Tuesday, 31 January 2017

5G is a way to transform and digitise our EU industries. We should not wait for 5G!

Executives at the NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition, here, this week welcomed a 5G alliance that was recently formed by car manufacturers and the telecoms industry, and called on other vertical sectors to form similar collaborations.

As noted by Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn and others, unlike previous generations of mobile technologies, 5G will extend far beyond the traditional cellular base and will support multiple use cases in industry sectors ranging from the car industry through to utilities, agriculture, production and more.

“We are all affected by this one,” said Jacobfeuerborn.

The 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) was unveiled in late September with the goal of working on 5G and the evolution of LTE, including Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) communication.

Founding members BMW Group, Daimler and Audi teamed up with Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, Huawei and Qualcomm to focus on applications such as automated driving and integration with smart cities and intelligent transportation. Vodafone Group also said on Friday that it has become the first telecoms operator to join the association.

Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone’s group head of research & development and technology strategy, will join the board of the association.

That, in turn, will bring the 5GAA closer to the work of the NGMN, and could see more operators and vendors join the alliance in future.

Alain Maloberti, SVP at Orange Labs Networks, noted that there is a requirement to embrace a wide ecosystem in the 5G era, which in turn will drive the need for cross-industry trials and pilots.

Thibaut Kleiner, deputy head of cabinet of Günther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for digital economy and society, explained that 5G “is a way to transform and digitise our industries.”

Kleiner added that the telecoms industry should already be engaging with verticals: “We should not wait for 5G. We should already start this conversation today.”

5G’s impact to likely to be equal to that of electricity or the automobile and will enable 11.5€ trillion of global economic output in 2035

During Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf’s keynote at CES 2017, he equated 5G’s impact to that of electricity or the automobile, raising more than a few eyebrows. Turns out, Qualcomm’s not the only one thinking such grand thoughts.

Qualcomm Technologies today released a study, "The 5G Economy," that examines the potential economic and social impact of 5G around the world. The study, commissioned by Qualcomm, was conducted by analysts at IHS Markit, which puts 5G in the same category as the printing press, the internet, electricity, the steam engine and the telegraph.

Each of those discoveries or inventions is part of an elite class of socio-economic mainsprings known as General Purpose Technologies (GPTs), which often are catalysts for transformative changes that redefine processes. It’s hard to imagine living for long without electricity, and now 5G is part of that elite group.

As Mollenkopf mentioned in his CES keynote, the study predicts 5G will enable 11.5€ trillion of global economic output in 2035, which is nearly equivalent to U.S. consumer spending in 2016 and more than the combined spending by consumers in China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and France in 2016.

By 2035, the ubiquity of 5G will result in impacts that advance beyond the capability of existing technologies, platforms and industries, yet the proliferation of 3G and 4G mobile technology provide important analogues as the 5G economy blossoms, according to the study.

The report includes an economic impact study conducted by IHS Markit and validated by Dr. David Teece, director of the Tusher Center at the Haas School of Business, U.C. California, and principal executive officer of the Berkeley Research Group (BRG). It also includes opinion research about the expectations for 5G among business and technology leaders carried out by PSB. The combined findings show how 5G will profoundly affect the global economy and that business decision makers in technology and other industries overwhelmingly believe in the transformational nature of 5G.

Qualcomm has been boasting, at trade shows and elsewhere, for some time now about its leadership position in 5G. The X50 modem, which Qualcomm announced a few months ago, is the first in a family of 5G modems that will provide an anchor to early deployments of 5G and will be essential to the millimetre wave systems that will start trials and deployments in late 2017 and early 2018.

According to the PSB results, business decision makers across industries, especially in the United States, say technology industry standards are “very important” in helping companies deliver 5G,  and audiences across markets say companies with past experience delivering wireless connectivity solutions and expertise in a variety of technologies are best equipped to be leaders in 5G.

Interestingly, given Qualcomm’s enforcement of intellectual property rights, one in two respondents say intellectual property rights are “very important” in helping companies deliver 5G. Respondents who say IP rights protections are important to 5G say they’re necessary to motivate innovators and protect investments; the reasons for thinking IP rights are not important are varied: Some worry they restrict innovation, while others believe they promote unfair advantages.

T-Mobile reiterated its wait-and-see approach toward offering its own fixed 5G services.

As both AT&T and Verizon move closer to commercial launches of fixed wireless service based on initial 5G network standards, T-Mobile reiterated its wait-and-see approach toward offering its own fixed 5G services.

Indeed, a T-Mobile spokesperson said that the carrier isn’t ruling out an eventual fixed wireless service at some point in the future, but said the operator doesn’t have any current plans for such an offering. The spokesperson said the carrier sees “so many more options for 5G” beyond fixed wireless internet service.

Those comments align with past statements from T-Mobile executives. For example, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote in September that “Verizon’s grand vision is that you can cancel your fixed broadband and watch Netflix at home with wireless Verizon broadband. Double yawn. How disappointing! So little imagination from these supposed network leaders!”

In December, Ray offered additional commentary on the topic: “The carriers’ current vision for 5G is mind-numbingly limited. 5G’s potential is so much larger than replacing in-home broadband and IoT. But they can’t see beyond their own wallets. AT&T wants to ‘connect your world’—including your bank account—to AT&T. Verizon’s grand vision is that you Netflix at home with wireless Verizon broadband. How is that game changing?”

Indeed, both AT&T and Verizon are moving forward with plans to at least test and potentially commercially deploy fixed wireless services that would leverage initial 5G technologies (industry executives expect the 3GPP to finalise the initial standard for fixed 5G in the coming months). Verizon, for example, has already installed 5G equipment for fixed wireless services in more than 10 U.S. cities. However, the company acknowledged that its equipment may not align with the 3GPP’s initial standards for 5G wireless services, and therefore Verizon may have to upgrade its physical equipment at its sites in the 10 cities in order to ensure that its services work with the 3GPP’s forthcoming 5G standard.

AT&T for its part announced earlier this month that it would conduct a trial in Austin, Texas, with residential customers streaming DirecTV Now video service over a fixed wireless 5G connection starting in the first half of 2017. As part of the trial, AT&T will also test additional next-generation entertainment services over fixed 5G connections in an effort to further advance its learnings about 5G, especially in how fixed wireless millimetre wave (mmWave) technology handles heavy video traffic.

(To be clear though, this is one of several different trials AT&T is conducting into various fixed wireless technologies.)

The opportunity around fixed wireless, over 5G connections or otherwise, is clear: It would allow a provider to offer home internet services without having to deploy or operate cabling to a users’ physical location. For example, Verizon could install a 5G base station in a neighborhood and beam superfast internet connections over 5G to nearby residents with receivers, without having to deploy fiber connections—an expensive proposition—to those homes.

Moreover, Verizon and AT&T aren’t the only carriers chasing the fixed wireless opportunity. Google has been rumoured to be investigating wireless technologies as a way to more broadly deploy its Google Fibre service; indeed, Google acquired fixed wireless provider Webpass last year. And startups like Starry and others are promising similar fixed offerings.

Part of T-Mobile’s aversion to fixed services may be due in part to its lack of fibre holdings. Verizon and AT&T own substantial fibre assets across the country, allowing the companies to keep their backhaul costs low. T-Mobile, meanwhile, must purchase fibre connections from other carriers. Such costs likely are a key aspect of any fixed wireless service since a fixed wireless offering would likely have to undercut the price of existing wired internet services from incumbent telco and cable service providers.

5G is really necessary or is it?

The headlong rush into 5G is an unnecessary technology treadmill, or so the great and the good of the wireless world have concluded.

Cambridge Wireless, a network which brings together senior players in the mobile industry, may have moved its annual shindig from the esteemed university to London's Emirates Stadium, but it brought with it the glorious tradition of the debating society with the motion “Do we need 5G?” The answer was “no". This, amazingly, came from a room full of the very people who are setting the standards and doing the deeply clever work on how to use higher frequencies and squeeze more bandwidth out of them.

The debate was chaired by Bob Schukai, head of advanced product innovation at Thomson Reuters. The “Yes” camp was championed by Howard Benn, head of standards and industrial affairs at Samsung Electronics Research Institute, while the victorious “No” camp had as its leader Tony Milbourn, strategy veep of embedded technology company u-blox. The debate focused on the current definition of 5G requirements as stated by the leading operator trade associations. Benn argued that 5G "is the next generation of mobile carrier incubated radio access network technology, ready for early service adopters by 2020." However, Milbourn countered that “we have benefited hugely from standards; 2G built a momentum big enough to justify significant R&D, which in turn drove down costs to make the market big enough for more R&D, and so on. But the standards-making machine has now moved to a point where it is defining things beyond the needs of the consumer".

"Essentially, it's like washing machines; there is a rapid growth in the supply of washing machines before everybody has one, but once people can wash their clothes easily it becomes a replacement market, where the differentiation is the colour of the knobs," he added. "Consumer cellular is at this point. The area for investment is coverage, not yet another standard that sucks capital out of operators and delivers something that consumers don’t need," said Milbourn. But Milbourn added that his argument does not apply to M2M or IoT.

“For a new connected world we do need new standards, urgently,” he told the audience. Speaking in defence of 5G, Howard Benn said “we need 5G because history tells us that we can’t predict what services will be popular from 2020 to 2030, so we need a super-efficient and super-flexible system to cover all bases.” Gooner Schukai, no doubt revelling in the venue, said “less than a billion people were online as we entered the 21st Century; by 2020 this figure will be four billion – largely in line with the predicted four billion smartphones in use by then." "Our insatiable appetite to consume content on a variety of screens means that we have a responsibility to think about the infrastructure needed to support this level of data consumption with speed and security across wearable devices, cars, phones, computers and sensors — in fact anything that needs a connection to the wireless infrastructure," he added.

The debate generated a wide range of comments from the floor, from the need for a wider field of influence into 5G standards, to concerns about the "technical debt" of the industry, including the burdens of IPR and standards. This conference was the first for Bob Driver, who has just taken on the role of CEO of the organisation. “The lively debate encapsulated the positive mood of the conference and need for rapid progress to support the next generation of wireless services,” said the newly installed Driver. “However, the vote against 5G reflected a strong feeling that 5G, and future of wireless connectivity in general, was so vital to every industry sector, and every citizen, that the development needed to embrace a wider constituency. It was clear that there is a need to consider the wider business models necessary to lead the industry, rather than only focusing on the technologies.”

Ericsson is asking the FCC for permission to use 27.5-28.35 GHz spectrum

Ericsson is asking the FCC for permission to use 27.5-28.35 GHz spectrum so that it can conduct tests using a 5G base station, but it’s asking that confidential treatment be given to details of what’s being studied and the antenna parameters.

The company seeks an 11-month license to do the tests but wants authorization by Feb. 28 in time to conduct a demo at the Verizon Board of Governors meeting, according to the application, which lists the station location in Palo Alto, California.

Ericsson says the information for which it seeks confidential treatment contains sensitive trade secrets and commercial information that would customarily be guarded against competitors.

“Ericsson has invested finances, planning and expertise into developing the ‘secret commercially valuable plan’ that is the program of research into 5G, and we will use this research to develop 5G products,” the company states in its documents. “The antenna parameters and testing details are part of this plan and that is not information we would disclose except for the need to obtain the STA.”

Ericsson does say it wants authorization to conduct pre-commercial outdoor field trials to validate key 5G concepts and associated performance. The tests will use only one base station and although the base station will be transported to different locations within the test areas over the course of the trials, the base station will remain fixed while it is operating.

The experimental base stations are not built to transit a call sign, so the company is asking that the requirement to transmit a call sign be waived for this experiment. It’s also coordinating with existing users in advance to address interference issues.

In a picture accompanying the application, a base station radio unit is mounted on a mast that is attached to a van; the mast will be raised to a maximum height of 12 meters, but Ericsson isn't publicly disclosing the antenna parameters.

Ericsson has applied for authorization to conduct multiple 5G tests over the past several months, including tests with U.S. Cellular and Charter Communications. It’s not unusual for companies to request information be kept confidential due to the nature of the tests as vendors like Ericsson are trying to differentiate their offerings.

During the company’s most recent quarterly conference call with analysts, Ericsson executives didn’t spend a lot of time talking about what 5G could bring to the company’s bottom line. Executive VP Jan Frykhammar said some use cases will call for deploying a lot of small cells but others will require only a mega radio on high band and so forth. “It depends a little bit on the use case. So from that point of view, I think it’s a little bit too early, but that’s also why we have more than 25 different MOUs working with customers on different use cases and trials to learn,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.
New CEO and President Börje Ekholm did make a point of saying that even though Ericsson needs to get itself back into a position of growing profitability, it’s still spending. 

“We are in a technology industry,” he said. “We need to be technology leaders and stay at the forefront of the technology development. And here, Ericsson has a unique set of assets with our products, but we also have services and solutions and that package creates a unique position for us to compete in the market and that’s something we need to leverage, but it’s also something we continuously need to invest in and develop."

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Intel 5G modem chipset is launched at CES

Intel announced what it believes to be the world’s first global 5G modem, enabling initial 5G spectrum trials and deployments with a baseband chip that supports both sub-6 GHz and 28 GHz bands.

 Intel, which has been involved in 5G tests and trials in the U.S. with operators like AT&T and Verizon, says the modem goes hand-in-hand with its new 5G transceiver that supports both sub-6 GHz and millimetre wave spectrum, joining and working with the mature 28 GHz RFIC that’s part of the Intel Mobile Trial Platform. Supporting ultra-wideband operation and enabling multi-gigabit throughput with ultra-low latency, the modem pairs both with Intel’s sub-6 GHz 5G RFIC and 28 GHz 5G RFIC to deliver a global reach across the key bands of interest for 5G systems, according to Intel. And if it sounds too soon to support 5G—the 5G standards are yet to be finalized—Intel says it’s compliant with multiple industry forum 5G specifications, so no worries there. Key 5G New Radio features supported include low latency frame structure, advanced channel coding, massive MIMO and beamforming, according to Aicha Evans, Intel’s VP and GM of Communications and Devices Group. Evans explained that waiting for the standard to be finalized before starting to develop products would just mean everything would be too late. “We’re making sure to work with the industry,” including operators and OEMS, so that it all works standards- and pre-standards-wise and “we don’t want fragmentation in the industry," she said. With all the devices coming online, from drones to gateways to automobiles to manufacturing and so on, “it is essential that we don’t let the industry fragment and have many different specifications in many different countries and many different industries” because that would lead to a lot of inefficiencies for everyone.

 RELATED: Intel CEO: We're leaders in 5G right now Intel's 5G modem will achieve key 5G requirements, including expected speeds exceeding 5 Gbps, hundreds of MHz of aggregated bandwidth and ultra-low latency.

Evans declined to discuss exact latency numbers as those discussions are ongoing, but she said the goal of the industry is for latency to be low enough to support things like critical healthcare applications and autonomous driving, meaning latency will have to be extremely low. Intel said the 5G RFIC supports the 3.3-4.2 GHz portion of the sub-6 GHz bands, enabling deployments and trials in China and Europe with flexible sub-channelization. It also supports 28 GHz, for deployments and trials in the United States, South Korea and Japan, and it supports 2x2 and 4x4 MIMO configurations, including dual-polarization sub-channelization.

Intel also says it’s offering the first 5G-ready test platform for the automotive industry, allowing automakers to develop and test a wide range of use cases and applications ahead of the expected rollout of 5G in 2020. Of course, as some operators and analysts are saying, SDN and NFV are essential going into 5G, and Intel’s got that covered as well, boasting a holistic end-to-end strategy. Intel VP Data Center Group and Network Platforms Group General Manager Sandra Rivera’s group is very much leading the way there and “we do everything together,” Evans said, noting that there are not a lot of companies that have this entire portfolio end-to-end, although a lot of them are trying to do so. “We don’t make a move without each other and this is Intel’s differentiation,” she said.

As for legacy systems, a lot of stakeholders in 5G say that LTE isn’t going away anytime soon, and 5G will need to be compatible with LTE. Intel says its 5G modem pairs with LTE modems such as Intel’s XMM 7360 LTE modem to provide 4G fallback and 4G/5G interworking, so LTE won’t get left behind.

PCell SDR technology being trialled in Bay Area.

Artemis Networks, a startup that has been trying to disrupt the wireless space with its pCell software defined radio (SDR) technology, is finally getting some validation, with Dish Network not only supporting its endeavors but also showcasing them in its booth at CES. Artemis is currently leasing certain H-Block mobile spectrum from satellite TV provider Dish in the San Francisco area as part of indoor and outdoor trials of pCell LTE technology. Dish and Artemis have discussed the possibility of expanding to additional geographic licenses for future trials. Meanwhile, live pCell demos are being staged at Dish’s booth at CES in Las Vegas this week. “Dish and Artemis are aligned in the vision of developing 5G technologies to deliver ubiquitous, fast, and reliable wireless connectivity,” said Tom Cullen, Dish executive vice president of corporate development, in a press release. “We are investigating 5G options for our spectrum portfolio, which includes the support of pioneering endeavors like Artemis.” RELATED: Artemis leases Dish's H Block spectrum to build a live, commercial pCell network in San Fran Cable companies make no secret of their intentions to play in the 5G space, with companies like Comcast pledging to make 5G work and Charter Communications talking about plans to develop 5G-type technologies and applying for FCC permission to conduct tests in millimeter wave spectrum bands. Artemis founder and CEO Steve Perlman said the company is happy to work with anyone—not only cable companies but also mobile network operators, wireless ISPs (WISPs), MVNOs and others. Dish, for one, has been amassing spectrum over the years, prompting questions about when and how it will eventually use it. But firming up its connections with Dish is not the only thing Artemis is celebrating these days. It’s also introducing the pWave Mini, a much smaller version of its technology that interests cable companies because it can be used much the way they string cable. The smaller size means it won’t be required to go through the siting processes that its larger iteration requires. Artemis’ first product was nine inches wide.  At 15 mm in width, the pWave Mini base stations can be daisy-chained into cables that look just like cable TV cables, so they can be deployed anywhere a cable can be deployed—hidden on rooftops, along buildings, on streetlights or strung between utility poles or in homes, offices or stadiums. Perlman said they emit no more power than a home Wi-Fi router and are far less expensive to deploy or operate than conventional LTE technology—and they’ll also work with existing handsets and devices already in the market. Perlman said it’s almost like the old days when mainframes dominated the computer industry. Nowadays, “existing cellular systems are very much like mainframes, and we’re like the Apple II,” he said. RELATED: Nokia Networks plans to trial Artemis Networks' pCell technology with carriers To describe how the company was able to fashion the technology the size of the pWave Mini, Perlman likes to borrow a phrase from the movie “The Martian” and says “we had to science the sh** out of it,” removing basic functions that many people would consider standard in radios and rethinking how to make up for them in software. For example, GPS is included in a lot of radios, but it takes up a lot of space and doesn’t work indoors, so they pulled that out. They fiddled with mathematics and rethought the way radio waves work. And what they came up with is nothing short of what Perlman describes as the highest performance, highest density 5G technology in the world. It will support multiple protocols and promises to deliver over 50x conventional LTE spectral efficiency on iPhones, Android, iPad and LTE routers, with the ability to work at any frequency from 600 MHz to 6 GHz and with licensed or unlicensed spectrum. They also got the cost down to what should amount to less than $100 each in volume, so a newcomer to wireless could conceivably use Mini pCell technology to set up shop without having to build out a big costly network. “Anybody can deploy it,” Perlman told FierceWirelessTech. Granted, Artemis has won recognition prior to Dish's moves. WebPass, the point-to-point fixed wireless provider that Google Fiber bought in 2016, as well as Nokia’s networks division, have deployed pWave technology. WebPass is a WISP and it’s not set up like a Verizon, but it is deploying something that will support MVNOs at higher density and lower cost, Perlman said. Artemis has about 12 employees, but it works with a lot of contractors and ultraspecialists. Once the subject of naysayers from the academic community, Artemis has now won the respect of some leading experts in academia and is working with them. Jim Chiddix, former Time Warner Cable CTO, is an Artemis advisory board member. “Reducing high-density 5G wireless deployment to standard cable deployment with the pWave Mini is a game-changer for both mobile and fixed wireless,” he said in the press release. “Now, any ISP—from the largest to the smallest—can rapidly deploy high-density pCell 5G LTE and Fixed wireless by using well-established cable deployment practices.”

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ericsson highlights the many facets of 5g

Like a jeweler showcasing its diamond, representatives for the Swedish telecommunications company said Ericsson is planning a massive display to highlight the many facets of 5G. In particular, Ericsson said it will focus on different use cases across a variety of industries and the new capabilities 5G will enable, honing in on six key areas including broadband, man-machine interfaces like virtual and augmented reality, critical services, sensor networks, machine-type communications, and remote devices. But while Ericsson’s CES display will look toward the future, Wireless Week reached out to CTO Glenn Laxdal ahead of the show to get his thoughts on where 5G technology stands today and how exactly it will progress to that hyper mobile vision of the future. Back in December, Verizon told Wireless Week that it was working closely with Ericsson and a handful of other vendors on pre-commercial fixed wireless 5G trials slated to kick off this month. Though many people like to think of 5G as a mostly mobile technology, Laxdal explained there are a couple of reasons Ericsson’s clients – including companies like Verizon – are focusing on fixed wireless as the initial use case. It’s well known that the 3GPP standards for mobile 5G won’t be released for some time yet, but Laxdal said fixed wireless is possible because participants in the standards process can already see what the building blocks of 5G will be. Thus, he said, Ericsson can construct a solution around those foundations and start to deliver some components in a 2017 timeframe. Fixed wireless is a great vehicle to test those components because of the element of control it offers, Laxdal noted. “I think the lead use case is going to be fixed wireless access because that’s a very contained use case,” Laxdal said. “We can control the devices that are being used for fixed wireless access as well as the network and co-develop those together.” Additionally, Laxdal said the software Ericsson is developing for these early 5G components will be “completely upgradable” to the standards-based 5G system that will fully defined in the mid-2018 timeframe. Laxdal said the evolution of 5G devices will likely unfold in a manner similar to the roll out of 4G technology. That is, Laxdal said with 5G we will see fixed wireless devices becoming available first since they don’t have to handle all the capabilities required by mobile broadband. Those devices, he said, will be followed by the roll out of hotspot devices (which would perhaps be the first fully standards-compliant devices) in a late 2018 timeframe and eventually smartphones with 5G capabilities in the early 2019 timeframe. Once all of those pieces fall into line and the ecosystem includes a variety of devices that are able to “talk” 5G, Laxdal said the world will see a much broader deployment of the technology across the market. This, he said, will likely come in a 2019 or 2020 timeframe. “When you’re out in the 2021, 2022 timeframe, now you’ve got a fully standards-based 5G system and you’re starting to ramp smartphones,” Laxdal said. “That’s when we really see the significant volume of subscribers starting to take advantage of 5G.” According to the latest Ericsson Mobility report, the volume of 5G subscribers is expected to reach 150 million in 2021 before jumping to more than half a billion in 2022. Building the 5G network Laxdal said Ericsson is hard at work on everything 5G – from developing radio access network (RAN) technologies like beamforming and MIMO, core network features, and network management techniques to partnering with device vendors like Qualcomm and Intel – to help carriers build out the networks to support these users. But out of all these, Laxdal focused in on network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) as key, can’t-do-without building blocks for the 5G future. Why? Two words: network slicing. As more and more use cases emerge that require dramatically different things from the network, Laxdal said NFV and SDN will become critical enablers of a dynamic and programmable network core that will allow for network slicing, or the ability to create new network paths in software. “It’s not that you couldn’t deploy 5G without software defined networking and network function virtualization being implemented in your core, but to take full advantage of 5G you would need to have those technologies implemented,” Laxdal said. “To get the total benefit of 5G over time, as more and more use cases become implemented using the 5G network, you’re going to want a more and more dynamic software-defined core to take advantage of that. Over that longer-term timeframe that’s where NFV/SDN really starts to add value to the 5G network.”