Friday, 20 November 2015
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Interview: AT&T on spectrum and 5G
So, Glenn Lurie of AT&T, let's talk about the future.
There's a lot of hype, we're in a 4G era at the moment, but obviously there's a lot hype around 5G. What's AT&T's take on 5G? And I'm asking that really because AT&T hasn't publicly said an awful lot about 5G at the moment, some of your competitors have.
Give us a little bit of an insight into your thinking around 5G?
Let me start with this, you said the right thing, 4G is really good, right? And what I want to make sure we don't do as an industry is start talking about something that's four, five years away. 5G is going to be very important in the industry, but today with 4G LTE there isn't anything you can't do. It's a very, very big pipe, it's got low latency, the speeds are phenomenal and really you can do anything you want. The key to 5G and the reason we've been, I wouldn't say quiet, is that the standards aren't done.
3GPP is still working with all the carriers around the world, you've got a lot of PR happening and I think we have got to be careful with just PR. 5G will be spectacular all right, it will have some new elements to it, will it be faster or lower latency, we'll see. It will have a layer for IOT. One of the things that's exciting about that is when you think about IoT and putting a sensor on a light in a smart city, I want that sensor to have a battery life of 10 years. Well today we don't have that, but we believe, it's not done yet, that that could be an element to 5G; a low power, low latency kind of a situation and layer inside of those standards. So for us, we don't want to get too far out in front of our headlights, right.
5G will be great and important but today we have a phenomenal network, especially in the US, we spend billions of dollars on it, and it works wonderfully and I think we should focus there. Yes the US has been a market leader in 4G.
But Glenn there have been reports recently that maybe the US is falling a bit behind the rest of the world in the move to 5G. Are you concerned by that at all? I think those reports came from guys who do what you do everyday which are folks in the media, and reality is, yes there's a lot of PR coming out of Asia and other places.
Look we're not concerned about that, we're in the middle of it, the US is right in the middle of it, we were very influential in what came out in standards for 4G LTE and we'll be very influential on what happens in 5G.
Finally Glenn, just wanted to touch on a hugely important topic in the US industry, and that is spectrum.
Obviously we can never have enough spectrum, but your thoughts on how AT&T can help lobby to help get more spectrum. I understand there's a big incentive auction for example next March, is that something that AT&T is going to play a big role in?
I think spectrum is the lifeblood of this industry. The usage continues to go up, right, you saw the stats flying around, it's incredible and the good thing is that people want more, that's terrific for the industry. But we have to have spectrum to be able to do that.
We've already participated in prior spectrum auctions, we've said we will participate in the one coming, but the reality is we need a long-term plan, a long-term plan with the FCC.
Obviously working with CTIA they've been very involved in helping build that plan. We really need to put in place spectrum going way out and I think you're hearing more and more that the government gets it, they want to do that, the current FCC is positioning it that way, but this is something that's not going to stop, it's going to be a journey.
Because as we wirelessly enable everything, which we're going to do and we're doing today, we're going to continually have to re-evaluate what our spectrum portfolios do, we're going to have to evaluate the technology to make the best use of it, and have it be most efficient, but without question you said it very well, we're going to need more.
Glenn thanks so much for your thoughts. Thank you. My pleasure, thank you. Glenn Lurie tells Mobile World Live why any concern around a slow move to 5G by the US operator – and indeed the country in general – is unnecessary. And he argues the US needs to come up with a “long term plan for spectrum”, with demand set to continue to rise as more devices become connected.
5G subscriptions will hit the 150 million mark by 2021, just a year after the first commercial networks are due to launch, with uptake expected to prove faster than the initial demand for 4G, according to Ericsson’s 2015 Mobility Report.
Ericsson’s latest report is the first time the Swedish vendor has included forecasts for “5G subscriptions”, which it defined as having a “device capable of supporting LTE Evolved or NX, connected to a 5G enabled network, supporting new use cases”. In a London briefing earlier today to discuss the findings, Ericsson’s Patrick Cerwall, head of strategic and tactical marketing, explained the thinking behind forecasting for 5G subscriptions, five years before launch.
He said the figures were based on both Ericsson’s reporting model, as well as conversations with operators. “We see 5G as the later stages of 4G, and this network will also be able to run on 2G and 3G networks,” he said. “5G is built on 4G, and with the road it is on, we see all mechanics are in place for it to go faster than we did with initial 4G.” He also said Ericsson still did not know how the market would actually measure traffic on 5G when it comes to launch.
The bulk of 5G uptake will come from South Korea, Japan, China and the US initially, while the company predicts mobile broadband subscriptions as a whole will more than double from today’s figures by the same year.
The report states mobile broadband subscriptions hit 3.4 billion in Q3 2015, and is forecast to grow to 7.7 billion by 2021, while mobile subscriptions as a whole will reach 9.1 billion, with LTE making up the largest share of all subscriptions, totalling 4.1 billion.
The company added the 4G standard reached around 850 million subscriptions in Q3, and could reach its first billion by the end of this year. Mobile data to surge Other key highlights from the report showed that total monthly mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of “around 45 per cent”, with the rising number of smartphone subscriptions and increasing data consumption per subscriber set to result in a 10 fold increase in total data traffic for all devices by the end of 2021.
During the briefing, Cerwall said the high figures actually “came as a little bit of a surprise, as growth acceleration for video actually recently began to decline”.
Forecasts for mobile video traffic also stood out, with traffic from video set to become “increasingly dominant”, with forecasts for it to grow 55 per cent annually through to 2021, when “it will account for around 70 per cent of all mobile data traffic”.
In 2015, video accounted for almost 50 per cent of mobile data, while 15 per cent of traffic came from social networking. This however did not account for video from social media, revealed Cerwall, with Ericsson opting to put this under the separate video bracket.
Speaking of T-Mobile US’ plans to offer video data streaming for free on select services, Cerwall said the move was “risky”: “As we have shown, it’s a bit risky to do free video as that is what is significantly driving up traffic.” Asia-Pacific will have the largest share of mobile data traffic in 2021, with China forecast to add 260 million mobile subscriptions alone.
In keeping with scaled back projections for the number of connected devices, which Ericsson had initially claimed would reach 50 billion by 2020, the company said there would be 28 billion devices connected by 2021, with more than 15 billion on M2M and consumer electronic devices by the timeframe.
“There are as many mobile subscriptions as people in the world, and every second 20 new mobile broadband subscriptions are activated,” said Rima Qureshi, SVP and Chief Strategy Officer at Ericsson.
“Apart from mobile phones, there will also be a multitude of other connected devices communicating.” 5G to go “beyond mobile broadband improvements”
Within the report, Ericsson also talked up the potential for 5G, claiming that the mobile network “will offer significantly higher throughput, lower latency and more data capacity compared to previous generations of mobile broadband services”. The company said it had built a prototype for applying 5G networking functions and data analytics to public transport, with one case study it is working on designs that plan to optimise the operations of public buses.
Ericsson said a 5G world will help optimise urban traffic flows, enabled by reliable connectivity with data analytics, with dense urban mobile coverage able to provide ubiquitous connectivity, opening up opportunities to improve public transportation, resulting in reduced congestion and increased availability.
“As mobile technology evolves towards 5G, network services with mission critical data traffic, such as instructions sent from a cloud service to a driver or an automated vehicle, will coexist with other types of network services,” read the report.
As expected, Ofcom has now rubber-stamped the L-band deal which saw Qualcomm sell a portion of its spectrum to Vodafone and Three, publishing a statement on the matter.
Vodafone has bought the 1452-1472MHz frequencies, and (the soon-to-be-merged-with-O2) Three's spectrum at 1472-1492MHz.
Spectrum is a touchy subject, but this must have been one of the easiest decisions ever for the UK regulator.
Indeed, when it put out a public consultation on the sale it only got one response – of the opinion that selling spectrum to someone who might actually use it was A Good Thing.
So that's unanimous then. Ofcom looked at how fit and proper Vodaphone and Three were to buy the spectrum and concluded that both companies seemed to know precisely what they were doing with the spectrum they already had, so purchase away.
More interestingly, the regulator looked at how it affected the allocation of spectrum between the operators. Unusually, it deemed 1400MHz as “low frequency”, more akin to 800MHz and 900MHz than the 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands, although EE's total spectrum holding is so much greater than that of Vodafone, and more than twice that of Three, that it’s not going to distort the market.
When BT merges with EE the combined company will have even more of a holding – and when O2 and Three merge the shares will all be roughly equal.
Funnily enough virtually nobody has shown much interest in L-band in the past, and its main use is likely to be as an ideal aggregated carrier to provide more 4G and 5G bandwidth. However, recently both CEPT, the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations, and the GSMA have highlighted L-band as being a useful frequency for global use.
Strangely financially silent, none of the parties involved in the sale will say quite how much the spectrum went for. Since Qualcomm paid just £8.3m, but when – the day before the official announcement – we suggested a huge profit was being made (I.e. tenfold! and more than £100m), one person who claims to know intimate details of the clever deal let it slip that Vodafone and Three paid a bit more than £100m each. Interesting L-band spectrum times ahead, perhaps?
Huawei's Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong was a fun place to attend. While BT and the UK government may think that 10Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps up is plenty of speed for Broadband for the masses, nobody else does it seems, and the mobile world is now gearing up for 1Gbps down and 100Mbps up!!
In fact, the so-called 4.5G non standard, "standard" which has not been ratified even has an official name, and this is relabelled as being "LTE-Advanced Pro". Whatever it’s going to be called, the ability to increase the bandwidth well beyond the 150Mbps of standard 4G comes from three specific technologies, namely carrier aggregation, more reliable advanced modulation, and an increase in the number of antennae.
Carrier aggregation is up and running on EE and Vodafone right now (the networks simply combined), with typically 20MHz of spectrum space from each of two frequencies – say 800MHz and 1800MHz in the case of EE – to provide more bandwidth and up to 300Mbps downstream.
If the two carrier frequencies are contiguous you can get even better performance. The LTE 4g spec would still technically allow lots of carriers to operate, but the cost of licencing the spectrum means that most people are looking to going along the four frequencies path as a sensible limit.
Naturally, merely improving the modulation technique needs far more processing power but Moore's law is our friend here and at least mobile phone carriers don’t need to buy any more spectrum space.
Going from 64-bit to 256-bit QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation), where out-of-phase carriers are modulated, and increasing the rate of modulation improves the throughput no end.
Again, it is the Infrastructure companies that are really keen to sell 256QAM kit into mobile phone operators, and are pushing it hard today.
The final element of the increased performance shtick is the shere magic of MIMO, (multiple-input, multiple-output). This cleverly uses several antennae so that multiple data streams can be transmitted on the same frequency at the same time with clever error correction left to sort out the resultant mess.
In 4.5G LTE-Advanced Pro this is likely to be four or eight instances. For 5G, look to Massive MIMO with 256 or more input and output channels.
Putting all this together, mobile phone operators and infrastructure manufacturers are confident of seeing speeds of 1Gbps as being entirely possible from the technology by 2020.
Huawei and Hong Kong Telecom actually demonstrated a basic prototype system producing 900Mbps at Huawei's Mobile Broadband Forum in Hong Kong last week, with all three technologies running well and a real-world handset running over 200Mbps downstream data rate with just carrier aggregation, and two instances of MIMO.
Putting these very high speeds in the hands of end users begs the question of what the hell will they be used for; yet history has shown that unexpected uses always seem to appear and grow up quickly and sooner or later gradually become the norm. At the forum last week just the two mostly hyped but obvious examples of self-driving cars and augmented reality 3D headsets were much discussed. We'll see how it pans out when 8k video streaming content providers weigh in since that is seen to be their goal!
Wednesday, 4 November 2015
Nokia Networks revealed more about a MoU signed last week with China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) to co-operate on 5G development, the first for a foreign vendor. The two firms will work together on the research, standardisation and industrialisation of 5G features such as multi-connectivity and high-speed seamless mobility.
China Mobile last week signed a one-year framework deal with Nokia Networks valued at more than $1 billion (€930 million). The MoU on 5G was part of this wider deal, although TD-LTE and VoLTE grabbed more headlines. Indeed, parent Nokia made much of the performance of its networks business in China during last week’s quarterly financials.
CEO Rajeev Suri highlighted the strong growth in the country, which partially offset decreases in sales from North America and Europe. Nokia and CMRI will work on service scenarios and requirements for 5G, including support for IoT; combine on 5G development in international standards-making bodies such as 3GPP and ITU, as well as jointly promote TD-LTE evolution in 5G via the GTI initiative, and hunt out more spectrum.
The two will also research and develop prototype 5G features, including multi-connectivity, seamless mobility and MIMO. They will also run joint demos of typical 5G applications, as well as verifying key 5G technology and systems via field trials. “I am happy to see that Nokia Networks is the first non-Chinese vendor to sign a 5G strategic cooperation agreement with China Mobile Research Institute.
We started to actively drive 5G development in China as early as 2013, and have made great efforts to encourage Sino-EU 5G strategic cooperation,” said Vicki Zhang, head of technology, Greater China, Nokia Networks.
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
4G LTE networks, by the middle of this year, now offer service to 755 million users, according to GSMA Intelligence. This high number is also projected to surpass one billion by the end of 2015 and reach 3.6 billion in 2020. But the rapid uptake of LTE services has created new challenges as well as opportunities for operators as they roll out and upgrade their mobile broadband (MBB) networks.
Worldwide data usage is on track to expand by more than 60 % over last year and monthly data traffic is forecast to increase tenfold by 2020. To keep up with this soaring demand, an increasing number of operators are already looking to deploy LTE-Advanced.
As of 31 July, 131 operators in 60 countries had plans to invest in LTE-A, according to GSA statistics. That’s 30 % of all operators with LTE networks. In addition, it’s no secret that traditional revenue sources, such as voice and SMS, are in steep decline and operators are struggling to find new revenue streams.
Monetising data continues to be one of the most significant obstacles that all operators face.
The Global Mobile Broadband Forum is tackling this key theme and helping develop a long-term industry vision for MBB connectivity and innovation.
Huawei is once again organising its Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF). The event is between the 2nd and 5th of November at the Asia-World Expo in Hong Kong. It is expected to attract over 1,000 operators, regulators, industry partners and media from right around the world.
“Transformation does not happen behind closed doors,” said Qiu Heng, President of Huawei’s Wireless Network Marketing Operations. “If you want other industries to use the network, you need to meet their real needs. Our communication with other industries is still at an early stage and we aim to meet with them as well as operators at this forum to explore future possibilities together.”
One area of discussion, Qiu said, will be around operators’ ability to develop new sources of revenue from IoT (the Internet of Things sector) as well as Huawei’s efforts to develop a wider ecosystem to create opportunities in related industries.
The two-day conference features more than 20 external speakers from operators such as HKT, SoftBank, Telefonica and Vodafone, as well as Bosch, CNN, Google, Phillips, Visa and Time.
Huawei’s rotating CEO and deputy chairman Ken Hu will kick off the forum with a presentation on ‘Building a Better Connected World’. He is followed by HKT group executive director Alex Arena, who will talk about the need for speed before 5G.
GSMA acting director general and CTO Alex Sinclair will speak about global spectrum considerations. Huawei is expected to make a number of announcements during the event, including a 1Gb/s demo from HKT, Hong Kong’s largest operator, and a joint GSMA-Huawei white paper on the benefits of C-band spectrum for MBB.
This is Huawei’s sixth annual MBBF conference and they will showcase the latest MBB trends covering 4.5G applications, 5G innovation, narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IOT) and the MBB network evolution in a 2,000-square-metre demo area.
This year’s forum will also feature the MBB experience tour, with attendees given the opportunity to see HKT’s 1Gb/s service in action.