peter Van Der Salm.  “We have a long history of co-operation with various providers of fixed-mobile integration solutions (FMC), and have now joined forces with Carnegie Technologies as we feel this is the most advanced FMC solution available today.”

We’re also working with providers in the United States, Asia and Europe to help them deliver on the promise of seamless connectivity everywhere, all the time for mobile customers.   Stay tuned for more information, upcoming case studies and thought leadership that will help providers expand their network capacity, add wireless services to their offerings; and support new applications and business models that rely on access everywhere all the time – all without additional infrastructure or capital expenditures.

5G Leaps Forward – What you need to know about 5G standards, spectrum and ecosystems

By Paul Struhsaker

It’s been a very busy summer in the mobile wireless community.  The 5G wireless standards group “3GPP,” spearheaded by Verizon Wireless, NTT Docomo and SK Telekom, approved an “Accelerated Plan” for a fixed wireless standard in their meeting in late June in Nanjing, China. The London-based 5G World show, anchored by Huawei, provided a forum for a range of 5G ecosystem companies to highlight their plans and offerings. Finally, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), voted unanimously to formally approve the “Spectrum Frontiers” plan. Spectrum Frontiers creates 11 GHz of new licensed and unlicensed spectrum for 5G and advanced Wi-Fi deployments.

3GPP Standards Meeting, Nanjin China

3GPP’s Accelerated Plan calls for their standard to be complete by 4Q 2017 with trials and early deployments by 1Q 2018.

SK Telecom pushed for the Accelerated Plan, so the new 5G technology could be highlighted at the 2018 Winter Olympics games in PyeongChang, South Korea.  Verizon, motivated by business case fundamentals of 5G wireless, will use fixed wireless deployment to combat Comcast, Charter/Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) and other cable competitors. Verizon will do so by expanding its FiOS service beyond the current service footprint. Verizon has aggressive plans to trial the technology in parallel with 3GPP standards efforts during 2017. NTT Docomo, historically a technology leader in cellular wireless, plans extended early trials of the Accelerated Plan standard to improve the mobile 5G standards that follow. 

Verizon has filed with the FCC for special temporary authority to test 5G fixed wireless technology in the 28GHz band.  A number of vendors including Nokia, Eriksson, Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung have teamed up to form the Verizon 5G Technology Forum.  The forum members’ equipment is being integrated into Verizon’s 5G network environments, or “sandboxes,” in Verizon’s Waltham, Mass. and San Francisco Innovation Centers. 

The big push of the 5G standards is the adoption of Multi-User, Multiple-Input Multiple-Output radio technology (MU-MIMO). MU-MIMO increases subscriber connection data rates by transmitting and receiving though multiple channels simultaneously and within the same channel spectrum. MU-MIMO will dramatically improve both data throughput and the use of limited radio spectrum. The technology made its debut in the Wi-Fi 802.11AC wave 2 standards and subsequent products commercially released in late 2015. The 5G standard is adapting the technology to keep pace with high-speed vehicles (cars, trains, and planes) and to user higher numbers of transmit and receive channels.

TIRIAS Research and a number of standards participants believe that the push for standards acceleration of fixed wireless mode will delay standardization of mobility, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) modes that will be part of a wider 3GPP specification.  The mobility standard is expected in late 2018. Field trials will follow in 2019, and finally, commercial launch is expected in 2020. The IoT/M2M modes are anticipated to follow the mobility standards efforts. This leaves the recently completed LTE Release 14 standard as the only improvement of cellular IoT support until 2020 at the earliest. On the positive side, the 5G mobile standard will rely on femtocell deployments (very small cells less than 100M in diameter) that require a more extensive number of backhaul connections to the core network.   5G fixed wireless standards will also pave the way for more cost effective wireless backhaul for these femtocell deployments.

 

5G World Show – London UK

On the heels of the latest 3GPP standards meeting in Nanjing, China, the 5G World show in London, U.K. provided the greater wireless industry a venue to share their plans and technologies in the context of a wider set of end user solutions that will take advantage of the new 5G cellular technology. The primary focus of the show was centered on 5G equipment and test technology. 5G World also highlighted two additional “shows within the show”:  IoT plus connected car platforms (focusing on telemetry/analytics for future self-driving cars).

The show was mostly regional in nature, with European vendors dominating the venue. The exception was Huawei, the show’s sole Diamond-level sponsor.  The highlights of the event were live 5G prototype demos by Ericsson and Interdigital, as well as carrier trial results from advanced radio technology startup Cohere Technologies.

Interdigital had one of the best live demos of the show.  Using the new unlicensed 70 GHz band and a 2x2 MU-MIMO (2 transmitters and 2 receivers) modem, data rates of up to 2Gbps were demonstrated.  The MU-MIMO system had tracking update rate in 100msec range which can support low mobility but not rapid enough to track vehicles or aircraft.  As a simple test of the demo, one of the 2x2 antenna elements was periodically blocked. The radio adapted its throughput by roughly half, as would be expected from the loss of one of two MIMO channels.

Ericsson provided a video remote monitoring of their test lab performing calibration of their MU-MIMO prototype radio to track moving subscribers. Their efforts were to both validate 3GPP proposals as well as work out optimization of high mobility use cases such as cars, trains, and aircraft.

Cohere Technologies provided highlights from their recently finished field trials in the Bronx borough of New York City. They tested their Orthogonal Time Frequency and Space MU-MIMO (OTFS) technology. The trials showed impressive non-line of sight performance in a dense urban environment.  Cohere Technologies’ OTFS technology is being considered for inclusion as part of 3GPP standards process.

IoT and Connected Car vendors at the show greatly overlapped with the 5G theme and centered on telemetry and cloud-client based connected car platforms. Future self-driving car systems will be enabled by 5G data throughput.

Nuance, a market leader in voice recognition software, had the most interesting and unique connected car solution. Nuance combines voice recognition technology with cloud based adaptive learning technology tied to the connected car media and navigation system. Their technology is similar to Amazon’s Alexa in living rooms, but in a car it enables control of dashboard and entertainment tasks to be hands-free and voice controlled.

Although this year’s 5G World show was interesting, next year many pre-release products are expected to debut from 5G trial activities.

 

FCC Announces the formal approval of the “Spectrum Frontiers” rules

The FCC’s approval of the Spectrum Frontiers plan is the single largest allocation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in FCC history.  It paves the way for 5G trials and services that have been critical requests from Verizon, AT&T and other potential mobile carriers.

Nearly 11 GHz of spectrum has been released in the millimeter wave bands above 24GHz. It consists of 3.85Ghz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The new licensed bands are: 28 GHz (27.5 – 28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37 – 38.6 GHz) and the 39 GHz (38.6 – 40 GHz) as well as a new 70 GHz unlicensed band consisting of 7GHz from 64GHz to 71 GHz. 

This incredible breadth of bandwidth enables an entire series of applications and solutions to enter the market.  We predict that within in 10 years a majority of homes and small business will not be connected to the internet by cable, twisted pair or fiber -- the last 100 meters will either be wireless or moving to wireless.  The move from wired to wireless will be driven by the economics and flexibility that having a wireless final connection can provide, along with a significant reduction in both service deployment and service operations costs. Look for regulatory bodies across the world to follow the FCC lead for new spectrum allocation.

 

Conclusion

It’s been a busy summer so far with standards acceleration, a 5G World and a record allocation of new spectrum to support the growing bandwidth needs of U.S.-based operators. The second half of the summer promises even more innovation with the next 5G standard meeting in Gothenburg Sweden and the Cablelabs Summer Conference in Colorado (remember one or more cable operators is likely to enter the mobile market, given that nearly 4Ghz of spectrum will be up for auction).