Showing posts with label 4G. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 4G. Show all posts

Saturday, 4 July 2020

An Introduction to Vehicle to Everything (V2X) and Cellular V2X (C-V2X)


We made an introductory tutorial explaining vehicle to everything. There are 2 different favours of V2X as shown in this tweet below


One is based on IEEE 802.11p (802.11bd in future). It is known by different names, DSRC, ITS-G5, etc. The other is the cellular V2X or C-V2X. It started as basic D2D but has evolved over the time. The slides and video are embedded below but this topic will need revisiting with more details.







Related Posts:

Monday, 22 June 2020

Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Dual Connectivity (DC)


This topic keeps coming up every few months with either someone asking me for clarifications or someone asking us to make a video. While I don't think I will mange to get round to making a video sometime soon, there are some excellent resources available that should help a new starter. Here they are in an order I think works best



The first resource that I think also works best is this webinar / training from Award Solutions. It covers this topic well and the image at the top of the post is a god summary for someone who already understands the technology.


It may also help to understand that in the 5G NSA can have 4G carrier aggregation as well as 5G carrier aggregation in addition to dual connectivity.


If you saw the video earlier, you noticed that DC actually came as part of LTE in Release-12. We covered it in our Telecom Infrastructure blog here. NTT Docomo Technical journal had a detailed article on 'Carrier Aggregation Enhancement and Dual Connectivity Promising Higher Throughput and Capacity' that covered DC in a lot more technical detail, albeit from LTE point of view only. The article is available here. A WWRF whitepaper from the same era can also provide more details on LTE Small Cell Enhancement by Dual Connectivity. An archived copy of the paper is available here.

Another fantastic resource is this presentation by Rapeepat Ratasuk and Amitava Ghosh from Mobile Radio Research Lab, Nokia Bell Labs. The presentation is available here and details the MCG (Master Cell Group) Split Bearer and SCG (Secondary Cell Group) Split Bearer, etc. This article from Ericsson also provides more detail on this topic while ShareTechNote takes it one level even deeper with technical details and signalling here and here.

So hopefully this is a good detailed starting point on this topic, until we manage to make a simple video someday.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Virve 2.0 - Finland's 4G/5G Public Safety Network

State Security Networks Group Finland (Erillisverkot) safeguards the Finnish society by offering authorities and critical operators engaged in critical infrastructure and services secure and reliable ICT services. Much like in the civilian world, communication between authorities includes transferring images and video material to an increasing degree, which results in ever-growing data transfer volumes and, subsequently, new kinds of demands for all communication networks. 


Virve is a means of ensuring communication and cooperation between authorities and other partners across organisational borders into the future. It also entails the introduction of a higher service standard, as the transfer to broadband, estimated to take place in 2022, will make it possible to transfer video material, images and data. This will mean that it will be possible to send video material in a reliable and secure way in the case of accidents, for example. The radio network Virve, based on Tetra technology, will reach the end of its lifecycle by the end of the 2020s. The current Virve network will be used simultaneously with the new Virve 2.0 network until, at least, 2025.


Erillisverkot will acquire the broadband Virve 2.0 radio access network as a service from Elisa and the core systems from Ericsson. Separate networks will ensure the continuity of critical communications and operational capability of public safety in all situations in the future.

I would assume this would be MOCN, similar to the UK deployment of ESN networks as shown here.

Virve 2.0 subcribers will use Elisa’s public radio network, which the operator is expanding to become Finland’s largest data and voice network.

About 80 million messages pass through the Virve system every week. Elisa is committed to increasing the coverage, capacity and verification of its mobile network to meet the requirements of Virve 2.0.

The new online services will provide support for critical communication between public authorities and other parties.

The addition of image, video, and other wireless broadband services alongside existing Virve services will enable a better and more up-to-date view of the day-to-day operations of authorities and other actors.

The IoT enables automatic monitoring of rescue personnel and mobile use of surveillance cameras and drones.

The Virve 2.0 radio network service will be in use from 2021 and will include the 4G and 5G technologies and the internet of things. The contract is for ten years.

Finally, a recent advert of Elisa explaining 5G to outside world



Further Study:
  • Erillisverkot: Obstacles for MCX Broadband and how to overcome them [PDF]
  • Erillisverkot: Virve Broadband Plans for the Future - Critical Communications Europe 2019 [PDF]
  • 5G-XCast Whitepaper: Rapidly Deployable Network System for Critical Communications in Remote Locations [PDF]
  • Erillisverkot: White paper - Virve 2.0 RFI Summary of responses [PDF]
  • Erillisverkot: Factsheet - What is Virve 2.0? [PDF]

Related Posts:

Monday, 9 March 2020

How LTE RRC (4G) and NR RRC (5G) Protocols are used in Parallel in EN-DC (5G NSA)

Last week I had a fruitful discussion with a fellow blogger on the web, Martin Sauter (@mobilesociety) regarding a post in which he compared features of LTE RRC (3GPP 36.331) and NR RRC (3GPP 38.331).

It was Martin's impression that the NR RRC protocol is primarily designed to be used in the 5G standalone mode. However, as I wrote in a comment to his post the NR RRC protocol is already used in EN-DC radio connections.

The reason is that the UE must be informed about Hundreds of lower layer 5G parameters (physical, MAC, RLC) that are needed for the payload transmission over 5G frequencies. Indeed, when it comes to user plane data transmission the gNB works almost independently and the UE must handle LTE and NR radio links in parallel.So it has two different radio units (even if combined into a single radio chip set). This double-functionality is also one important reason why 5G smartphones are quite expensive. It is a lot of software and know-how that sits inside these chips.

How much surplus code is really necessary to enable 5G technology becomes visible when looking at trace data using a state-of-the-art protocol test and monitoring tool.

When reading the 3GPP 36.331 (LTE RRC) standard document one might have the impression that just a few 5G parameters have been incorporated into this protocol to support EN-DC connections.

However, when looking into the details of e.g. the nr-SecondaryCellGroupConfig-r15 it turns out that some this single information element is indeed a huge block of NR information (total size: 1111 Byte)

It is an entire 5G RRC message (rRCReconfiguration) that is piggybacked by the LTE rrcConnectionReconfiguration message, because in 5G non-standalone mode this is the only way to transmit 5G signaling information to the UE. And as highlighted in the upper part of the screenshot there are a couple of NR RRC messages transported in so-called NR-RRCContainers* during the EN-DC Establishment Procedure.

And what about 5G standalone mode? For this radio access technology the 3GPP 38.331 Rel. 15 protocol is suitable as well. Hence, some parameters mentioned in the standard paper will never be seen in EN-DC. A perfect example is S-NSSAI (Single Network Slice Selection Assistance Information), because network slicing requires the connection with a 5G core network as a prerequisite. 


(click on image for larger version)

* This is not an 3GPP term, but coined by the developers of the decoding engine.

Friday, 21 February 2020

EPS Fallback in 5G Standalone Deployments

It can be expected that later this year some mobile network operators will launch their initial 5G standalone (5G SA) deployments.

Nevertheless there will remain areas with temporary or permanently weak 5G NR coverage. One possible reason might be that even when 5G and LTE antennas are co-located, which means: mounted at the same remote radio head, the footprint of the 5G NR cell is significantly smaller when it uses a higher frequency band than LTE - see figure 1.

Figure 1: Smaller footprint of co-located 5G NR cell with higher frequency
Especially UEs making Voice over New Radio (VoNR) calls from the 5G cell edge have a high risk of experiencing bad call quality, in worst case a call drop. To prevent this the UE is forced  during the voice call setup towards 5G core network (5GC) to switch to a LTE/EPS connection where the radio conditions are better for the voice service.

The same procedure for which the term "EPS Fallback" was coined by 3GPP also applies when the UE is served by a 5G cell that is not configured/not optimized for VoNR calls or when the UE does not have all needed VoNR capabilities.

Figure 2: Two options for EPS fallback

When looking at the RAN there are two options for executing the EPS Fallback as shown in figure 2.

In option A the 5G radio connection is released after the initial call attempt is successfully finished and with the 5G RRC Release the UE is ordered to reselect to a 4G cell where a new radio connection is started for the VoLTE call. In this case the UE context is transferred from the AMF to the MME over the N26 interface. 3GPP seems to use also the term "RAT fallback" for this option.

Option B is to perform a 5G-4G inter-RAT handover. Here the session management and user plane tunnels in the core network are handed over from SMF/UPF to MME/S-GW in addition. This is realized with the GTPv2 Forward Relocation procedure on N26 interface.

All in all the EPS fallback is expected to cause an additional call setup delay of approximately 2 seconds.

For the inter-RAT handover case it is easy to detect from signaling information that an EPS fallback was triggered. In the source-eNodeB-to-target-eNodeB-transparent-container sent by the gNB to the eNB a boolean "IMS voice EPS fallback from 5G" indicator will be found that is set to "true". This container is named according to the receiving entity and will be carried by the NGAP Handover Preparation, GTPv2 Forward Relocation Request and the S1AP Handover Request messages.

If a redirection for Voice EPS Fallback is possible or not is indicated in the NGAP Initial Context Setup Request, Handover Request (during 5G intra-system handover) and Path Switch Request Acknowledge (after Xn handover) messages, all sent by the AMF to the gNB.

Further the NGAP protocol provides the cause value "IMS voice EPS fallback or RAT fallback triggered" in the PDU Session Resource Modify Response message indicating that a requested VoNR session cannot be established.  





Sunday, 26 January 2020

NTT Docomo's Vision on 5G Evolution and 6G


NTT Docomo released a whitepaper on 5G Evolution and 6G. In a press release they announced:

NTT DOCOMO has released a white paper on the topic of 6G, the sixth-generation mobile communications system that the company aims to launch on a commercial basis by 2030. It incorporates DOCOMO's views in the field of 5G evolution and 6G communications technology, areas that the company has been researching since 2018. The white paper summarizes the related technical concepts and the expected diverse use cases of evolving 5G and new 6G communication technologies, as well as the technology components and performance targets.

Mobile communication systems typically evolve into the next generation over a period of roughly ten years; DOCOMO commenced its research into the commercial launch of 5G in 2010. In 2018, the company conducted successful radio wave propagation experiments at frequencies of up to 150 GHz, levels which are expected to enable the much faster and larger-capacity communications that 6G will require.

DOCOMO will continue to enhance the ultra-high-speed, large-capacity, ultra-reliable, low-latency and massive device-connectivity capabilities of 5G technology. It will continue its research into and development of 5G evolution and 6G technology, aiming to realize technological advances including:

  • the achievement of a combination of advances in connectivity, including ultra-high speed, large capacity and low latency
  • the pioneering of new frequency bands, including terahertz frequencies
  • the expansion of communication coverage in the sky, at sea and in space
  • the provision of ultra-low-energy and ultra-low-cost communications
  • the ensuring of highly reliable communications
  • the capability of massive device-connectivity and sensing

Visitors to DOCOMO Open House 2020 will be able to view conceptual displays incorporating DOCOMO's vision of the evolution of 5G technologies into 6G. The event will take place in the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition complex in Tokyo on January 23 and 24. DOCOMO also plans to hold a panel session entitled "5G Evolution and 6G" on January 24.

Videos from Docomo Open House are embedded below, along with a previous talk by Takehiro Nakamura from 6G Summit.


6G has become a hot topic, especially after China announced back in November that they are working on 6G. We have some interesting tweets on 6G as well.

This one from Stefan Pongratz, Dell'Oro group shows the timeline for 5G, Pre-6G and 6G



This one provides a timeline all the way from Release 99 up till 21



Finally, here is a tweet highlighting the 6G research



Finally, the paper acknowledges the 5G challenges and focus areas for 5G evolution, before focusing on 6G.
The mmWave coverage and mobility needs improvement, while the downlink is able to provide very high data rates, the uplink is struggling to be better than 4G. Also, there are some very extreme requirements for industrial use cases, 5G has yet to prove that it can meet them.

Finally, here is another view from iDate Digiworld comparing 5G vs 6G in terms of performance, spectrum and network.



Related Posts:

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

How MOCN RAN-Sharing Works


Shared RAN deployment scenarios are an excellent opportunity for mobile network operators to lower their investments on both, network hardware and operational costs by sharing resources.

The MORAN approach where each operator continues to have its dedicated spectrum (= radio network cells) is easy to understand.

However, the Multi-Operator Core Network (MOCN) is a bit more complex, especially if one of the involved operators asks for service assurance KPIs that apply to its - and only its - subscribers. In this case it is a prerequisite to find out which "call" belongs to which core network operator to enable further KPI correlation and aggregation.

The figure below illustrates how this works:

(click on picture for larger version)

In the System Information Block (SIB) 1 of the cell a list of PLMN-IDs is broadcasted followed by a single Tracking Area Code (which can be combined each of the PLMN-IDs to get multiple TAIs) and a single Cell Identity.

Encoding is specified in 3GPP 36.331 (RRC) as follows:

SystemInformationBlockType1 ::=     SEQUENCE {
    cellAccessRelatedInfo              SEQUENCE {
       plmn-IdentityList                 PLMN-IdentityList,
       trackingAreaCode                  TrackingAreaCode,
       cellIdentity                      CellIdentity,

The spec further defines that the ECGI is the CellIdentiy combined with the first (!!!) PLMN-ID from the PLMN-ID List:

CellGlobalIdEUTRA field descriptions
cellIdentity
Identity of the cell within the context of the PLMN.
plmn-Identity
Identifies the PLMN of the cell as given by the first PLMN entry in the plmn-IdentityList in SystemInformationBlockType1.

So there is one and only 1 ECGI per radio cell in the network, but multiple PLMN-IDs and hence, multiple TAI, one fore each core network operator, are broadcasted.

During RRC establishement a particular UE signals on behalf on the selected PLMN-ID information element in the RRC Connection Setup Complete message to which core network operator shall be used.

This information is "translated" by the eNB into ECGI and TAI with different PLMN-IDs. While the ECGI displays the PLMN-ID of the operator that owns the RAN equipment the TAI shows the selected PLMN-ID of the UE's core network operator. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

Guest Post: Exploring Network Convergence of Mobile, Broadband and Wi-Fi

This is a guest post by Ben Toner, Founder and Director, Numerous Networks


Are multiple networks better than one?

How many articles have you read with a title similar to "Which technology is better, 5G or Wi-Fi6?" If, like me, you regularly use Wi-Fi and cellular (I still use 4G though) then you might find it hard to take sides.

Enter Network Convergence - the concept of bringing multiple networks together to get the best of them all. Imagine, as an end user, not having to decide which network to use but instead feeling satisfied that your data was traversing the best combination of networks at that moment in time.

Imagine a business traveler being connected to Wi-Fi which is slow or busy while trying to take that all important conference call while sitting in an airport. Because you are roaming you want to use that Wi-Fi but you do not want to compromise the video call quality. If your network and device could work together to use just enough cellular data to supplement the slow Wi-Fi so that you stayed within your daily roaming quota but never lost a moment in the video call - then you would probably be very happy with that service. Better still, as you start walking off, if the call transitioned from Wi-Fi to cellular with no dropouts or hangup then you might be delighted!

Earlier I underlined best because that in itself is somewhat complicated.  The example above is easy to desribe but quite hard for to achieve within a framework where all possible scenarios are handled that well, for every user. The common questions which need to be factored into any such choice are:
  • What do I as the end user want? 
  • What performance can each network deliver. 
  • How important is the transfer of content at that time and 
  • How much am I willing to pay for it (how many MB of my data plan am I willing to use?). 

This is one of the challenges that we cannot easily solve today, but technology is being developed to help in that process. The operators and device vendors are working within standardisation to develop technology which can provide such a converged service. However at this time there is still a rules mechanism behind it all which does not really describe how user input and preference is going to be captured.

In the last 10 years I have witnessed many battles within service providers when deciding what "one size fits all" service to offer everyone when deciding how to make service provider Wi-Fi available to their customers; all fuelled by my points above.

A lot of concepts are well designed and somewhat mature but deciding exactly what will be implemented in standards is currently ongoing.

In the following slides and video I introduce this whole concept of Network Convergence. The following content introduces the concept and then takes a detailed look at the ATSSS; technology being defined in 3GPP. I also have highlighted the technologoies you can get hold of today to try out network convergence.

I encourage you all to download the example technologies and try convergence for yourself. I'm eager to hear opinions of what technologies work best for each of you. And better still, what is not being provided which you think should be...

Looking forward to your feedback and answering your questions...





Ben Toner
Founder and Director, Numerous Networks


Related Posts:

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Private 4G / 5G Cellular Networks and Bring Your Own Spectrum


With 4G maturing, private cellular networks are finally getting the attention that they deserve and has been promised for quite a while. In a Industry Analyst event, Nokia announced that they are running 120+ private networks including transportation, Energy, Public sector, Smart cities, manufacturing and logistics, etc. (tweet below). The Enterprise Business division is now accounting for 5% of the revenue.
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief at Light Reading, in an opinion on Telecoms.com pointed out:

One of the more immediate revenue stream opportunities right now is wireless private networks, and the good news is that this opportunity doesn’t require 5G. Instead, the potential looks set to be enhanced by the availability of a full set of 5G standards (including the yet-to-be concluded core network specs) and the maturity of associated technology.

In the meantime, 4G/LTE has already been the cellular foundation for an increasingly thriving wireless private networks sector that, according to ABI Research, will be worth $16.3 billion by 2025

Another market sizing prediction, this time by SNS Telecom & IT, pitches annual spending on private 4G and 5G networks at $4.7 billion by the end of 2020 and almost $8 billion by 2023. 

However this plays out, there’s clear anticipation of growing investment. What’s particularly interesting, though, is which organizations might pocket that investment. That’s because enterprises and/or organizations looking to benefit from having a private wireless network have a number of options once they decide to move ahead with a private network – here are three permutations that look most likely to me:
  1. Build and run it themselves – technology vendors get some sales in this instance
  2. Outsource the network planning, construction and possibly even the day-to-day. management of the network to a systems integrator (SI) – the SI and some vendors get the spoils. It’s possible here, of course, that the SI could be a technology vendor.
  3. Outsource to a mobile network operator – the operator and some vendors will get some greenbacks.
For sure there will be other permutations, but it shows how many different parts of the ecosystem have some skin in the game, which is what makes this sector so interesting.

What’s also interesting, of course, is what the enterprises do with their private networks: Does it enhance operations? Help reduce costs? Create new business opportunities? All of the above?

Let’s not forget the role of the regulators in all of this. In the US the private wireless sector has been given a shot in the arm by the availability of CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) shared spectrum in the currently unlicensed 3.5 GHz band: This has given rise to numerous trials and deployments in locations such as sports stadiums, Times Square and even prisons.

In Germany, the regulator has set aside 100MHz of 5G spectrum for private, industrial networks has caused a storm and even led to accusations from the mobile operators that the move ramped up the cost of licenses in the spectrum auction held earlier this year.

In the UK, Ofcom is making spectrum available in four bands:
  • the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz shared spectrum bands, which are currently used for mobile services;
  • the 3.8-4.2 GHz band, which supports 5G services, and
  • the 26 GHz band, which has also been identified as one of the main bands for 5G in the future.
Slide shared by Mansoor Hanif, CTO, Ofcom at TIP Summit 2019

The process to enable companies and organizations (Ofcom has identified manufacturers, business parks, holiday/theme parks and farms as potential users) in the UK to apply for spectrum will go live before the end of this year, with Ofcom believing that thousands of private networks could be up and running in the coming years.

Dean Bubley from Disruptive Analysis recently spoke about BYOSpectrum – Why private cellular is a game-changer at TAD Summit. The talk is embedded below and is definitely worth listening:



TelecomPaper reported:

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said that companies can start to apply to use 5G frequencies in the 3.7-3.8 GHz range on industrial campuses. Local frequencies enable firms to build their own private networks, rather than rely on telecommunications providers to build networks. 

The Automotive Industry Association (VDA) and other industry associations including the VCI, VDMA and ZVEI have welcomed the allocation of frequencies for industrial campuses. According to VDA, several dozen companies have already registered their interest in such frequencies with the Federal Network Agency. 

The firms believe that 5G can replace existing networks, including WLAN, provide improved coverage of entire company premises, enable full control over company data and reduce disruption to public mobile networks.

The spectrum licences will be allocated based on the applicant's geographic footprint and use of a certain area. Prices also take account the area covered by the network, as well as the amount of bandwidth used and duration of the licence.

The formula for the prices is very interesting as shown in the tweet below



In Japan, NTT Docomo is working in co-operation with industry partners to help them to create their own private 5G networks. More announcements on this are expected at MWC next year.



Finally, I am running an Introduction to Private 4G /5G Networks Workshop with Dean Bubley on 04 Feb 2020. If this is an area of interest, consider attending it.



Related Posts:

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

From traditional RAN to Open RAN - O-RAN: Goals and Challenges


My Open RAN tutorial has recently gained popularity with recent announcements from Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Telefonica and Vodafone. With TIP Summit in few weeks time, I am hoping for a lot more curious people to discover that blog post and video.

Olivier Simon, Director, Radio Innovation, Orange spoke about "O-RAN: Goals and Challenges" at Open Networking Summit Europe 2019. In his presentation, he explained how O-RAN will trigger more intelligence and openness in the RAN domain. He talked about which use cases will require this new architecture and why O-RAN is coming at the right time. Major architectural change are necessary in the next years in order to improve E2E latency and benefit from the flexibility of virtualized network functions. O-RAN will provide the right framework in order to perform this transformation in an open manner and keeping at the same time economies of scale thanks to a global adoption.


The presentation also touches on O-RAN Software Community. The O-RAN Alliance recently partnered with the Linux Foundation to establish the O-RAN-Software Community (O-RAN-SC), to provide that open source software application layer to the RAN. O-RAN-SC will foster development of an open source infrastructure platform for running 5G RAN solutions.

The key aspects of ORAN-SC are:
  • New Open Community focused on RAN Software in collaboration with O-RAN Alliance
  • Set up for collaboration across OPNFV, ONAP, Akraino and other Open Source projects

Here is the video of the conference embedded below:



Related Posts:

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

When does your 5G NSA Device Show 5G Icon?


After I wrote about the 5G Icon Display back in February, I received lots of other useful and related materials, mostly from 3GPP standards delegates. Based on this updated information, I created a presentation and video called 'The 5G Icon Story'. Only recently did I realize that I didn't add it to the blog. So here it is.

And for people who are impatient and directly want to jump to the main point, it's UpperLayerIndication in SIB 2 as can be seen above.

The slides and video is embedded below.





Related Posts:



Thursday, 5 September 2019

Opinion: What is "Real 5G" or "True 5G"


I made another opinion piece couple of weeks back. While it was shared already as part of some channels, here is it on the blog with serves as a permanent link. Video and slides below.





As always, I welcome your opinions, comments & suggestions below.


Related Posts:

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Politics of Standalone vs Non-Standalone 5G & 4G Speeds


A short video (and slides) discussing the operator dilemma of standalone (SA) vs non-standalone (NSA) 5G deployment, frequency refarming and why 4G speeds will start reducing once SA 5G starts to be deployed.

Video




Slides



Related Posts:

Monday, 29 April 2019

Evolution of Security from 4G to 5G


Dr. Anand Prasad, who is well known in the industry, not just as CISO of Rakuten Mobile Networks but also as the Chairman of 3GPP SA3, the mobile communications security and privacy group, recently delivered a talk on '4G to 5G Evolution: In-Depth Security Perspective'.


The video of the talk is embedded below and the slides are available here.



An article on similar topic by Anand Prasad, et al. is also available on 3GPP website here.


Related posts and articles:

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Theoretical Throughput Calculation of FDD 5G New Radio (NR)


A nice video by Peter Clarke on 5G NR throughput calculation for FDD. Right now it's only in the video form but will hopefully be available as a tool on his excellent website here. A tool for 4G throughput calculation is available here.




Related Links:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Can KaiOS accelerate the transition from 2G / 3G to 4G?


The GSMA Mobile Economy 2018 report forecasts that 2G will still be around in 2025 and the dominant technology will be 3G in Africa. GSMA Intelligence Global Mobile Trends highlighted similar numbers but North Africa was missing in that report. As you can see in the picture below, 3G devices will make up 62% of the total number of devices in Sub-Saharan Africa and 37% in MENA.

Similar information was provided by Navindran Naidoo, Executive, Network Planning & Design, MTN Group in TIP Summit 2017 and Babak Fouladi, Technology and Information System (Group CTIO) , MTN Group in TIP Summit 2018. In fact Babak had a slide that showed 3G devices would make up 61%  of total devices in 2025 in Africa. Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO, MTN Group said at AfricaCom 2018 that Africa lags 7 years behind the Western countries in mobile technologies. Though this may not be universally true, its nevertheless a fact in many areas of the Continent as can be seen from the stats.

In my blog post "2G / 3G Switch Off: A Tale of Two Worlds", I said operators in many developing countries that maybe forced to switch off a technology would rather switch 3G off as they have a big base of 2G users and 3G devices can always fall back on 2G.

So what are the main reasons so many users are still on 2G devices or feature phones? Here are some that I can think off the top of my head:
  • Hand-me-downs
  • Cheap and affordable
  • Given as a gift (generally because its cheap and affordable)
  • 2G has better coverage than 3G and 4G in many parts of the world
  • Second/Third device, used as backup for voice calls
  • Most importantly - battery can last for a long time
This last point is important for many people across different parts of the world. In many developing countries electricity is at a premium. Many villages don't have electricity and people have to take a trip to a market or another village to get their phones charged. This is an expensive process. (Interesting article on this here and here). In developed countries, many schools do not allow smartphones. In many cases, the kids have a smartphone switched off in their bag or left at home. For parents to keep in touch, these kids usually have a feature phone too. 

While all feature phones that were available until couple of years ago were 2G phones, things have been changing recently. In an earlier tweet I mentioned that Reliance Jio has become a world leader in feature phones:


I also wrote about Jio phone 2 launch, which is still selling very well. So what is common between Jio phones and Nokia 8110 4G, a.k.a. Banana phone

They both use a new mobile operating system called KaiOS. So what is KaiOS?

KaiOS originates from the Firefox OS open-source project which started in 2011 and has continued independently from Mozilla since 2016. Today, KaiOS is a web-based operating system that enables a new category of lite phones and other IoT devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through leading apps and services. KaiOS is a US-based company with additional offices in France, Germany, Taiwan, India, Brazil, Hong Kong, and mainland China. You can find a list of KaiOS powered devices here. In fact you can see the specifications of all the initial devices using KaiOS here.

Here is a video that explains why we need KaiOS:



There are couple of really good blog posts by Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS:

There is so much information in both these articles that I will have to copy and paste the entire articles to do them justice. Instead, I want to embed the presentation that Sebastien delivered at AfricaCom below:



I like the term 'smart feature phone' to distinguish between the smartphones and old dumb feature phones.

Finally, it should be mentioned that some phone manufacturers are using older version of Android to create a feature phone. One such phone is "Reinvent iMi" that is being billed as 'Slimmest Smart 3G Feature Phone' in India. It uses Android 4.1. See details here. Would love to find out more about its battery life in practice.

My only small concern is about security of old Android OS. As Android is extensively used, new vulnerabilities keep getting discovered all the time. Google patches them in newer versions of the software or sometimes releases a separate patch. All updates to the Android OS stops after 3 years. This means that older versions of Android can be hacked quite easily. See here for example.

Anyway, feature phones or 'smart feature phones' are here to stay. Better on 4G than on 2G.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Automated 4G / 5G HetNet Design


I recently heard Iris Barcia, COO of Keima speak after nearly 6 years at Cambridge Wireless CWTEC 2018. The last time I heard her, it was part of CW Small Cells SIG, where I used to be a SIG (special interest group) champion. Over the last 6 years, the network planning needs have changed from planning for coverage to planning for capacity from the beginning. This particular point started a little debate that I will cover in another post, but you can sneak a peek here ðŸ˜‰.

Embedded below is the video and presentation. The slides can be downloaded from SlideShare.





Related posts:

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Summary and Analysis of Ericsson Mobility Report 2018

Ericsson Mobility reports always make a fantastic reading. Its been a while since I wrote anything on this topic so I thought lets summarize it and also provide my personal analysis. Please feel free to disagree as this is just a blog post.

Before we start, the official site for the report is here. You can jump directly to the PDF here. Ericsson will also be holding a webinar on this topic on 19 June, you can register here.

A short summary of some of the highlights are in the table above but lets look at more in detail.

Mobile subscriptions 



  • The total number of mobile subscriptions was around 7.9 billion in Q1 2018.
  • There are now 5.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions.
  • Global subscription penetration in Q1 2018 was 104 percent.
  • The number of LTE subscriptions increased by 210 million during the quarter to reach a total of 2.9 billion.
  • Over the same period, GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions declined by 90 million. Other technologies declined by around 32 million.
  • Subscriptions associated with smartphones now account for around 60 percent of all mobile phone subscriptions.

Many things to note above. There is still a big part of the world which is unconnected and most of the connectivity being talked about is population based coverage. While GSM/EDGE-only subscriptions are declining, many smartphone users are still camped on to GSM/EDGE for significant time.

While smartphones are growing, feature phones are not far behind. Surprisingly, Reliance Jio has become a leader of 4G feature phones.

My analysis from the developing world shows that many users are getting a GSM feature phone as a backup for when smartphone runs out of power.


Mobile subscriptions worldwide outlook


  • 1 billion 5G subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband by the end of 2023, accounting for 12 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • LTE subscriptions continues to grow strongly and is forecast to reach 5.5 billion by the end of 2023
  • In 2023, there will be 8.9 billion mobile subscriptions, 8.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions and 6.1 billion unique mobile subscribers.
  • The number of smartphone subscriptions is forecast to reach 7.2 billion in 2023.

The report describes "A 5G subscription is counted as such when associated with a device that supports NR as specified in 3GPP Release 15, connected to a 5G-enabled network." which is a good approach but does not talk about 5G availability. My old question (tweet below) on "How many 5G sites does an operator have to deploy so that they can say they have 5G?" is still waiting for an answer.


5G device outlook



  • First 5G data-only devices are expected from the second half of 2018.
  • The first 3GPP smartphones supporting 5G are expected in early 2019.
  • From 2020, when third-generation chipsets will be introduced, large numbers of 5G devices are forecast.
  • By 2023, 1 billion 5G devices for enhanced mobile broadband are expected to be connected worldwide.

Qualcomm has made a good progress (video) on this front and there are already test modems available for 5G. I wont be surprised with the launch. It would remain to be seen what will be the price point and demand for these 5G data-only devices. The Register put it quite bluntly about guinea pigs here. I am also worried about the misleading 5G claims (see here).


Voice over LTE (VoLTE) outlook



  • At the end of 2017, VoLTE subscriptions exceeded 610 million.
  • The number of VoLTE subscriptions is projected to reach 5.4 billion by the end of 2023.
  • VoLTE technology will be the foundation for enabling 5G voice calls.
  • New use cases in a 5G context are being explored, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Back in 2011, I suggested the following (tweet below)
Looks like things haven't changed significantly. There are still many low end devices that do not support VoLTE and many operators dont support VoLTE on BYOD. VoLTE has been much harder than everyone imagined it to be.


Mobile subscriptions worldwide by region



  • Globally, mobile broadband subscriptions now make up 68 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
  • 5G subscriptions will be available in all regions in 2023.
  • In 2023, 48 percent of subscriptions in North America and 34 percent in North East Asia are expected to be for 5G.

I think that for some regions these predictions may be a bit optimistic. Many operators are struggling with finance and revenue, especially as the pricing going down due to intense competition. It would be interesting to see how these numbers hold up next year.

While China has been added to North-East Asia, it may be a useful exercise to separate it. Similarly Middle East should be separated from Africa as the speed of change is going to be significantly different.


Mobile data Traffic Growth and Outlook

  • In Q1 2018, mobile data traffic grew around 54 percent year-on-year.
  • The quarter-on-quarter growth was around 11 percent.
  • In 2023, 20 percent of mobile data traffic will be carried by 5G networks.
  • North America has the highest monthly usage of mobile data per smartphone at 7.2 gigabytes (GB), anticipated to increase to 49GB in 2023.
  • Total mobile data traffic is expected to increase by nearly eight times by the end of 2023.
  • In 2023, 95 percent of total mobile data traffic is expected to be generated by smartphones, increasing from 85 percent today.
  • North East Asia has the largest share of mobile data traffic – set to reach 25EB per month in 2023.

This is one of the toughest areas of prediction as there are a large number of factors affecting this from pricing to devices and applications.

Quiz question: Do you remember which year did data traffic overtake voice traffic? Answer here (external link to avoid spoilers)


Mobile traffic by application category



  • In 2023, video will account for around 73 percent of mobile data traffic.
  • Traffic from social networking is also expected to rise – increasing by 31 percent annually over the next 6 years.
  • The relative share of social networking traffic will decline over the same period, due to the stronger growth of video.
  • Streaming videos in different resolutions can impact data traffic consumption to a high degree. Watching HD video (720p) rather than standard resolution video (480p) typically doubles the data traffic volume, while moving to full HD (1080p) doubles it yet again.
  • Increased streaming of immersive video formats would also impact data traffic consumption.

It would have been interesting if games were a separate category. Not sure if it has been lumped with Video/Audio or in Other segments.


IoT connections outlook


  • The number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 3.5 billion in 2023. This is almost double our last forecast, due to ongoing large-scale deployments in China.
  • Of the 3.5 billion cellular IoT connections forecast for 2023, North East Asia is anticipated to account for 2.2 billion.
  • New massive cellular IoT technologies, such as NB-IoT and Cat-M1, are taking off and driving growth in the number of cellular IoT connections.
  • Mobile operators have commercially launched more than 60 cellular IoT networks worldwide using Cat-M1 and NB-IoT.

It is important to look at the following 2 definitions though.

Short-range IoT: Segment that largely consists of devices connected by unlicensed radio technologies, with a typical range of up to 100 meters, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. This category also includes devices connected over fixed-line local area networks and powerline technologies

Wide-area IoT: Segment consisting of devices using cellular connections, as well as unlicensed low-power technologies, such as Sigfox and LoRa

The Wide-area IoT in the table above includes cellular IoT. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I think LoRa has a bright future and my belief is that this report ignores some of the reasons behind the popularity of LoRa and its growth story. 


Network coverage

  • In 2023, more than 20 percent of the world’s population will be covered by 5G.
  • 5G is expected to be deployed first in dense urban areas to support enhanced mobile broadband.
  • Another early use case for 5G will be fixed wireless access.
  • Today, 3GPP cellular networks cover around 95 percent of the world’s population.

A lot of work needs to be done in this area to improve coverage in rural and remote locations.

I will leave this post at this point. The report also contains details on Network Evolution, Network Performance, Smart Manufacturing, etc. You can read it from the report.