Monday, 30 May 2016

More on the sale of L-Band Spectrum by Qualcomm

Back in August, Qualcomm had been looking to sell its 1452-1492MHz spectrum – and it seems it's finally found two willing buyers in the form of Vodafone and Three.
It's thought the two networks paid over £100m in total for the spectrum. The chip company rather lucked out, having only paid £8.3m at auction in 2008.
At the time it looked as if one of the natural routes for the company was to roll out its MediaFLO, the mobile TV broadcast system, a rival to DVB-H.
However, as both mobile TV standards proved to be dismal failures Qualcomm didn’t actually have an application for the substantial chunk of spectrum. It’s only part of the 4G specification as a supplementary download frequency, and while it is nice and close to single channel frequencies it’s not paired so would only be useful for uplink or downlink, and it’s hugely unlikely that any shipping mobile or tablet devices would have any antennae able to support it – even if the frequency was baked right into the chipset.
The bandwidth, however, is very useful for backhaul, and with the increasingly important trend from voice to data usage the need to support the higher throughput requirements of carrier aggregation having an option to link sites by radio is a very valuable asset plus an extremely useful option in the infrastructure toolkit. It is believed that EE and O2 also bid for the spectrum but EE would have been on a sticky wicket given that once its merger with with BT is complete, it will have 30 per cent of the available spectrum, and especially worrying if it had bought the full 40MHz space from Qualcomm since that would have taken its holding to 35 per cent.
The other networks are already calling for some re-farming. Before the networks can actually use the spectrum they will need Ofcom approval for the purchase. The regulator claimed “at that point we have not received a spectrum trading application from Qualcomm”. Approval came swiftly however, as this sale was expected and the frequencies were recently moved from being seen as part of general spectrum trading to mobile trading in anticipation.
Then Vodafone and Three applied and  there was a ten-day window to back up the application, and then there was another ten days for Ofcom to decide if it should rubber stamp the deal or consult.
However, as there was a previous consultation over moving L-Band into the Mobile Spectrum Trading Regulations most of the arguments were already established and did not need to be revised or consultants voices heard, so that was in fact unlikely.
One factor which did have an affect on the value of the sale is AIP, as this is the amount Ofcom charges for administering the spectrum. With the mobile phone carriers' frequencies this is included in a larger sum called ALF (Annual Licence Fees). The job of ALF is for the UK Government to squeeze as much money out of the operators as possible “reflecting the true value of the spectrum”. When that spectrum was worth only £8.3m the ALF would be very different to the sum of over £100m that Vodafone and Three are believed to have paid. The current AIP agreement with Ofcom still has a number of years to run but when it expires Ofcom will no doubt look to secure a far higher rate based on the sale price. Ironically the more the purchasers paid for the frequencies the more they will cost to own in the long run and the less they are worth.
Hence the legal beagles and multitudes of financial consultants must have had a field day with much fun and frolic with that one.
Even for the multi-billion-pound fat and happy mobile telcos this is a significant transaction, and in time the amounts only need to show up in the accounts of two of the three companies involved for the full financial picture to one day soon, emerge.

5G wireless networking: IBM, ARM and Advanced Micro Devices create a single data center interconnect fabric

IBM, ARM and Advanced Micro Devices are among the tech vendors teaming up to create a single data center interconnect fabric that will enable chips and accelerators from different vendors to communicate without the need for complex programming.

The new Cache Coherent Interconnect for Accelerators(CCIX) will make servers more efficient and better able to run such emerging data center workloads like big data analytics, machine learning, 4G and 5G wireless networking, video analytics and network-functions virtualization (NFV), according to officials with the companies involved.

Other vendors involved are Huawei Technologies, Mellanox Technologies, Qualcomm and FPGA maker Xilinx, which announced that the new product roadmap for its 16-nanomter UltraScale+ FPGAs will include offerings that include integrated High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) and support for CCIX.

The CCIX fabric will allow the various chips, accelerators and networking silicon—from CPUs and graphics chips to field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)—to seamlessly move data between the systems powered by these technologies. The new workloads demand increasingly fast and efficient processing, and systems makers are turning to accelerators like FPGAs, GPUs and digital signal processors (DSPs) to work with CPUs—whether x86 chips from Intel and AMD or IBM Power processors or ARM-based systems-on-a-chip (SoCs)—to more quickly, efficiently and affordably run the applications.

A single interconnect fabric specification that enables processors that use disparate instruction set architectures to communicate will accelerate these capabilities.

"CCIX enables greater performance and connectivity capabilities over existing interconnects, and actually paves the road to the next generation CPU-accelerator-network standard interface," Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox, said in a statement. "With an anticipated broad eco-system support of the CCIX standard, data centers will now be able to optimize their data usage, thereby achieving world-leading applications efficiency and scale."

Lakshmi Mandyam, director server systems and ecosystems at ARM, said in a statement that a "'one size fits all architecture' approach to data center workloads does not deliver the required performance and efficiency. CCIX enables more optimized solutions by simplifying software development and deployment of applications that benefit from specialized processing and hardware off-load, delivering higher performance and value to data center customers."

The idea of CCIX makes a lot of sense at a time when CPUs can no longer be counted on to be able to accelerate the performance of applications on their own, according to Karl Freund, a senior analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.

"This will be no small task," Freund wrote in a column in Forbes. "It is hard enough to build a cache coherent interface between two or four homogeneous chips like CPUs. Building one that allows devices to share data across disparate implementations of CPUs, FPGAs, GPUs and network chips will be a monumental challenge. However the potential benefits could be tremendous if they can pull this off, providing plug-and-play compute and network acceleration for whatever processor you choose, while providing much better performance than is available today using the PCIe interconnect upon which today's system depend."

PCIe has been around for more than a decade, but was not made to address the high-bandwidth, low-latency demands needed for communications between CPUs, he wrote. What's needed is a bus or fabric with shared high-speed memory where the CPU and accelerators "all behave as first class citizens."

Vendors already have done work to improve communications between CPUs and accelerators. Intel last yearbought FPGA maker Altera for $16.7 billion and is expected to create an architecture to enable that. In addition, IBM is using its Cache-Coherent Accelerator Processor Interconnect (CAPI) technology to improve connectivity between its Power8 chips and Xilinx's FPGAs, while Nvidia's NVLink is used to improve connectivity performance between IBM's Power architecture and its own GPUs.

However, the problem is that technologies like CAPI and what Intel is working on are vendor-specific, according to Freund. What's needed is a more collaborative approach.

"IBM OpenPOWER, Advanced Micro Devices x86, ARM partners AMD, Qualcomm and Huawei could each go it alone, or they can join forces," he wrote. "To not collaborate would cede a substantial advantage to Intel and risk fragmentation that the industry would not accept."