Sunday 30 November 2008

Is Urgency for LTE growing?

Few weeks ago in response to Zahid’s blog I wrote that LTE may not be that far away as might be thinking.

In this blog I would like to carry this thought forward. With more and more giants moving into LTE camp as compared to WiMax there is a sense that LTE will soon pick up. Recently I have been sensing that thee is some urgency out there in regards to LTE development. Vendors and operators are pushing to the extent to get the technology out as soon as possible.

As I mentioned some time ago that I am really a big fan of HSPA+ and I once again say that till LTE arrives, HSPA+ can serve the purpose up to an extent.

As we already know that T-Mobile recently tested LTE and this really gave a push to the technology. There are lots of 3G operators now who share T-Mobile’s LTE aspirations although reaching to these LTE or 4G goal will not be straight forward. Lot of urgency for LTE also depends on what the operators do with HSPA+. Some of the operators might go for HSPA+ and hence wait longer before deploying LTE.

It’s quite interesting to see that operators such as T-Mobile are going for LTE whereas some operators currently staying away from LTE and hence going to launch HSPA+. Evidently LTE as it still a long way away from mass market maturity hence it’s going to be difficult for some operators to stick to its guns for LTE. I guess this also is one of the major factors contributing towards the urgency for LTE.

Currently the three big operators pushing LTE development are China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo and Verizon wireless. T-Mobile believes it is every bit as aggressive as those three operators and should be included in that list. The evidence of this is the urgency shown by T-Mobile when it tested LTE recently.

T-Mobile believes that LTE is suited in the long run, i.e. till 2020, to be the technology that you can consolidate all technologies onto -- GSM and UMTS.

Another operator showing urgency toward LTE is the world's largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers, China Mobile. China mobile plans to begin testing LTE soon where only the lack of chipsets are holding back its plans at the moment. Many telecom experts believe China's operators will essentially leapfrog 3G as the government continually delays tenders and opt for a 4G deployment like LTE.

At the same time as I mentioned some of the operators might decide not to get sucked into HSPA+ and rather push for LTE. This urgency for LTE is certainly demonstrated by T-Mobile once again when it announced it will not deploy HSPA+. The operator has indicated that to boost its mobile broadband throughput it will instead invest in LTE thus stepping up the pressure on equipment vendors. However T-Mobile might deploy HSPA as long as no hardware upgrade is required.

The above developments is allowing some to accuse T-Mobile of attempting to force equipment vendors to place greater emphasis on the development of LTE as against further refining HSPA+. Given that China Mobile, DoCoMo and Verizon Wireless have each made aggressive statements regarding their intent to push forward with LTE, then those interested in such plots have more to go on.

However, there is a question as to whether these operators, including T-Mobile, can wait for LTE, especially given the marketing hype around mobile broadband offers.

There is no denying that the above mentioned operators are aware of this situation and hence I guess this is main reason why they are showing immense urgency towards LTE.

Friday 28 November 2008

Femtocells as the starting point - more info

Informa has recently come up with a report titled "Opportunities for femtocells in the mobile broadband ecosystem: the economic case for LTE and 3G+". I found the following very relevant to this topic that I have blogged earlier about:

One idea is to use LTE initially as an access point rather than a full standalone network, which would bypass all the difficulties and delays that may happen in developing the core network for this technology. Here femtocells, picocells or GAN dual mode solutions could help operators to achieve this goal. As well as the time to market advantage, operators will also have a good opportunity to test LTE access networks and their business case for it before engaging in any wide scale network rollouts. This will obviously help them to minimize risks while giving them enough time to get their networks more stable and ready for the challenge.

Deploying LTE through femtocells is now an industry accepted solution as mobile operators can incrementally add capacity to their networks where it is most needed. This is expected to be in the home environment where 60% of communication is expected to take place during 2013. Instead of performing ‘forklift’ upgrades for their macrocell networks, mobile operators can test the LTE business case by initially launching LTE femtocell networks. Overall capex is expected to be much less than for a macrocell network – but on the other hand, LTE femtocells will only create localized coverage and capacity hotspots for a limited group of end users.

Several chipset and hardware platform manufacturers have launched products for LTE femtocells, including Picochip and Agilent. The upcoming 3GPP femtocell standard is expected to provide compatibility for LTE femtocells and mobile operators are expected to announce their LTE strategies in 2009. Informa Telecoms & Media expects that the majority of mobile operators – especially those that have invested heavily in 3G – will incorporate femtocells in their LTE strategies either for business case validation or for selective, incremental capacity upgrades for their mobile networks.

Thursday 27 November 2008

SDR: Today and Future

I also got an opportunity to attend the SDR briefing in LTE World Summit. There were many interesting presentations including one titled "SDR in Mobile Devices" by Thierry Dubois, SDR Market Analyst, IMEC, Belgium. Infact last year I blogged about SDR from Imec presentation as well. The following is an extract from Thierry's presentation:

The key benefits of SDR are as follows:
  • Reducing the Bill Of Materials (BOM)
  • Lower development costs
  • Facilitate better reuse of intellectual property (IPR)
  • Possibility to upgrade products already in the field
  • Enabler of the Cognitive Radio vision
There are three main areas where SDR's are required but some problems exist as can be seen from the diagram above.
  • Flexibility is the key for baseband. Some of the common signal processing blocks may not be reusable. This means that though some protocols can easily be defined for a particular baseband, others may not be possible for that baseband. Good progress is still being made though on this front.
  • Reconfigurable RF is some way away, further down the road.
  • The biggest challenge is the antenna interface for which no proper solution exists. Some solutions being worked on right now include MEMS based solution, Carbon nanotubes, Special ceramic materials, etc.
The next step after SDR is cognitive radio (CR). The main advantage for using CR would be because spectrum is over-allocated but under-utilised. There are lots of white spaces in the spectrum that could be utilised by devices intelligently of their own.

Cognitive Radios are defines as: A radio that can autonomously change its parameters based on interaction with, and possibly learning of, the environment in which it operates. Through appropriate radio resource management, such a cognitive radio should make flexible and efficient use of network/spectrum resources.

CR would consist of Intelligent Sensing hardware and Intelligent Sensing Algorithms. There are two types of CR being considered:
  • Opportunistic Radio: A radio that co-exists with other systems using the same spectrum. E.g., White Space Devices
  • Smart Reconfigurable Radio Systems: A radio that makes flexible and efficient use of network/spectrum resources across heterogeneous environments. Seamlessly roaming possible on different networks, countries, frequencies, etc. It requires true paradigm shift i.e., spectrum liberalization
An Introductory paper on SDR is available on Bitwave Semiconuctor website.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Femtocells as the starting point

I blogged earlier about 'LTE Femtocell Layer as starting point'. During my visit to the LTE world summit, I didnt find (m)any takers for the idea initially. Then in his presentation, Prof. Simon Saunders, Chairman of Femto Forum, seemed to encourage the idea. As FemtoForum is technology neutral, he started with the case for WiMAX Femtocells. He quoted a VP from Comcast saying that Femtocells are "absolutely key to WiMAX" and he envisioned future services and packages that would encourage customers to use their WiMAX femtocells and stay on Comcast’s network.

Then he threw the following slide to the operators saying that introducing LTE network via Femtocell could be a way to roll out the LTE network.

In Release 8, HSPA based Femtocells will be standardised and Release 9 (De. 2009) will deliver LTE standards-based femtocells. Some operators are in hurry to roll out their LTE networks next year, since LTE home eNodeB's wont be standardised in time for them, maybe we will see LTE Femtocells as intial offering by some operators by mid-2010.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

LTE: 3G or 4G?

Continuing the discussion from LTE World Summit:

Adrian Scrase, Chief technical officer, 3GPP, France threw light on the topic which I have mentioned many times in my blog. I have always maintained that LTE can be called 3.9G but media and some other presenters have always been referring to it as 4G. Here is a slide from his presentation on his topic.
I think now when LTE-Advanced and IMT-Advanced comes, it will no longer be referred to as 4G/5G/6G. Someone will have to come up with some clever new term :)

Monday 24 November 2008

“Your Wireless Future” at “Tomorrow’s Wireless World”

This one is from Chetan Sharma's blog (via Forox). The following is an extract from his blog:

Earlier this week, I had the distinct honor of moderating a panel of some of the most eminent senior wireless research scientists and CEOs of wireless companies from Finland where we explored the future of the wireless landscape from user interface to reduction in carbon footprint to privacy and security issues and much more.

Many people might not be aware but the City of Oulu in the central part of Finland is a leading epicenter of wireless activities with many major industry players setting up shops for doing R&D work. In fact, it is quite likely that one of the companies out of Oulu has had an impact in some way on the mobile phone you have in your pocket (and we are not including Nokia).

The topic of our panel was “Your Wireless Future” – a broad topic that is always difficult to cover in 60 minutes or less.

I started by asking the panelists about what in their view have been some of the defining trends over the last 12 months. Summary of answers – iPhone; android; move towards full mobile browser; browser will reduce fragmentation and more innovation will happen on this front; with the rise of smartphones, security and privacy have become an issue,

Some other salient points (read issues and opportunities) from the discussion:
  • It is forecasted (by WWWRF) that in another 10 years, we will have 1000 radios per every subscriber. That would translate into few trillion nodes around us. The level of complexity and carbon footprint will be enormous. One has to figure out a way to address both.
  • City of Oulu has first of a kind experiment with NFC where the technology has been embedded in day-to-day life from home, school, train station, restaurant, probably every object in the city. Pretty interesting experiment that will lead to interesting use cases and technology implementations.
  • There are so many protocols being integrated into the device that hackers are targeting not only the data but the protocol weaknesses to gain access. IT finally starting to address smartphone issue in their networks.
  • The role of Cognitive radio and SDRs will gain prominence as more access technologies get introduced.
  • In a ubiquitous environment with finite spectrum, “sensing” technologies will have a great role in optimization. Sense and do the best for the consumer, the device, and the network. Hyper connectivity will become the norm.
  • In addition to touch, gesture and face recognition will add to a better multimodal experience.
  • Mobile payments is coming and going to make a big impact. We have to of course sort out the business models.
  • 3Cs of mobile – convergence, context, and community (Nokia’s Mantra).
  • The very business of R&D has changed significantly with corporations choosing to outsource R&D and the cycle of concept to market launch has shrunk from 6 years or more to 12-18 months.
  • More innovation will come from integration of existing technologies rather than some big breakthrough.
  • Demand for bandwidth will keep growing.
  • Significant opportunities in medicine, enterprise, and other industry verticals.
  • In developing countries, while consumers are willing to pay for expensive devices, they don’t have any appetite for expensive service plans.

Some discussion points from Craig’s (Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation) and our Q&A session:

  • World will go to free MIPS and free baud (computing and communications). What happens then?
  • Moore’s law is good for another 15 years based on 5 generation of future chipsets that they have in the labs. And it will probably keep going after that.
  • Awareness of context really important.
  • Many types of devices will proliferate including MIDs, education devices, some designed specifically for special purpose (medical monitors) and geographies (emerging markets).
  • Global challenges are education, health, computing, and communication.
  • In the developed world, wireless technology can help reduce the cost which is increasing at the rate of $200B/year and in the developing world, technology can help provide access to health care.
  • Convenience and access trumps security concerns.
  • Areas of opportunities – Telemedicine, education, economic development, governance, energy and environment.
  • This is Craig’s 11th recession. Principle to tackle has been the same every time. You cannot save your way out of recession. You can only innovate out of a recession. Intel R&D budgets will remain the same.
  • Innovation is key to surviving and competing in the global economy, now more so than ever.
  • The fact that so much can be done in these tiny piece of electronics is just amazing and the drive to do better and more using technology keeps him going, keeps him inspired.
I am looking forward to an interesting future ;)

Sunday 23 November 2008

Phones can be unlocked by GeoSim

We all have used different phones over the period of time while on contract with a certain operator. The tricky situation comes when we move onto different operator and would sometime like to use the old phone. The way to crack this is quitely simpy unlock the phone and off it goes on any network.

GeoSIM, an international SIM card supplier, now says that it has introduced the “SIM PIG”, a SIM-like chip that bypasses the network lock on mobile phones, thus enabling any SIM card from any network to be used in a locked handset.

I honestly do not know whether this is good or bad, but simply for my own personal reason it’s good. Recently I moved from one operator to another and decided to go pay as you go. Hence I wanted to use my old phone on the new service provider but couldn’t do so until I got my phone unlocked.

SIM PIG claims to be able to unlock iPhone, Windows Mobile, HTC, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Blackberry and many more 3G handsets. It is inserted with the SIM card into the handsets SIM card slot. The PIG then dynamically bypasses the network lock on the mobile phone. The company says it does not affect any of the handset functionality and all features are maintained, nor it does not invalidate any warranty on the handset. Once SIM PIG is removed, the handset reverts back to its locked condition.

Using the SIM PIG does not require any technical knowledge and is quick and simple to insert. As the name suggests, SIM PIG SIMply PIGgy backs on to the SIM card when it is inserted to the handset.
So how does GeoSim is able to do this business of unlocking the phone or by passing the lock?
GeoSIM routes your dialling instruction away from the local operator and sends your call to the GeoSIM “Hub”. A few seconds after you make your call, your mobile phone will ring. You answer the “callback” and you will be connected to the person you wish to talk to.
In summary:
  • Dial the number you want to call.

  • A few seconds after you dial, your handset will ring. Answer the “callback” from the GeoSIM Hub.

  • You will then get connected to the number you are calling.

Hmmm very strange… I am really dying to know whether some body uses this method.
Do GeoSIM and SIM PIG work in the United States?
Are they fully “legal” here in UK or Europe? I don’t know…

Delay in LTE can be blessing in disguise

Most of us know by now that Sprint and Clearwire is going to combine shortly to create a company which will trade into WiMax feverishly. The idea is that the joint company which will be called as Clearwire would foster competition in the mobile broadband arena and accelerate build out or deployment of advanced technologies such as WiMax. These are the kind of developments that keep LTE camp nervous but at the same time provide them some motivation as well.

With the merger it is anticipated that company's WiMAX network, to reach 140 million potential customers by 2010. It not a coincidence that Sprint chose WiMax as a 4G standard as it is available now and our customers want 4G now.

The company Clearwire says that it has deployed WiMAX in Baltimore and plans to deploy it in Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., pending the close of the deal. This development together with some other factors gives enough confidence to WiMax supporters that the technology would minimize the market penetration of LTE simply because WiMAX is coming to market first.

Everybody will agree with me that WiMax is definitely in a very good position and it is WiMax’s battle to loose as far as battle of 4G is concerned.

On that other hand I am learning that network operators are just now beginning to see a return on their 3G networks. This gives the operators some encouragement to say they won't be ready to upgrade to an OFDM-based technology until about the time LTE is ready and why should they if they are able to generate handsome revenues with the existing 3G technologies.
On the other hand this delay in deployment of OFDMA based technologies by operators does gives mobile WiMAX time-to-market advantage over LTE by at least two years.

The fact that LTE won't be ready for another two to three years may actually turn out to be a boon for LTE as the time frame will allow mobile operators to get as much life as possible out of their existing 3G networks. Incremental upgrades to enhanced 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev B will allow for almost the same data rates as the initial LTE deployments, which will effectively set the stage for large-scale LTE commercial rollouts in three to four years.
LTE has a further advantage because the majority of cellular operators around the world will choose LTE as their migration path given the fact that 3GPP has tabbed LTE as the next-generation standard for the GSM community.
It is certainly a truth that WiMAX is a very robust technology that has been quite successful in many parts of the world as a fixed broadband solution and will continue to do so, especially in under-served markets. Although mobile WiMAX networks are already going live thanks to Sprint/Clearwire and Korea Telecom, the prospect of additional mobile WiMAX networks from Tier 1 operators is looking pretty grim.

Lets see how hard the WiMax camp will fight and how shrewdly the LTE camp will play the game.

Solving the LTE voice dilemma

Continuing the discussion from LTE World Summit, this is something that has been discussed in the past by myself and other blogs as well. We know that there is no out of the box solution for voice calls in Release 8 but there are some solutions that are being standardised for this problem. Dr. Howard Benn, Director of Cellular Standards, Motorola Mobile Devices gave an interesting presentation on this topic titled, "Voice –how to talk over LTE". Here is the summary of his presentation along with some more information:
As we know, IMS was introduced in Rel 5 but even till today, there has been no major IMS rollouts. There are some operators working on deploying the IMS solution but in reality its not been as successful as it should have been. If IMS is available then the problem of voice call on LTE goes away. The problem can be solved using Voice Call Continuity or VCC. Infact there is a bunch of specifications on IMS Centralized Services (ICS) and network Centric VCC for solving this and other similar problems.

So with IMS not being available, the first alternative for this problem is Circuit Switched Fallack (CSFB). In this, as can be seen from the MSC above, the user is attached to an LTE network. MSC can send Paging to the UE and if the user accepts the voice call then he is handed over to 2G/3G network. The big problem with this approach is additional time required to establish the voice call and the PS services might get disrupted, depending on how its handled.

The second solution is to have a Generic Access Network (GAN... previously known as UMA) based solution. This is similar solution to the ones used by some Femtocells. This would mean that the UE's would require GAN chipsets and GAN is known to be power hungry so it can impact the battery life significantly.

China Mobile's, Bill Huang in a recent interview mentioned that “We could carry voice over UMA” and “We will have an LTE network that supports voice…”. He was referring to this approach mentioned above.

Finally there are always proprietary options like Skype that can be used along with the data services to solve the voice problem.

Infact a service like Vonage, modified for mobiles, can solve this problem easily. You can connect a VoIP client from your phone or device to Vonage and you are given a landline number that you can pass to others. When calls are received on this number, the client in the mobile rings and you answer the call normally.

Nick Yamasaki from KDDI mentioned that KDDI will roll out LTE with CS fallback option for voice initially but then SRVCC (Single Radio VCC) solution will be adopted in future.

Saturday 22 November 2008

iBurst may give WiMAX run for money

One of the themes that emerged from the LTE World Summit was that no one was looking at WiMAX as a competitor for LTE. LTE is being thought as 'Mobile Broadband' whereas WiMAX is being thought more of as 'Low-mobility/Fixed Broadband'. They would serve different needs and their market will hardly overlap. I have blogged about iBurst in the past and I think it may give some competition to WiMAX.

David Brunnen from Personal Broadband UK (cant find their website) gave an interesting perspective on iBurst and even though many people have not heard of it, it can still compete in the market. They have a big presence in Australia and last year won the spectrum for the whole of Ireland + Northern Ireland between 1785 - 1805MHz. Even though they have won the 20MHz band, they think that they can do with 5MHz or maximum of 10 MHz. They have also partnered with iBand and would probably allow roaming between them.

The main thing about iBurst is that it has very good spectral effeciency and an average throughput of around 600kbps. Data Rate of 1.061Mbps downlink/ 346Kbps uplink with System capacity 24.4Mbps downlink/ 7.9 Mbps uplink is supported. At the same time it offers high mobility with handovers at speed of over 100kmph. The cell radius is 1.5-3km in urban and 5-7km in rural area. Because of adaptive antennas, the same frequency can be reused and the interference can be reduced thereby increasing the cell capacity.

The biggest problem with iBurst is that there are very few players. Kyocera is the only base station supplier. On the devices side, Kyocera is the lead player but there are other new players like Dovado which has won some big contract with first US iBurst operator and Moovera (bought by Icomera) which also has some similar devices.

Last year Kyocera announed that iBurst has more than 140,000 subscribers. This year iBurst South Africa has been shortlisted for an award of "Best Operator in Developing Country". In last 6 months they have increased the subscriber numbers by 30%.

With the big players heavily invested in HSPA+/LTE and many others having a foot in WiMAX, it would be interesting to see how a possible iBurst success might be viewed. I would like to hear from people who have experienced this technology on what their feeling is about iBurst.

For more information on the iBurst technology, see Kyocera's iBurst Technology homepage.

Latest news on iBurst available from website.

Friday 21 November 2008

LTE Roll out updates from the 4th LTE World Summit in London

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got the opportunity to attend and meet with the industry experts in the 4th LTE world summit. There were some very interesting discussions and debates and some announcements about the rollout of LTE. Here is a quick summary of the announcements and news. I am sure to have missed some and will expand on some of the topics in later posts.

Karri Mikkonen, Director, Corporate Strategy, TeliaSonera in his presentation said that TeliaSonera to be an early LTE adopter with rollout planned Mid 2010. They have already bought licenses in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Baltics. According to them LTE enables very convenient mobile data usage scenarios, and is one tool to win battle in mobile data, among others.

Bill Huang, General Manager, China Mobile Research Institute gave a very interesting perspective on mobiles in China which I will expand in a later post. According to his presentation, China Mobile will be deploying TDD based LTE (TD-LTE) option probably around 400Mhz spectrum. Trails will start by Mid 2009 and pre-commercial launch will happen around end of 2009. By Q2, 2010 there will be large scale commercial trials involving around 15,000 base stations.

Remi Thomas, Director of NGMN project and head of Network Strategy, France Telecom, France said FT plans to introduce HSPA+ and opt for 'wait and see' approach for LTE. The earliest they want to even think about LTE is after 2010 and if practical the rollout may occur in 2012. Even with HSPA+ they will opt for all the software changes only and not go for any hardware changes. So we wont see MIMO anytime soon with HSPA+ according to them. They also have plans to rollout LTE Femtocells when available to check the technology and iron out the problems with LTE technology.

Erik Ekudden, Vice President, Group Function Technology, Ericsson, Sweden in his presentation said that E\\\ will be commercially releasing equipment in 2009. Terminal HW including support FDD and TDD modeof LTE. For FDD, initial support will be for IMT core band of 2.1GHz and also IMT extension band of 2.6GHz and US 700MHz spectrum. For TDD the initial support will be for IMT extension center gap in 2.6GHz spectrum and 2.3 TDD band in 2.3GHz band.

In a question answer session, Dr Howard Benn, Director of Cellular Standards, Motorola Mobile Devices mentioned that Motorola already has a working LTE UE but not in Form factor (probably development board). He did not expand on the details.

Nick (Norikazu) Yamasaki, Manager Standards Strategy section, Emerging Technologies and Spectrum Division, KDDI Corp. in his presentation said that KDDI is a CDMA2000 operator but since with UMB nearly dead (my words) they have decided to eveolve to LTE. LTE deployment willbe started around 2012 but will co-exist with the CDMA 2000 network which they will support for another 10 years. Right now they have EV-DO Rev.A but they may also opt for Rev.B

One of the big problems that was discussed many times in the conference was that Release 8 LTE standards have no solution for the normal CS voice call. There are some hacks around it but voice part will only be solved in time for Release 9. This could delay decisions by some operators to roll out LTE networks untill after Release 9. I will write a post on this later.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Mobile advertising will grow

As the technology has evolved over the last decade so does various mobile applications and services related to it. In today’s competitive and saturated market operators and vendors are spending significant amount of time in drafting new strategies which will result in new revenue generation.

It is all about making the consumer interested and getting into the feeling of the general public in terms of what they would like and what would interest them. Mobile advertising is one such step in that area.

In the last year alone mobile advertising had emerged and there is a buzz out there related to it. I have noticed that people including myself take more notice of a mobile ad than advertising on TV or on a PC screen. And with a billion new phones being bought every year, the potential market is huge. Does this really mean that people out there really believe that it's going to be worth billions in just another two to three years?

There is no denying from the fact that mobile phones offer advertisers many different ways to reach an audience. With more and more people accessing internet from their mobile there is a potential area for growth. Placing ads at the start of a video or adding them to the results of a mobile search are less intrusive forms of promotion. I think we'll see people responding well to this kind of ad.For one thing the credit crunch will force advertisers to reduce traditional outlets like print and TV, and push them to explore cheaper and more targeted avenues, such as mobile devices.
So eventually, revenue from mobile advertising might rival that on other channels. But until then the industry will have to knock a few zeros off its forecasts.
You mist have noticed receiving various SMS from your operator sending you a message related to some product or event. SMS advertising for consumer goods, such as food and fashion is rising significantly specially in Europe.

Recent study by comScore suggested that more customers were getting ads for consumer goods such as food, fashion, restaurants, travel and financial services. In the three months ended August 2008, the number of offers received for non-mobile consumer goods rose 15 percent, compared to last year.

Food is the fastest-growing category of SMS advertising since August 2007, at a rate of 53 percent, followed by clothing-fashion at 38 percent and restaurants at 37 percent.
Mobile advertising is relatively new in the market and just like any other new thing it will take some time to settle down. However there are some articles floating around which suggest that mobile advertising is overhyped. Although these suggestions are based on some fact and data collected by the reputed analysts, I still do believe that mobile advertising will pick up especially after the latest credit crunch. In my view every time we see a launch of a new product or new technologies there is an excitement around it and in this process sometimes it gets overhyped. Same might be true with mobile advertising as well.

But like the Internet revolution before it, mobile needs to emerge from the technology foothills and develop media experiences and advertising solutions that delight and satisfy real consumers' needs and wants.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Mobile TV getting attention again

Nokia N96 with Mobile TV capability (DVB-H) has recently been launched in UK but there is no one broadcasting any Mobile TV. Maybe the operators are hoping that once there are enough handsets with this capability, Mobile TV can be launched and hopefully people will view it.

Last month, Juniper Research released a report likely to strike fear in the hearts of operators betting on consumers' willingness to pay for mobile TV content. In "Opportunities for Streamed & Broadcast Services, 2008-2013," Juniper projects that by 2013 some 330 million people worldwide will have handsets that can receive analog and digital broadcast TV signals — but less than 14 percent of them will sign up for pay mobile TV services.

"The development of terrestrial TV-capable receivers with comparatively low power consumption, and the availability of these receivers in mass market handsets, throws into question the business case for the deployment of a dedicated network in many markets," said report author Dr. Windsor Holden.

In Germany, Mobile 3.0's DVB-H trial flopped when operators started promoting their own TV-capable phones designed to receive DVB-T signals for free — undermining Mobile 3.0’s pay TV business model.

Last July, Toshiba shut down its Japanese satellite mobile TV subsidiary, Mobile Broadcasting, because the subscriber base wasn't big enough to support the business. But it wasn't because the Japanese aren't watching mobile TV. In fact, shipments of handsets able to receive Japan's free 1-seg mobile TV service continue to soar according to the Japan Electronics Information Technology Association — 10 million in the first half of 2008, bringing the total of 1-seg units shipped to 30 million.

Of course, the situation is markedly different in the United States where carriers have a lock on the handsets available to subscribers. And so far, that has effectively stifled competition from devices that can receive free-to-air TV. But with more free-to-air devices hitting the market, it's reasonable to question whether that trend will continue indefinitely.

In another announcement last month, IHT reported that France presented plans to set aside about a fifth of the country's prime television broadcasting spectrum for mobile Internet and television services by the end of 2009, in what supporters described as a major step toward creating a harmonized mobile broadband network in Europe.

France is the first major European country to reserve part of its most valuable broadcasting spectrum, the so-called UHF band, for mobile broadband and video services. Finland and Sweden have also said they plan to reserve the band for mobile services.

If a Europewide broadband network were to come to fruition, its greater scale would probably push down the cost of Internet services to consumers, especially in rural areas not reached by fast, fixed-line networks. It could also enable large mobile operators to sell services, like mobile TV or mobile broadband, across national borders, further increasing competition and lowering consumer prices.

The move was hailed by mobile operators and by the European Union's telecommunications commissioner, Viviane Reding, who is proposing that her office be given a greater role in influencing how EU countries redistribute the frequency.

The French plan, disclosed by Eric Besson, a French state secretary responsible for evaluation of public policies, commits France to reserving 72 megahertz of prime spectrum that is currently being used exclusively by television broadcasters - the 790 MHz to 862 MHz band - for mobile broadband services by the end of next year.

Besson said the country's broadcasters would be able to use the remaining portion of the UHF spectrum - 470 MHz to 790 MHz. He said that would still be enough to support 11 terrestrial broadcasters plus two new mobile TV broadcasters, owned either by mobile operators or TV broadcasters.

Sami said the French plan would most likely influence other European nations to make a similar redistribution. Britain, he said, is also leaning toward devoting a portion of that spectrum, from 806 MHz to 862 MHz, for mobile services.

In Germany, DVB-H licensee Mobile 3.0 handed back its licence to local regulators. The return of the licence was ordered by the authority for private broadcasters - Zulassungs- und Aufsichtskommission für den privaten Rundfunk (ZAK) - because Mobile 3.0 did not meet the conditions of the licence. It is not sure when a new licence will be issued. Meanwhile DVB-T carries on its success with LG planning to launch another handset model before Christmas.

In Switzerland, Take-up of the mobile TV service from Swisscom is not meeting expectations, according to Swisscom Broadcast chief Jean-Paul de Weck, speaking during the Biel Bienne Communication Days (Comdays). The main reason for the slow acceptance is the lack of choice of DVB-H capable handsets. Up until the end of September, the Nokia N77 was the only handset available to receive the service, though now there are four different models. Swisscom currently has about 5,000 mobile TV users, though it expects to gain more subscribers with the wider choice of handsets.

Qualcomm is now to give some more attention to its mobile TV standard of MediaFLO. This is because they no longer have to worry about UMB (see this). Outlining future strategies, Qualcomm indicated it's focusing more on its MediaFLO mobile broadcast TV and its Firethorn mobile banking technologies to carry it in the near term while it develops its Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless infrastructure and its Snapdragon platform for future inroads in wireless mobile. MediaFLO is operated in 62 markets, but it's expected to get a boost in February when the big switchover to digital TV takes place. Qualcomm purchased $555 million worth of spectrum in the FCC's 700-MHz auction earlier this year, and the purchase will be used to spread MediaFLO. The new spectrum will enable the company to address 108 markets by the end of 2009, according to media reports.

Finaly for some good news:

A large U.S. television broadcaster has announced good results from recent trials in Chicago and Denver of mobile TV using a draft standard from the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC). Ion Media Networks, Inc. said it found it relatively easy to set up two mobile channels in each city and reception was better than expected. The Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), an alliance of local and national TV broadcasters, hopes to see members roll out commercial mobile TV services late next year. To date mobile TV services using other technologies have failed to deliver and grow a market among cellphone, notebook and car video users.

Ion Media's stations WCPX and KPXC have been multicasting two standard definition mobile channels since August. LG Electronics and Harris Corp., whose technology was selected for the ATSC standard, provided prototype mobile TV receivers and transmission equipment for the tests.

We're seeing fantastic reception out to as far as 40 miles from transmitters, and beyond that we have good transmission outdoors but it's not consistent indoors," reported Jenkins.

Reception was also good in cars at freeway speeds and indoors within 40 miles of transmitters. "We went into parking garages where there were three or four levels of concrete above us, and reception was perfect--that was one of the big technical lessons," said Jenkins.

Spectrum availability was not a problem in the trial. One station in the trial supports an existing high definition terrestrial broadcast, another supports multiple existing standard def channels.

Friday 14 November 2008

UMB now officially dead, Long live LTE!

As one article put it, "Qualcomm cancels its own 4G system" going further to mention "Ultramobile broadband (UMB) is ultra dead". I blogged earlier about Nortel abandoning its CDMA business and about CDMA operators defecting to LTE and was sort of waiting for this imminent announcement to happen. There were already rumors about this happening since last year. (Not sure if some Hedge fund managers did be on this ;). UMB is also known as CDMA2000 EV-DO Rev C.

Qualcomm Inc officially announced that it has stopped development of Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), its next-generation, high-speed wireless technology, and has been making small-scale layoffs as it looks to cut costs in the weakening economy, Chief Executive Paul Jacobs said. Jacobs said the company was putting resources into LTE technology instead.

The company that created CDMA techology, meant for UMB to be CDMA’s 4G play. The company had high hopes for squeezing out WiMAX, positioning UMB to compete directly against LTE. With a logical upgrade path for existing CDMA carriers, UMB was designed to continue the GSM vs CDMA platform war in the fourth generation of wireless technology.

However, Qualcomm in recent years has gained dominance in the LTE development field as well. With Qualcomm now heavily invested in UMTS/HSPA technology, UMB had Qualcomm playing both sides, ensuring that they would be dominant in all CDMA-derived products (both UMB and LTE use technology originally derived from Qualcomm’s oldest CDMA patents).

With WiMAX becoming embraced, and even deployed, globally, UMB failed to gain a single carrier. The main cause for CDMA carriers defecting to WiMAX, has been Qualcomm’s monopoly on the technology. WiMAX trumps UMB in being an industry standard, not controlled or mandated by a single company.

The CDMA Development Group (CDG) has yet to comment on this announcement. However, the CDG has told that their driving force going forward will be to foster CDMA as a low-cost network option, especially in developing nations. Qualcomm still hopes to use CDMA for new networks in Africa, using their own hybrid GSM/UMTS/CDMA chipsets for international roaming when those customers travel abroad.

This leaves LTE as the eventual winner and with Operators already planning to roll out LTE network mid next year, WiMAX is going to get tough competetion from LTE. CDMA2000 operators meanwhile will have to now start planning how to move towards LTE (or WiMAX for that matter). 3GPP has laid down clear evolution path to move to LTE from CDMA2000. Other option which I quoted earlier is the eHRPD approach.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Mobile Phone Data and Statistics from 2007

In 2007, 1.15 billion mobile units were sold. Now according to Tomi in a post in Forum Oxford, these 1.15 Billion was split so that 805 million went to existing customers and only 300 million phones sold to new customers.

According to Informa, total number of subscribers worldwide increased by 600 million (from 2.7Billion in 2006 to 3.3 Billion in 2007) in 2007. This would mean that 300 million people got only SIM's and no phones. I am sure this would make green lobby a bit happy because people are recycling phones ;)

According to Informa, 28% of phone subscriptions in 2007 were multiple subscriptions (one person having more that one phone/SIM). In Europe this figure was approx. 50%.

This raises an interesting point; there is a big market for phones with dual SIM capability. It is not so simple though. There are no standards defining phone behaviour with dual SIMs. All the phones that I am aware of have a single transmitter/receiver. This means that even if you have two SIMs, they are both not active at the same time. You would have to manually choose which one is active at any point of time.

Manufacturing of dual SIM phones with two transmitter/receivers is possible but the phones will become slightly bulky and expensive. It can definitely make my life easier so I am all for them, dont know what others feel.

On the flipside, if you lose the phone you lose both your SIMs and are totally cut off till you get atleast one replaced.

Monday 10 November 2008

We all want LTE now

One headline said, "T-Mobile International wants LTE fast" while the other said "LTE roll-out will accelerate despite recession, claims Motorola" and the third one screamed "Huawei To Launch First LTE Commercial Network In 2009".

I mentioned in an earlier post about attending LTE world summit this month. I am expecting some announcements and surprises in the conference where everyone would like to show off about their progress and readiness to launch LTE.

T-Mobile has announced recently that it plans to skip HSPA+ altogether and focus on LTE. It wants to roll out LTE network by 2010. The main reason for its decision stems from the fact that since MIMO is introduced in HSPA+, it wants to avoid the upgrade cost if LTE is available in couple of years. We have to remember though that HSPA+ is more of an upgrade to the existing HSPA and we can be assured of the reliability and the quality that we have so got used to. On the other hand, LTE may have its own problems and since it will be new technology, it would take time to mature. Can T-Mobile afford to go through this period of uncertainty and maturisation on its own without something to fall back on.

According to Ihab Ghattas, assistant president of Huawei Middle East, the Chinese telecommunications equipment and solutions provider plans to launch its first LTE/SAE commercial network in June 2009, providing LTE/SAE infrastructure to mobile operators.

Ghattas announced the decision in his report "Preparing for the future technology trends - LTE focus" at the meeting held by the SAMENA Telecommunications Council. He said the rapid development and benefits of wireless technology has seen mobile broadband evolve from UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+ to LTE, which offers more efficiency than other networks. Expectations are that by 2015 LTE subscriber base will reach 400 to 450 million, generating revenues of almost EUR150 billion.

Till date, NTT DoCoMo, China Mobile and Verizon wireless had announced to launch LTE/SAE based networks. Now we can add Huawei and T-Mobile to this list as well. Companies like Motorola and Nortel have not much HSPA/HSPA+ presence and have invested heavily in LTE, hoping to grab market share by the fact that they are there before others.

According to this another report, Operators relying on mobile or fixed/mobile broadband services to increase their future revenues are not only facing an upgrade of their wireless networks to HSPA+, WiMAX or LTE, but also a massive increase in the backhaul capacity needed to support that data traffic and multimedia applications.

Paul Steinberg, chief architect for Motorola’s wireless infrastructure products, reinforced the message this week, predicting that even 3.5G technologies will start to struggle soon in areas of high usage, and that this will force new approaches to backhaul as well as an early move to LTE, despite economic uncertainty.

In an interview with US-based CommsDay, Steinberg said 3G operators in developed markets will experience increases in data usage in the course of this year, ranging from sixfold to 14fold, but revenue from data services is growing only by 10-30% a year. This will push carriers towards all-IP, flat networks like WiMAX and LTE, with their improved cost of delivering broadband data.

Citing research by ComScore, Steinberg said that reasonable traffic profiles for mobile users by 2011 will range from 2.7Gb of data for typical handset users, to 11.1Gb a month for heavy users with both a laptop and handset. He believes some operators will have to start to roll out 4G-class networks as early as the end of next year to cope with the demands. Motorola is still relying on LTE deployments by six operators next year and 10 in 2010. However small their initial build-outs, Motorola points out that the 16 carriers that have committed to LTE in the next two years account for about 1.8bn subscribers worldwide, about half the global total.

According to Motorola, each LTE base station will require 200Mbps-300Mbps of backhaul capacity, which will stretch most fixed or wireless technologies apart from fiber or Gigabit Ethernet. This will lead to new approaches, such as ‘wireless fiber’ technologies, or relay techniques.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Get a Femtocell and make money

This post again is a concept but I dont see why the operators may not go this way.

The main reason you would put a Femtocell in your house or your shop is because you want cheaper calls and reliable coverage. The Femtocells would probably be setup as Closed Femtocells or better known in 3GPP Release 8 as CSG (closed subscriber groups). It may be beneficial for the operator that the Femtocells are setup as 'open' rather than closed. This can be useful in shops or malls where the shoppers can experience bad coverage in particular part of the shop or mall.

To motivate people to keep open access, they could offer free cash to the Femtocell owners on which outsiders (IMSI's not on the access list) camp and originate voice and data calls. In the web world, similar approach is used by Google Adsense. UK operator '3' has also tried similar cashback scheme before with decent success.

This approach may encourage lots of shops and people (especially during Credit Crunch scenario) to install Femtocells thereby increasing coverage significantly.

On the flipside, I should mention that people might start abusing this and increase the interference in the Macro cell. Also, the operators have to plan the Femtocell rollout in such a way that such interferences would be kept to minimum.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Will there be a winner in LTE and WiMax debate?

In the past there have been so many developments within WiMax and LTE in terms of where the two technology stands. Which technology is on the rise or which will eventually be a 4G technology is a never ending discussion.

On a regular basis I do get to know that either the LTE or WiMax camp claiming victory over another.

In a recent WiMAX World conference in Chicago, some advocates were quick to claim a WiMAX victory in the 4G technology race. The mantra or refrain for most of the sessions was that WiMAX is here and it's paving the way for 4G.

In the past few months there has been significant development in WiMax camp coordinated with the launch of WiMax services. In September Sprint-Nextel's launched the commercial mobile WiMAX service (called Xohm) in Baltimore. This definitely helped the buzz for WiMax to reach a new high. But as always together with the excitement, lies some anxious moments as everybody is now watching Xohm's debut to see how it fares with consumers.

There is no doubt that plenty of stake is riding on Sprint's Xohm launch. Clearwire also has got its own anxious moments with this launch as it was in last May that Clearwire announced it would merge with Sprint Nextel's WiMAX business to create a new company, also called Clearwire. The deal, which is expected to close by year-end, includes a $3.2 billion investment from Google, Intel, Comcast, Time Warner and others.

Although the above scenario really present a competitive and rosy picture for WiMax but even one of mobile WiMAX's biggest fans, admits that it's unlikely that WiMAX (or any one technology for e.g. LTE) will win the 4G debate.

In my view and so as I believe most of the people expects that the wireless industry will always have at least two technologies, perhaps more. My view can be supported with the idea of most of the operators going for HSPA+ technology. With operators eager to generate more revenue with the ever increased data rate requirements together with the delay in LTE there is no choice but to go for HSPA+. Which in my view has always been the best way to move forward as I am always a big fan of HSPA+ till LTE arrives?

This means that there may be some operators that will evolve along the HSPA+ path and never opt to deploy 4G or a 4G-like technology.

If the situation were to develop like I mentioned above then I don't think it is going to be as black and white as one (technology) wins and one loses. A lot of people don't realize that the most of the successful wireless operator or one of the most successful wireless operators today uses a technology that is only used by 13 percent of subscribers around the world.

But that's not all, inspite of all these and hence the Future of 4G will includes several interactive panels with experts who will delve into all aspects of the 4G debate. I am sure that whenever there is debate between LTE and WiMax it starts with the WiMax camp pointing out that Mobile WiMAX is the first out of the gate. Ok I agree then people argue that LTE is often considered the more evolutionary technology. The question probably isn't whether they can co-exist, they have enough common elements that it's feasible, it's whether there are enough reasons for them too.

So many times in the past including me has got into the debate of whether WiMax and LTE should or will be merged together?

In my past blog I have championed the cause of LTE and WiMax working together.
But as always there are many experts whoc belive that they ae going to work together. One of them is Peter Jarich, the research director of Current Analysys who firmly believe that LTE and WiMax are not going to merge. I can see where Pter is coming from because most of these phrases of working together are mostly biased towards politics and just from a political standpoint of getting all the parties together it's just not going to happen.
As I said in my previous blog regarding LTE and WiMax harmonization the guys have to fight it out. Now that might be bad for the carriers but it's good for the vendors who supply weapons to both sides and it's always good for consumers who get more choice.

Once thing which is quite clear though is that the presence of a rapidly maturing WiMAX ecosystem certainly has had the effect of accelerating LTE well before all the revenue potential was drawn out of HSPA and EVDO. In the past year LTE has certainly gained momentum in standards development, carrier decisions and an LTE wireless ecosystem being created. After all these significant developments in LTE analysts have started to believe that there is no reason to slow it down by merging it with WiMAX. There is, however, a reason for speeding it up to compete with WiMAX.

I can make a pretty strong argument that LTE would be at least four years later if WiMAX were not pulling it forward. WiMAX also comes with its own strengths that could add some intrigue to the battle. It's an IP standard from its base up and performs better in TDD and less mobile environments. LTE performs better in FDD and a high-user count model. That means the two could be complementary-albeit competing.

Would it be better if we had one technology and not two?

Well the debate continues……

Saturday 1 November 2008

CDMA Femtocell race heats up in USA

Airvana has said that its 'Betting the Farm' on femtocells in 2009. Recently it has entered a definitive supply agreement with Hitachi Communication Technologies, Ltd. ("Hitachi Com"). The agreement covers Airvana's HubBubT CDMA femtocell, Femtocell Service Manager, and Universal Access Gateway, and follows a joint development relationship announced in July 2008.

As part of the companies' previously announced joint-development agreement, Airvana has customized its HubBub CDMA femtocell, which is unique in the industry for its support of both 1x-RTT and EV-DO services; its Femtocell Service Manager, a scalable auto-configuration and remote management system; and its Universal Access Gateway, a carrier-class femtocell network gateway; to support the advanced features of Hitachi Com's Convergence Server. Under the terms of the agreement announced today, Hitachi will provide marketing, sales and support activities, primarily in the Japanese market, for the Airvana femtocell products. Delivery of the Airvana-Hitachi Com joint solution will provide operators with rapid deployment capabilities of advanced femtocell solutions. Hitachi's infrastructure equipment is used in networks serving more than 30 million Japanese CDMA and EV-DO subscribers.

According to Unstrung:

The company is slightly different from many others trying to crack the home base station market, in that it is developing both UMTS and CDMA boxes and pushing ahead with voice and data support straight out of the gate.

Airvana's main rival in the mini-CDMA field is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which already has its Airave box in use at Sprint Nextel Corp. and possibly in tests at Verizon Wireless . Some analysts, however, expect that Verizon could also have its eye on Airvana's gear.

Competition is bit tougher on the GSM/UMTS side of the fence, involving everyone from established players such as Ericsson AB to well funded youngsters like RadioFrame Networks Inc. and ip.access Ltd.

Readers familiar with Airvana, however, will spot that although the technology is new [ed. note: sorta] the company's strategy for entering the market is the same as it took with 3G CDMA infrastructure: Partner with the big boys and gals and supply them with the technology that carriers end up using in their networks.

In other news, Tatara Systems Inc. is going full steam ahead for femtocells now that it has sold its mobile broadband business to Smith Micro Software Inc.

Now, femto-focused Tatara will use the money from this sale to develop its convergence gateway product used in the femto gateways that will sit in the network between the femtocell access points and the mobile core. In IMS networks, Tatara's convergence gateway acts as an SIP-application server.

According to a press release last month:

Ericsson and Tatara, the leaders in SIP-based network integration and femtocell convergence, have successfully demonstrated this solution, which enables CDMA network operators to cost effectively integrate femtocells into their IMS networks. This provides both enterprises and home subscribers in-building service levels that meet or exceed the service levels and voice quality of macro networks, while enabling improved economics and delivery of advanced services.

The solution combines Ericsson’s IMS Core Network infrastructure with a SIP-based femtocell and the Tatara Convergence Server (TCS) for CDMA-1xRTT.