Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Apple leans heavily upon Intel's 5G CHIPSET

Apple is leaning heavily toward Intel’s flavour of 5G for a future iPhone. The iPhone maker’s engineers have been engaged with Intel counterparts for early work on 5G, the upcoming technology for next-generation wireless broadband, while dialogue between Apple and the dominant modem supplier in the industry, Qualcomm, has been limited.

Qualcomm’s 5G modem chips offer more specialized carrier features like “Uplink Carrier Aggregation“ but many will not be widely adopted by carriers. Apple engineers believe that Intel’s 5G modem will fit its requirements for a future iPhone. Intel has lagged far behind Qualcomm in the modem market, but has a small army working on 5G, numbering in the multiple thousands. The initiative to provide the 5G modem for the iPhone is now considered a “must-win” for Intel. Intel first announced its 5G Modem at CES 2017, and said today in a press release that it has “successfully completed a full end-to-end 5G call based on its early 5G silicon … a key milestone in its development.” The completion of the modem aligns with Apple’s plans for a 5G iPhone to arrive in 2019 or 2020. A 5G iPhone will be capable of connection speeds of a gigabit per second and beyond, which could radically change the way we compute, communicate, and consume content using the device. The move to 5G is technically complex, requiring lots of coordination between the phone maker and potential vendors far in advance of official vendor selection.

THE BATTLE FOR THE IPHONE

Qualcomm has been supplying modems for the iPhone since 2011, and has a far more mature and full-featured 5G modem. After a big R&D investment, the company announced the world’s first 5G modem, the Snapdragon X50, back in October 2016. Intel, after its own gargantuan effort, won a small share of the Apple modem business starting with 2016’s iPhone 7. The company has been willing to customize its products for Apple in ways that Qualcomm likely would not. Apple has used the Intel modems in its iPhones for the T-Mobile and AT&T GSM/LTE networks, and, because the Qualcomm modems are especially well suited to CDMA networks, has put them in iPhones for Verizon and Sprint.

That dynamic may now change as the carriers transition their networks to 5G. Verizon, for one, has said it plans to no longer require that new devices connect to older CDMA networks starting in late 2018 or early 2019. When Verizon does that, Sprint, US Cellular, and a few other overseas operators will still support CDMA, but the CDMA ecosystem will begin to collapse.

Without a CDMA requirement, Apple has one less reason to stick with Qualcomm, which invented the widely used version of the technology.

A Strained Relationship Is EVIDENT today.

Meanwhile, Apple’s relationship with Qualcomm has soured over the past year amid an increasingly serious legal dispute over the patent licensing fees paid to Qualcomm by Apple suppliers. Also, Qualcomm is now the subject of a monster acquisition attempt by rival chipmaker, Broadcom, but has already rejected an eye popping $103 billon bid, which it said undervalues its business.

All of this seems to point toward the possibility, (or is it probability?) of Apple looking to Intel as the sole provider of 5G modems for the future iPhone. The end game is obviously to build the Intel modem onto an integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) that would also contain the CPU, GPU, and most other iPhone components. The SoC would be co-designed by Intel and Apple plus most importantly the chip would be fabricated at an Intel facility. Some believe Apple’s full embrace of Intel could happen even sooner. The Wall Street Journal recently cited unnamed sources saying that Apple is already building iPhone prototypes that use Intel 3G/4G modems only. The report named a smaller chipmaker, Taiwan-based MediaTek, as a possible (if somewhat unlikely) second supplier.

Qualcomm would not go on record for this story. (Suppliers are required to sign strict non-disclosure agreements that prohibit talking publicly about their business with Apple.) Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment. Intel did however provide a telling statement: “While we do not comment on customer products, as evidenced by our news today Intel is making great momentum on our 5G roadmap to accelerate the adoption of 5G.”

Thursday, 2 November 2017

More on KRACKS, the WiFi WPA2 attack technique reads info that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted.

The recent discovery of serious weaknesses in WPA2, a protocol that secures all modern protected Wi-Fi networks, has been in the headlines. An attacker within range of a victim can exploit these weaknesses using key reinstallation attacks otherwise known as KRACKs. 

Concretely, any attacker can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted. This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos, and so on. 

The attack works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks

Depending on the network configuration, it is also possible to inject and manipulate data. For example, an attacker might be able to inject ransomware or other malware into websites.

The weaknesses are to be found in the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in individual products or implementations. Therefore, any correct implementation of WPA2 is likely affected. To prevent the attack, users must urgently update their affected products as soon as security updates become available. If ANY of your devices support Wi-Fi, it is most likely affected

During initial research, it was discovered that Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys, and many others, are all affected by some variant of the attacks. 

For more information about specific products, consult the database of CERT/CC, or contact your vendor.

The research behind the attack will soon be presented at the upcoming Computer and Communications Security (CCS) conference, and at the Black Hat Europe conference. 

A very detailed research paper can already be downloaded. The recommendation from MenteSanas is not to delay acting on this risk any further. 
Comments?

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Alphabet's (Google's) routing blunder sent Japan's Internet dark last Friday!

An indeterminate but supposedly small number of Google Docs including MenteSanas users on Tuesday found that their essays, reports, school assignments, tracts, and manifestos had run afoul of Google's terms of service and had been made inaccessible.

Some users reported being unable to share their documents; others said their documents could not be viewed in Google Drive; and a few of us claimed their work had been lost, though we're told what was lost has fortunately been found again.

Several hours ago, Bhaskar Sunkara, founder of Jacobin magazine, via Twitter said an article on Eastern Europe's post-socialist policies had vanished from his Google Drive space due to a terms of service (ToS) violation.

Rachel Bale, a reporter for National Geographic, said a draft of a story about wildlife crime had been frozen for a ToS violation.

And Jason Heppler, an assistant professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, posted a screenshot showing that a requested file had been deleted from Google Drive.

Similar tales litter the Google Docs Help Forum.

The incident prompted reiterations of longstanding concerns about the downside of cloud-based services, namely that files stored remotely can be swept away at any time for any reason. And it comes at a time when Google and its peers are under scrutiny in the US for not knowing more about those who share content and pay for ads on social platforms.

Google routing blunder sent Japan's Internet dark on Friday


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Google offers Docs and Drive under the usual rules, which disallow abusive or illegal content. In most circumstances, it does not scrutinize private content stored on its servers, though it does have automated systems in place for detecting illegal images, at least in Gmail.

YouTube also has a system for detecting copyrighted content.

For shared content like Docs files, much of the ToS policing has been foisted upon other users, who are invited to flag material they deem inappropriate.

It's that flagging mechanism that went haywire, we're told. Shortly after noon Pacific Time, Google acknowledged its errant flagging frenzy and attributed it to bad code.

"This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked," a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Register. "A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs."

Google's spokesperson said that protecting users from malware and abusive content is part of the company's strategy for keeping users safe online and apologized for the disruption while promising to implement safeguards to prevent its safeguards from getting out of hand.

MenteSanas are no longer in Stealth Mode

From today, November 1st, 2017 we at MenteSanas are no longer in Stealth Mode as soon as the "Hangouts Meet hardware kits" arrive, as we will have been patiently waiting several months. 

They go on sale in the U.S.A. and Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Australia, Japan, and even New Zealand.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The other AT&T and T-Mobile shoes drop into Puerto Rico supporting Project Loon and LTE 4G. Similar 5G plans will appear next year or does Project Loon wait until 2020?

T-Mobile revealed on Friday 26th of October that it’s now working with Project Loon to help get LTE-based communications to people in Puerto Rico following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

That follows AT&T’s move a week earlier when it said it was supporting Loon’s efforts to provide basic communication and internet activities for some people with LTE-enabled phones. While the Loon team emphasised last week that it was still an experimental system, it’s already been serving “tens of thousands” of people in Puerto Rico, so it appears to be working.

“Since turning on Project Loon service last week, we’ve delivered basic Internet connectivity to tens of thousands of people in Puerto Rico,” said Alastair Westgarth, project lead at Project Loon, in a statement. “We really appreciate the collaboration and support of AT&T and T-Mobile and hope that our efforts are helping during this incredibly difficult time.”

RELATED: Google's Project Loon working with AT&T to get basic wireless services to Puerto Rico. The Loon team has been launching balloons from a site in Nevada and navigating them to Puerto Rico. The Loon team worked with the government of Puerto Rico, as well as the FCC, FAA, FEMA, other spectrum partners and international aviation authorities, to bring service to the region.   Project Loon, which is part of X, an innovation lab within Alphabet, works only with 4G LTE devices that support band 8.

The company still considers it to be an experimental system, though, and says many unique factors could prevent a specific device from connecting. The hope is that as Project Loon engineers get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in the region, they can keep the balloons up precisely over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.

For consumers, a signal appears on their device the same way it shows up on any LTE device—users see an AT&T or T-Mobile sign—so they won’t know just by looking at their phone if they’re connected via Project Loon or to a cell tower.

T-Mobile CTO, Neville Ray, said in blog post that to date, T-Mobile has recovered more than 80% of its original prestorm outdoor signal in Puerto Rico. “We are working every day to close that gap and increase the density of our coverage in the higher populated areas,” he said. “We won’t stop!”
RELATED: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint work at restoring service in Puerto Rico
"Our team has also left no stone unturned when it comes to getting people connected until infrastructure destroyed by Maria can be replaced,” he said.

"One of these solutions is Project Loon, an experimental system that our engineering experts worked on with the team at X, Alphabet’s Moonshot factory.

This balloon-based LTE 4G access allows us to deliver more limited data and texting services to customers in hard to reach areas and I’m pleased to share that this is live as of today!”  
Yet another example he gave was T-Mobile’s partnership with Vanu, a cellular antenna system company headed by Vanu Bose, to deploy several self-contained portable cellular network units that provide voice, data and text capabilities in some of the hardest hit areas.

There is a lot more info to aid our research on the topics: LTE 4G, 5G, Project Loon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Alphabet, Google; it can be found on Wikipedia and elsewhere as well as in the future on this blog.

T-Mobile/Sprint would be ‘dominant spectrum holder’ in much of the U.S.A.: 

T-Mobile/Sprint merger would 'significantly improve' ability to compete in rural markets: 

CCA reiterates opposition to Verizon's Straight Path 5G spectrum buy with FCC petition

Monday, 23 October 2017

WPA2 vulnerability is a serious flaw in the wireless encryption protocol



Users are urged to continue using WPA2 pending the availability of a fix, experts have said, after security researchers went public with more information about a serious flaw in the wireless encryption protocol.

So-called Key Reinstallation Attacks, aka KRACK, potentially work against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks. Depending on the network configuration and the device targeted, it is possible to inject and manipulate data as well as eavesdrop on communications over the air. The only main limitation is that an attacker needs to be within range of a victim to exploit these weaknesses.

It affects WPA2 Personal and Enterprise, regardless of the encryption ciphers used by a network. It mostly affects Linux and Android 6.0 and above, as well as macOS and OpenBSD. Windows and iOS are more or less unaffected due to the way they implement WPA2. Gadgets from Cisco, Linksys and other networking gear makers are also vulnerable. You should obtain and install software patches as soon as possible, from your operating system vendor or hardware suppliers, to fix up the WPA2 design flaw.

Mathy Vanhoef of KU Leuven, one of the security researchers who discovered the specification blunder, warned that the security hole stems from a fundamental cryptographic weakness in the latest generation of wireless networking rather than a programming cockup.

Simply changing Wi-Fi network passwords is not going to help – software and firmware will need to be updated to workaround this deep design error:
The weaknesses are in the Wi-Fi standard itself, and not in individual products or implementations. Therefore, any correct implementation of WPA2 is likely affected. To prevent the attack, users must update affected products as soon as security updates become available.

KRACK targets the four-way handshake of the WPA2 protocol and relies on tricking a victim's device into reusing an already-in-use key. This sleight of hand is achieved by manipulating and replaying cryptographic handshake messages.


“When the victim reinstalls the key, associated parameters such as the incremental transmit packet number (i.e. nonce) and receive packet number (i.e. replay counter) are reset to their initial value,” Vanhoef explained today on a microsite about the attack. “Essentially, to guarantee security, a key should only be installed and used once. Unfortunately, we found this is not guaranteed by the WPA2 protocol. By manipulating cryptographic handshakes, we can abuse this weakness in practice.”

An attacker can force these nonce resets by collecting and replaying retransmissions of message three of the four-way handshake.

A nonce is a number that is not necessarily a secret but is meant only to be used once and never repeated. The flaw in WPA2 allows a nonce to be – or forced to be – repeated, thus allowing an attacker to extract the WPA2 session key and decrypt and compromise all wireless traffic for that session.

As a proof-of-concept, Vanhoef has published a demonstration of how a key reinstallation attack might be carried out against an Android smartphone. Android and Linux are particularly susceptible to the WPA2 flaw because a bug in the platform's widely used wpa_supplicant tool zeroes the key during the eavesdropping, thus the Wi-Fi traffic can be trivially decrypted.

In short, other than Windows and iOS, the vulnerability can be exploited on various operating systems, computers and devices to decrypt any information transferred over the air that isn't already encrypted with HTTPS, TLS, a VPN tunnel, or similar.

Puerto Rico's cellphone towers were knocked out and Project Loon came to the rescue


Google's parent Alphabet Inc. said Friday that its stratospheric balloons are now delivering the internet to remote areas of Puerto Rico where cellphone towers were knocked out by Hurricane Maria.

Two of the search giant's "Project Loon" balloons are already over the country enabling texts, emails and basic web access to AT&T customers with handsets that use its 4G LTE network.

The balloons -- called HBAL199 and HBAL237 -- are more than 60,000 feet (18,000 meters) above land, according to FlightRadar24.com . They navigate using an algorithm that puts them in the best position to deliver signal by rising and falling to ride wind currents. They are also solar-powered and only provide signal during the day

Several more balloons are on their way from Nevada, and Alphabet has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission to send up to 30 balloons to serve the hard-hit area, according to Libby Leahy, spokeswoman for Alphabet's X, its division for futuristic technologies.

Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post that Project Loon is "still an experimental technology and we're not quite sure how well it will work," though it has been tested since last year in Peru following flooding there.

Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of 3.4 million people since making landfall last month. Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Friday the death toll had risen to 49. Less than a fifth of the island has electricity, half its cellphone towers are still not functioning, schools are closed and more than 4,000 are in shelters, according to a government website .

AT&T spokesman, Jeffrey Kobs, said the company has set up 14 temporary cell sites, and as of Friday more than 60 percent of the population was connected via mobile network, in part due to the help of humanitarian and government groups and Project Loon.

Other technology companies such as Cisco, Facebook and Tesla have also pledged help or have sent teams to the island to improve communications and restore power.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Switching to businesses rather than consumers is the future of 5G

A newly released poll shows that a significantly larger percentage of wireless operators conducted 5G tests this year.

They are increasingly focused on enterprise and industrial applications for the next-generation systems. Ericsson's latest 5G Readiness Survey, conducted in July, showed that 78 percent of respondents were involved in 5G trials this year, up from 32 percent last year. Participating executives also suggested that increasing saturation of the consumer 5G market prompted companies to shift to other markets. 

Although 52 percent of respondents planned for the consumer segment, 56 percent targeted business applications and 58 percent sought industrial applications. A majority of poll participants also said that the Internet of Things — and related collaboration with third-parties — would be critical to the development of 5G. “In the 2016 survey, 90 percent of the respondents pointed to consumers as the main segment in their 5G business planning," Ericsson 5G commercialization head Thomas Noren said in a statement. "This year, it is an even split between three segments and operators have identified business opportunities not only in the consumer segment but also with enterprise users and specialized industries.” 

The survey signaled that enterprise and industrial systems would be among the ways to monetize 5G, along with higher prices for new services, migration from 4G systems and increased market share. Respondents identified the media and entertainment and automotive and public transport sectors as the most attractive for 5G applications, but said health care and energy and utilities could also see significant interest. The report featured responses from 50 executives, in either business or technical roles, for 37 global operators with publicly announced 5G ambitions.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Qualcomm and the FCC

Qualcomm was granted FCC authorization to conduct experiments using a small 5G R&D development and demonstration network at 4.4-4.94 GHz in its hometown of San Diego.

Specifically, the location is within a 0.5-mile radius of Qualcomm’s campus in the Sorrento Valley area of San Diego. The authorization is effective until Oct. 1, 2019. The application lists 30 mobile units and four base stations to be used in a test network that will use a single TDD 100 MHz channel bandwidth. Qualcomm explained that the requested frequency range of 4.4-4.94 GHz is for technology development purposes only and not targeted for future non-federal wireless communication deployment in the U.S.

Qualcomm said the network supported by the experimental license is critical for the company to develop, validate and then demonstrate 5G technology wireless communications systems. Engineers designed the network to generate the smallest amount of RF interference to incumbents in the requested frequency range while also providing the RF coverage area required for engineering development and showcasing advanced wireless technology for indoor, outdoor, static and mobility user environments, the company said. “The network is required to support both conventional passive antennas configurations as well as advanced beam forming technologies that will be utilized by 5G networks,” the application states.

The network as described uses four fixed sectors to provide the RF coverage area to a maximum of 30 mobile devices anywhere within the 0.5-mile coverage area. Three of the locations use one directional antenna while the third site has two directional antennas. The mobile devices can be used in static locations, in vehicles or in human mobility scenarios, according to the application. Most mobile testing will occur at ground level, but there’s a chance that some mobile may be located inside buildings exceeding one story.

Apple, Facebook and more lobby for expanded unlicensed use of 6 GHz band for 5G devices.

Qualcomm is part of a broader coalition that is calling on the FCC to open up the 6 GHz band to unlicensed operations and allow them to bring faster service, lower latency and more pervasive coverage to consumers. They note that the timing couldn’t be better: the IEEE 802.11ax Task Group recently voted to extend coverage to the 6 GHz band, expanding 802.11ax from 5 GHz into new gigabit-enabled channels, and consumers will rely more heavily on Wi-Fi in the future to power new use cases. 

About 30 entities signed the filing, all agreeing that Part 15 access to the 5925-7125 MHz band (aka the 6 GHz band) is essential in meeting demand for the next generation of wireless broadband services.

The companies span the consumer equipment, internet media, software, cloud, semiconductor, enterprise, service provider and rural connectivity industries. Their proposal is in response to the FCC’s call for comments on expanding flexible use in mid-band spectrum between 3.7 and 24 GHz.

5G CHINESE strategy seeks comments

China’s Ministry of Industries and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a public consultation request dated June 5th, 2017 seeking comment on plans to use the 3300-3600 MHz and 4800-5000 MHz bands for 5G, with 3300-3400 MHz will be limited to indoor use.

The White Spaces Radio below 700 MHz spectrum is not part of this plan, but analysts at Jefferies said they don’t think that’s a cause for alarm. In a June 6th research note to investors, the analysts said they believe this consultation’s purpose is to ensure these currently available spectra are “truly clean and free.” For the 700 MHz spectrum, since it has been allocated to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) for broadcasting purposes, it is technically “unavailable” or considered “not free,” they said. “We continue to believe that Unicom will be able to reach an agreement with SAPPRFT, which will give it access to the latter’s 700 MHz spectrum in exchange for an equity stake in Unicom,” the analysts wrote. “The MIIT will then re-allocate the 700 MHz spectrum that has been freed up by SAPPRFT for 5G applications.” 

Including the 100 MHz of spectrum restricted for providing indoor coverage, China’s MIIT plans to allocate a total of 500 MHz of spectrum for 5G, they noted. “Although this is only similar in total spectrum size to the current 2G/3G/4G allocation for the three Chinese telcos, which is 507 MHz, the major difference is that the 5G spectrum being planned is contiguous spectrum (300 MHz contiguous between 3300 and 3600 MHz, and 200 MHz contiguous between 4800-5000 MHz), while the current allocation is split into small parcels between 800 MHz and 2600 MHz,” the analysts said. “The ITU suggested a minimum contiguous spectrum size of 100 MHz for genuine 5G services, and it is very difficult for most countries to find such spectrum at a low frequency level (below 3 GHz). 

That is why 5G will, in most cases, take place at a higher frequency level and become far more expensive to build than 4G networks. In Europe, regulators decided that mobile operators will obtain exclusive access to the 700 MHz band (694-790 MHz) by June 30, 2020, coinciding with the expected deployment of 5G networks in Europe. Member states may, however, delay the reallocation by up to two years, but only in duly justified cases set out in the decision, according to the European Council of the European Commission. In the U.S., the FCC last year voted unanimously to make spectrum bands above 24 GHz available for 5G, opening up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband—3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. 

T-Mobile, by comparison, presses the FCC to change the 3.5 GHz framework to better align with 5G global requirements. Regulations aside, T-Mobile USA more recently declared it’s going to be using the 600 MHz spectrum it won in the incentive auction for 5G, as well as the 200 MHz of spectrum it has in the 28/39 GHz bands. CTO Neville Ray said 5G can be deployed on any frequency, and in the future, all spectrum will be 5G spectrum running across low, mid and high-band. Interestingly, T-Mobile also has been pressing the FCC to revisit the 3.5 GHz CBRS band to make it better aligned in the U.S. with global spectrum for 5G. Executives visited with the FCC recently to explain that the 3.5 GHz spectrum is a core band for 5G deployment around the world and that the U.S. will miss a huge opportunity if it doesn’t create a structure aligned with global 5G requirements.

Crown Castle big time buy banking on 5G by spending $7.1 B

Crown Castle gets ‘crown jewel’ Lightower for $7.1B With a greatly expanded network, the company should be able to help its wireless customers prepare for 5G.

The reports were right on the money. Crown Castle International (CCI) has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Lightower—technically LTS Group Holdings LLC—for approximately $7.1 billion in cash. That Crown Castle was considering the acquisition was first reported by Bloomberg.

Lightower owns or has rights to approximately 32,000 route miles of fiber located primarily in metro markets in the Northeast, including Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Following completion of the transaction, Crown Castle will own or have rights to approximately 60,000 route miles of fibre, with a presence in all of the top 10 and 23 of the top 25 metro markets.

That will make the company one of the larger fibre network operators. “We are excited about the addition of Lightower given its attractive fibre footprint and the value we believe it will create for our shareholders,” Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown in a statement. He added that Lightower’s footprint in top metro markets in the Northeast will be valuable for supporting small cell deployments by Crown Castle customers.

Crown Castle is widely understood to have both AT&T and Verizon as customers. The company bought several thousand of AT&T’s towers in 2013. Wireless carriers’ evolution to 5G technology will include using millimeter-wave spectrum that is less robust than centimeter-wave spectrum traditionally used in wireless communications. In order to provide reliable coverage, millimetre-wave systems will require far more base stations—small cells—than today’s 4G systems need.

The response of financial analysts has been generally favorable. Wells Fargo Securities refers to Lightower as a “crown jewel.” Analysts there say the deal will underscore the value of Crown Castle competitor Zayo, which will still be three times larger than the combination of Crown Castle and Lightower, and which also has a solid presence in dense urban markets where small cells are going to be needed in great numbers.

New Street has been skeptical that supporting small cells would be anywhere near as lucrative as the macro tower business, but believes the small cell portion of Crown Castle’s business will be small enough a portion of the company to give Crown Castle “the benefit of the doubt.”

Deutsche Bank Markets Research, like Wells Fargo and New Street, was pleased to see Crown Castle’s estimates that the deal will be more accretive than most previously expected. Crown Castle anticipates closing the deal by the end of this year.

Project Loon is perfectly timed for 5G?

Google expects Project Loon to be profitable in the next couple of years, stating that “helping out” is important “but that’s not the reason we exist”.

Project Loon, part of Google’s Alphabet X division, was launched in 2012, and uses helium filled balloons to provide 120 Mb/s Full Duplex broadband internet access to some of the world’s most remote locations or in cases of disaster, (to be installed over Puerto Rica specifically) with another example providing similar symmetrical broadband connectivity to areas in Peru, South America.

During trials in the country, Alastair Westgarth, head of Project Loon, said his team was able to turn on a live network, covering a landmass the size of Switzerland, to provide internet access to thousands of people that were disconnected after severe flooding. In doing this, the Google Loon team worked with Spanish telco, Telefonica to provide access to areas in which the operator was not present, while both collaborated on spectrum.

Westgarth opened up on how exactly the partnership model with operators worked. He said when the unit first started out, “people”, presumably referring to operators, “were quite nervous” Project Loon was Google’s attempt to try to build an over the top network. “We were absolutely not doing that,” he said. “We’re not our own MNO, we’re not even our own ISP.” 

He said Project Loon was now talking to “dozens and dozens” of telcos and operators around the world, and there was a long-term vision to build a durable business and an eventual revenue driver. “We exist to build a durable business model, and underneath that if we can help people and on occasion provide relief during a strenuous situation, a disaster situation, that’s great,” he said. “But we believe in the next couple of years we will be flying and providing service in a commercial context in partnership with the operators.” During the interview, Westgarth also opened up on how artificial intelligence technology would be leveraged further to control and monitor the balloons in flight at 20 km altitude.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Derailing the 5G opportunity in the UK after BREXIT

The Head of Ofcom, Sharon White, has come out swinging against providers' legal challenges to its spectrum auction proposals – accusing them of derailing Britain’s “golden opportunity” to take a lead in 5G. 

Both Three and EE have launched separate judicial reviews against the UK comms watchdog over its forthcoming auction for the 2.3GHz band, which will be used for 4G, and the 3.4GHz band, identified as central to the rollout of 5G. 

The auction had been due to begin at the end of this year, but instead the courts will fight it out over whether the 37 per cent cap on spectrum is guaranteed (which is Three's concern) and whether the separate bands ought to be auctioned separately so the cap doesn't apply to the 3.4GHz band (BT/EE's objection). In a letter to the Financial Times, White said: "The courts have agreed to fast-track litigation, but the benefits for mobile users will inevitably be delayed. We planned to complete the auction this year. "Now we will be in court in December. We believe that auctioning some 5G airwaves early would allow companies to start the vital groundwork to make 5G a reality as soon as possible." 

She noted that the UK government is putting up "significant funding" for 5G networks.
However, as one well-placed source remarked, Ofcom could well be playing up the potential 5G delay for "politically expedient" reasons. 

It is attacking operators over the perception they are delaying "innovative" new technology. "This isn't really about 5G," he said. "Ofcom is understandably fed-up with being litigated against." He said: "Those bands were only paired because they became available from the Ministry of Defence at the same time. 

When Ofcom decided to bundle them in 2014 it made sense, but since then things have changed." Because the EU scuppered the proposed £10.5bn merger between O2 and Three in 2016 - the two smallest providers - ensuring each provider has a fair amount of spectrum by introducing a cap became more of a priority. Had that merger gone ahead, Three and O2 combined would have had a 29 per cent share of the spectrum (as opposed to 15 per cent and 14 per cent respectively), making a spectrum cap less imperative. Without any spectrum cap, Three would not have begun a legal challenge and EE/BT would not have launched its own counter judicial review.

"The regulator has dug itself into a hole, as a consequence of the EU's and its own insistence over having four companies in the market," said the source. "It might be wise to revisit the decision to bundle the auction together, so we can get a move on with 4G and return to 5G later." He added that any delays to 5G are not really important, as that band of spectrum won't be available until 2020, and the extent to which the UK is in a position to become a world leader is "highly questionable". Kane Mumford, journalist at Policy Tracker, agreed that the hold-up to 5G is being over-egged.
"Internally, I can say Ofcom is more sceptical about 5G than Ofcom's Sharon White makes out in [the article]" he said in a tweet.

Update:
An Ofcom spokesman got in touch to say: “This is absolutely about 5G. It is very regrettable that the auction will now be delayed by this litigation, which will harm consumers, businesses and ultimately the UK economy.”

Monday, 25 September 2017

5G will make every industry and every part of our lives better.

At the San Feancisco Mobile World Congress Americas 2017 during the keynote session on the first day there was Meredith Baker, the president of the CTIA, taking the stage to talk about 5G and its many saving graces.

She explained that “5G will make every industry and every part of our lives better.” That seems very plausible considering the fact that 5G is 100 times faster, supports 100 times the number of devices and is five times as responsive as 4G.

To put it into context, 5G will introduce entirely new immersive forms of education. So we’ll be living in a new world where field trips won’t need permission slips or long bus rides – they can happen easily, instantly, and virtually (although our children will likely miss the fresh air). But in light of some of the recent hurricanes that have hit – and devastated – Texas and Florida, Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, reminded the audience that “wireless connectivity was a lifeline for people affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

Many people were found because of wireless calls, like the 14-year-old girl who asked Siri on her iPhone to call the Coast Guard.” This is a very interesting point and one that may not always get the most attention when it comes to discussions about 5G.

It's extremely important, As Ajit Pai said, “For public safety, wireless communications are critically important in the recovery process.” I agree and would suggest that St. Martin and other islands hardest hit could be the first to take advantage of 5G as they rebuild their cellular phone network infrastructure. The key to making 5G’s benefits a reality will, of course, come down to how well devices perform on the new network.

According to GSMA’s 2017 Global Mobile Trends Report, early 5G deployments will focus primarily on high-bandwidth applications as an extension to 4G, notably 4K ultra-HD video and VR/AR apps. Aa a Q2 2017 State of Mobile Device Performance and Health Report noted, crashing apps are a common reality in today’s 4G world. So I can only imagine that apps may initially experience some lags and crash when 5G is first launched.

It is hard to predict the innovations that will arise from 5G. What impact will having faster internet from your tethered phone then get from your office network? IT administrators could lose control of the gateway where many critical security measures are enforced.

Employees will be able to move and send large files faster to the cloud than to local storage servers. 5G is going to unleash a myriad of security issues, not least among them controlling data flows. This is something data governance and compliance professionals should start thinking about today.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Charter partners with Samsung over 5G strategies

Guess you will collaborate on 5G Trials?

Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) and Samsung Electronics America are collaborating on 5G and 4G LTE wireless networks lab and field trials at various locations in the United States. The trials, which began this summer, are expected to run through the end of the year. The 5G trial is evaluating fixed use cases using Samsung's pre-commercial 28 GHz (mmWave) system and devices. The 4G trials are performed at 3.5 GHz (CBRS), utilizing Samsung's combined 4G LTE small cell technology in an outdoor environment to evaluate mobile use cases. "We are pleased to collaborate with Samsung on these trials, which provide Charter better insight into how our advanced, powered, high speed network - which currently passes 49 million homes and businesses - can be used to enable 5G services," said Craig Cowden, senior VP, Wireless Technology at Charter. "In addition, as we move closer to the launch of a Spectrum wireless service in 2018, our work with Samsung on trials of 4G small cell technology will support our overall wireless strategy." Tests will include Samsung's strand-mount 4G LTE outdoor small cell, which provides both 4G LTE and WiFi service over multiple frequencies.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Verizon perhaps has solved the 28GHz signal problem ahead of 5G

Verizon at the Mobile World Congress Americas trade show said it may have solved one of the key problems dogging the 5G space: how to transmit 28 GHz signals through windows that block UV rays.

While this might sound like a minor inconvenience in the multibillion-dollar buildup to 5G, it’s actually not. Getting millimeter-wave signals to travel anywhere is difficult, but it’s really hard to get those signals to travel through windows that are coated with material that reflects UV light (and most new homes and offices require this kind of coating in order to lower cooling costs).

This situation poses a big problem for Verizon, because the carrier wants to be able to use 5G to deliver superfast internet to homes and businesses instead of fiber. If those signals can’t get past windows, users would probably have to have Verizon technicians install antennas on the outside of their home or office. This kind of specialized installation would be expensive, to say the least, and would therefore significantly cut into any savings Verizon might score by using 5G instead of fibre.

So how exactly did Verizon (and its partner Nokia Bell Labs) solve this particular problem? As Edward Jack, lab manager at a Verizon Innovation Center, explains, the carrier employed a solution that’s both high-tech and simple at the same time. Basically, Verizon invented a two-part 5G modem: One part sits outside a user’s window, and the other part sits right on the other side of the window. The two parts are connected by magnets or some other method (in Verizon’s demo they were taped to the window) in a way that ensures the two halves line up exactly. The antenna, receiver and transmitter are on the outside of the window, while the power, display and connection ports are on the inside. The two halves communicate through the half-inch of glass wirelessly, but Verizon’s Jack said that the connection technology used there was the “secret sauce” of the design and he wouldn’t tell me exactly how it worked. Suffice to say, though, that the operator’s prototype modem functioned as advertised; Verizon was able to transmit a 28 GHz 5G signal from a transmitter to a receiver on the outside of the window, and then through the window to the internet port on the inside. Jack said the demo supported speeds up to 1.2 Gbps, but he noted that Verizon’s eventual 5G service would likely support much faster speeds than that.

So, why is this new solution important? Verizon is hoping to use its 5G Technology Forum network specifications, developed with Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung, for a fixed wireless service in the 28 and 39 GHz bands. The company hopes to launch commercial service next year. Importantly, Verizon wants to make sure that users can install their own equipment for the service, because it’s a lot cheaper for Verizon to just mail a customer a 5G modem and have them attach it to their own window rather than have a Verizon technician install some kind of antenna on the outside of that home, office or apartment building.

Verizon has said it is testing its fixed 5G service in 11 markets around the country. If those tests are successful, Verizon could significantly increase its internet footprint beyond what it can serve today with its wired Fios service. Further, Verizon would also be able to challenge a range of existing wired internet players, like cable and telco providers, with a fixed 5G service—as long as Verizon can figure out a way of getting its millimeter-wave 5G signals from its towers to end users’ locations.

To be clear, though, Verizon’s new two-part 5G prototype modem is just one potential solution, and the design might not make its way into Verizon’s eventual commercial product. Or it might only be used in locations where UV window coating is common, like in the Southwest.

Further, UV coating on windows isn’t the only obstacle Verizon and other 5G providers need to overcome in the years ahead. Signals in the millimeter-wave bands (typically those around 28 GHz and above) in some cases have trouble passing through foliage and rain; they also don’t travel nearly as far geographically as traditional cellular services can.

Verizon’s Jack acknowledged that the carrier still has a number of problems to overcome in order to make its fixed 5G service a reality. However, he pointed out that Verizon’s two-part modem is a potential solution to a major obstacle in the race to 5G, and a further indication that the industry continues to apply its considerable engineering wherewithal to making 5G a reality. In talking to Jack, a soft-spoken engineer clearly geeking out his new prototype, it does feel like that kind of inventiveness is worth acknowledging, and maybe even celebrating a little.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

So how many 5G base stations are going to be installed?

The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) announced 4G networks accounted for half of the 5.9 million base stations deployed across the country at the end-of June.

With 2.99 million 4G base stations in the mainland, China’s big three mobile operators certainly account for the lion’s share of the global 4G total – more than 40 per cent according to some analysts. But determining a precise percentage proved to be a challenge for Mobile World Live (MWL).

Phil Marshall, chief research officer at Tolaga Research, estimates the global number of base stations at 6.5 million sites, while Chinese equipment vendor Huawei puts the number at 7 million. Obviously China hasn’t deployed nearly all of the world’s base stations. Sites vs sectors The confusion arises from how you define base station. It seems CAICT, and China’s operators, are counting “logical” sites or sectors, while others use the more narrow definition by including only physical sites.

A physical site might house three to four logical sectors, and each can be counted as a “base station”. For example, a China Unicom base station supports GSM900, GSM1800, WCDMA2100 and LTE.
Most of the equipment is deployed in the same room at one physical site, but there are four bands, so there are four logical sites, a Huawei representative said. “We estimate 7 million physical base stations worldwide, but the number of logical sites would be considerably higher,” he said.
For the record, the number of 4G base stations China’s operators reported at end-June was significantly higher than CAICT’s total. China Mobile had 1.65 million, China Telecom 1.05 million and China Unicom 770,000, for a grand total of at 3.47 million.

China Mobile plans to add another 120,000 4G base stations in H2, while China Telecom said it will deploy another 110,000 by year-end. Marshall told MWL: “Given that China Tower has about 1 million towers, I cannot imagine how China could have more than 1.5 million 4G sites.

This is further supported by the fact that there are about 885 million 4G subs in China. We normally work on a ratio of between 500 and 1,500 subscribers per unique site depending on market conditions.”

By either measure, China is the global leader by a long shot, with no country having anywhere close to half the number of 4G sites or sectors.

At last! Pre-standard 5G arrives in Berlin

Deutsche Telekom and Huawei launched a pre-standard 5G network in central Berlin, a move the companies described as creating Europe’s first 5G connection.

In a joint statement, the companies said the connection used the latest 3GPP specifications to deliver a 2Gb/s connection over a 3.7GHz spectrum link. It will enable wide area applications and improve indoor coverage. The network uses a pre-5G technology based on standards being developed for non-standalone New Radio.

The network uses 4G LTE as a base while 5G NR technology provides improved data rates and reduces latency. Deutsche Telkom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn said: “With this real-world achievement, Deutsche Telekom is making its first important step towards a 5G network launch.
When the standard is defined, we will trial it in 2018 to prepare the ground for a wider deployment of commercial sites and the offering of devices for the mass market as they become available.”

The deployment is one of a number of networks being rolled-out around the world based on pre-standardised 5G technology. Results from many of these early trials or limited area networks are helping operators develop their 5G strategies and technology ahead of an anticipated commercial launch in 2020.

Friday, 25 August 2017

5g NR as a pre-standard version

As major industry players race to be the first ones to debut pre-standard versions of 5G, the current emphasis is on the millimeter-wave spectrum. The idea is to have 5G NR (typically millimeter wave) infrastructure provide additional capacity in hot spots or hot zones within LTE networks, seamlessly supplementing the LTE coverage.

In the 3GPP, the stakeholders are working on defining the 5G radio access technology, which is called simply the New Radio (NR).

Structurally, it builds on the groundwork laid by LTE. The radio is based on OFDM technology just like LTE. The fundamental numerology is still based on LTE’s 15 kHz subcarrier spacing and the same basic time unit of 32 53/96 nanoseconds derived from it: additional options (30 kHz and 60 kHz to begin with, with other figures up to 480 kHz for future consideration) are available for subcarrier spacing, and they are all 2X times 15 kHz. The frame and sub-frame durations are still 10 ms and 1 ms respectively.

In fact, it may not be wrong to say that for someone trying to understand the radio technology, 5G will be closer to 4G than 4G was to 3G, 3G was to 2G, and 2G was to 1G: the main difference will be in the scale. In 5G NR, several concepts that were developed in and for 4G LTE will be taken forward.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Pre standard versions of 5G will emerge first.

Major industry players race to be the first ones to debut pre-standard versions of 5G, the current emphasis is on the millimetre-wave spectrum.

The idea is to have 5G NR (typically millimetre wave) infrastructure provide additional capacity in hot spots or hot zones within LTE networks, seamlessly supplementing the LTE coverage.

In the 3GPP, the stakeholders are working on defining the 5G radio access technology, which is called simply the New Radio (NR). Structurally, it builds on the groundwork laid by LTE. The radio is based on OFDM technology just like LTE. The fundamental numerology is still based on LTE’s 15 kHz subcarrier spacing and the same basic time unit of 32 53/96 nanoseconds derived from it: additional options (30 kHz and 60 kHz to begin with, with other figures up to 480 kHz for future consideration) are available for subcarrier spacing, and they are all 2X times 15 kHz. The frame and sub-frame durations are still 10 ms and 1 ms respectively.

In fact, it may not be wrong to say that for someone trying to understand the radio technology, 5G will be closer to 4G than 4G was to 3G, 3G was to 2G, and 2G was to 1G: the main difference will be in the scale. In 5G NR, several concepts that were developed in and for 4G LTE will be taken forward.

Monday, 17 July 2017

$2 Billion spend is implied for 5G backhaul by 2022

Network operators will spend more than $2 billion on 5G backhaul by 2022, according to Communications Industry Researchers (CIR).

Nearly 60% of this money will go toward fibre-optic network deployments, the market research firm states in "Optical Networking Opportunities in 5G Wireless Networks: 2017-2026."

The "backhaul" figures include "fronthaul" and "midhaul" as well as classic backhaul, a source at CIR confirmed. Taken together in this way, operators in the United States will make more than half of the 5G backhaul networking investments over the next decade, according to CIR.

However, China and South Korea will offer the fastest-growing opportunities for those who hope to support 5G mobile backhaul requirements. CIR expects Chinese service providers will spend more than $130 million on 5G backhaul in 2022, while Korea will step up spending to support the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Among optical network technologies, NG-PON2 will emerge as the go-to fibre optic network architecture for 5G backhaul in CIR's estimation.

The market research firm points to Verizon's near-term NG-PON2 deployment plans as well as Huawei's support of the technology as indications of its market positioning.

However, CIR points out that the technology will have to meet cost expectations if it is to fulfill its promise as "NG-PON2 tunable transceiver work shows signs of progress".

Technology suppliers will experiment with both DFB and DBR lasers in the tunable transceivers NG-PON2 systems will require, CIR predicts.

Other new technologies that will receive scrutiny include new kinds of optical splitters and fibre designed to support space-division multiplexing (SDM) deployment, the market research firm believes.

So speaking of fibre, fibre-optic cable vendors are predicted to ship more than 280,000 fibre km of fibre cable in 2022 to support 5G backhaul.

Optical Networking Opportunities in 5G Wireless Networks: 2017-2026 report studies and discusses emerging opportunities for optical networking companies in the 5G backhaul sector, especially those in the Carrier Ethernet, WDM, SDM, and PON sectors among all of the major geographic markets.

The report provides 10-year forecasts for these areas, with volume and value projections of optical systems, modules, and the cable requirements for each. The report also forecasts niche opportunities for free-space optics and millimetre wave radio for 5G backhaul, as well as quantifies the potential role of dark fibre.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

No surprises as Apple turns its attention to 5G millimetre bands

Apple will evaluate millimetre wave (mmWave) technology as part of its planning for future deployments of 5G networks, after being cleared to conduct the tests by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The US regulator granted Apple an experimental mmWave licence, which the vendor requested, Business Insider reported. mmWave technology is designed to enable faster data speeds on mobile networks, and improve the cellular performance on smartphones, and Apple will use the licence to ensure compatability of its iPhone devices with future mobile networks. In its application to the FCC, Apple explained it was seeking to: “assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum.” “These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks.”

The licence will allow the company to test the technology from two locations in California. The testing process will take no longer than one year, according to Apple. Although 5G standards are yet to be released, operators in the US and beyond are already outlining their paths towards launching the technology, and have begun to conduct trials. AT&T, for example, recently detailed plans to launch 20 networks it said will lay the foundation for 5G during 2017, while rival Verizon agreed a $3.1 billion acquisition of Straight Path Communications, which holds hundreds of mmWave licences in the 39GHz and 28GHz bands – both of which the FCC cleared for use in 5G. Apple’s move is not a surprise, given its products rely heavily on mobile networks to run.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Ericsson expects average monthly data usage to be around 22 GBytes with 5G

Ericsson in its Mobility Report last year forecast average monthly data usage in North America is expected to rise from 5 GB in 2015 to a whopping 22 GB by 2021. And market research firm Analysys Mason added colour to that figure earlier this month when it reported entertainment accounted for 57% of data usage and nearly a third of all time spent on smartphones. In terms of fixed access, Sandvine found entertainment already represents 70 percent of peak period traffic, and it’s clear mobile isn’t far behind.

 As technology has shifted from a focus on connectivity to content, mobile carrier revenues have suffered. An analysis from Mobile Experts found that while the monthly expense for basic phone services has plummeted from the late 1950s to today, TV/radio and internet costs have increased exponentially.

But according to Mobile Experts, the move to 5G could provide some relief to struggling carriers. The firm indicated 5G is expected to deliver a 10x reduction in cost per bit compared with LTE. Rather than pouring that savings into new use cases, much of it will be directed toward various video services, Mobile Experts said. Why? Because that’s where the money is. “Personally, I don't believe that new 5G applications will drive a lot of revenue.

Virtual reality? No, that's short-range wireless, not mobile. Massive IoT? No, we have cheaper solutions for that. Critical IoT? Maybe, but that revenue will grow very slowly,” Mobile Experts Principal Analyst Joe Madden commented. “There’s no growth in the phone business – the phone line is simply a tether that keeps a subscriber connected to an access provider. Prices for data keep coming down, so while there is potential growth in delivery of data, the future profit potential is weak. On the other hand, people that produce quality video programs are all migrating to Netflix and Amazon, and making more money than ever before."

 Rather than being a race to provide the best access technology, Madden predicted the battles of the future will be fought over control of high-quality entertainment – movies, shows, games, and virtual reality experiences. While wireless operators obviously need to make video delivery more cost-effective, it would also behoove them to develop a strong repertoire of entertainment options, he said

5G connected home

Verizon and Ericsson are planning to demonstrate next generation use cases this week in a 5G-connected home participating in the carrier’s fixed wireless trial deployment.

VR and AR are Pushing Connectivity Limits- What Role will 5G Play?

With the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a backdrop, Verizon said it will use the home (located in Speedway, Indiana) to show off use cases that utilize the multi-gigabit per second speeds and ultra-low latency of 5G. The showcase will include viewing live sporting events – like the Indianapolis 500 – in 360-degree virtual reality streamed from the track in 4K.

Both Ericsson and Intel, which provided the in-home gateway, are partnering with Verizon on the demonstration. The demo will be broadcast live on Facebook this Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET, Verizon said. A pre-recorded test of 5G at the track can also be viewed here. Verizon said the latter video – in which a racecar driver navigates the track using VR vision from a live 5G feed alone – proves 5G technology will go beyond fixed wireless to serve a variety of mobile use cases in smartphones, cars, and other connected devices.

During the racetrack test, Verizon and Ericsson said they achieved speeds of 6.4 Gbps in a car traveling at over 60 miles per hour. Those speeds reportedly came courtesy of Ericsson’s radio, antenna, and processing technology, which include features like beam forming and beam tracking. Asha Keddy, VP and GM of Next Generation Standards for Intel’s Communications and Devices Group, said the tests with Verizon are an important step on the road to 5G.

“5G will bring new experiences and business opportunities like exciting virtual reality in 4K and ultra-fast wireless home broadband. Intel, Verizon, and Ericsson’s work in establishing early trials and testing is essential to deliver on our vision of making all devices smart and connected,” she said.
The demos are the latest news to come out of Verizon’s fixed wireless 5G trials, which are ongoing in 11 cities across the country. Earlier this month, Samsung and Cisco achieved end-to-end interoperability on Verizon’s 5G trial network in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Samsung finally joins the 5GAA

Samsung Electronics is now adding a board position to its 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) membership. Samsung’s representative on the board will be Jaeweon Cho, director of 5G technology strategy within Samsung’s next-generation communications business team. “This is a serious opportunity for Samsung and our industry partners to leverage the work we’re doing in diverse spaces such as mobile networks, home appliances and chipsets and apply it to the growing connected car industry,” he said in a press release. “I’m really excited to explore the potential opportunities here and help the 5GAA Board set its future direction.

What the 5GAA and Samsung are working on will be globally transformational.” In addition to joining the 5GAA board, Samsung was elected to serve as vice chair of the 5GAA’s Working Group 4, which is responsible for exploring connected car-related standards and radio spectrum opportunities. 

RELATED: Samsung pursues connected cars with $8B acquisition of Harman Samsung in March closed its acquisition of Harman, a major player in the connected-car market. More than 30 million cars are equipped with Harman's connected car and audio systems, which include embedded information and entertainment, telematics, safety and security. Samsung expects that the combination of this expertise paired with its own experience in mobile devices, wireless networks and chipset development will serve to empower the 5GAA’s mission to accelerate the commercialization of communications solutions that improve mobility and safety on transportation networks. Samsung joined the 5GAA in January.

The 5GAA was established in September with founding members Audi, BMW Group, Daimler, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm. RELATED: 5GAA, NGMN argue for cellular, not DSRC, in NHTSA proposal A white paper (PDF) from 5GAA elaborates on why Cellular-V2X (C-V2X) technology at the radio level is an essential enabler to connected transportation services throughout the world. The 5GAA perspective is that 3GPP-based cellular technology offers superior performance and a more future-proof radio access than IEEE 802.11p and can leverage ETSI-ITS, ISO, SAE and IEEE upper layer standards and tests that have been refined by the automotive industry and others in the ITS community for more than a decade. Samsung Electronics America also was elected to the board of governors for 5G Americas earlier this year. Samsung’s representative on that board is Juha Lappalainen, vice president, technical solutions, networks division at Samsung.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

5G is going to be here faster than predicted

5G New Radio (5G NR), a flavour of the next-generation wireless network that's expected to be the global standard, should be available for large-scale deployments in 2019, a year earlier than anticipated, nearly two dozen companies each said last Sunday.

The companies who've vowed to reach a standard for 5G for that timeframe included a mix of wireless carriers, chip providers and device makers -- such as Qualcomm, Intel, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom -- that are part of the 3GPP standards group.

"For consumers, this means they're going to get an elevated broadband experience in 2019," Rasmus Hellberg, senior director of technical marketing at Qualcomm, said in an interview ahead of the news, which was announced at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain.

Qualcomm saying that 5G is the biggest thing since electricity does not make anyone salivate
nor does Qualcomm PR people announcing that their world's first 5G chip will take future phones "supersonic" but at least we all agree that there will indeed by far more than 5 amazing things you'll be able to do with 5G!

Notably missing from the list was Verizon Wireless, which is pursuing its own flavour of 5G. Verizon has said it will offer 5G to some customers in 11 cities by midyear. It's not yet full mobile wireless though. Instead it's a potentially different replacement for fixed broadband. Many carriers, like AT&T, had pushed for 5G technology to arrive sooner rather than later than 2020.

5G technology is expected to be 100 times faster than our current 4G LTE wireless technology and 10 times speedier than what Google Fiber offers through a physical connection to the home.
Experts say it should enable uses like virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as things we can't even think of today. And our phones should get a lot faster.

To that end, Qualcomm on Sunday separately unveiled its first modems that embed technology for 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G connections onto one chip. The processors, part of the X50 5G modem family, will be available in time for 5G NR device deployments in 2019.

Qualcomm in October unveiled its first Snapdragon X50 chip, but that processor only connects to 5G networks based on early standards of carriers like Verizon and Korea Telecom.

Phones typically have chips that support older wireless technologies so users don't drop calls or lose data connections when the newer technology's signal is weak. To hook up to an older 4G or 3G network, devices will need a second wireless chip. The initial X50 processor is aimed to appear first in phones in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. 

The new family of X50 chips, whose exact names Qualcomm hasn't yet detailed, won't require a second modem. They also can connect to 5G and 4G networks at the same time, which helps users maintain a strong wireless connection.

Qualcomm says the chips will first appear in mobile devices. Typically, new wireless technology first shows up in standalone devices such as wireless hotspots. "We're squarely targeting new family of modems at premium tier mobile devices first," Sherif Hanna, Qualcomm staff manager of technical marketing, said in an interview. "Thereafter, everything we've learned from mobile can extend to non-mobile applications ... [such as] fixed wireless broadband." Qualcomm declined to say when it will give test samples of the chips to customers but said they will be in devices in 2019.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

3.5GHz is the ideal 5G BAND?

Some are talking about 3.5 GHz as a 5G band, but Hutchison’s deal to acquire UK Broadband to bolster its 3UK arm is all about the good old fight for LTE spectrum. This deal shows that it is not just the US’s opening of its 3.5 GHz band, via its CBRS scheme, that has thrust this spectrum into the limelight. In many parts of the world, airwaves between 3.4 GHz and 3.9 GHz are more simply available than in the US, and are finally being appreciated for their potential to add capacity to wireless networks without waiting for 5G’s high bands, or trusting to the wild west of completely unlicensed spectrum. One of the promises of 5G is that it will support a dynamic, shared and varied spectrum framework, which will enable non-cellular licence holders to play in the wireless space. But the established MNOs are scrabbling for spectrum in the same old way, bidding in auctions and buying up smaller asset owners.

The main difference is that their attention is increasingly on higher frequencies, as their competitive differentiation shifts from coverage to high capacity. This was highlighted by the deal, announced last week, for Hutchison’s 3UK arm to pay £250m ($309m) for UK Broadband, currently owned by Hutchison’s sister company PCCW. UKB has 208 MHz of nationwide spectrum holdings, mainly between 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz – until recently, an area of the spectrum largely ignored by mobile operators because of its limited range and indoor penetration, and because it is often licensed only for fixed wireless usage. Now, however, it is starting to be seen as a strong band for high capacity TD-LTE deployments, and has gained new profile from the US’s creation of the CBRS service in 3.5 GHz – a very different band plan from that in the UK, but raising hopes that a device ecosystem will start to develop internationally.

 Even fixed-only spectrum is becoming more attractive as operators look to build quad play services, and eye the US leaders’ experiments with fixed 5G in millimeter wave bands. But the UK regulator was an early mover in permitting mobile services in 3.5 GHz, so UKB’s assets will also be relevant to 3UK’s core activities, in a world of small cell densification and the desperate race to build capacity for new 4G and future 5G services. Purchase draws parallels between 3UK and Sprint This could be a useful purchase for 3UK, putting it in a similar position to that of Sprint in the US. As fourth-placed players, both these operators have struggled to gain market share, and are disadvantaged in sub-1 GHz bands, which have driven 4G rollout until now.

 But they could both leapfrog rivals in some capacity-oriented deployments by harnessing plentiful higher frequency spectrum. Sprint plans significant densification in high value markets such as New York City, using its 2.5 GHz unpaired spectrum, which it will aggregate to its lower bands. This, it claims, will offset its lower holdings of spectrum in some lower ‘beachfront’ bands; and it enabled it to stay out of the bidding for 600 MHz licences, so saving money. It also means it will be in less of a rush to deploy unproven millimeter wave technologies since it has plenty of capacity left in 2.5 GHz. UKB does not bring 3UK such a rich spectral dowry as Clearwire did Sprint, but these will still be very useful assets for a company which is in a poor position in UK airwaves.

It controls about oneeighth of the total in use for wireless services, while BT/EE controls 45%. 3UK has been lobbying for BT, which will be excluded from the upcoming auction of 2.3 GHz licences, to be barred also from the 3.4 GHz sale, on the basis that these higher frequencies are becoming mainstream and valuable, and could be deployed more quickly than many operators have previously expected. Neglected bands can help redress spectrum imbalances If Ofcom ignores that call, at least 3UK will redress the balance somewhat with its new purchase, which will boost its current spectrum holdings totalling 74.9 MHz, by a huge 208 MHz. It has 124 MHz in the 3 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands; in the 3.7 GHz band, UKB has a hefty 2x84MHz of contiguous spectrum, and it also has rights in the 3.9 GHz band and, interestingly, the 28 GHz and 40 GHz bands, the former the focus of intense interest for pre-5G trials in various countries. Not that UKB’s actual customer base will do much to change the fourth MNO’s business – under its Relish brand, it serves only about 15,000 customers, offering fixed residential and business broadband wireless in parts of London and elsewhere. By contrast 3UK has 9.2m active subscribers.

 But if an ecosystem develops around the 3.5 GHz TD-LTE band over the next few years, including the all-important handsets, 3UK could find itself owning a mighty tranche of newly valuable airwaves, acquired at a bargain price compared to most auctions. In addition to the upfront price, it will make a £50m ($62m) deferred payment as credit towards a wholesale deal for UK Broadband on 3's network. Dave Dyson, CEO of 3UK, said that it would continue to operate the Relish service as a standalone business and with its fixed services sold alongside 3’s mobile offerings. He said that the acquisition “takes the risk out of the auction” but does not address the issue of 3UK’s competitive disadvantage in the sub-1 GHz bands. There are signs of momentum building behind 3.5 GHz as a band for TD-LTE densification. ZTE and Huawei have been particularly active in developing infrastructure and CPE, and have been working with two Italian ISPs – Tiscali and Linkem – to roll out LTE. The UK deal awaits regulatory approval, but is unlikely to face significant opposition, unlike 3UK’s attempt, last year, to merge with Telefonica’s O2 UK arm.

That deal collapsed in the face of opposition from EU competition authorities. UKB’s current owner PCCW, bought the spectrum licences in 2003 and the company has had various shots at deploying networks and services, initially using TD-CDMA technology, then WiMAX and most recently TD-LTE. While CK Hutchison is controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, PCCW is run by his son Richard Li. The UK firm’s 2015 accounts show that revenue more than doubled to £3.2m in that year, but it made a loss of £37.4m. 3.5 GHz initiatives outside the US The 3.5 GHz band has a newly high profile thanks to the US’s CBRS scheme. But in many other parts of the world, 3.5 GHz has long been open and established as wireless broadband spectrum (usually fixed, but increasingly regulators are allowing mobility). The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) noted in December that the 3.5 GHz ecosystem (bands 42 or 43) continues to grow, and 82 user terminals are now available in this band.

 Last week, Pakistan's Wi-Tribe said it would deploy the first LTE-Advanced network in the country from May, and the first in south Asia in the 3.5 GHz band. The former WiMAX operator says its network will reach peak speeds of 100Mbps, which it will boost to 200Mbps by the end of next year and 400Mbps the year after that, as terminals and fixed CPE support that. Huawei will supply the equipment. Wi-Tribe plans to invest over $25m in TD-LTE-Advanced over the next three years, and its owners have committed to reinvesting all profits from the company's operations over this time back into the business. Late last year, Huawei signed a deal to deliver TD-LTE equipment for 3.5 GHz to Italian ISP Tiscali. Huawei said that it was well positioned to supply CBRS equipment in the US because it had put considerable development into TD-LTE for 3.5 GHz elsewhere, and the tweaks will be minimal.

The same will be true of ZTE, which has also been very active in 3.5 GHz LTE, and also has an Italian contract for TD-LTE in this band, with former WiMAX provider Linkem. Many such deployments will be migrations from WiMAX, which was commonly rolled out in 3.5 GHz. Tiscali itself signed its €40m ($45m) contract with Huawei after acquiring former WiMAX operator Aria, which had already signalled its intention to shift to TD-LTE. As WiMAX ISPs make that move, larger providers, and even MNOs, are likely to pounce. The CBRS scheme in the US Meanwhile, across the Pond, the CBRS (Citizens’ Band Radio Service) scheme has set some interesting precedents for creative approaches to sharing spectrum. The CBRS spectrum, as defined by the FCC, sits in the 3.5 GHz band, at 3550-3700 MHz. Adopted back in April 2015, the scheme uses a similar dynamic access database as that used in TV White Spaces (TVWS). That access system has three tiers - Incumbent Access, Priority Access and General Authorized Access.

The incumbents include authorized federal and grandfathered fixed satellite services, currently in the 3.5 GHz band, and the FCC notes that they will be protected from interference from the Priority and General users. The priority users are going to be bidding on 10 MHz channels in the 3550-3650 MHz portion, with limits on the number of active licenses and their duration. Lastly, the general tier supports open and flexible access to the band, using any portion of the CBRS band that isn’t currently in use. Many of those pushing models for that portion are members of the CBRS Alliance, which aims to drive use cases and a broad ecosystem of devices. One way to do this is to carry out high profile demonstrations, and it doesn’t get much more visible, or challenging, than a motor race track. Nokia, Alphabet and Qualcomm demo CBRS at high speed Nokia, Alphabet, and Qualcomm teamed up to demonstrate what they say was the first instance of a private LTE network in the CBRS band.

They used the signal to send a 360-degree VR experience from a stock car racing around at the Richard Petty Driving Experience event, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hitting speeds of 180mph, the tech would allow a viewer to see what it is like driving one of these NASCAR racers – and the trio are pitching the technology as a way for venues to offer new services and experiences using a private LTE network in the CBRS bands. Nokia provided the radios and Qualcomm the in-car modems, while the demo used Alphabet’s spectrum access system (SAS) and YouTube Live Events for streaming. Nokia customized the private LTE CBRS network with the first multiframe configuration of a TD-LTE network using config 0 and 64QAM to boost the uplink data rate from the car, and config 2 for high downlink rates in the spectator area.

It also used Smart Scheduler configuration and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) to reduce latency and support seamless mobility. Using CBRS bidding, Nokia, Alphabet, and Qualcomm envision a world in which sports venues and campuses would be able to fire up a private LTE network on a temporary basis, without the need to buy the type of spectrum licence that MNOs require for national operations. Using the LTE network, they could then push content and experiences to users in the vicinity. Private networks and slicing in shared spectrum This was also the first test of a private LTE network running in the CBRS spectrum. And Nokia said the demo showed how enterprises, venues and other organizations could deploy their own private LTE networks in shared spectrum and achieve similar levels of performance and reliability as in licensed bands. Of course, Nokia wants to supply or, better still, manage those networks. The Finnish firm is intensely interested in private networks these days, seeing them as a way to ex-tend its business beyond telcos and into direct sales and services for vertical and government markets. “Not only are we showing how the CBRS band can enable new business ideas using LTE, but also how such futuristic applications like this are possible,” Nokia head of strategy and business development for North America, Chris Stark, said.

 He added: “We want this trial to act as a catalyst for carriers and enterprises to start thinking about leveraging this band for new applications. Beyond the high speeds and amazing views this demo provides, the real opportunity is in the life-changing applications that will benefit from the 3.5 GHz U.S. CBRS spectrum and transform users' experience.” Progress is being made to ensure the CBRS spectrum can be harnessed for real world services using current wireless technologies, rather than waiting for 5G. Definition of standards and protocols is taking place via the Wireless Innovation Forum (WinnForum), whose members include Google, Ericsson, Nokia, Ruckus Wireless/Brocade – as well as Federated Wireless, which has devised an SAS. In December, the WinnForum announced public availability of its signaling protocols and procedures for the CBRS band. It also worked with Alphabet to demonstrate inter-operability between their respective SASs, using the SAS-to-SAS interface protocol defined by the WinnForum.

 In December, the FCC conditionally approved seven SAS administrators for the band, including Alphabet, Federated Wireless, Amdocs, Comsearch, CTIA, Key Bridge and Sony Electronics. The SAS is to coordinate the three tiers so the band is available for commercial use on a shared basis with existing federal and non-federal incumbents. Commercial access points for CBRS are expected to become available in the first half of this year, but device roadmaps are less clear. AT&T petitions for test licence for 3.5 GHz Also in 3.5 GHz spectrum, AT&T has asked for the FCC for a special temporary authority (STA) to conduct short term tests between 3550-3700 MHz, among other bands (which also include several millimeter wave bands). It wants to conduct these tests in suburban and rural environments in the California Central Valley including locations around Fresno and Bakersfield.

The aim is to collect continuous wave (CW) data for a propagation modelling study, evaluating path loss characteristics in outdoor environments in these midrange and high bands. The operator will use up to 40 base stations provided by test equipment company BVS. Last year, AT&T Laboratories was already active in the 3.5 GHz band, gaining an experimental licence to conduct tests in Georgia, using prototype 5G systems with integrated adaptive antennas. The company is also the most supportive of the CBRS shared spectrum scheme, among the major US MNOs, and the only one so far to join the CBRS Alliance. T-Mobile has also indicated it may consider CBRS as part of its future spectrum patchwork but the clearest attraction is for potential alternative operators such as Alliance co-founder Google.