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Showing posts with label LTE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LTE. Show all posts

Monday, 19 June 2017

Network Sharing is becoming more relevant with 5G

5G is becoming a case of 'damned if you do damned if you don't'. Behind the headlines of new achievements and faster speeds lies the reality that many operators are struggling to keep afloat. Indian and Nigerian operators are struggling with heavy debt and it wont be a surprise if some of the operators fold in due course.

With increasing costs and decreasing revenues, its no surprise that operators are looking at ways of keeping costs down. Some operators are postponing their 5G plans in favour of Gigabit LTE. Other die hard operators are pushing ahead with 5G but looking at ways to keep the costs down. In Japan for example, NTT DOCOMO has suggested sharing 5G base stations with its two rivals to trim costs, particularly focusing efforts in urban areas.

In this post, I am looking to summarise an old but brilliant post by Dr. Kim Larsen here. While it is a very well written and in-depth post, I have a feeling that many readers may not have the patience to go through all of it. All pictures in this post are from the original post by Dr. Kim Larsen.

Before embarking on any Network sharing mission, its worthwhile asking the 5W's (Who, Why, What, Where, When) and 2H's (How, How much).

  • Why do you want to share?
  • Who to share with? (your equal, your better or your worse).
  • What to share? (sites, passives, active, frequencies, new sites, old sites, towers, rooftops, organization, ,…).
  • Where to share? (rural, sub-urban, urban, regional, all, etc..).
  • When is a good time to start sharing? During rollout phase, steady phase or modernisation phase. See picture below. For 5G, it would make much more sense that network sharing is done from the beginning, i.e., Rollout Phase

  • How to do sharing?. This may sound like a simple question but it should take account of regulatory complexity in a country. The picture below explains this well:

  • How much will it cost and how much savings can be attained in the long term? This is in-fact a very important question because the end result after a lot of hard work and laying off many people may result in an insignificant amount of cost savings. Dr. Kim provides detailed insight on this topic that I find it difficult to summarise. Best option is to read it on his blog.

An alternative approach to network sharing is national roaming. Many European operators are dead against national roaming as this means the network loses its differentiation compared to rival operators. Having said that, its always worthwhile working out the savings and seeing if this can actually help.

National Roaming can be attractive for relative low traffic scenarios or in case were product of traffic units and national roaming unit cost remains manageable and lower than the Shared Network Cost.

The termination cost or restructuring cost, including write-off of existing telecom assets (i.e., radio nodes, passive site solutions, transmission, aggregation nodes, etc….) is likely to be a substantially financial burden to National Roaming Business Case in an area with existing telecom infrastructure. Certainly above and beyond that of a Network Sharing scenario where assets are being re-used and restructuring cost might be partially shared between the sharing partners.

Obviously, if National Roaming is established in an area that has no network coverage, restructuring and termination cost is not an issue and Network TCO will clearly be avoided, Albeit the above economical logic and P&L trade-offs on cost still applies.

If this has been useful to understand some of the basics of network sharing, I encourage you to read the original blog post as that contains many more details.

Futher Reading:

Monday, 1 May 2017

Variety of 3GPP IoT technologies and Market Status - May 2017

I have seen many people wondering if so many different types of IoT technologies are needed, 3GPP or otherwise. The story behind that is that for many years 3GPP did not focus too much on creating an IoT variant of the standards. Their hope was that users will make use of LTE Cat 1 for IoT and then later on they created LTE Cat 0 (see here and here).

The problem with this approach was that the market was ripe for a solution to a different types of IoT technologies that 3GPP could not satisfy. The table below is just an indication of the different types of technologies, but there are many others not listed in here.

The most popular IoT (or M2M) technology to date is the humble 2G GSM/GPRS. Couple of weeks back Vodafone announced that it has reached a milestone of 50 million IoT connections worldwide. They are also adding roughly 1 million new connections every month. The majority of these are GSM/GPRS.

Different operators have been assessing their strategy for IoT devices. Some operators have either switched off or are planning to switch off they 2G networks. Others have a long term plan for 2G networks and would rather switch off their 3G networks to refarm the spectrum to more efficient 4G. A small chunk of 2G on the other hand would be a good option for voice & existing IoT devices with small amount of data transfer.

In fact this is one of the reasons that in Release-13 GSM is being enhanced for IoT. This new version is known as Extended Coverage – GSM – Internet of Things (EC-GSM-IoT ). According to GSMA, "It is based on eGPRS and designed as a high capacity, long range, low energy and low complexity cellular system for IoT communications. The optimisations made in EC-GSM-IoT that need to be made to existing GSM networks can be made as a software upgrade, ensuring coverage and accelerated time to-market. Battery life of up to 10 years can be supported for a wide range use cases."

The most popular of the non-3GPP IoT technologies are Sigfox and LoRa. Both these technologies have gained significant ground and many backers in the market. This, along with the gap in the market and the need for low power IoT technologies that transfer just a little amount of data and has a long battery life motivated 3GPP to create new IoT technologies that were standardised as part of Rel-13 and are being further enhanced in Rel-14. A summary of these technologies can be seen below

If you look at the first picture on the top (modified from Qualcomm's original here), you will see that these different IoT technologies, 3GPP or otherwise address different needs. No wonder many operators are using the unlicensed LPWA IoT technologies as a starting point, hoping to complement them by 3GPP technologies when ready.

Finally, looks like there is a difference in understanding of standards between Ericsson and Huawei and as a result their implementation is incompatible. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon.

Market Status:

Telefonica has publicly said that Sigfox is the best way forward for the time being. No news about any 3GPP IoT technologies.

Orange has rolled out LoRa network but has said that when NB-IoT is ready, they will switch the customers on to that.

KPN deployed LoRa throughout the Netherlands thereby making it the first country across the world with complete coverage. Haven't ruled out NB-IoT when available.

SK Telecom completed nationwide LoRa IoT network deployment in South Korea last year. It sees LTE-M and LoRa as Its 'Two Main IoT Pillars'.

Deutsche Telekom has rolled out NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) Network across eight countries in Europe (Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, Croatia)

Vodafone is fully committed to NB-IoT. Their network is already operational in Spain and will be launching in Ireland and Netherlands later on this year.

Telecom Italia is in process of launching NB-IoT. Water meters in Turin are already sending their readings using NB-IoT.

China Telecom, in conjunction with Shenzhen Water and Huawei launched 'World's First' Commercial NB-IoT-based Smart Water Project on World Water Day.

SoftBank is deploying LTE-M (Cat-M1) and NB-IoT networks nationwide, powered by Ericsson.

Orange Belgium plans to roll-out nationwide NB-IoT & LTE-M IoT Networks in 2017

China Mobile is committed to 3GPP based IoT technologies. It has conducted outdoor trials of NB-IoT with Huawei and ZTE and is also trialing LTE-M with Ericsson and Qualcomm.

Verizon has launched Industry’s first LTE-M Nationwide IoT Network.

AT&T will be launching LTE-M network later on this year in US as well as Mexico.

Sprint said it plans to deploy LTE Cat 1 technology in support of the Internet of Things (IoT) across its network by the end of July.

Further reading:

Monday, 16 January 2017

Gigabit LTE?

Last year Qualcomm announced the X16 LTE modem that was capable of up to 1Gbps, category 16 in DL and Cat 13 (150 Mbps) in UL. See my last post on UE categories here.

Early January, it announced Snapdragon 835 at CES that looks impressive. Android central says "On the connectivity side of things, there's the Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, which enables Category 16 LTE download speeds that go up to one gigabit per second. For uploads, there's a Category 13 modem that lets you upload at 150MB/sec. For Wi-Fi, Qualcomm is offering an integrated 2x2 802.11ac Wave-2 solution along with an 802.11ad multi-gigabit Wi-Fi module that tops out at 4.6Gb/sec. The 835 will consume up to 60% less power while on Wi-Fi."

Technology purists would know that LTE, which is widely referred to as 4G, was in fact pre-4G or as some preferred to call it, 3.9G. New UE categories were introduced in Rel-10 to make LTE into LTE-Advanced with top speeds of 3Gbps. This way, the ITU requirements for a technology to be considered 4G (IMT-Advanced) was satisfied.

LTE-A was already Gigabit capable in theory but in practice we had been seeing peak speeds of up to 600Mbps until recently. With this off my chest, lets look at what announcements are being made. Before that, you may want to revisit what 4.5G or LTE-Advanced Pro is here.

  • Qualcomm, Telstra, Ericsson and NETGEAR Announce World’s First Gigabit Class LTE Mobile Device and Gigabit-Ready Network. Gigabit Class LTE download speeds are achieved through a combination of 3x carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO on two aggregated carriers plus 2x2 MIMO on the third carrier, and 256-QAM higher order modulation. 
  • TIM in Italy is the first in Europe to launch 4.5G up to 500 Mbps in Rome, Palermo and Sanremo
  • Telenet in partnership with ZTE have achieved a download speed of 1.3 Gbps during a demonstration of the ZTE 4.5G new technology. That's four times faster than 4G's maximum download speed. Telenet is the first in Europe to reach this speed in real-life circumstances. 4.5G ZTE technology uses 4x4 MIMO beaming, 3-carrier aggregation, and a QAM 256 modulation.
  • AT&T said, "The continued deployment of our 4G LTE-Advanced network remains essential to laying the foundation for our evolution to 5G. In fact, we expect to begin reaching peak theoretical speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some cell sites in 2017. We will continue to densify our wireless network this year through the deployment of small cells and the use of technologies like carrier aggregation, which increases peak data speeds. We’re currently deploying three-way carrier aggregation in select areas, and plan to introduce four-way carrier aggregation as well as LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) this year."
  • T-Mobile USA nearly reached a Gigabit and here is what they say, "we reached nearly 1 Gbps (979 Mbps) on our LTE network in our lab thanks to a combination of three carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM (and an un-released handset)."
  • The other US operator Sprint expects to unveil some of its work with 256-QAM and massive MIMO on Sprint’s licensed spectrum that pushes the 1 gbps speed boundary. It’s unclear whether this will include an actual deployment of the technology

So we are going to see a lot of higher speed LTE this year and yes we can call it Gigabit LTE but lets not forget that the criteria for a technology to be real '4G' was that it should be able to do 1Gbps in both DL and UL. Sadly, the UL part is still not going Gigabit anytime soon.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

New LTE UE Categories (Downlink & Uplink) in Release-13

Just noticed that the LTE UE Categories have been updated since I last posted here. Since Release-12 onwards, we now have a possibility of separate Downlink (ue-CategoryDL) and Uplink (ue-CategoryUL) categories.

From the latest RRC specifications, we can see that now there are two new fields that can be present ue-CategoryDL and ue-CategoryUL.

An example defined here is as follows:

Example of RRC signalling for the highest combination
   ue-Category = 4
      ue-Category-v1020 = 7
         ue-Category-v1170 = 10
            ue-Category-v11a0 = 12
               ue-CategoryDL-r12 = 12
               ue-CategoryUL-r12 = 13
                  ue-CategoryDL-v1260 = 16

From the RRC Specs:

  • The field ue-CategoryDL is set to values m1, 0, 6, 7, 9 to 19 in this version of the specification.
  • The field ue-CategoryUL is set to values m1, 0, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13 or 14 in this version of the specification.

3GPP TS 36.306 section 4 provides much more details on these UE categories and their values. I am adding these pictures from the LG space website.

More info:

Sunday, 6 November 2016

LTE, 5G and V2X

3GPP has recently completed the Initial Cellular V2X standard. The following from the news item:

The initial Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) standard, for inclusion in the Release 14, was completed last week - during the 3GPP RAN meeting in New Orleans. It focuses on Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications, with further enhancements to support additional V2X operational scenarios to follow, in Release 14, targeting completion during March 2017.
The 3GPP Work Item Description can be found in RP-161894.
V2V communications are based on D2D communications defined as part of ProSe services in Release 12 and Release 13 of the specification. As part of ProSe services, a new D2D interface (designated as PC5, also known as sidelink at the physical layer) was introduced and now as part of the V2V WI it has been enhanced for vehicular use cases, specifically addressing high speed (up to 250Kph) and high density (thousands of nodes).


For distributed scheduling (a.k.a. Mode 4) a sensing with semi-persistent transmission based mechanism was introduced. V2V traffic from a device is mostly periodic in nature. This was utilized to sense congestion on a resource and estimate future congestion on that resource. Based on estimation resources were booked. This technique optimizes the use of the channel by enhancing resource separation between transmitters that are using overlapping resources.
The design is scalable for different bandwidths including 10 MHz bandwidth.
Based on these fundamental link and system level changes there are two high level deployment configurations currently defined, and illustrated in Figure 3.
Both configurations use a dedicated carrier for V2V communications, meaning the target band is only used for PC5 based V2V communications. Also in both cases GNSS is used for time synchronization.
In “Configuration 1” scheduling and interference management of V2V traffic is supported based on distributed algorithms (Mode 4) implemented between the vehicles. As mentioned earlier the distributed algorithm is based on sensing with semi-persistent transmission. Additionally, a new mechanism where resource allocation is dependent on geographical information is introduced. Such a mechanism counters near far effect arising due to in-band emissions.
In “Configuration 2” scheduling and interference management of V2V traffic is assisted by eNBs (a.k.a. Mode 3) via control signaling over the Uu interface. The eNodeB will assign the resources being used for V2V signaling in a dynamic manner.

5G Americas has also published a whitepaper on V2X Cellular Solutions. From the press release:

Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) communications and solutions enable the exchange of information between vehicles and much more - people (V2P), such as bicyclists and pedestrians for alerts, vehicles (V2V) for collision avoidance, infrastructure (V2I) such as roadside devices for timing and prioritization, and the network (V2N) for real time traffic routing and other cloud travel services. The goal of V2X is to improve road safety, increase the efficiency of traffic, reduce environmental impacts and provide additional traveler information services. 5G Americas, the industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas, today announced the publication of a technical whitepaper titled V2X Cellular Solutions that details new connected car opportunities for the cellular and automotive industries.

The whitepaper describes the benefits that Cellular V2X (C-V2X) can provide to support the U.S. Department of Transportation objectives of improving safety and reducing vehicular crashes. Cellular V2X can also be instrumental in transforming the transportation experience by enhancing traveler and traffic information for societal goals.

C-V2X is part of the 3GPP specifications in Release 14. 3GPP announced the completion of the initial C-V2X standard in September 2016. There is a robust evolutionary roadmap for C-V2X towards 5G with a strong ecosystem in place. C-V2X will be a key technology enabler for the safer, more autonomous vehicle of the future.

The whitepaper is embedded below:

Related posts:
Further Reading:

Monday, 26 September 2016

QoS in VoWiFi

Came across this presentation by Eir from last year's LTE Voice Summit.

As the summary of the above presentation says:
  • Turning on WMM (or WME) at access point provides significant protection for voice traffic against competing wireless data traffic
  • Turning on WMM at the client makes only a small difference where there are a small number of clients on the wireless LAN. This plus the “TCP Unfairness” problem means that it can be omitted.
  • All Home gateways support WMM but their firmware may need to be altered to prioritise on DSCP rather than layer two

As this Wikipedia entry explains:

Wireless Multimedia Extensions (WME), also known as Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM), is a Wi-Fi Alliance interoperability certification, based on the IEEE 802.11e standard. It provides basic Quality of service (QoS) features to IEEE 802.11 networks. WMM prioritizes traffic according to four Access Categories (AC): voice (AC_VO), video (AC_VI), best effort (AC_BE), and background (AC_BK). However, it does not provide guaranteed throughput. It is suitable for well-defined applications that require QoS, such as Voice over IP (VoIP) on Wi-Fi phones (VoWLAN).

WMM replaces the Wi-Fi DCF distributed coordination function for CSMA/CA wireless frame transmission with Enhanced Distributed Coordination Function (EDCF). EDCF, according to version 1.1 of the WMM specifications by the Wi-Fi Alliance, defines Access Categories labels AC_VO, AC_VI, AC_BE, and AC_BK for the Enhanced Distributed Channel Access (EDCA) parameters that are used by a WMM-enabled station to control how long it sets its Transmission Opportunity (TXOP), according to the information transmitted by the access point to the station. It is implemented for wireless QoS between RF media.

This blog post describes how the QoS works in case of WMM.

Finally, this slide from Cisco shows how it will all fit together.

Further reading:

Sunday, 22 May 2016

QCI Enhancements For Mission Critical Communications

Its been quite a while since I posted about QCI and end-to-end bearer QoS in EPC. In LTE Release-12 some new QCI values were added to handle mission critical communications.

This picture is taken from a new blog called Public Safety LTE. I have discussed about the Default and Dedicated bearers in an earlier post here (see comments in that post too). You will notice in the picture above that new QCI values 65, 66, 69 & 70 have been added. For mission critical group communications new default bearer 69 would be used for signalling and dedicated bearer 65 will be used for data. Mission critical data would also benefit by using QCI 70.

LTE for Public Safety that was published last year provides a good insight on this topic as follows:

The EPS provides IP connectivity between a UE and a packet data network external to the PLMN. This is referred to as PDN connectivity service. An EPS bearer uniquely identifies traffic flows that receive a common QoS treatment. It is the level of granularity for bearer level QoS control in the EPC/E-UTRAN. All traffic mapped to the same EPS bearer receives the same bearer level packet forwarding treatment. Providing different bearer level packet forwarding treatment requires separate EPS bearers.

An EPS bearer is referred to as a GBR bearer, if dedicated network resources related to a Guaranteed Bit Rate (GBR) are permanently allocated once the bearer is established or modified. Otherwise, an EPS bearer is referred to as a non-GBR bearer.

Each EPS bearer is associated with a QoS profile including the following data:
• QoS Class Identifier (QCI): A scalar pointing in the P-GW and eNodeB to node-specific parameters that control the bearer level packet forwarding treatment in this node.
• Allocation and Retention Priority (ARP): Contains information about the priority level, the pre-emption capability, and the pre-emption vulnerability. The primary purpose of the ARP is to decide whether a bearer establishment or modification request can be accepted or needs to be rejected due to resource limitations.
• GBR: The bit rate that can be expected to be provided by a GBR bearer.
• Maximum Bit Rate (MBR): Limits the bit rate that can be expected to be provided by a GBR bearer.

Following QoS parameters are applied to an aggregated set of EPS bearers and are part of user’s subscription data:
• APN Aggregate Maximum Bit Rate (APN-AMBR): Limits the aggregate bit rate that can be expected to be provided across all non-GBR bearers and across all PDN connections associated with the APN.
• UE Aggregate Maximum Bit Rate (UE-AMBR): Limits the aggregate bit rate that can be expected to be provided across all non-GBR bearers of a UE. The UE routes uplink packets to the different EPS bearers based on uplink packet filters assigned to the bearers while the P-GW routes downlink packets to the different EPS bearers based on downlink packet filters assigned to the bearers in the PDN connection.

Figure 1.5 above shows the nodes where QoS parameters are enforced in the EPS system.

Related links:

Saturday, 14 May 2016

4G / LTE by stealth

In the good old days when people used to have 2G phones, they were expensive but all people cared about is Voice & SMS.

The initial 3G phones were bulky/heavy with small battery life, not many apps and expensive. There was not much temptation to go and buy one of these, unless it was heavily subsidised by someone. Naturally it took a while before 3G adoption became common. In the meantime, people had to go out of their way to get a 3G phone.

With 4G, it was a different story. Once LTE was ready, the high end phones started adding 4G in their phones by default. What it meant was that if the operator enabled them to use 4G, these devices started using 4G rather than 3G. Other lower end devices soon followed suit. Nowadays, unless you are looking for a real cheap smartphone, your device will have basic LTE support, maybe not advanced featured like carrier aggregation.

The tweets below do not surprise me at all:

This is what I refer to as 4G or LTE by stealth.

Occasionally people show charts like these (just using this as a reference but not pin pointing anyone) to justify the 5G growth trajectory with 4G in mind. It will all depend on what 5G will mean, how the devices look like, what data models are on offer, what the device prices are like, etc.

I think its just too early to predict if there will be a 5G by stealth.

Friday, 25 March 2016

State of LTE & Connectivity

There are some reports that have been recently published on connectivity and connection numbers. This post intends to provide this info.

Facebook released "State of connectivity 2015" report. As can be seen in the picture above, at the end of 2015, estimates showed that 3.2 billion people were online. This increase (up from 3 billion in 2014) is partly attributed to more affordable data and rising global incomes in 2014. Over the past 10 years, connectivity increased by approximately 200 to 300 million people per year.

While this is positive news in terms of growth, it also means that globally, 4.1 billion people were still not internet users in 2015.

The four key barriers to internet access include:

Availability: Proximity of the necessary infrastructure required for access.
Affordability: The cost of access relative to income.
Relevance: A reason for access, such as primary language content.
Readiness: The capacity to access, including skills, awareness and cultural acceptance.

The PDF version of report is available here.

The number of LTE users crossed 1 Billion, end of 2015 according to a report by GSA. OpenSignal has a summary blog post on this here.

Finally, Open Signal has published Global State of LTE Market report that provides coverage, speeds and a lot more information.

South Korea and Singapore have set themselves apart from the main body of global operators, providing both superior coverage and speed. The biggest standouts were South Korea’s Olleh and Singapore’s Singtel. Olleh excelled in coverage, but also provided one of the fastest connections speeds in our report, 34 Mbps. Meanwhile Singtel hit the 40 Mbps mark in speed while still maintaining a coverage rating of 86%. There are other notable country clusters in the upper right-hand quadrant as well, for instance operators from the Netherlands, Canada and Hungary.

Meanwhile, other countries have staked positions for themselves in specific regions of the plot. U.S. and Kuwaiti operators are tightly clustered in the lower right, meaning they offer excellent coverage but poor 4G speeds. Japan and Taiwan congregate in the middle far right with their exceptional coverage but only average speeds. Most of New Zealand and Romania’s operators hover at the center top of the chart, indicating impressive bandwidth but a general lack of availability.

Its makes interesting reading, PDF available here.

*** Added Later: 25/03/16:12.15 ***

A good breakdown of LTE subscriptions by countries by Ovum:

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Quick Summary of LTE Voice Summit 2015 (#LTEVoice)

Last year's summary of the LTE voice summit was very much appreciated so I have created one this year too.

The status of VoLTE can be very well summarised as can be seen in the image above.
‘VoLTE network deployment is the one of the most difficult project ever, the implementation complexity and workload is unparalleled in history’ - China Mobile group vice-president Mr.Liu Aili
Surprisingly, not many presentations were shared so I have gone back to the tweets and the pictures I took to compile this report. You may want to download the PDF from slideshare to be able to see the links. Hope you find it useful.

Related links:

Monday, 14 September 2015

3GPP Release-13 whitepapers and presentations

With 3GPP Release-13 due early/mid next year, there has been a flurry of presentations and whitepapers on this topic. This post provides some of these. I will try and maintain a list of whitepapers/presentations as part of this post as and when released.

1. June 2015: LTE Release 13 and road to 5G - Presented by Dino Flore, Chairman of 3GPP RAN, (Qualcomm Technologies Inc.)

2. Sep 2015: Executive Summary - Inside 3GPP Release 13 by 4G Americas

3. June 2015: Mobile Broadband Evolution Towards 5G: 3GPP Rel-12 & Rel-13 and Beyond by 4G Americas

4. April 2015: LTE release 13 – expanding the Networked Society by Ericsson

Friday, 28 August 2015

MCPTT Off-network and UE to UE/Network Relays

3GPP SA6 recently held a workshop on Mission Critical Push To Talk (MCPTT) stage 3 development in Canada. You can look at the meeting report here and download any presentations from here.

An interesting presentation that caught my attention was one on "MCPTT Off-network Architecture". The presentation is embedded below where it is described technically what is meant by Off-network. From my understanding an off-network from MCPTT point of view is one where the UE does not have network coverage.

In such a situation a UE can connect to another UE that can connect to UE/network (if available) to relay the message. Its similar to another technology that I have talked about, Multihop Cellular Networks and ODMA. Anyway, here is the presentation:

Sometimes the standards can take too long to develop a feature and apps can come and deliver a similar service at a very short notice. One such App that does something similar is called Firechat, which played a big role in many protests worldwide. The video explaining it below is worth watching.

The problem with Apps is that they cannot be used by the emergency services or other governmental organisations, unless a standard feature is available. This is the expectation from this Off-network relays. It would work in combination with D2D/ProSe.

For anyone interested in the latest Public Safety (PS), here is a presentation by SA6 chairman from July

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Diameter Security is worse than SS7 Security?

Back in December last year, there was a flurry of news about SS7 security flaw that allowed hackers to snoop on an unsuspecting users calls and SMS. The blog readers will also be aware that SS7 is being replaced by the Diameter protocol. The main reason being to simplify roaming while at the same time being able to manage the signalling storm in the networks.

The bad news is that while is case of SS7, security issues are due to network implementation and configuration (above pic), the security issues in Diameter seem to be due to the protocol and architecture themselves (below pic)

Diameter is very important for LTE network architecture and will possibly continue in the future networks too. It is very important to identify all such issues and iron them before some hackers start exploiting the network vulnerabilities causing issues for everyone.

The presentation by Cédric Bonnet, Roaming Technical Domain Manager, Orange at Signalling Focus Day of LTE World Summit 2015 is embedded below:

From SS7 to Diameter Security from Zahid Ghadialy

Some important information from this post has been removed due to a valid complaint.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

LTE vs TETRA for Critical Communications

Sometime back I was reading this interview between Martin Geddes and Peter Clemons on 'The Crisis in UK Critical Communications'. If you haven't read it, I urge you to read it here. One thing that stuck out was as follows:

LTE was not designed for critical communications.

Commercial mobile operators have moved from GSM to UMTS to WCDMA networks to reflect the strong growth in demand for mobile data services. Smartphones are now used for social media and streaming video. LTE technology fulfils a need to supply cheap mass market data communications.

So LTE is a data service at heart, and reflects the consumer and enterprise market shift from being predominantly voice-centric to data-centric. In this wireless data world you can still control quality to a degree. So with OFDM-A modulation we have reduced latency. We have improved how we allocate different resource blocks to different uses.

The marketing story is that we should be able to allocate dedicated resources to emergency services, so we can assure voice communications and group calling even when the network is stressed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even the 3GPP standards bodies and mobile operators have recognised that there are serious technology limitations.
This means they face a reputational risk in delivering a like-for-like mission-critical voice service.

Won’t this be fixed by updated standards?
The TETRA Critical Communications association (TCCA) began to engage with the 3GPP standards process in 2012. 3GPP then reached out to peers in the USA and elsewhere: the ESMCP project here in the UK, the US FirstNet programme, and the various European associations.

These lobbied 3GPP for capabilities specifically aimed at critical communications requirements. At the Edinburgh meeting in September 2014, 3GPP set up the SA6specification group, the first new group in a decade.

The hope is that by taking the critical communications requirement into a separate stream, it will no longer hold up the mass market release 12 LTE standard. Even with six meetings a year, this SA6 process will be a long one. By the end of the second meeting it had (as might be expected) only got as far as electing the chairman.

It will take time to scope out what can be achieved, and develop the critical communications functionality. For many players in the 3GPP process this is not a priority, since they are focusing solely on mass market commercial applications.

Similar point was made in another Critical communications blog here:

LTE has emerged as a long term possible replacement for TETRA in this age of mobile broadband and data. LTE offer unrivalled broadband capabilities for such applications as body warn video streaming, digital imaging, automatic vehicle location, computer-assisted dispatch, mobile and command centre apps, web access, enriched e-mail, mobile video surveillance apps such as facial recognition, enhanced Telemetry/remote diagnostics, GIS and many more. However, Phil Kidner, CEO of the TCCA pointed out recently that it will take many LTE releases to get us to the point where LTE can match TETRA on key features such as group working, pre-emptive services, network resilience, call set-up times and direct mode.
The result being, we are at a point where we have two technologies, one offering what end users want, and the other offering what end users need. This has altered the discussion, where now instead of looking at LTE as a replacement, we can look at LTE as a complimentary technology, used alongside TETRA to give end users the best of both worlds. Now the challenge appears to be how we can integrate TETRA and LTE to meet the needs and wants of our emergency services, and it seems that if we want to look for guidance and lessons on the possible harmony of TETRA and LTE we should look at the Middle East.
While I was researching, I came across this interesting presentation (embedded below) from the LTE World Summit 2015

The above is an interesting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis for TETRA and LTE. While I can understand that LTE is yet unproven, I agree on the lack of spectrum and appropriate bands.

I have been told in the past that its not just the technology which is an issue, TETRA has many functionalities that would need to be duplicated in LTE.

As you can see from this timeline above, while Rel-13 and Rel-14 will have some of these features, there are still other features that need to be included. Without which, safety of the critical communication workers and public could be compromised.

The complete presentation as follows. Feel free to voice your opinions via comments.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

LTE-Broadcast making a push while Terrestrial broadcast still popular as ever

"TV isn't dying, it's having babies." This quote made my day. I have argued a few times in the past that terrestrial broadcasting will continue working and will be probably the most popular approach for a long time to come. The way things work with it may change. Multi-screen is one possible approach but you may have more interactions like 'red button functionality', etc.
Anyway, in Europe 800MHz spectrum has been cleared for use by Mobile Broadband technologies (LTE mainly). 700MHz is planned to be cleared as well by 2020, as per the suggestion in Lamy report. The other UHF band from 470MHz to 694MHz would be left as it is until 2030, with a review planned in 2025.

This has forced even big players like BBC to start looking at other mechanisms to deliver TV. While BBC3 was moved to online only, BBC is also exploring how to use LTE-Multicast to deliver content. It has been working to have its very popular iPlayer work with eMBMS.

Embedded below is a presentation from Cambridge Wireless CWTEC 2015 conference.

eMBMS is gaining popularity with its presence in lot more chipsets and even more trials. GSA report has shown that there are quite a few trials going on worldwide but the question remains about the business models. Most operators would not like to become content providers and compete with the incumbents in their markets. Having someone like BBC in the UK is helpful but not sure how many such options are available worldwide. Embedded below is the GSA presentation

There were some nice pictures from MWC as can be seen above. Ericsson has a video as well (below) on how the app works.

D-Link is also working on M2M modules that could be used in billboards to dynamically update the ads at very regular intervals. There is a video here that explains this further.

Finally here is a Video from Visteon/Verizon that explains how LTE-Multicast can be used to deliver software updates in the connected car:

Finally, here are couple of presentations that may interest you too:

Monday, 4 May 2015

New LTE UE Categories: 11, 12, 13 and 14 in 3GPP Rel-12

While checking 3GPP TS 36.306, I noticed some new LTE categories have been defined. We now have all the way up to category 14. I also noticed that Wikipedia page has up to Category 15, not sure how/where they got it from. 

The LG Space page has some more details for anyone interested in exploring further.

A Qualcomm demo from MWC for LTE Category 11, if interested.

Finally, other related posts:

Sunday, 19 April 2015

3GPP Release-13 work started in earnest

The 3GPP news from some months back listed the main RAN features that have been approved for Release-13 and the work has already started on them. The following are the main features (links contain .zip files):

  • LTE in unlicensed spectrum (aka Licensed-Assisted Access) - RP-150055
  • Carrier Aggregation enhancements - RP-142286
  • LTE enhancements for Machine-Type Communications (MTC) - RP-141865
  • Enhancements for D2D - RP-142311
  • Study Item Elevation Beamforming / Full-Dimension MIMO - RP-141831
  • Study Item Enhanced multi-user transmission techniques - RP-142315
  • Study Item Indoor positioning - RP-141102
  • Study Item Single-cell Point-to-Multipoint (SC-PTM) - RP-142205

Another 3GPP presentation from late last year showed the system features that were being planned for Rel-13 as shown above.

I have also posted a few items earlier relating to Release13, as follows:

Ericsson has this week published a whitepaper on release 13, with a vision for 'Networked Society':
The vision of the Networked Society, where everything that benefits from being connected will be connected, places new requirements on connectivity. LTE is a key component in meeting these demands, and LTE release 13 is the next step in the LTE evolution.
Their whitepaper embedded below:

It should be pointed out that 5G work does not start until Release-15 as can be seen from my tweet

xoxoxo Added Later (26/04/2015) xoxoxo
I came across this presentation from Keysight (Agilent) where Moray Rumney has provided information in much more detail.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

LTE-Hetnet (LTE-H) a.k.a. LTE Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA)

We have talked about the unlicensed LTE (LTE-U), re-branded as LTE-LAA many times on this blog and the 3G4G Small Cells blog. In fact some analysts have decided to call the current Rel-12 non-standardised Rel-12 version as LTE-U and the standardised version that would be available as part of Release-13 as LTE-LAA.

There is a lot of unease in the WiFi camp because LTE-LAA may hog the 5GHz spectrum that is available as license-exempt for use of Wi-Fi and other similar (future) technologies. Even though LAA may be more efficient as claimed by some vendors, it would reduce the usage for WiFi users in that particular spectrum.

As a result, some vendors have recently proposed LTE/WiFi Link Aggregation as a new feature in Release-13. Alcatel-Lucent, Ruckus Wireless and Qualcomm have all been promoting this. In fact Qualcomm has a pre-MWC teaser video on Youtube. The demo video is embedded as follows:

The Korean operator KT was also involved in demoing this in MWC along with Samsung and Qualcomm. They have termed this feature as LTE-Hetnet or LTE-H.

The Korean analyst firm Netmanias have more detailed technical info on this topic.

Link aggregation by LTE-H demonstrated at MWC 2015 (Source: Netmanias)

As can be seen the data is split/combined in PDCP layer. While this example above shows the practical implementation using C-RAN with Remote Radio Head (RRH) and BaseBand Unit (BBU) being used, the picture at the top shows LTE Anchor in eNodeB. There would be a need for an ideal backhaul to keep latency in the eNodeB to minimum when combining cellular and WiFi data.

Comparison of link level Carrier Aggregation technologies (Source: Netmanias)

The above table shows comparison between the 3 main techniques for increasing data rates through aggregation; CA, LTE-U/LAA and LTE-H/LWA. While CA has been part of 3GPP Release-10 and is available in more of less all new LTE devices, LTE-U and LTE-H is new and would need modifications in the network as well as in the devices. LTE-H would in the end provide similar benefits to LTE-U but is a safer option from devices and spectrum point of view and would be a more agreeable solution by everyone, including the WiFi community.

A final word; last year we wrote a whitepaper laying out our vision of what 4.5G is. I think we put it simply that in 4.5G, you can use WiFi and LTE at the same time. I think LTE-H fulfills that vision much better than other proposals.