Showing posts with label Satellite Communications. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Satellite Communications. Show all posts

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Summary of #CWTEC 2019 Conference: 5G, Satellites & Magic MIMO

I was involved in helping organise yet another CW TEC conference this year. The topic was quite interesting and we had some brilliant speakers. Some of the excellent presentations were shared too, links below. Here is a very quick summary of the event, linking also to couple of excellent summaries below.

The topic was a bit unusual and it rhymed very well with the attendees which were from many different backgrounds, from 5G, communications, satellites, electronics, T&M companies, etc. Here is the opening video that will show you the motivations behind this



The day started with a breakfast briefing from Cambridge Consultants that looked at how Massive MIMO is the key to unlocking 5G User Experiences. Presentations available here.


Session 1 was titled "What has Massive MIMO ever done for us?". The narrative for the session was as follows:
Clearly the desire for more and more capacity in cellular networks has driven the industry to find more and more novel techniques. The work done over the years and boosted by Tom Marzetta’s article titled “Noncooperative Cellular Wireless with Unlimited Numbers of Base Station Antennas” has set high expectations for this emergent technology, so much so the term Magic MIMO has been coined. However, how significant is it into today’s early 5G rollout and what can we expect over the coming years? Are there still further enhancements we should expect to see?

There were 3 talks as follows:
  • Sync Architectures for 5G NR by Chris Farrow, Technical Manager, Chronos Technology (slides)
  • Three UK’s RAN transformation: Spectrum, RAN architecture strategy, Why? by Dr Erol Hepsaydir, Head of RAN and Devices Strategy and Architecture, Three UK (slides)
  • Active antenna systems in RAN: performance, challenges and evolution by Anvar Tukmanov, Wireless Research Manager, BT (slides)


Session 2 looked at "Non-Terrestrial & Hybrid Networks". The narrative for the session was as follows:
There are different initiatives underway to make satellite and other non-terrestrial networks as part of 5G. In addition, many different mobile operators have demonstrated compelling use-cases with drones, balloons and other aerostats. Other innovative approaches like European Aviation Network uses a hybrid-network using terrestrial network supported by a satellite connection as a backhaul for in-flight Wi-Fi. In addition to latency, what other challenges are stopping mass adoption of Non-terrestrial and Hybrid networks? What about advanced features like slicing, etc.?

There were 3 talks as follows:

  • Opportunities for blending terrestrial and satellite technologies by Dr Jaime Reed, Director, Consulting, Space, Defence and Intelligence, CGI (slides)
  • Non-terrestrial Networks: Standardization in 5G NR by Dr Yinan Qi, Senior 5G Researcher, Samsung R&D Institute UK (slides)
  • Satellites and 5G: A satellite operator’s perspective by Simon Watts, Principal Consultant, Avanti Communications (slides)


Session 3 looked at "5G: A Catalyst for Network Transformation". The narrative was as follows:
5G has set high expectations in the user as well as operator community. While eMBB can be supported with an upgrade of existing 4G infrastructure, URLLC and mMTC may require massive change in the network architecture. Operators have already started the transformation process with backhaul upgrades, new data centers, distributed core and cloud rollouts, etc. How are networks evolving to accommodate these deep changes? What other changes will be required in the network to support the growth until the next new generation arrives?
This session featured 3 talks as well
  • An Introduction to Open RAN Concept by Zahid Ghadialy, Senior Director, Strategic Marketing, Parallel Wireless UK & EMEA (slides)
  • Powering the successful deployment of 5G infrastructure by David George, Vice President of EMEA and APAC, Sitetracker (slides)
  • The 5G transformation: no sweet without sweat by Antonella Faniuolo, Head of Network Strategy, Planning, Digital & Optimisation, Vodafone (slides)


The final session topic was "Getting ready for Beyond-5G Era". The narrative was as follows:
Many technologies like Full duplex, etc. that were originally intended to be part of 5G were not able to make it into the standards. Along with these, what other revolutionary changes are needed to make Beyond-5G technologies not only fulfil the vision, ambition and use-cases that were originally envisaged for 5G but to take it a step further and make it a game changer.
This session featured 3 talks as well, as follows:
  • Thinking Beyond 5G: Projects and Initiatives by Alan Carlton, Vice President, InterDigital Europe (slides not available)
  • 5G Evolution: Progressive enhancement and new features for new markets by Matthew Baker, Head of Radio Physical Layer and Coexistence Standardization, Nokia (slides)
  • Why 6G’s design goals need far more than just radio & core innovation by Dean Bubley, Analyst & Futurist, Disruptive Analysis (slides not available)
And my personal highlight was that I launched World's first coloured 5G tie


Hopefully you found the presentations shared as useful. Please also read the summaries of CWTEC provided below.


Related Articles:

Monday, 5 August 2019

An Introduction to Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN)


I made a short introductory tutorial explaining what is meant by Non-Terrestrial Networks. There is is lot of work on this that is planned for Release-17. Slides and video below.






Related Posts:

Friday, 1 June 2018

An Alternative 5G for Rural Communities


I recently presented my personal vision of an alternative 5G for rural communities on behalf of Parallel Wireless at the IEEE 5G Summit in Glasgow. I believe that the next few years are going to be crucial for MNOs to decide if they want to cover the rural areas or just continue to focus on built-up areas.

In some cases it may not really be worthwhile for example for a smaller operator to build a cellular IoT network as the returns may not be worth the effort and investment.

I should mention that the caveat is that a lot of alternative 5G approach in my presentation depends on at least one of the satellite megaconstellations being successfully deployed and being fully operational. I am assuming a sensible pricing would be in place anyway as the satellite operators cant keep charging whatever they want for ever.

So here is my alternative 5G vision


Slides (and pictures) are available here for anyone interested. For my slides, jump to page 244. Quite a few other good presentations on 5G too.

An article in EE times summarises this IEEE 5G conference quite well. Available here.



Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Satellites & Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) in 5G


Satellites has been an area of interest of mine for a while as some of you know that I used to work as Satellite Applications & Services Programme manager at techUK. I have written about how I see satellites complementing the mobile networks here and here.

Its good to see that there is some activity in 3GPP going on about satellites & Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) in 5G. While there are some obvious roles that satellites can play (see pic above), the 5G work is looking to cover a lot more topics in details.

3GPP TR 38.913: Study on scenarios and requirements for next generation access technologies looks at 12 different scenarios, the ones relevant to this topic ate Air to ground, Light aircraft and Satellite to terrestrial.
3GPP TR 38.811: Study on New Radio (NR) to support non terrestrial networks (Release 15) covers this topic a bit more in detail. From looking at how satellites and other aerial networks work in general, it looks at the different NTN architecture options as can be seen above.
People looking to study this area in detail should probably start looking at this TR first.

3GPP also released a news item on this topic last week. It also refers to the above TR and a new one for Release 16. The following from 3GPP news:

The roles and benefits of satellites in 5G have been studied in 3GPP Release 14, leading to the specific requirement to support satellite access being captured in TS 22.261 - “Service requirements for next generation new services and markets; Stage 1”, recognizing the added value that satellite coverage brings, as part of the mix of access technologies for 5G, especially for mission critical and industrial applications where ubiquitous coverage is crucial.

Satellites refer to Spaceborne vehicles in Low Earth Orbits (LEO), Medium Earth Orbits (MEO), Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) or in Highly Elliptical Orbits (HEO).

Beyond satellites, Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) refer to networks, or segments of networks, using an airborne or spaceborne vehicle for transmission. Airborne vehicles refer to High Altitude Platforms (HAPs) encompassing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - including tethered UAS, Lighter than Air UAS and Heavier than Air UAS - all operating at altitude; typically between 8 and 50 km, quasi-stationary.

These Non-terrestrial networks feature in TSG RAN’s TR 38.811 “Study on NR to support non-terrestrial networks”. They will:
  • Help foster the 5G service roll out in un-served or underserved areas to upgrade the performance of terrestrial networks
  • Reinforce service reliability by providing service continuity for user equipment or for moving platforms (e.g. passenger vehicles-aircraft, ships, high speed trains, buses)
  • Increase service availability everywhere; especially for critical communications, future railway/maritime/aeronautical communications
  • Enable 5G network scalability through the provision of efficient multicast/broadcast resources for data delivery towards the network edges or even directly to the user equipment


The objective of TR 38.811 is to study channel models, to define the deployment scenarios as well as the related system parameters and to identify and assess potential key impact areas on the NR. In a second phase, solutions for the identified key impacts on RAN protocols/architecture will be evaluated and defined.

A second study item, the “Study on using Satellite Access in 5G” is being addressed in Working Group SA1.  It shall lead to the delivery of the corresponding Technical Report TR 22.822 as part of Release 16.

This study will identify use cases for the provision of services when considering the integration of 5G satellite-based access components in the 5G system. When addressing the integration of (a) satellite component(s), use cases will identify new potential requirements for 5G systems addressing:
  • The associated identification of existing / planned services and the corresponding modified or new requirements
  • The associated identification of new services and the corresponding requirements
  • The requirements on set-up / configuration / maintenance of the features of UE’s when using satellite components related features as well for other components from the 5G system
  • Regulatory requirements when moving to (or from) satellite from (or to) terrestrial networks

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Satellite Industry is Gearing up for The Next Revolution in Communications

Intelsat graphic
Source: Intelsat
I have been talking about the role of satellites in future communications on my blog and various industry fora. While most of the telecom industry is focused on 5G, it’s good to see that the satellite industry is getting ready for the next revolution.

Source: New York Times
Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank has made it his mission to merge satellite operators Intelsat and OneWeb. While on the surface they may seem as competitors, in reality they complement each other. Intelsat operates geostationary (GEO) satellites while OneWeb is building low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. They both serve overlapping but different purposes and it makes sense for them to work together. LEO satellites which are roughly at 1200km have far lower latency than compared to GEO satellites that are 36,000km away. On the other hand LEO satellites do not appear stationary unlike GEO satellites.

We in CW are already aware of Masayoshi Son’s ambition and vision. Last year Softbank acquired ARM for approximately £24 billion. In a recent keynote delivered at the Mobile World Congress 2017 (#MWC17), Son explained his vision and reasoning for this purchase. In fact he mentioned that he has a 30 year vision which is why he thinks ‘cell towers from space’ are the next step in evolution. While he refers to them as fiber from the space, I wouldn’t go that far in comparison but do admit they have the potential to deliver high speed connectivity anywhere on earth.

The most obvious application of high speed connectivity ubiquitously available anywhere on earth are connected cars. While there is Wi-Fi to provide connectivity and software updates when parked at home, it will be complemented by mobile connectivity within the cities and the major roads. What is missing is anywhere and everywhere connectivity that the satellites can bring.

The big barrier for satellite connectivity in the cars had been the need for satellite dish mounted on the top of a car roof. Kymeta, an innovative company based in Washington, USA has been trying for years to solve this problem. In May, they will start selling  their “lightweight flat-panel antennas, meant to bring fast satellite-transmitted internet connections to cars, trains and boats”.

Source: Seattle Times
Kymeta is partnering with Toyota and Intelsat to bring a complete solution for future connectivity in the cars. They are not the only ones, there are other similar interesting projects ongoing in many different parts of the world.


The telecom industry cannot ignore satellite communications forever. Satellites have already proved themselves beyond doubt in broadcasting, navigation, earth observation, etc. It’s just a matter of time before they prove their while in communications as well.

Originally Posted on CW Blog here.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Some more thoughts on 5G

5G is often seen as a panacea for everything that is imperfect in mobile technology. Any issues with coverage, capacity, connectivity and speed are all expected to be solved with the arrival of 5G. While I don’t think we will be able to solve all the issues on the table, 5G will hopefully resolve quite a few of them.

Back in June I did an interview with the organizers of 5G World Series where I expressed my views for the questions that were posed to me. You can see this interview below.


Now that I have had time to think about the questions, here are a bit more detailed thoughts. As always, feedback, comments & suggestions welcome


Q: What will network architecture look like in the 5G era?

I have long argued that 5G will not be a single technology but a combination of multiple old and new technologies. You will often find various terms like Multi-stream Aggregation (MSA), Opportunistic Aggregation and Multi-connectivity being used to explain this. Not only will 2G, 3G and 4G have a role to play, Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies would be a part of 5G too.

I have had many discussions on this topic with respected analysts and many of them agree.
One of the approaches being proposed for the initial version of 5G is the non-standalone version of 5G which will use LTE as the control plane anchor and new 5G radio for user plane. Not only will this be easier to deploy along with the existing LTE network, it would be faster and hopefully less costly.

Q: To what extent is 5G dependent on virtualization?

Networks and Network Functions are progressively being virtualized, independently of 5G. Having said that, virtualization will play a big role in achieving the 5G architecture. Mobile operators can’t be expected to keep paying for proprietary hardware; virtualization would help with cost reduction and quick deployments.

Network slicing for instance will help partition the network for different requirements, on the fly depending on what is going on at any particular time.

Related post: 5G, NFV and Network Slicing


Q: What is your view on the interplay between standards and open-source developments?

Standards enable cost reduction by achieving economy of scale whereas open-source development enable innovation and quick deployment. They are both needed and they will willingly or unwillingly co-exist.


Q: What do you see as the 3 greatest technical uncertainties or challenges on route to 5G?

While there are many known and unknown challenges with 5G, some obvious ones that we can see are:

  • Spectrum identification and harmonization.
  • Getting to the right architecture which is backward compatible and future proof, without making it too complex
  • SON – Once you have everything in place you have to make many different parts of the network work together with different kinds of loads and traffic. SON will play a crucial role here.


Q: What would 5G actually mean for consumers, business and IoT? / What will 5G allow me to do that I can’t right now with 4G?

There are a lot of interesting use cases being discussed like remote operations and remote controlled cars but most of them do not represent the general consumers and some of them are just gimmicks.

NGMN - 5G Use case families and related examples

I really like the NGMN whitepaper that laid out some simple use cases.

If done properly, 5G will allow:

  • Simplification of the network resulting in low latency – this means that your content will load faster and the delay between requests and responses are small. 
  • Reasonable speed broadband everywhere - This will also depend on the operators’ rollouts plan but different technologies in 5G network would (should) enable a good speed reliable broadband not just in the middle of the cell but also on the edges. In fact, the concept of edges should be looked at in 5G and a solution to avoid data rates falling off should be found.
  • Connectivity on the move – Whether we are talking about connectivity in trains/buses or from public safety point of view, it is important to define group connectivity, direct communications, etc.


Q: What will set companies apart in the development of 5G?

The days of vendor lock-ins are over. What will set companies apart is their willingness to be open to working with other companies by having open API’s and interfaces. Operator networks will include solutions from many different vendors. For them to be quick to bring innovative solutions to the market, they need vendors to work together rather than against each other.


Q: There is a lot of talk about the vision for 2020. What do you think the world will look like in terms of connectivity in 2030?

It would be fair to say that by 2030, connectivity would have reached a completely new dimension. One of the big areas of development that is being ignored by mainstream mobile community is the development of satellite communications. There are many low earth orbit (LEO) constellations and high-throughput satellites (HTS) being developed. These LEO and HTS combination can provide high speed connectivity with 4G like latency and high throughputs for planes/ships which cannot be served by ground based mobile technology. Broadband access everywhere will only become a reality with satellite technology complementing mobile technology.

Related Post: The role of satellites in 5G world

Disclaimer: This blog is maintained in my personal capacity and this post expresses my own personal views, not the views of my employer or anyone else. 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The role of satellites in 5G world

While many of us have been focussing purely on wireless and mobile / 5G, the coverage and capacity provided by satellites is increasing and is set to dramatically transform connectivity in hard to reach places, not only in land but also in air and sea.

In one of my roles, I get to see some of these developments happening in the satellite world. Here are some of the recent things that I have learned.

In a recent presentation by Intelsat (embedded below), they showed how we will have a truly high throughput global coverage with the help of GEO and LEO satellites. Depending on the applications, they can take advantage of either or both. Ubiquitously connected cars, planes, trains, ships and other vehicles will soon be a reality. See their presentation below:



Intelsat is not the only operator innovating and coming up with some amazing solutions.

Viasat is another operator who will be launching one of the highest capacity HTS (High Throughput Satellite). See their presentation here and here.


Eutelsat on the other hand is trying something that has not been done before. Their Quantum class satellites will be creating and modifying the beams dynamically to provide coverage whenever and wherever needed. See their presentation here.

These are just a few examples, there are many other operators I have not mentioned here. Most of them have some sort of ambitious plan which will be there before 2020.

So what role will these satellites play in the 5G world? We will look at this question in the Satellite Applications & Services Conference in October but I am interested in hearing your thoughts. 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

ADS-B to enable global flight tracking


One of the things that the World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15) enabled was to provide a universal spectrum allocation for flight tracking. What this means in simple terms is that once completely implemented, flights will hopefully no longer be lost, like MH370. It will now be possible to accurately track flights with satellites across nearly 100% of the globe, up from 30% today, by 2018.

To make you better understand this, see this video below:


Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) is a surveillance technique in which aircraft automatically provide, via a data link, data derived from on-board navigation and position-fixing systems, including aircraft identification, four-dimensional position and additional data as appropriate. ADS data is displayed to the controller on a screen that replicates a radar screen. ICAO Doc 4444 PANS-ATM notes that air traffic control service, may be predicated on the use of ADS provided that identification of the aircraft involved is unambiguously established. Two main versions of ADS are currently in use:

  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a function on an aircraft or surface vehicle that broadcasts position, altitude, vector and other information for use by other aircraft, vehicles and by ground facilities. It has become the main application of the ADS principle.
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Contract (ADS-C) functions similarly to ADS-B but the data is transmitted based on an explicit contract between an ANSP and an aircraft. This contract may be a demand contract, a periodic contract, an event contract and/or an emergency contract. ADS-C is most often employed in the provision of ATS over transcontinental or transoceanic areas which see relatively low traffic levels. 

The ITU press release on this topic:

The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz has been allocated to the aeronautical mobile-satellite service (Earth-to-space) for reception by space stations of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emissions from aircraft transmitters.

The frequency band 1087.7-1092.3 MHz is currently being utilized for the transmission of ADS-B signals from aircraft to terrestrial stations within line-of-sight. The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has now allocated this frequency band in the Earth-to-space direction to enable transmissions from aircraft to satellites. This extends ADS-B signals beyond line-of-sight to facilitate reporting the position of aircraft equipped with ADS-B anywhere in the world, including oceanic, polar and other remote areas.

WRC-15 recognized that as the standards and recommended practices (SARP) for systems enabling position determination and tracking of aircraft are developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the performance criteria for satellite reception of ADS-B signals will also need to be addressed by ICAO.

This agreement follows the disappearance and tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 in March 2014 with 239 people on board, which spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action by ITU and other relevant organizations.

For more details see: globalflightsafety.org

Monday, 9 November 2015

5G and Evolution of the Inter-connected Network


While there are many parameters to consider when designing the next generation network, speed is the simplest one to understand and sell to the end user.

Last week, I did a keynote at the International Telecom Sync Forum (ITSF) 2015. As an analyst keynote, I looked at how the networks are evolving and getting more complex, full of interesting options and features available for the operator to decide which ones to select.

There wont just be multiple generations of technologies existing at the same time but there will also be small cells based networks, macro networks, drones and balloons based networks and satellite based networks.

My presentation is embedded below. For any reason, if you want to download it, please fill the form at the bottom of this page and download.



Just after my keynote, I came across this news in Guardian about 'Alphabet and Facebook develop rival secret drone plans'; its an interesting read. As you may be aware Google is actively working with Sri Lanka and Indonesia for providing seamless internet access nationally.


It was nice to hear EE provide the second keynote which focused on 5G. I especially liked this slide which summarised their key 5G research areas. Their presentation is embedded below and available to download from slideshare.




The panel discussion was interesting as well. As the conference focused on timing and synchronisation, the questions were on those topics too. I have some of them below, interested to hear your thoughts:

  • Who cares about syncing the core? - Everything has moved to packets, the only reason for sync is to coordinate access points in wireless for higher level services. We have multiple options to sync the edge, why bother to sync the core at all?
  • We need synchronisation to improve the user’s experience right? - Given the ever improving quality of the time-bases embedded within equipment, what exactly would happen to the user experience if synchronisation collapsed… or is good sync all about operators experience?
  • IoT… and the impact on synchronisation- can we afford it? - M2M divisions of network operators make a very small fraction of the operator’s revenue, is that going to change and will it allow the required investment in sync technology that it might require?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Updates from the 3GPP RAN 5G Workshop - Part 3

Continuing with the updates from 5G RAN workshop, part 1 and part 2 here.
Dish network wants to have a satellite based 5G network. A recent article from Light Reading shows the following:

Dish states that there are misconceptions about what satellite technology can deliver for 5G networks. Essentially Dish says that satellites will be capable of delivering two-way communications to support 5G.

A hybrid ground and space 5G network would use small satellites that each use a "spot beam" to provide a dedicated area of two-way coverage on the ground. This is different than the old model of using one satellite with a single beam to provide a one-way service like a TV broadcast over a landmass.

Dish argues that newer, smaller satellites, equipped with the latest multi-antenna arrays (MIMO) would allow for "ubiquitous connectivity through hybrid satellite and terrestrial networks," the operator writes. In this model, satellites could connect areas that it would be hard to network otherwise like mountains and lakes.

The presentation from Dish is as follows:



Alcatel-Lucent provided a whitepaper along with the presentation. The paper provides an interesting view of 5G from their point of view. Its embedded below:



The presentation from Kyocera focused on TD-LTE which I think will play a prominent role in 5G. In case of wide channels, TD-LTE can help predict the channel accurately, which is a drawback for FDD at high frequencies. Their presentation is available here.

The presentation from NEC focussed on different technologies that will play a role in 5G. Their presentation is available here.
The final presentation we will look at this time is by the South Korean operator, KT. What is interesting to see is that in the part 1 we saw in the chairman's summary that 5G will come in two phases; Rel-15 will be phase 1 and Rel-16 will be phase 2. In the summary slide in KT's presentation, it looks like they are going to consider Rel-14 as 5G. Its not at all surprising considering that Verizon has said that they want to commercialise 5G by 2017, even though 5G will not be fully specified according to 3GPP by then. Anyway, here is the presentation by KT.



Sunday, 16 August 2015

Challenges in the future 'Network of Networks'

Came across this paper from Dec. 2000 recently. Its interesting to see that even back then researchers were thinking about multiple networks that a user can have access to via handovers. Researchers nowadays think about how to access as many networks as possible simultaneously. I call is Multi-stream aggregation (MSA), some others call it Multi-RAT Carrier Aggregation (MCA) and so on.

If we look at the different access technologies, each has its own evolution in the coming years. Some of these are:

  • Fixed/Terrestrial broadband: (A)DSL, Cable, Fiber
  • Mobile Broadband: 3G, 4G and soon 5G
  • Wireless Broadband: WiFi
  • Laser communications
  • LiFi or LED based communications
  • High frequency sound based communications 
Then there could be a combination of multiple technologies working simultaneously. For example:
And the handover has to be seamless between different access technologies. For example:

There has been an interest in moving on to higher frequencies. These bands can be used for access as well as backhaul. The same applies for most of the access technologies listed above which can work as a backhaul to enable other access technologies.

While planned networks would be commonplace, other topologies like mesh network will gain ground too. Device to device and direct communications will help create ad-hoc networks.

While the current networks are mostly stationary, mobile networks will also become common. Opportunity Driven Multiple Access (ODMA) or Multihop Cellular Networks (MCN) would help devices use other devices to reach their destination. Non-standardised proprietary solutions (for example Firechat) will become common too. Security, Privacy and Trust will play an important role here.

Satellite networks, the truly global connectivity providers will play an important role too. While backhauling the small cells on planes, trains and ships will be an important part of satellite networks, they may be used for access too. Oneweb plans to launch 900 micro satellites to provide high speed global connectivity. While communications at such high frequencies mean that small form factor devices like mobile cant receive the signals easily, connected cars could use the satellite connectivity very well.

Samsung has an idea to provide connectivity through 4,600 satellites to be able to transmit 200GB monthly to 5 Billion people worldwide. While this is very ambitious, its not the only innovative and challenging idea. I am sure we all now about the Google loon. Facebook on the other hand wants to use a solar powered drone (UAV) to offer free internet access services to users who cannot get online.

As I mentioned, security and privacy will be a big challenge for devices being able to connect to multiple access networks and other devices. An often overlooked challenge is the timing and sync between different networks. In an ideal world all these networks would be phase and time synchronised to each other so as not to cause interference but in reality this will be a challenging task, especially with ad-hoc and moing networks.



I will be giving a keynote at the ITSF 2015 in November at Edinburgh. This is a different type of conference that looks at Time and Synchronisation aspects in Telecoms. While I will be providing a generic overview on where the technologies are moving (continuing from my presentation in Phase ready conference), I am looking forward to hearing about these challenges and their solutions in this conference.

Andy Sutton (Principal Network Architect) and Martin Kingston (Principal Designer) with EE have shared some of their thought on this topic which is as follows and available to download here.



Sunday, 21 June 2015

Broadband Access via Integrated Terrestrial & Satellite Systems


Last week I attended an event in the University of Surrey that was about providing high speed connectivity to un-served and under-served areas in future. While there is no arguing that satellites are a great option for unserved areas, the underserved areas can really benefit by such initiatives.


The way this is being proposed is to have a specialised Intelligent User Gateway (IUG) that can connect to ADSL, Mobile and Satellite. The assumption is that in areas of poor conectivity, ADSL can provide 2Mbps and the mobile could do something similar, upto 8Mbps. The satellites can easily do 20Mbps.

While the satellite broadband has the advantage of high speeds, they often suffer from high latencies. ADSL on the other hand has very small latency but may not be good enough for streaming kind of applications. Mobile generally falls in between for latency and speed. Using Multipath TCP and some intelligent routing algorithms, decisions can be taken to optimise for latency and speeds.

I did see some impressive demo's in the lab and it did what is says on the tin. The real challenge would be the business models. While ADSL can offer unlimited internet, both Mobile and Satellite broadband will have caps. I was told that limits could be imposed so that once the Mobile/Satellite data allowance is over, only ADSL would be used. Maybe a more complex algorithm could be implemented in future that can include cost and priority of the application/service being used.

An example would be that sometimes I want to watch some long videos over Youtube but I am happy to start buffering an hour in advance. Its not critical that I have to watch that now. I would be more than happy to save my Mobile/Satellite broadband data allowance for some other day when I need to watch things more urgently. If the end of month is coming and I have a lot of data allowance left then maybe I dont mind using the quota otherwise I will anyway lose the allowance. Its always challenging to put this intelligence in the routing decision algorithms though.

Anyway, the combined presentations are embedded below and you can download them from the BATS project page here:



Saturday, 16 May 2015

Smart Homes of the Future and Technologies


Saw the above picture recently on Twitter. While its great to see how connected our future homes and even cities would be, it would be interesting to see what technologies are used for connecting these devices.

Cambridge Wireless had a smart homes event last month, there were some interesting presentations that I have detailed below.


The first of these technologies discussed is LoRa. As can be seen, its billed as ultimate long range (10 mile) and low power (10 year battery lifetime) technology. It uses spread-spectrum making it robust to channel noise. Here is the presentation:




The next technology is Zigbee 3.0. According to Zigbee Alliance:

The new standard unifies ZigBee standards found in tens of millions of devices delivering benefits to consumers today. The ZigBee 3.0 standard enables communication and interoperability among devices for home automation, connected lighting, energy efficiency and other markets so more diverse, fully interoperable solutions can be delivered by product developers and service providers. All device types, commands, and functionality defined in current ZigBee PRO-based standards are available to developers in the new standard.

ZigBee 3.0 defines the widest range of device types including home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliance, security, sensors, and health care monitoring products. It supports both easy-to-use DIY installations as well as professionally installed systems. Based on IEEE 802.15.4, which operates at 2.4 GHz (a frequency available for use around the world), ZigBee 3.0 uses ZigBee PRO networking to enable reliable communication in the smallest, lowest-power devices. Current ZigBee Certified products based on ZigBee Home Automation and ZigBee Light Link are interoperable with ZigBee 3.0. A complete list of standards that have been merged to create ZigBee 3.0 can be seen on the website at www.ZigBee.org.

“The ZigBee Alliance has always believed that true interoperability comes from standardization at all levels of the network, especially the application level which most closely touches the user,” said Tobin J. M. Richardson, President and CEO of the ZigBee Alliance. “Lessons learned by Alliance members when taking products to market around the world have allowed us to unify our application standards into a single standard. ZigBee 3.0 will allow product developers to take advantage of ZigBee’s unique features such as mesh networking and Green Power to deliver highly reliable, secure, low-power, low-cost solutions to any market.”



Finally, we have Bluetooth Smart mesh.

CSRmesh enables Bluetooth® low energy devices not only to receive and act upon messages, but also to repeat those messages to surrounding devices thus extending the range of Bluetooth Smart and turning it into a mesh network for the Internet of Things.



While the CW event was not able to discuss all possible technologies (and believe me there are loads of them), there are other popular contenders. Cellular IoT (CIoT) is one if them. I have blogged about the LTE Cat-0 here and 5G here.

A new IEEE Wi-Fi standard 802.11ah using the 900MHz band has been in works and will solve the need of connectivity for a large number of things over long distances. A typical 802.11ah access point could associate more than 8,000 devices within a range of 1 km, making it ideal for areas with a high concentration of things. The Wi-Fi Alliance is committed to getting this standard ratified soon. With this, Wi-Fi has the potential to become a ubiquitous standard for IoT. See also this article by Frank Rayal on this topic.

Finally, there is SIGFOX. According to their website:

SIGFOX uses a UNB (Ultra Narrow Band) based radio technology to connect devices to its global network. The use of UNB is key to providing a scalable, high-capacity network, with very low energy consumption, while maintaining a simple and easy to rollout star-based cell infrastructure.

The network operates in the globally available ISM bands (license-free frequency bands) and co-exists in these frequencies with other radio technologies, but without any risk of collisions or capacity problems. SIGFOX currently uses the most popular European ISM band on 868MHz (as defined by ETSI and CEPT) as well as the 902MHz in the USA (as defined by the FCC), depending on specific regional regulations.

Communication on SIGFOX is secured in many ways, including anti-replay, message scrambling, sequencing, etc. The most important aspect of transmission security is however that only the device vendors understand the actual data exchanged between the device and the IT systems. SIGFOX only acts as a transport channel, pushing the data towards the customer's IT system.

An important advantage provided by the use of the narrow band technology is the flexibility it offers in terms of antenna design. On the network infrastructure end it allows the use of small and simple antennas, but more importantly, it allows devices to use inexpensive and easily customizable antennas.


Sigfox is also working on project Mustang, a three-year effort to build a hybrid satellite/terrestrial IoT (internet of things) network. According to Rethink Research:

The all-French group also contains aerospace firm Airbus, research institute CEA-Leti and engineering business Sysmeca. The idea is to use Sigfox as the terrestrial data link, with satellite backhaul and connections to planes and boats provided by a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation.
...
The satellite link could be added to either the end devices or the base station, so that if a device was unable to connect to the terrestrial Sigfox network, it could fall back to the satellite.

While the power requirements for this would be prohibitive for ultra-low power, battery-operated devices, for those with a wired power supply and critical availability requirements (such as smart meters, alarms, oil tankers and rigs) the redundancy would be an asset. These devices may transmit small amounts of data but when they do need to communicate, the signal must be assured.

The Sigfox base station could be fitted with a satellite uplink as a primary uplink as well as a redundancy measure in some scenarios where terrestrial network reach cannot be achieved. With a three-year lifecycle, Mustang’s participants are looking to create a seamless global network, and note that the planned dual-mode terrestrial/satellite terminal will enable switching between the two channels in response to resource availability.

The group says that the development of this terminal modem chipset is a priority, with later optimization of the communication protocols being the next step before an application demonstration using an airplane.

The project adds that the full potential of the IoT can only be achieved by offering affordable mobile communications at a global scale and reach. Key to this is adapting existing networks, according to the group, which explains why Sigfox has been chosen – given that the company stresses the affordability of its system.

Well, there are a lots of options available. We just have to wait and see which ones work in what scenarios.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Report on Spectrum Usage and Demand in the UK


Last week at work, we released a report titled "UK Spectrum Usage & Demand". The only time most people hear about spectrum is when there are some auctions going on. Often a small chunk of spectrum gets sold off for billion(s) of dollars/pounds and these surely make a headline. As I recently found out, 50% of spectrum in UK is shared and 25% is license exempt.

Anyway, this first edition of the report focuses on Public Mobile, Utilities, Business Radio and Space/Satellites. Space is becoming an important area of focus here as it is a significant contributor to the UK economy.

Anyway, the report is embedded below and is available to download from here:



Sunday, 15 March 2015

Air-Ground-Air communications in Mission Critical scenarios

In-flight communications have always fascinated me. While earlier the only possibility was to use Satellites, a hot topic for in the last few years has been Air-Ground-Air communications.

Some of you may remember that couple of years back Ericsson showed an example of using LTE in extreme conditions. The video below shows that LTE can work in these scenarios.



Now there are various acronyms being used for these type of communications but the one most commonly used is Direct-Air-to-Ground Communications (DA2GC), Air-to-Ground (A2G) and Ground-to-Air (G2A).


While for short distance communications, LTE or any cellular technology (see my post on Flying Small Cells) may be a good option, a complete solution including communication over sea would require satellite connectivity as well. As I have mentioned in a blog post before, 75Mbps connectivity would soon be possible with satellites.

For those interested in working of the Air-Ground-Air communications, would find the presentation below useful. A much detailed ECC CEPT report from last year is available here.



The next challenge is to explore whether LTE can be used for Mission Critical Air Ground Air communications. 3GPP TSG RAN recently conducted study on the feasibility and the conclusions are as follows:

There is a common understanding from companies interested in the topic that:

  1. Air-to-Ground communications can be provided using the LTE standards (rel-8 and beyond depending on the targeted scenarios).
  2. 3GPP UE RF requirements might need to be adapted
  3. It may be possible to enhance the performance of the communications with some standards changes, but these are in most cases expected to be non-fundamental optimizations
  4. Engineering and implementation adaptations are required depending on the deployment scenario. In particular, the ECC report [1] comments that from implementation point of view synchronization algorithms are to be modified compared to terrestrial mobile radio usage in order to cope with high Doppler frequency shift of the targeted scenario. In addition, some network management adaptations might be needed. From engineering perspective the Ground base station antenna adjustment has to be matched to cover indicated aircraft heights above ground up to 12 km by antenna up-tilt. It is also expected that the inter-site distances would be dominated by the altitudes to be supported [5].
  5. A2G technology using legacy LTE has been studied and successfully trialed covering different kinds of services: Surfing, downloading, e-mail transmission, use of Skype video, audio applications and Video conferencing. Related results can be found in several documents from ECC and from companies [1], [2], [3]. The trials in [1] and [2] assumed in general a dedicated spectrum, and the fact that the communications in the aircraft cabin are using WIFI or GSMOBA standards, while LTE is used for the Broadband Direct-Air-to-Ground connection between the Aircraft station and the Ground base station.
  6. It is understood that it is possible to operate A2G communications over spectrum that is shared with ground communications. However, due to interference it is expected that the ground communications would suffer from capacity losses depending on the deployment scenario. Therefore, it is recommended to operate A2G communication over a dedicated spectrum.
  7. It can be noted that ETSI studies concluded that Spectrum above 6 GHz is not appropriate for such applications [4].
  8. LTE already provides solutions to allow seamless mobility in between cells. Cells can be intended for terrestrial UEs and cells intended for A2G UEs which might operate in different frequencies.
  9. Cell range in LTE is limited by the maximum timing advance (around 100km). Larger ranges could be made possible by means of implementation adaptations.