Tuesday, 27 December 2016

5G infrastructure and Spectrum allocation

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has blasted the level of coverage achieved with 4G and urged early action to deploy 5G more effectively. The organisation’s report particularly highlighted the role small cells will play in providing good services in urban areas, and on roads and railways, where the NIC says cellular coverage is “frankly appalling”.

It has also looked further ahead and suggested new approaches to 5G spectrum allocation and usage, in order to open the market to hundreds of new service providers, supporting localized or specialized services. If adopted, these proposals would create a far more open landscape for 5G – but these big ideas should not be allowed to obscure the fact that 5G is not necessary to provide mobile broadband connectivity to the whole population.

It is clearly essential that the “digital deserts” identified by the study are addressed and that the UK moves up the rankings in terms of 4G availability (it currently lies below far poorer economies like Albania, and countries with far more challenging size and terrain, like Peru). But the emphasis on 5G, in the report but also in the media and public discussion after its publication, is misplaced.

This is a coverage issue, and excellent coverage is very achievable with 4G, as other countries in the report’s international league table showed – for consumers at least, though deep penetration for some Internet of Things applications may require new spectrum and access point choices. Small cells will be essential to remove these deserts, bringing coverage cost-effectively to remote areas, as well as roads and railways, while adding capacity in areas of high usage.

The NIC predicts that tens of thousands of small cells will be needed in urban areas to support 5G services, and calls for these networks, as well as roadside and trackside connectivity, to be in place by 2025. Coverage and 5G are two separate issues with different solutions But this is not a 5G issue, even if that label is necessary to generate headlines, and perhaps government interest. Better coverage for passengers and rural communities, and better quality of service in areas of high usage, are achievable now, using current technologies. Entering an international race to be the "first to 5G" is a red herring.

The UK government does not need to emulate South Korea or Japan – its priority should be to deliver universal, predictable and good quality mobile coverage to all its citizens and visitors. That means creating the environment in which the mobile operators can achieve this and still make a profit. That is eminently possible using currently available small cell technologies for 4G and, in some cases, 3G.

Examples round the world show operators improving coverage dramatically, and affordably, using 3G or LTE small cells. Some of these examples are in the countries which are highlighted as being ahead of the UK in mobile broadband availability – not just the 5G trendsetters like Japan, but nations like Peru or Colombia.

The barrier to ubiquitous coverage is not technology – it is logistical. To deploy cells in large numbers in cities, or in remote areas, simplified processes are needed to acquire sites (often ideal municipal locations like lamp posts); to secure equipment approvals; and to deploy and manage the sites physically. National and local government can facilitate this with a stringent review of the regulations for deploying small cells, to accelerate build-out and reduce cost of ownership.

The NIC report points to this, calling on local authorities to work with operators to enable small cell networks, and also to amend regulations to lower barriers to entry for new service providers, which might have a different business model for challenging commercial environments like remote communities.

A streamlined framework to deploy small cells rapidly and cheaply would result in a dramatic improvement in coverage without having to wait for 5G. Indeed, there is a risk that, by holding out for 5G, the UK will fall even further behind. 5G networks will certainly be based on small cells, probably at a new level of density, but those should be planned to support new services, not as the solution to current coverage challenges which can be addressed today.

The importance of shared spectrum In another recent proposal to the UK government, the British Infrastructure Group – a cross-party group of members of parliament - proposed compulsory roaming for all MNOs in rural areas, a suggestion which the operators have opposed vociferously. Small cell vendor ip.access is leading the push behind and alternative approach focused around spectrum sharing.

In a statement in response to the BIG report "Mobile Coverage: A good call for Britain?", ip.access CEO Malcolm Gordon said: “The BIG report identifies 17m UK customers who experience poor reception at home and 525 areas with non-existent mobile coverage. We recognise the importance of this issue, and strongly believe that regulators and operators should commit to supporting shared spectrum as the most effective approach to connecting the unconnected in rural communities.”

The company argues that a shared spectrum system, like a shared macro RAN, would present fewer technical challenges than localized roaming, because standards exist; would reduce capex and opex and so improve a difficult business case for the MNO; would still offer a choice of services to consumers and allow each MNO to manage and monetize its own subscribers; and preserve the first mover advantage for any operator which chooses to invest in the network (an MNO or potentially a neutral host third party), because they can reserve some capacity for their exclusive use.

Radical proposals for spectrum Another important enabler of better coverage will be spectrum sharing and neutral host or shared networks – especially to improve the economics of rural deployment, and the logistics of rolling out small cells in dense areas where more than one physical network would be hard to achieve.

Other recommendations were that any future Ofcom spectrum decisions should: support community or small provider solutions for underserved areas allow niche or localized providers to access new 5G spectrum rather than sticking to national licences alone open access to spectrum for enterprises, universities and others to use within their own buildings – even licensed spectrum where there are no interference risks The third point would enable multiple wireless service provider approaches, including self-provision in the Internet of Things and robotics.

More generally, the recommendations would open up a wholly new approach to the wireless market, which could set interesting precedents for other countries. Moving away from a model based on operator-owned spectrum and long, exclusive and national licences is already happening with developments like LTE-LAA and MuLTEfire, as well as other shared or dynamic spectrum ideas.

But regulatory change will have to be radical, in the UK and elsewhere, to fulfil the real potential of 5G, to support large numbers of service providers, many of them industry-specific or regionally localized, which can go beyond a traditional MVNO and control their own spectrum and "sub-nets". This aspect of the NIC report was largely missed in the media debate, but is far more radical than its approach to the more urgent, but far simpler, issue of coverage for humans and smartphones, as opposed to all those unpredictable "things".

It remains to be seen whether Ofcom and the UK government choose to be trailblazers in the move towards flexible, virtualized 5G networks and slicing. In the meantime, they should not use 5G as an excuse to delay bringing decent 4G availability to the whole UK population.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Finally IEEE steps into the fray.

IEEE is calling on global industry leaders, policymakers and academia to coalesce in a neutral forum to move 5G forward. The purpose of the IEEE 5G Initiative is to engage professionals worldwide to work toward solving the challenges associated with 5G and lay the foundation to realize its many opportunities, according to the organization.

Volunteers from both industry and academia are being sought as several working groups are being established. “5G is not only evolutionary, providing higher bandwidth and lower latency than current-generation technology; more importantly, 5G is revolutionary, in that it is expected to enable fundamentally new applications with much more stringent requirements in latency and bandwidth," said Ashutosh Dutta, co-chair of the 5G initiative and lead member of the technical staff at AT&T, in a press release.

“5G should help solve the last-mile/last-kilometer problem and provide broadband access to the next billion users on earth at much lower cost because of its use of new spectrum and its improvements in spectral efficiency.” The other co-chair, Gerhard Fettweis, who serves as senior research scientist at the International Computer Science Institute and as Vodafone chair professor at TU Dresden in Germany, said in the release that the Tactile Internet will be faster than the speed of light.

“The IEEE 5G Initiative is convening the vast breadth of IEEE resources in its members around the globe and new participants to realize targets like one terabyte per second WiFi and 10 Gigabit per second cellular by 2025; one millisecond latency rate; and 25 bytes every 100 seconds for 10 years from a AAA battery.”

Working groups are focused around activities like the 5G Roadmap project, which will identify short (~3 years), midterm (~5 years), and long-term (~10 years) research, innovation and technology trends in the communications ecosystem for the purpose of establishing a living document with a clear set of recommendations, IEEE said.

RELATED: IEEE wants to collaborate with 3GPP on 5G

While the 5G Initiative is new, IEEE’s interest in 5G is not new. The chairman of the IEEE 802 Local and Metropolitan Area Network Standards Committee (LMSC) sent a letter to 3GPP last fall in an effort to collaborate and more formally establish a relationship around 5G. Paul Nikolich, chairman of the LMSC, sent the letter to 3GPP PCG Chair Zhiqin Wang with a detailed proposal on how the two groups could work together, with IEEE suggesting the two begin collaboration by developing a common understanding of the role of interworking with IEEE 802 networks in meeting the IMT-2020 requirements.

Even though they have different styles toward creating standards—3GPP achieves consensus by companies while the 802 community does it based on individuals—there’s a history of them working together on issues like LAA, where a combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum bands are designed to be used

5G implies small cells

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has blasted the level of coverage achieved with 4G and urged early action to deploy 5G more effectively. The organisation’s report particularly highlighted the role small cells will play in providing good services in urban areas, and on roads and railways, where the NIC says cellular coverage is “frankly appalling”. It has also looked further ahead and suggested new approaches to 5G spectrum allocation and usage, in order to open the market to hundreds of new service providers, supporting localized or specialized services. If adopted, these proposals would create a far more open landscape for 5G – but these big ideas should not be allowed to obscure the fact that 5G is not necessary to provide mobile broadband connectivity to the whole population. It is clearly essential that the “digital deserts” identified by the study are addressed and that the UK moves up the rankings in terms of 4G availability (it currently lies below far poorer economies like Albania, and countries with far more challenging size and terrain, like Peru). But the emphasis on 5G, in the report but also in the media and public discussion after its publication, is misplaced.

This is a coverage issue, and excellent coverage is very achievable with 4G, as other countries in the report’s international league table showed – for consumers at least, though deep penetration for some Internet of Things applications may require new spectrum and access point choices. Small cells will be essential to remove these deserts, bringing coverage cost-effectively to remote areas, as well as roads and railways, while adding capacity in areas of high usage. The NIC predicts that tens of thousands of small cells will be needed in urban areas to support 5G services, and calls for these networks, as well as roadside and trackside connectivity, to be in place by 2025. Coverage and 5G are two separate issues with different solutions But this is not a 5G issue, even if that label is necessary to generate headlines, and perhaps government interest. Better coverage for passengers and rural communities, and better quality of service in areas of high usage, are achievable now, using current technologies. Entering an international race to be the "first to 5G" is a red herring. The UK government does not need to emulate South Korea or Japan – its priority should be to deliver universal, predictable and good quality mobile coverage to all its citizens and visitors. That means creating the environment in which the mobile operators can achieve this and still make a profit. That is eminently possible using currently available small cell technologies for 4G and, in some cases, 3G. Examples round the world show operators improving coverage dramatically, and affordably, using 3G or LTE small cells. Some of these examples are in the countries which are highlighted as being ahead of the UK in mobile broadband availability – not just the 5G trendsetters like Japan, but nations like Peru or Colombia. The barrier to ubiquitous coverage is not technology – it is logistical.

To deploy cells in large numbers in cities, or in remote areas, simplified processes are needed to acquire sites (often municipal locations like lamp posts); to secure equipment approvals; and to deploy and manage the sites physically. National and local government can facilitate this with a stringent review of the regulations for deploying small cells, to accelerate build-out and reduce cost of ownership. The NIC report points to this, calling on local authorities to work with operators to enable small cell networks, and also to amend regulations to lower barriers to entry for new service providers, which might have a different business model for challenging commercial environments like remote communities. A streamlined framework to deploy small cells rapidly and cheaply would result in a dramatic improvement in coverage without having to wait for 5G. Indeed, there is a risk that, by holding out for 5G, the UK will fall even further behind. 5G networks will certainly be based on small cells, probably at a new level of density, but those should be planned to support new services, not as the solution to current coverage challenges which can be addressed today. The importance of shared spectrum In another recent proposal to the UK government, the British Infrastructure Group – a cross-party group of members of parliament - proposed compulsory roaming for all MNOs in rural areas, a suggestion which the operators have opposed vociferously. Small cell vendor ip.access is leading the push behind and alternative approach focused around spectrum sharing. In a statement in response to the BIG report "Mobile Coverage: A good call for Britain?", ip.access CEO Malcolm Gordon said: “The BIG report identifies 17m UK customers who experience poor reception at home and 525 areas with non-existent mobile coverage. We recognise the importance of this issue, and strongly believe that regulators and operators should commit to supporting shared spectrum as the most effective approach to connecting the unconnected in rural communities.” The company argues that a shared spectrum system, like a shared macro RAN, would present fewer technical challenges than localized roaming, because standards exist; would reduce capex and opex and so improve a difficult business case for the MNO; would still offer a choice of services to consumers and allow each MNO to manage and monetize its own subscribers; and preserve the first mover advantage for any operator which chooses to invest in the network (an MNO or potentially a neutral host third party), because they can reserve some capacity for their exclusive use. Radical proposals for spectrum Another important enabler of better coverage will be spectrum sharing and neutral host or shared networks – especially to improve the economics of rural deployment, and the logistics of rolling out small cells in dense areas where more than one physical network would be hard to achieve. Other recommendations were that any future Ofcom spectrum decisions should: support community or small provider solutions for underserved areas allow niche or localized providers to access new 5G spectrum rather than sticking to national licences alone open access to spectrum for enterprises, universities and others to use within their own buildings – even licensed spectrum where there are no interference risks

The third point would enable multiple wireless service provider approaches, including self-provision in the Internet of Things and robotics. More generally, the recommendations would open up a wholly new approach to the wireless market, which could set interesting precedents for other countries. Moving away from a model based on operator-owned spectrum and long, exclusive and national licences is already happening with developments like LTE-LAA and MuLTEfire, as well as other shared or dynamic spectrum ideas. But regulatory change will have to be radical, in the UK and elsewhere, to fulfil the real potential of 5G, to support large numbers of service providers, many of them industry-specific or regionally localized, which can go beyond a traditional MVNO and control their own spectrum and "sub-nets". This aspect of the NIC report was largely missed in the media debate, but is far more radical than its approach to the more urgent, but far simpler, issue of coverage for humans and smartphones, as opposed to all those unpredictable "things". It remains to be seen whether Ofcom and the UK government choose to be trailblazers in the move towards flexible, virtualized 5G networks and slicing. In the meantime, they should not use 5G as an excuse to delay bringing decent 4G availability to the whole UK population.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

UK National Infrastructure Commission on 5G cites woes with poor 4G coverage

Blighty has worse 4G coverage than that of Albania, Panama and Peru, according to a major report by the National Infrastructure Commission on 5G and telecommunication technology. The report, found that Britain is 54th in the world for 4G, with the typical user only able to access 4G about 53 per cent of the time. It said there are far too many digital deserts and partial not-spots, even within UK city centres. It recommended that regulator Ofcom ensure that "essential outdoor mobile services – such as basic talk, text and data - are available wherever we live, work and travel." The government has already pledged to introduce a universal service obligation of 10Mbps by 2020 for both fixed and mobile connectivity. But the report recommended that a mobile-specific USO should be introduced by 2025 so that consumers can access essential services "where they are needed." The Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, Lord Adonis, warned the UK "is currently languishing in the digital slow lane." He said: "Britain is 54th in the world for 4G coverage, and the typical user can only access 4G barely half the time.

The UK's 4G network is worse than those of Romania and Albania, Panama and Peru. "Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts and even our city centres are plagued by not-spots where connectivity is impossible. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce." However, some of those concerns are intended to be addressed by the government's controversial Emergency Services Network programme. The project intends to increase 4G connectivity across the country in order to shove the emergency services on to a 4G network. Currently 70 % of the UK's landmass is covered by British mobile operator EE's 4G network, which the government hopes to increase to 97 %
by 2020.

The NIC was created by former chancellor, George Osborne, to advise the government on the UK's infrastructure such as transport, telecommunications, energy and utilities. Adonis called on the government to "act now" to ensure major transport networks and urban centres are 5G-ready to give British industry "every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications." The future standards and spectrum for 5G have yet to be agreed upon. However, chancellor Philip Hammond set aside a £740m investment fund in his budget last month for the technology. Adonis said that while 5G was important, the current mobile network needs to be brought up to speed. "The existing system does not provide the level of coverage we will need in our connected future. We need a new universal service obligation which ensures that the mobile essentials – like text, talk and data – are available to us wherever we need them

Monday, 19 December 2016

It’s all in the details when it comes to understanding 5G field trials!

The fact that 5G tests and trials are going on all over the United States and the world should be encouraging to all of us. Problem is, for some of us, the results all start to run together, like a stream of ones and zeros without any real standouts.

Turns out, it’s not that easy to point to specific 2016 trials that triggered a collective “Wow, that’s amazing!” across the industry. There is general agreement that achievements in speed and latency are impressive, but those tend to be all over the place as well: 1 gigabit per second and above here, 14 Gbps to a single user there. There’s been demonstration of data speeds of more than 2.5 Gbps with a mobile device and moving vehicle, and Ericsson and Telia achieved peak data rates of 15 Gbps and latency of less than 3 milliseconds. But after a while, it all just starts to run together and lose meaning. Part of the problem in deciphering what’s what is you need to know exactly what took place.

“It’s all the details that are really important here: what spectrum was used, how much, what air interface, base station architecture, etc.,” said Peter Jarich, VP of consumer and infrastructure services at Current Analysis.

Of course, these are the very details that vendors and operators like to keep close to their vest. And there’s no shame there; this is a hypercompetitive industry, and people are going to be very careful about what and how much they reveal about what they’re doing, even as the industry tries to write the standards for what everybody ultimately wants to be doing. Plenty of people want to talk about speeds, but how impressive are these speeds when you’re doing tests and trials in a spectrum that is wide open? Often the trials we hear about are not being done in dense, urban areas. And as for latency, how low do you go? That seems to be closely tied to use cases, which need to be identified and better explained.

Notably, in boasting about his own company’s achievements and plans for 5G, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray called Verizon’s grand vision to compete as a fixed broadband player a “double yawn.” Verizon deserves serious kudos for all it has achieved and continues to do with fixed wireless, yet I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t sound a heck of a lot like what the old AT&T tried to do with Project Angel way back in the day. Sprint CTO, John Saw, was asked about that since he was part of the team working on Angel before we even heard of WiMAX, and he affirmed that much of what we are talking about today is along those same concepts.

Back then, it was about putting pizza box-sized dishes on the sides of people’s houses in order to offer high-speed internet and phone services and take on the big established wired phone companies. Now it sounds a lot like that, only wireless companies are talking about taking on the established cable companies, which in turn want to increasingly play in the wireless space.

Go figure. As for a few of the more impressive trials, it’s probably no surprise that one announced at Mobile World Congress 2016 in February still stands out to some analysts like Daryl Schoolar at Ovum.

Good old Samsung talked about how it had concluded a series of fixed wireless 5G tests delivering multi-gigabit per second speeds at Verizon’s Basking Ridge, New Jersey, headquarters, including live streaming of 360-degree virtual reality content using Samsung Gear VR. During the trial, Samsung also showed off 4K UHD video content transmission over the air while in a moving vehicle using automatic beamforming multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) technology. Interestingly, Alok Shah, VP of strategy, business development and marketing at Samsung’s networks division in Richardson, Texas, stated all that in the 2013-2014 timeframe, Samsung really felt it was important to push the envelope around speed, and it was able to demonstrate 7.5 Gbps in a stationary environment in 2014 in what was then deemed the fastest-ever 5G data transmission rate. It also achieved an uninterrupted and stable connection at 1.2 Gbps in a mobile environment from a vehicle traveling more than 60 mph. Once that was demonstrated, Samsung’s team kind of pivoted—they’d already been heavily into 5G R&D for a few years by this time—and started to think more about the path to commercialization. More recently, Samsung has done a lot of testing and demonstration around other pieces of millimeter wave technology that are necessary to actually reach the commercialization stage. “Throughput and data speeds are kind of nice headlines, but at the end of the day, the path to market and the path to commercialization requires that we figure out all these other factors, and we feel comfortable that we’ve already validated the speed question,” Shah said. It’s also important to remember that 5G will require a lot of small cells and getting the miniaturization and economics to pencil out will be key so that gear can fit on street “furniture” wherever it’s installed. Miniaturization tends to be a gradual process and much can be expected to happen in that area before the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018. Samsung has been a long-time collaborator with educational institutions like NYU Wireless, which also has done important work in millimeter wave, which will be one critical component of 5G. This past summer, Ted Rappaport, NYU Tandon professor and founding director of NYU Wireless, and his team conducted research outside his mountain home in Riner, Virginia, using the 73 GHz band, where they were able to cover remarkable distances—something that even they were surprised to be able to show.

Another achievement of particular interest was Ericsson and China Mobile’s ability to show the world’s first 5G-enabled drone prototype, where a drone was flown using the operator’s cellular network with 5G-enabled technologies with handovers across multiple sites. Conducted in Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu province, it was impressive not only because it involved drones but also included handover, multi-use networks and low latency due to edge computing. And there’s a lot here that will be important going forward, Jarich said. Building on some of their previous work, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and Huawei conducted an autonomous end-to-end network slicing implementation to add dynamic and real-time slicing of the 5G radio access network (RAN) and data center, as well the interconnecting transmission network. That demo, conducted in Deutsche Telekom’s 5G:haus lab based in Bonn, Germany, shows how different network slices can be created automatically in an optimized way on a shared RAN, core and transport network.

Everyone knows network slicing will be critical in 5G, but if setting up slices is super time consuming or only touch one part of the network, that’s a problem, Jarich said. “Touching the RAN, core and transport networks is a different story—and what we have here,” he said According to Joe Madden, principal analyst at Mobile Experts, significant progress was made during 2016 in mobility testing and validation of Massive MIMO in the field. Samsung has done some leading tests of mobility using a 28 GHz link and Huawei has “leaped ahead of other vendors” with deployment of Massive MIMO in LTE networks, proving the real-world benefit of Massive MIMO prior to deployment of 5G, he said. As for the next challenges that need to be addressed, Madden said there’s been anticipation of some problems with heat dissipation in 28 GHz radios that transmit 60+ Watts of power.

“The efficiency of amplifiers at 28 GHz make this a challenging hardware problem … so we’re hoping to see some demonstrations of high power transmitters without air conditioners during 2017,” he told FierceWirelessTech. Generally speaking, testing 5G as a mobile application has been done, but it’s taken place in an open area. Mobile handover performance in a crowded urban environment has not yet been demonstrated, and of course, the urban environment is key for the 5G business scenario, he said.

With any luck, in the coming year we’ll hear a lot more details about what operators are experiencing as they gain more understanding about exactly what can and can’t be done in millimeter wave spectrum, as well as how it will dovetail with low- and mid-band spectrum.

HitchHike WiFi

Harvesting electromagnetic energy from thin air to develop self-sustaining Internet of Things (IoT) communications may become reality thanks to a new technology called HitchHike. The goal is to reduce the need for continual maintenance of the expected billions of IoT installations. Researchers say they’re close to the finish line. Worst case scenario, they say they’ll be able to get Wi-Fi chips to run for 10 years on the same, small battery.

“HitchHike is the first self-sufficient Wi-Fi system that enables data transmission using just micro-watts of energy, almost zero,” claims Pengyu Zhang, a Stanford researcher, in a recent press release from the school. Existing commodity infrastructure working with a harvesting technique called “backscatter” signals is behind the researchers' work to achieving Wi-Fi efficiency for IoT.

Backscattering is the term used for the creation of new signals quaffed from gathered, ambient radio waves, such as existing television. Those radio signals, prevalent anyway, are ingested and converted into new signals. It uses a kind of reflection cannibalization. The energy from the siphoned radio waves powers the new ones. In this case, the academics’ processor and radio combination equipment piggy-backs on incoming Wi-Fi signals of the kind we all use in laptop and smartphone communications. It then “translates those incoming signals to its own messages and retransmits its own data on a different Wi-Fi channel.”

The HitchHike prototype is about the size of a postage stamp and uses a coin battery. However, the researchers say they will be able to shrink that, and ultimately it will be as small as the proverbial grain of rice. The scientists say their device has a functioning range of 50 meters and will be able to message at 300 kilobits per second. IoT-oriented messaging often doesn’t need high bandwidth, just frequent sending and receiving functionality of brief commands.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

A start again or the end of an era for the UK?

5G offers the UK a chance to “start again and get ahead”, according to a new government watchdog report, which tore into the current state of 4G in the country. Published by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the report ranked the UK as 54th in the world for 4G coverage, notably behind less developed nations including Romania, Albania and Peru. The NIC revealed a typical user was able to access the technology “barely half of the time”, and called for action to ensure the country does not face similar problems when it comes to 5G.

“Our roads and railways can feel like digital deserts, and even our city centres are plagued by not spots where connectivity is impossible,” said Lord Adonis, chair of the NIC. “That isn’t just frustrating, it is holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.” In a list of recommendations, the NIC urged the government and regulator Ofcom to develop a set of standards to determine a “mobile universal service obligation” for consumers, which should be implemented no later than 2025.

It also called for the government to become something of “digital champion” by appointing a dedicated minister, ensuring the UK’s mobile connectivity is competitive worldwide. When it comes to 5G, the watchdog called for immediate action to ensure the country is ready, with improvements required on key rail routes, major roads, and in towns and cities. “5G is the future – ultra-fast and ultra-reliable it has the potential to change our lives and our economy in ways we cannot even imagine today. But the UK is currently languishing in the digital slow lane,” added Adonis.

The chair added: “5G offers us a change to start again and get ahead. If the government acts now we can ensure our major transport networks and urban centres are 5G ready in time to give British industry every chance to lead the world in exploiting its applications

Friday, 16 December 2016

At a range of 1 mile 5G broadband reached 1.5 Gb/s

In a trial Ericsson, U.S. Cellular see 9 Gbps in 5G tests

Ericsson is hoping that the coming world of 5G can provide a much-needed lift to the mobile infrastructure market.

Ericsson and U.S. Cellular said they’ve achieved peak speeds of 9 Gbps overall and 1.5 Gbps over a mile in 5G testing in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ericsson installed 5G radios on a tower in commercial service with the regional carrier using 15 GHz spectrum through an experimental license from the FCC.

The tests were run in a variety of environmental conditions to simulate real-world usage, and the top speed was seen at a distance of 787 feet.

The companies said the tests also included next-generation technologies and strategies such as radio resource sharing, beamforming, beam tracking, peak throughput and multiuser MIMO.

“This latest trial with Ericsson demonstrates incredible 9 Gbps speeds in an environment that was close to a real-world scenario, and we look forward to collaborating with Ericsson on the development of standards for a healthy 5G ecosystem,” U.S. Cellular CTO Michael Irizarry said in a press release.

“We are committed to giving our customers the best experience with the latest technology that can enhance their lives or businesses, and a fast, high-quality network that works whenever and wherever they need it.”

Like other telecom gear vendors, Ericsson is moving aggressively in its pursuit of 5G. The company is teaming with AT&T and Intel in a business customer trial of next-generation services in Austin, Texas, and this week it said a partnership with Qualcomm and KPN had produced the first successful trial of Cat-M1 technology in Europe.

Like its rivals, Ericsson is hoping that the coming world of 5G can provide a much-needed lift to the mobile infrastructure market. Ericsson posted a $26 million loss in the third quarter due largely to waning sales in North America, and in October it announced plans to slash 3,000 jobs in its native Sweden in an effort to cut costs.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

First business customer 5G field trial run by AT&T

AT&T is leaving the lab and heading to the field with Intel in its first 5G business customer trial at an Intel office setting in Austin, Texas. It’s the first trial of its kind, according to AT&T’s knowledge, and will provide more than a gigabit per second bandwidth to let AT&T test multiple enterprise proof-of-concept use cases, including internet access, VPN, Unified Communications applications and 4K video streams, the company said in a blog post. The trial, which includes Ericsson, will showcase the potential of 5G over the 15 GHz and 28 GHz bands and shed new light on how the technology acts in a business environment. The 15 GHz band is one that Ericsson has been working with in Sweden, so it’s using the same type of prototype here in the U.S. where applicable, and the 28 GHz band is one that many operators are eyeing for initial 5G deployments. According to Tom Keathley, senior vice president, wireless network architecture and design at AT&T, it’s all about video. “The future of video is mobile. And the future of mobile is video,” he said in the blog. “Mobile video streaming continues to be a vital aspect of our 5G work, and this trial gives us an opportunity to test 4K HD video streaming across further physical distances between pieces of equipment. With our 5G and 4G LTE advancements, we expect speeds rivaling what we see from cable providers. Our path to 5G will help make this vision a reality faster.” AT&T said it has hit speeds of nearly 14 gigabits per second in 5G lab settings and now it’s going to see how it performs in the field. AT&T earlier this year was granted a three-year authority from the FCC to conduct tests at various frequencies in Austin. Rob Topol, general manager for Intel’s 5G business, told Fortune that they will be trying to force congestion into the system and test how well signals pass through trees and glass windows to bring the 5G signal inside a building. Once in the building, Intel workers will connect to 4K video streams, exchange large files, operate over virtual private networking, and generally try to stress the equipment using standard Wi-Fi. “Intel is committed to collaborating with industry leaders to develop leading technologies and solutions that expedite network readiness for the successful early roll out of 5G," Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Communications and Devices Group of Intel, said in the blog post. "We are excited to work with AT&T on this initial trial as we work to deliver the products and investments that will bring 5G to life." Austin, home of the Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG) at the University of Texas, is a popular place for 5G trials. At the Texas Wireless Summit (TWS) this past fall, AT&T and Ericsson were part of a 5G demo that showcased millimeter wave radio access technology, including phased arrays with ultra-fast beam steering, feedback-based hybrid precoding, multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO), dynamic beam tracking and beam acquisition. Similar to some other 5G tests and trials, the system operated on 800 megahertz of bandwidth.

Bringing a 5G network to market

Ligado Networks announced an agreement with GPS manufacturer Topcon, removing another barrier as it works to bring a 5G network to market. Ligado was known as LightSquared until the company rebranded in February after emerging from bankruptcy and settling interference disputes with GPS vendors Deere, Garmin and Trimble. It has also reached a similar agreement with NovAtel. The company hopes to build a next-generation network using its mid-band spectrum for use by third parties. “After months of testing, analysis and discussion, we are pleased to have reached a resolution with Topcon that provides a path forward for Ligado and ensures protection of all Topcon GNSS (global navigation satellite system) devices,” said Doug Smith, Ligado Networks’ president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “This agreement underscores our ongoing commitment to working collaboratively with companies to find solutions and is further evidence that our planned satellite and ground-based network can peacefully co-exist alongside our spectrum neighbors.” LightSquared launched in 2010 with the goal of building a wholesale nationwide LTE network that customers could use to provide their own wireless services. It inked roughly three dozen customers before the FCC proposed to indefinitely suspend a component of its conditional license to operate in the L-band, citing unresolved concerns over interference and forcing LightSquared into bankruptcy. RELATED: LightSquared rebrands as Ligado Networks but spectrum plans remain cloudy Like its agreements with other GPS companies, the Topcon deal requires both companies to coordinate on operating parameters and deployment plans as Ligado deploys its terrestrial network. The move clears another hurdle for Ligado to build a 5G network aimed at providing connectivity for IoT devices. Whether sufficient demand for another network exists is unclear, of course. Mobile network operators are hastily developing technologies specifically for IoT use cases, and vendors such as Sigfox and Ingenu are also vying for customers in that market. But Ligado’s mid-band spectrum may give it an advantage as 5G services begin to come to market over the next several years. “We are excited about ongoing opportunities to collaborate with Topcon, including exploring opportunities to build networks that enhance accuracy and reliability of positioning services,” Smith said. “This type of advanced network, the first of its kind in North America, would further position the U.S. as a leader in wireless technology and infrastructure by delivering unprecedented performance and enabling the emerging 5G and Internet of Things markets.”

The 5G spectrum auction in UK.

Communications regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on the first tranche of its 5G spectrum auction. The consultation presents its initial thinking on how it could expand spectrum access for mobile services in the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band, said the regulator. The band is currently used by fixed links and by satellite services for space to Earth reception. "We consider this band a high priority band for future mobile use, due to the large amount of spectrum available and the interest in this band for the rollout of future 5G services (the fifth generation of mobile connectivity technology, which is currently being developed)," it said in a statement. National regulators across Europe and industry have identified the wider 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band as a potential first 5G band. Ofcom is proposing to make 116 MHz within the 3.6 to 3.8 GHz band available for mobile and 5G services. However, as ISP Review points out, 5G technology is expected to deliver its best speeds using much higher frequencies. International 5G standards are also yet to be set and are not expected to come into force until 2017. Ofcom has promised there would be enough spectrum available for 5G networks by the time they became commercially available in 2020. The regulator is also expected to open a consultation on its delayed spectrum auction for further 4G capacity. But a number of telcos have called on the regulator to impose a 30 per cent cap on operators bidding in the next spectrum auction. That move would limit the proportion of airwaves an operator can own, and inhibit bids from EE and Vodafone. The consultation for 5G spectrum will close on by 5pm on 1 December 2016.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

5G has Network Slicing playing a big role in its roll out.

Network slicing is expected to play a big role in 5G, and a new technical white paper published by 5G Americas digs into the concept, exploring an end-to-end 5G system framework and discussing the application of network slicing to air interface technologies. “It is not expected that 5G will arrive as a single ‘Big Bang,’” stated Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, in a press release. “Significant progress is already being made on networking technology through the standards bodies and network slicing will play a big role in optimizing 5G networks.” Industry thought leaders seem to agree: One of the many reasons that network slices are so important is the fact that the use cases for future 5G networks are so diverse. According to the white paper, examples of network slices include: a slice serving a utility company; a slice serving remote control for a factory; a slice serving a virtual operator; a slice optimized for streaming video-you get the picture. The requirements for 5G network slicing are currently in a proposed state and are listed in clause 5.2.3 of 3GPP Technical Report 22.891.

The requirements are considered “very stable” at this point and will eventually be placed in a Technical Specification. “Although there are only eight requirements listed as of version 14.0.0, they provide a strong, high-level view and direction for the next generation (NexGen) work of 3GPP with respect to network slicing,” the report states. “Network slicing makes possible the creation of virtual networks using one common network infrastructure,” Rao Yallapragada, director, Intel and co-leader of the white paper, explained in the release. “The implementation of network slicing will provide an end-to-end solution for flexible infrastructure optimized to address future use cases with diverse requirements such as speed, connection, battery life, latency and cost. Including both the core and radio access networks, each slice can be configured with its own network architecture, engineering mechanism and network provisioning.”

Ericsson, SK Telecom commit to network slicing as part of 5G initiative Concepts around network slicing closely align with software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), and the commercial deployment of both of these technologies is expected to grow tremendously over the next several years. AT&T, of course, is already well into its software-driven network transformation, and Verizon is no slouch either when it comes to implementing SDN and NFV.

The whole NFV movement started as an operator-driven concept, so it’s not surprising that carriers would want to get behind it. The white paper says the move to NFV/SDN will allow network slicing to enable much more flexible instantiations of networks that can be designed to meet the specific needs of applications, services and operator business models. Both the NGMN Alliance and 3GPP have been developing the definition and use cases for network slicing so that the standards development organizations can provide detailed studies to understand the feature and functionalities that will be required for network slicing beyond what is already defined in 3GPP Release 13 and ETSI NFV.

The Network Slicing for 5G Networks and Services paper was written by members of 5G Americas. Co-leaders of the white paper working group are Yallapragada and Clara Li of Intel as well as Sabareesan Soundarapandian of Ericsson

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Nokia will demo 5G in Colorado at 28 GHz.

Nokia files to demo 5G at Charter Communications' facility in Englewood, Colorado.

Based on an application for Special Temporary Authority (STA) filed with the FCC, it looks like Nokia wants to demonstrate its 5G gear at 28 GHz for Charter Communications at Charter’s Englewood, Colorado, facility. The application didn’t explicitly name Charter, but it included an address to demonstrate 5G wireless equipment “to one of our customers located in Englewood Colorado, 14810 Grasslands Drive.”

The STA period would be from Jan. 9, 2017, to Jan. 25, 2017, to allow time for setup, customer demonstrations/testing and breakdown of the equipment. Wireless engineering consultant Steve Crowley first tweeted a link to the application, noting the Charter connection. A spokesman for the cable operator said the company would not comment on the application, but it’s clear from Charter’s Nov. 3 third-quarter conference call with analysts that the company is exploring its options beyond the MVNO agreement with Verizon that it plans to activate.

Nokia CTO, Marcus Weldon, says cable could win at wireless this time. Asked by New Street Research analyst Jonathan Chaplin about the timing of Charter’s wireless offerings, Charter Communications Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said the MVNO is an opportunity to create "high-quality product intermixed" with its existing high-quality products to create value for customers.

“With regard to how that gets integrated, no, I think 5G-type technologies or millimeter wave technologies or small-cell, high-frequency, high-capacity, low-latency wireless networks are products that we will develop," Rutledge said, according to a Seeking Alpha earnings call transcript.

“They may or not be connected to an MVNO relationship or a mobility relationship. I think that there are opportunities to create wireless drops, in certain cases, so direct wireless connections that require—that mimic a physical connection, to connect malls and other things in the enterprise space and buildings that are not contiguous or have big parking lots or, in some cases, low-density areas, it might make some sense,” he added. He also said the company has asked the government for the right to experiment with millimeter wave technologies in several markets “so that we can learn how to use those products to our advantage competitively.”

The technology platform “of these small high-capacity cells can work in a myriad of ways, both as line extension devices, as well as in-home devices that don't necessarily require mobility off the property, in-office devices that don't require mobility off property,” he said. “So they don't have to be necessarily developed as a mobile service. So we are going to explore both paths.”

Nokia wants to demonstrate 5G prototype gear at C Spire's headquarters in July.

Nokia’s application to demonstrate 5G at the Englewood location follows similar applications where Nokia included the address of its customer but didn’t name them. Earlier this year, for example, Nokia received authorization to conduct tests in Ridgeland, Mississippi, where C Spire is based. In July, C Spire announced it was the first company to successfully demonstrate a 5G fixed wireless solution in Mississippi using Nokia equipment with a direct connection to its fiber-based commercial television service.

C Spire said the test delivered C Spire Fiber consumer television content, including ultra-high definition resolution video, with speeds up to 2.2 Gigabits per second (Gbps) and ultra-low latency below 1.4 milliseconds over the 5G wireless link.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

5g and unlicensed spectrum

The long fight over LTE networks sharing frequencies with Wi-Fi may be just the first of many battles as device makers and service providers try to make the most of the limited available spectrum. Around the world, regulators and industry are working on how to let different kinds of networks use the same spectrum. The new techniques and policies they use should lead to better mobile performance in some areas, but it’s also likely that wireless performance will fluctuate more as you move around.  LTE-U has grabbed headlines because it involves licensed carriers using some of the channels that consumers depend on for Wi-Fi service, which often is free or runs on users' own routers. Wi-Fi supporters cried foul last year after Qualcomm and some U.S. carriers proposed the technology, and it took until last month for the two sides to reach an apparent peace agreement. LTE-U products could start getting certified soon with a battery of coexistence tests. But this won't be the last time mobile users find the services they rely on forced to coexist with other technologies.

Growing demand for wireless capacity, plus the runaway success of Wi-Fi as an example of a new approach to spectrum that worked, are bringing more players to the table in many cases. Though new technologies make spectrum-sharing more feasible, exactly how these schemes will play out isn’t clear yet. "It’s a very crowded world, and we are adjusting our expectations for how these things are going to work together," said Harold Feld, senior vice president of the U.S. consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, on a recent LTE-U panel discussion. Interference issues used to be relatively simple, Feld said. If one operator held a license, anyone else had to get off the frequency. If the spectrum was unlicensed, every user had to accept interference and not do anything to monopolize the band. LTE-U raised new questions, because even though the 5.8GHz band where it operates is unlicensed and was set aside to allow room for innovation, this wasn’t a question of two small, experimental technologies vying for space. Millions depend on Wi-Fi today, and at least two major U.S. carriers – Verizon and T-Mobile – want to roll out LTE-U to supplement massive cellular networks. Wi-Fi and LTE use different methods to keep order among wireless channels. If unmodified LTE networks were unleashed in an unlicensed band, the effect would be "devastating," said Patrick Welsh, Verizon’s assistant vice president for federal regulatory affairs, during a panel discussion last month. Verizon wanted to use the 5.8GHz band for extra capacity, so it brought together engineers from its equipment suppliers to develop LTE-U, Welsh said. That technology is available for use primarily in the U.S., South Korea, China, and India. To do the same thing, carriers in most other countries had to wait for another technology called LAA (Licensed Assisted Access), which was being standardized by LTE's overseers at the 3GPP and took longer to finish. It uses different coexistence techniques that most Wi-Fi backers think are safer. Some U.S. carriers are planning eventually to use LAA, too.

Meanwhile, vendors and service providers are jockeying for position on several other frequency bands that may host multiple services. The 3.5GHz band: The U.S., Australia, the U.K., and other countries around the world want to open up frequencies in the 3.5GHz band to mobile devices. Just adding this band to the channels available for Wi-Fi wouldn’t work because the exact frequencies available in each country are different, Tolaga Research analyst Phil Marshall said. In some cases, mobile users of 3.5GHz will have to share the band with existing users, such as the U.S. Department of Defense. In the U.S. case, the military would get first priority in the few areas where it uses the spectrum, service providers could get a new kind of license in some local areas, and other users would get in line behind them. Millimeter-wave bands: Millimeter-wave bands targeted for use with future 5G networks also seem to be bound for complicated sets of uses. In particular, the 50-70GHz frequencies are partly unlicensed and partly “lightly licensed” to incumbent users in some countries, Marshall said.

Unlicensed spectrum, in general, is expected to play a big role in 5G, though exactly how won’t be totally clear for a few years. DSRC band: Regulators in both the U.S. and Europe have grappled with coexistence between Wi-Fi and DSRC (Dedicated Short-Range Communications) systems that use frequencies around 5.9GHz. These include systems for cars to communicate with each other and with nearby objects like tollbooths, though adoption has been limited, especially in the U.S. In-car Wi-Fi systems have been accused of hurting DSRC performance, and in the U.S. there is a drive to force DSRC to share its spectrum with Wi-Fi. What’s missing, at least in the U.S., is a standard way of defining harmful interference between technologies that are bound to overlap with each other because they use the same spectrum, Public Knowledge’s Feld said. There should also be a standard framework for settling fights over shared spectrum so the Federal Communications Commission, or industries the FCC prods to solve their own disputes, don't have to reinvent the wheel every time, he said.

Opening more frequencies for mobile Internet access should be good for users overall, analyst Marshall said. He doesn’t expect performance hits on Wi-Fi from LTE-U, for example. But as consumers increasingly get their mobile access over frequencies shared by numerous technologies, the boost that comes from the extra spectrum may be a fleeting thrill, Marshall said. "You're talking about very, very high capacity if you've got that spectrum available," Marshall said. "If you haven't, you push down to a lower rate."

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A way to design 5G infrastructure using drones?

Aalto University and Tempere University of Technology are working on how to enable more cost-effective wireless service using drones. Lead researcher Vasilii Semkin of Aalto University said that 3D models taken from drones in urban environments could help people designing radio links, giving the designers a bird’s-eye view of potential coverage.

The researchers say that it might be particularly useful for designing 5G wireless connection, including network planning at millimeter-wave frequencies. “With the technique used by us, the resulting 3D model of the environment is much more detailed, and the technique also makes it possible to carry out the design process in a more cost-efficient way. It is then easier for designers to decide which objects in the environment to be taken into account, and where the base stations should be placed to get the optimum coverage,” Semkin said.

They made their geometrical models using several commercial drones, which could either be controlled from a computer or operate autonomously. The 3D images which the drone captures can then be read by 3D modeling software, allowing mobile companies to view how millimeter-wave frequencies will propagate throughout the given environment.

This could, in turn, help companies reach increasingly stringent standards for radio frequency emissions. University researchers aren’t the only ones using drones to support wireless networks: Verizon has deployed them in venues like stadia and racetracks in order to inspect towers.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Fibre is badly needed to connect 5G base stations

Yesterday’s announcement that Windstream will purchase EarthLink for $1.1 billion – thus gaining EarthLink’s 29,000 route miles of fiber – is just the latest in a series of high-profile, fiber-related telecom mergers and acquisitions. And 5G and wireless network densification sits near the heart of many of these transactions. “Fiber is a critical component of 4G densification and 5G network deployment. Specifically, denser networks will be needed to support the expected rise in mobile data, a dramatically broader array of connected devices, and increased machine-to-machine transactions, all at materially lower latency and at higher quality of service levels. Thus, fiber will be a critical component of next gen network infrastructures,” noted the analysts at Barclays in an evaluation of the recent blockbuster $34 billion purchase of Level 3 by CenturyLink – a transaction that would give CenturyLink an additional 200,000 route miles of fiber. Indeed, the Windstream/EarthLink and CenturyLink/Level 3 tie-ups are just two of several recent major actions on the fiber front. Just last week, Crown Castle said it will acquire FPL FiberNet from NextEra Energy for about $1.5 billion in cash, giving it 11,500 route miles of fiber. Separately, Google announced it would halt its own fiber buildout efforts, news that coincided with the departure of Google Fiber CEO Craig Barratt. And of course, Verizon continues to work to acquire XO Communications, which owns around 33,000 route miles of fiber. What all this news indicates is that putting fiber into the ground is difficult, and that fiber likely will play a critical role in the future of next-generation networks, up and to including 5G. Why is fiber so critical to 5G? Barclays’ analysts offer this explanation: “Mission critical applications running on 5G will tolerate no more than 1 millisecond of latency, meaning traffic can no longer travel from the terminal to the core and back out to another terminal; more traffic has to initiate and terminate within the edge/access network. The speed of light, at which data traffic travels over an optical network, means 1 m/s of latency has a geographical limit of 50-100km. Given this geographic restriction, the caching of content closer to the user will be required. In order to implement this infrastructure, fiber will need to run between each tower with small cells feeding into a base station, consuming a lot of fiber in the process.” Historically, wireless networks enjoyed success in part because they didn’t require much in the way of wired support. After all, one macro cell site could blanket miles and miles of geography with LTE. Today, though, the equation is changing because operators are increasingly looking to densify their wireless networks with the addition of small cells and other technologies, which generally require more fiber connections. Further, newer wireless network designs also may require more fiber: For example, a C-RAN network centralizes the baseband functionality of a cellular base station within the network and then connects the baseband functionality via fiber with the distant radio elements, which are located at the cell site. Tower company Crown Castle has made no secret of its interest in small cells and fiber. In 2014 the company purchased 24/7 Mid-Atlantic and its 800 route miles of fiber, and last year Crown Castle purchased Sunesys, giving it access to 10,000 miles of fiber in major metro markets across the United States. Crown Castle’s recent FiberNet acquisition would give the company another 28,500 route miles of fiber. In Crown Castle’s latest earnings conference call, company executives offered a real-world look at the company’s return on its fiber and small cell investment. According to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks, CEO Jay Brown explained that in 2013, Crown Castle counted 300 “tenant nodes on air” on approximately 100 miles of fiber in Chicago, or approximately 3 tenant nodes per mile of fiber. “Fast forward to today, we have approximately 1,100 nodes on air and under construction on 250 miles of fiber, with the tenant nodes density at approximately 5 tenant nodes per mile. This results in a yield on our investment in Chicago of about 10%,” he said. To be clear though, AT&T and Verizon still command the lion’s share of fiber in the U.S. market. Last year, in a ranking of metro route miles of fiber, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink took first, second and third, respectively, in fiber ownership. Moreover, it’s important to note that owning fiber isn’t a prerequisite for launching 5G. For example, the analysts at Barclays noted that Verizon has inked wholesale dark fiber agreements with more than a dozen fiber providers in order to access fiber services in areas where the company doesn’t own its own fiber connections. “We agree that as 5G deployments progress, the third party fiber leasing business model should become increasingly more attractive as a means to efficiently and economically increase fiber’s reach and breadth. For those that don't have any wireline assets, it will become all the more important to rely on third party providers outside of their footprint,” the analysts wrote. Additionally, access to fiber connections may become cheaper for some players if the FCC decides to rule on the issue. During its open meeting this month, the FCC is scheduled to vote on “business data services,” or BDS, which is also called special access. Smaller telecom companies like T-Mobile and Sprint have argued that the FCC needs to set rates in the special access market so that fiber owners like AT&T and Verizon can’t place onerous charges on access to fiber and other business-level internet connections. Nonetheless, it’s clear that fiber has become a valuable asset as the wireless industry hurdles toward a 5G future. I expect further fiber-motivated consolidation (potentially involving the likes of Zayo, Lumos Networks, FirstLight Fiber and other smaller players) as Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile and others work to reinforce their market positions ahead of the rollout of this technology

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

LiFi or Visible Light Communications (VLC) evolves

Even as we increase data rates and network capacity in Wi-Fi with 802.11ac, 11ad and then 11ax, it’s worth keeping an eye on other communication technologies that may become useful in the enterprise. Visible light communication (VLC) is making progress in the background, and while it is barely out of the lab, it may take off in a few years. The startups working with enterprise VLC are adopting the term “LiFi” (although it has—today—no connection with Wi-Fi).  Like all new technologies, there are many possibilities—and the number of potential uses is impressive. Applications include vehicle-to-vehicle, underwater communications, streetlamps, aircraft cabins, and industrial uses where Wi-Fi cannot be used due to RF interference. Attributes of LiFi The most attractive attribute of LiFi is its bandwidth. The visible-light portion of the spectrum spans around 300,000 GHz—six orders of magnitude more than we now use for Wi-Fi in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands—so the data rates and capacity that can eventually be obtained are almost unimaginable. Most light communication to date has used lasers and fiber-optics. It’s very effective, it's but expensive—although work on Silicon Photonics promises to bring down the cost and perhaps spur another wave of adoption in the data center, displacing copper. But VLC in the enterprise is based on LEDs, not lasers, modulating lightbulbs to communicate with traditional clients such as laptop PCs. LiFi products The most visible proponent is pureLiFi, a startup associated with the University of Edinburgh. Their second-generation product set comprises a ceiling-mounted unit, like a Wi-Fi access point, and a matching PC dongle. The ceiling unit is Ethernet-connected to the enterprise LAN, and its light shines on the photo-diode sensor of a dongle on the PC below it. It also contains a photo-diode to receive the uplink connection from the dongle’s LED. Claimed rates are only 40 Mbps full-duplex over a few meters, with inter-access point handover, so we are clearly at the beginning of the learning curve compared to the theoretically achievable performance. RELATED 802.11ad is the fastest Wi-Fi that you might not ever use Is Wi-Fi finally ‘fast enough?’ Scientists developing solar panel that doubles as a Li-Fi receiver on IDG Answers What does Microsoft Hololens Enterprise Edition offer business that other... This is an interesting start, given the early state of the technology, which is still pre-standard. (In the standards world, the term “VLC” is already claimed by IEEE 802.15.7, and there are moves afoot to start work on LiFi in both 802.15 and the IEEE 802.11 group. LiFi could develop a common MAC with Wi-Fi, which would surely broaden its interest: consider a device that could seamlessly move a connection between 5GHz - 802.11ac, 60GHz - 802.11ad and light.) Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that replicating Wi-Fi topology (ceiling-mounted access points communicating with desk-level mobile devices and PCs) is the best application of LiFi in the enterprise. Surely it would be better to find situations Wi-Fi cannot satisfy and hope to build from those niches to general applications. Proponents have certainly made an effort to identify where differences between Wi-Fi and light might be usefully exploited. Whereas Wi-Fi signals are notoriously difficult to arrest—much of our focus in WLAN design goes to limiting interference from cell to cell—walls block light quite effectively. Also, light communication offers a solution for situations where the Wi-Fi spectrum is congested or suffers interference. But can these differences be exploited for a commercially successful solution? Also, the LiFi access points will need clients. Dongles are clearly a limited solution, but curiously, many of the devices we see in the enterprise—phones and tablets—already have light sensors (the cameras) and transmitters (flashlights). If the installed base of phones and tablets can be made to support LiFi, the barriers to adoption become dramatically lower. Early-stage technology is so difficult to evaluate. To the visionaries, eventual benefits are obvious, but can the industry follow the classic path to commercialization where it exploits vigorous niche opportunities before moving into broader applications? And how long will it take? The answer to the first is that while the possibilities are intriguing, the product stepping stones have not yet emerged. And the second is always “longer than you think.” There’s plenty of time to see how this develops.

Free space optical destined to connect Optical Satellites

Laser Light to leverage free-space optics and terrestrial fibre optic networks network in space linking Optical Satellites as a Global Service

Laser Light Communications (US) and its affiliate firm, Laser Light Global, Ltd. (UK) has selected Equinix, Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX) as its strategic interconnection provider for a network that will combine spaced-based optics and terrestrial fiber-optic network infrastructure to create an Optical Satellite as a Service (OSaaS) offering it calls SpaceCable.

The resulting All Optical Hybrid Global Network (or HALO, as laser Light calls it) will offer 100-Gbps connectivity to carriers, enterprises, and government customers via Equinix facilities. Laser Light will establish its first point of presence at Equinix's DC11 International Business Exchange (IBX) data center in metro Washington, DC.

The company will use that facility as an initial stepping stone toward installation, testing, and demonstration of its capabilities, which will include not only laser communications but software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) capabilities as well. According to the company's website, Laser Light will leverage 8 to 12 satellites in medium Earth orbit to create a network that will offer an initial service capacity of 7.2 Tbps.

The satellites will pass signals among themselves and to the ground via free-space optics. The space interconnections will include 48 links of 200 Gbps apiece, as well as 72 steerable up/down links to Earth at 100 Gbps. The company will complement the satellite network with its Extended Ground Network (XGNS) of terrestrial fiber. Laser Light says it will leverage software-defined networking (SDN) technology to fully leverage the network's spatial diversity for alternative routing to achieve the lowest latency as well as select route options to circumvent any changing atmospheric conditions the satellite transmissions may encounter.

The satellites and terrestrial network should be ready sometime in 2018, according to information on the company's website. "A partnership with Equinix permits Laser Light to become a truly Tier 1 global carrier with access to facilities, and incumbent local fiber providers, in a 'one stop shop' partnership," said Robert Brumley, Laser Light's CEO. "Also, Equinix's mix of enterprise, global carriers, and government customers permits Laser Light to be present in the marketplace for high-volume data services in the key regional markets around the globe.

We are excited that Equinix and Laser Light have formed this partnership in this stage of our development to draw on their extensive experience as a global facilities provider, and cooperate with us in our deployment of a unique, SDN global network." "We are excited to work with Laser Light as the interconnection provider for this cutting-edge satellite technology that greatly increases access to many parts of the world that are underserved by current fiber and wireless networks," added Ihab Tarazi, CTO at Equinix. "By adding 'SpaceCable' as an equivalent offering together with terrestrial and submarine cables, Equinix customers looking for low latency solutions to reach new or emerging markets will have access to a full suite of data transport options."

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

5G usage models with field trials to begin development with Nokia at BT Adastral Park

BT and Nokia have signed a research collaboration agreement on 5G at the BT Labs at Adastral Park, Suffolk. The two companies have agreed to work together on potential customer use cases for 5G technologies, the creation of 5G proof-of-concept trials and the development of technology standards and equipment. The trials will focus on the technology enablers for 5G, including mmWave radio and convergence, as well as potential commercial services including ultrafast mobile broadband, mission-critical services and the Internet of Things. 5G is intended to provide improved ultrafast speeds to mobile users and targets peak rates of multiple Gigabits and latency in the range of one millisecond. Howard Watson, chief exec of BT Technology, said: "It’s still early days for 5G technology, but experience tells us that a collaborative approach is key to success. We’re delighted to be working with Nokia to drive a common approach to 5G, and to develop exciting use cases which bring together our combined experience in fixed and mobile technologies.” Cormac Whelan, head of the UK & Ireland at Nokia, said the company was "delighted to be working with BT". Nokia is currently conducting trials of its latest 5G-ready radio equipment. The technology will run on Nokia’s AirScale radio access, as well as a new 5G frame structure and 4 x 100MHz carrier aggregation. The two companies have a history of working together, with Nokia supplying BT’s 21C Core Routing Platform, the BT/EE subscriber register infrastructure, and part of the EE Radio Access Network. An official 5G standard is expected to be agreed next year, with Ofcom not expected to decide what spectrum it will use until the end of the decade.

Ofcom kicks off 5G spectrum auction!

What about the delayed auction for more 4G capacity?

Communications regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on the first tranche of its 5G spectrum auction. The consultation presents its initial thinking on how it could expand spectrum access for mobile services in the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band, said the regulator. The band is currently used by fixed links and by satellite services for space to Earth reception. "We consider this band a high priority band for future mobile use, due to the large amount of spectrum available and the interest in this band for the rollout of future 5G services (the fifth generation of mobile connectivity technology, which is currently being developed)," it said in a statement.

National regulators across Europe and industry have identified the wider 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band as a potential first 5G band. Ofcom is proposing to make 116 MHz within the 3.6 to 3.8 GHz band available for mobile and 5G services. However, as ISP Review points out, 5G technology is expected to deliver its best speeds using much higher frequencies. International 5G standards are also yet to be set and are not expected to come into force until 2017. Ofcom has promised there would be enough spectrum available for 5G networks by the time they became commercially available in 2020.

The regulator is also expected to open a consultation on its delayed spectrum auction for further 4G capacity. But a number of telcos have called on the regulator to impose a 30 per cent cap on operators bidding in the next spectrum auction. That move would limit the proportion of airwaves an operator can own, and inhibit bids from EE and Vodafone. The consultation for 5G spectrum will close on by 5pm on 1 December 2016.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Allocation of additional spectrum between 3.6 and 3.8 GHz beibg considered by Ofcom

The four UK mobile network operators (MNOs) could benefit from the allocation of additional frequencies in the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band if the outcome of a new consultation by Ofcom is favourable towards such a move. Ofcom already plans to auction spectrum in the 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands to support future 5G networks, and also recently said it was considering the 3.8-4.2 GHz band as the first opportunity under a proposed structure for shared spectrum access. It is now turning its attention to opportunities within the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band, noting that this would include eventually awarding for mobile use the remaining 116 MHz of the band that is not already in use for electronic communications services. Interested parties have until Dec. 1 to submit their responses to the proposals outlined by Ofcom. “National regulators across Europe and industry have identified the wider 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band as a potential first 5G band. This band can provide the large bandwidths necessary for new 5G services and is harmonised within Europe,” the regulator said. The 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz portion of the band is currently used for other purposes such as satellite services and wireless broadband services, but Ofcom noted that the “intensity of use” in the band is low. For example, there are a total of 35 fixed links in the band, compared to thousands in several other bands. UK Broadband also has a national licence to access 84 MHz of this band. Spectrum is a hotly contested issue in many markets in Europe, especially with regard to new 5G networks, but the situation is particularly tense in the UK because of the imbalance of spectrum assets held by the different MNOs. Three UK especially is in a precarious position, as pointed out recently by CCS Insight: "The operator claims to carry over 40 per cent of UK data traffic, but holds only about a 15 per cent share of the airwaves -- an unsustainable position that has already forced Three to raise prices on some tariffs," CCS Insight observed. Three UK CEO Dave Dyson has already called on Ofcom to implement a spectrum cap of 30 per cent on each operator, warning that EE parent company BT could use its financial clout to outbid rival mobile operators in future spectrum auctions. Vodafone UK recently explained its plans for its existing spectrum assets in an interview with FierceWireless:Europe, but the operator’s policy is not to comment on future spectrum auctions.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The 5G Automotive Association.

5G Automotive Association was founded by Intel, Ericsson, BMW and others to speed development of next-generation infrastructure technologies.

Several tech vendors are partnering with three automakers to create an association that is aimed at accelerating the development of 5G technologies for self-driving cars. The companies, on Sept. 27 2016, announced the 5G Automotive Association, which will work to develop, test and promote technologies that will form the basis of the next-generation infrastructure that will be needed to make autonomous vehicles a reality.

Networking vendors Ericsson, Huawei Technologies and Nokia and chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are being joined by automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler in the initiative, which officials with the companies said is an example of the need for partnerships to speed the development of the necessary technologies.

"The success of 5G is dependent on cross-industry work in new ecosystems to digitalize industries," Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said in a statement. "With the creation of this association, we will leverage our latest technology, 5G, and work closely together with the car industry to jointly develop solutions as well as provide input to regulation, certification and standardization."

Li Yintao, president of Huawei's 2012 Labs, said in a statement that the association "demonstrates the clear need for a cross-sector collaboration between the mobile industry and car industry for joint innovation, and to establish a platform to align on timeline and priorities and solution roadmaps."

The group will be able to drive everything from worldwide regulations and certification to standardization efforts for autonomous cars and 5G technologies, he said. The burgeoning self-driving car market is getting a lot of attention from many corners. Tech vendors and component makers are rapidly building up their portfolios of products aimed at the space, and companies from Google and to Uber are currently running tests with such vehicles.

Car manufacturers are teaming up with tech companies—as illustrated by the partnership between BMW, Intel and Mobileye to get autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021—to drive their efforts. In addition, governments also are pushing efforts. The Obama administration in January unveiled plans to spend almost US $4 billion over 10 years to fund pilot projects in hopes of accelerating autonomous car efforts in the United States.

5G is seen as a key enabling technology. Though standards for the next-generation connectivity technology aren't expected to be finalized until 2020, tech companies are rolling out pre-standard 5G technologies and products. 5G promises data transfer speeds that will be 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE, as well as significantly lower latency and the ability to support many more devices and systems.

All this will be important for the car-to-car and car-to-cloud communications (or V2X—vehicle-to-everything) that will be crucial in enabling vehicles to operate without human intervention. The vehicles will need to communicate with each other as well as other intelligent environments—such as smart cities—to navigate from one point to another and to avoid obstacles from other cars to pedestrians.

"We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade," Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics for BMW, said in a statement. "For the automotive industry it is essential that 5G fulfills the challenges of the era of digitalization and autonomous driving."

The new association will address technical and regulatory issues, and will look at such tasks as defining and meshing use cases, technical requirements and implementation strategies as well as giving support to standardization and regulatory groups, officials said.

Members also will address a range of V2X technologies, from wireless connectivity to security, privacy and distributed cloud architectures. They also will jointly run development projects that lead to the creation of integrated offerings, interoperability testing, and large-scale pilots and trials. Group members said the association is open to other companies joining.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Real 5G is, for some, Years Away but the need for design is imminent.

Real 5G is Still Years Away Even as The Wireless Industry Prepares for Its Arrival

Dated: Oct 3rd, 2016
Written by Jeffrey Burt Share:

Though the first standards for the new wireless technology are at least two years away, telcos, tech companies and governments already are preparing for its deployment. It's out there on the horizon, tantalizingly close but hard to see, and eagerly awaited by an increasingly connected world. It's called 5G, essentially the next generation of wireless connectivity after 4G LTE, and it holds the promise of more speed and capacity and lower latency to unlock the potential of everything from gaming, streaming video and virtual reality (VR) to the internet of things (IoT), smart cities, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and autonomous cars. In a world where there will be 20 to 50 billion or more connected devices by 2020, 5G is seen as the technology that can connect all these systems and sensors and machines, enabling them to more easily link to the cloud and communicate with each other. It will be the answer for telecommunications companies whose networks are under increasing pressure from the skyrocketing traffic brought on by the proliferation of connected devices, video streaming, cloud computing, data analytics and other emerging trends. All that said, it's going to take some time for 5G to get here. The standards for 5G wireless aren't expected to be ratified until 2020, with ramping up happening after that. However, as the standards bodies get on with their efforts, work is being done on multiple fronts — from carriers and tech vendors to consortiums and governments — to push the industry in that direction and to be ready as the standards start to gel. At the same time, there's also work ongoing to improve the speeds and capabilities of 4G LTE, creating a scenario where the two technologies will co-exist going into the next decade. Still, for many organizations, 5G can't get here soon enough.

"Mobile data traffic on AT&T's national wireless network increased more 150,000 percent from January 2007-December 2015," Hank Kafka, AT&T's vice president of radio access and devices, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "We're engineering and designing for another 10X growth in volume across the network. Today, more than 60 percent of our network traffic is video and we expect continued growth. We believe 5G will add higher capacity, lower latency and faster throughput. We also anticipate it will bring great opportunity to further scale up the IoT, including smart grids, connected cars, homes and cities, connected health and more." Accelerating 5G Innovation Carriers estimate 5G will offer speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE networks. Picture downloading a full-length high-definition video onto a smartphone in seconds rather than minutes. There will be plenty of bandwidth to support all the devices and systems that will make up the IoT with latency at 1 millisecond, almost where it needs to be for such applications as V2X (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-cloud) communications. The latency on today's 4G networks is about 50 ms.

"We are moving into a constantly connected world," Nigel Eastwood, CEO of New Call Telecom in the UK, wrote in a column in the Economic Times. "We are able to connect with friends anytime, anywhere, or do live stock trading or shop anytime. … The Internet of things, driverless cars, augmented reality will all be real in the coming years and all will depend on telecom networks for smooth, seamless functioning." Industry analysts are expecting the ramp uo to 5G to be quick once standards are in place and products start hitting the market.

ABI Research analysts are predicting that by 2025, mobile broadband operators worldwide will see 5G revenues of $247 billion. "5G will be a fast-growing cellular technology, most probably faster than preceding generations, including 4G," Joe Hoffman, managing director and vice president at ABI, said in a statement. "The technology migration over the next few years will mean the continued decline of 2G. 3G and 4G will grow in many markets, but 5G will generate new use cases and market revenues."

The building blocks for 5G are being put in place now. The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partner Project), which defined the standards for 4G, is beginning to work on creating the underlying standards around the new technology with the first step beginning in 2018 and the rest of the work running into 2019 and 2020. However, even as the standards work is ongoing, telcos and tech vendors are making incremental steps toward 5G. Carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo and SK Telecom are taking steps toward 5G, such as running lab tests and working with standards bodies and industry consortiums to prepare for the advent of 5G. Verizon and AT&T are running field trials in cities in the United States as part of larger strategies to accelerate the development of 5G technologies. AT&T's Kafka noted that the carrier is also testing such technologies as fixed and mobile applications both indoors and outdoors as well as such capabilities as beam forming, beam tracking and multi- and single-user MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), all of which will be vitally important in 5G networks. Engineers also are testing how 5G technologies run in different spectrums. A broad array of tech vendors, from Intel and Qualcomm to Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, Google and Cisco Systems, also are building out their portfolios to offer products that will be ready for 5G infrastructures. Recently, Ericsson announced the addition of a 5G NR radio for massive MIMO support that officials said will combine with other 5G technologies the company has released to give it all the components necessary to enable carriers to build 5G networks in 2017. Governments are taking steps to help fuel the innovation around 5G.

South Korean officials have promised $1.5 billion to help drive 5G development, while the Obama administration earlier this year rolled out a $400 million program. In addition, regulatory agencies in the United States, the European Union and in the Asia/Pacific region have all looked to ease the path toward the new wireless technology. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July approved opening new, higher-frequency spectrum for wireless technology in anticipation of the expected increase in traffic and to bolster innovation around 5G. Existing 3G and 4G networks currently operate in the crowded sub-6GHz spectrum, which is used by radio and television broadcasters, satellite operators and others. The higher-frequency bands are less crowded, but come with their own challenges. They would enable the use of millimeter waves (mmWaves), but they can't travel as far as lower-frequency signals and can be obstructed by walls, leaves and other obstacles. That will force the development of new antenna designs for mobile devices and the wider use of small cells that will relay traffic from one to another and ensure coverage over long distances.

The FCC is dealing with these issues by loosening rules as to where building owners and wireless providers can put small cells. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a keynote at the CTIA 2016 show, said carriers and the federal government may get pushback from state and local officials about the number of small cells that will be needed to support 5G connectivity.

There are about 200,000 cell towers in the United States, but millions of smaller cell sites will be required for the deployment of 5G. Telcos may run into "NIMBY" situations and the FCC is hoping to address that issue, Wheeler said. "If siting for a small cell takes as long and costs as much as siting for a cell tower, few communities will ever have the benefits of 5G," he said. "We recognize that this is a major concern and are committed to working to lessen these burdens and costs to ensure that 5G is available nationwide, while respecting the vital role that the communities themselves play in the siting process."

What Is 5G?

The talk by carriers and network equipment vendors of 5G and 5G-ready products is raising the question about how many of the promised benefits are real and how many are marketing hype. The tech industry only has to look back at when "virtualization" and "cloud" were just coming into the vernacular to see how terms can be co-opted by marketers to describe their products. Stephane Teral, senior research director of mobile infrastructure and carrier economics for IHS Markit, said in a recent report that much of what is being referred to now as 5G is really advanced 4G LTE technologies. Talk about 5G began in 2012, and ramped up a year later when NTT DoCoMo officials said they expected to have 5G capabilities in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Teral said. Verizon in 2015 then said it planned to have first commercial deployments of 5G in 2017. However, the analyst said that what will come over the next few years will be more an extension of the LTE and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) standard. Real 5G technology will come when the 6GHz spectrum is put to use. "All the technology being developed for next year are really clearly for the 4G era, coming from the evolution of 4G features," Teral told eWEEK, adding that there is nothing new in the sub-6GHz bands, which is where mobile and wireless communications already are located. "What is it going to bring that we don't already have?" The real change will come with mmWaves in the higher spectrum, which won't come until 2020, he said.

John Delaney, associate vice president for mobility at IDC, also is tackling the question. In a recent research note, Delaney pointed out that the 3GPP has agreed on three broad use cases for 5G: enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications. While they don't mandate particular technologies, the use cases do point to "certain groups of technology" that will be needed to address them. "'Massive' communications, for example, indicates the need to use higher-frequency spectrum, which in turn points to advanced MIMO, advanced beam forming and beam tracking," Delaney wrote. "Another example is 'low-latency' communications, which points to the need for a more decentralized network architecture. … These use case-related technologies can therefore be seen as touchstones for 5G relevance." Real 5G also will bring the need for "new radio" (NR) and new radio access network (RAN) technologies, so that if an RAN uses technologies of 4G or other prior generations, it's probably not a 5G RAN. "We don't know exactly what 5G is yet," he wrote. "But we've reached the point where we know enough about 5G to see what it will not be and to get growing clarity about what it is likely to be. On that basis, we believe we're now entering the period in which vendors' claims to have 5G products need to be considered on their merits, rather than being dismissed out of hand for being 'too early.'" Akshay Sharma, research director in Gartner's Carrier Network Infrastructure group, is less concerned about whether products are 5G or pre-5G and more about the destination. "They're stepping stones to get to the final step of 5G, so it's all good," Sharma told eWEEK. "There are all kinds of different implementations." It comes down to becoming more agile and more flexible, running on more frequencies and being more application-oriented. When companies talk about pre-5G now, they understand essentially what 5G will be about and can help carriers build architectures that will be ready for 5G, he said. "As long as the architecture is directed toward a software-defined model rather than having to rip and replace hardware, that's what carriers are worried about," Sharma said, adding that they want to keep their capital and operational expenses as low as possible.

4G LTE Continues to Evolve While talk turns to 5G, 4G LTE continues to grow. LTE is expected to continue to evolve even as carriers and tech vendors push 5G development. The expectation is that the two technologies will co-exist well into the next decade. Some applications will run in the higher spectrum bands of 5G and others will remain in 4G LTE, similar in the way some traffic now is diverted from broadband networks onto WiFi. LTE is evolving into LTE-A, which is increasingly common now and later with LTE-A Pro. As LTE moves from one iteration to another, such advances as increased carrier aggregation and support of unlicensed spectrum are being addressed. Wider deployments of LTE-A Pro technologies reportedly are still a year away, though it's being tested now. IHS' Teral noted that the rollout of LTE and its variants is only gaining momentum now and that carriers have invested a lot of money and effort to build out their 4G networks. With all investment along with the significant speed, bandwidth and latency advances from 3G to 4G, LTE will continue to be a major factor in wireless networks beyond 2020. "LTE has long legs and is not likely to disappear soon," and will co-exist for a long time, he said. In a recent report, analysts with SNS Research said that while 5G will drive spending in the long term, LTE networks will generate significant revenues over the next several years. Mobile operators will generate $600 billion in service revenue from commercial LTE networks this year, a figure that will grow at more than 5 percent a year over the next four years. In addition, more than half of all LTE subscribers will be supported with LTE-A networks by 2020.

Also by 2020, infrastructure investments in LTE and 5G will hit $32 billion, including spending on macro cells, small cells, advanced RAN architectures and mobile core technologies. Network equipment vendors also are looking to use incremental evolution of 4G to help carriers on their paths to 5G. Nokia earlier this month unveiled not only 4.5G Pro, which officials said will boost capacity and speed in operators' networks as they move their infrastructures to 5G, but also plans for 4.9G as another incremental step toward the next-generation technology. The 4.5G Pro technologies, slated to arrive in 2017 and powered by Nokia's AirScale radio portfolio, will deliver 10 times the speeds of 4G networks, enabling service providers to take advantage of diverse licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Nokia executives say 4.9G will be even faster and offer more capacity while reducing latency to complement 5G radio coverage. Challenges Going Forward Despite the promises of 5G and the amount of effort being put behind its development, the road to 5G will have its share of hurdles. One worry has become possible fragmentation of the market. Verizon officials in July released specifications for vendors that will be used to help the carrier build out its 5G networks. The specifications were developed by members of its 5G Technology Forum, which includes Ericsson, Cisco, Intel, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm. The goal is to work on the specifications with vendors and contribute them to the 3GPP, officials have said. However, AT&T officials reportedly have pushed back at the move, saying it's unlikely that all of Verizon's specifications will be adopted by the 3GPP and that the result could mean products on the market that don't comply with the 3GPP's final standards.

AT&T instead is trying to get things ready for when the first of the 3GPP standards are released in 2018 to accelerate the commercialization of 5G. Ensuring fragmentation won't occur will be important as the industry marches toward 5G. Other challenges will include the investments that will be required to build 5G networks and the devices that can take advantage of them, while ensuring the security of the networks and the backward compatibility with 4G LTE networks. IHS' Teral said the industry also has to make a clear argument for use cases for 5G. Many of the ones being discussed currently can be addressed by 4G LTE networks and those that can be made for 5G are expensive. "The question is, what exactly will you bring to the party that you don't have today with LTE?" he said. "There is no shortage of use cases. The real problem is what is the use case you really need 5G for and how do you monetize it?" That said, about 75 percent of global operators that participated in an IHS Markit study said that the IoT was the top use case for 5G, according to Teral. Gartner's Sharma said carriers now need to be taking steps to prepare for the eventual arrival of 5G. Among the work they need to be doing now is retraining their engineers in such areas as DevOps and agile development as well as collaborating with cloud-based partners, he said. Carriers also need to embrace software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) in their infrastructures. "You can architect your data center today with these [5G] concepts in mind so when it gets fully baked, you're ready to go," Sharma said. "And you can implement it not with new people, but with the people you already have."