Showing posts with label Stats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stats. Show all posts

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Mobile Voice Communications is neither Dying, nor Dead!

If you have been following the mobile industry for a long time, you could be forgiven for thinking that voice communications is dead. This 2013 article for example talks about the impending death of voice and this 2018 article talks about how smartphones have killed the art of conversation. These are just examples and I have read many similar articles in the last 5-10 years.

The thing is that a lot of unnecessary calls became SMS and messages once the price of SMS and data went down. Similarly, voice ceased to be a differentiator in many markets so they started offering unlimited voice and/or SMS locally. This does not necessarily solve my requirements for international calling so I moved on to Viber, WeChat and WhatsApp.

The annual TeleGeography Report and Database update (just released) estimates that international over-the-top (OTT) voice traffic reached 1 trillion minutes in 2019, compared to just 432 billion minutes of international carrier traffic.

Anyway, with the lockdown in many countries because of coronavirus COVID-19, people have re-discovered the use of voice communications again. While I prefer having meetings on the internet, sometimes it's just simpler to call using your phone. A friend discovered that while she has some 40 GB data allowance that was generally more than enough, working from home means that she is having to use her device as a hotspot that is using up all her data. Switching from OTT calling to unlimited voice calling in her package means that she doesn't have to worry about voice calls eating her data package.

She is not alone. Operators all over are reporting the rise in voice communications:

  • 27 Mar 2020 - O2 UK reported, "Since March 16th we have seen approximately 57% more voice traffic at the busiest point of the day. Typically voice traffic increases 5% year on year, and in a week we have experienced an increase of voice traffic comparable to nine years of regular demand." (link)
  • 26 Mar 2020 - Official numbers reported by CTIA from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular stated that mobile voice traffic was up 24.3% while mobile data traffic was up 9.2% (see photo above - link)
  • 24 Mar 2020 - Telenor Norwar tweeted, "Traffic has increased sharply since the coronary smith was seriously registered in this country. 50% increase in mobile voice, 25% increase in mobile data and 30-40% increase in fixed broadband"
  • 24 Mar 2020 - T-Mobile USA released some interesting stats including gaming, etc. With regards to voice, their announcement said, "People are talking and texting more. Messaging is up dramatically, with a 26% increase in SMS (texting) and a 77% increase in MMS (pictures, multi-party texts, etc.). And, the amount of time people spend on calls has increased 17% nationwide." (link)
  • 20 Mar 2020 - Telia in Denmark reported, "Thursday, March 12, the volume of speech in the network thus increased by 24% compared to the day before. Over the weekend 50% more was spoken - obviously due to a need to gain status on family and friends in the new situation. In the past working week, about 60% more has been spoken on the phone than on a normal week in March." (translated from original)
Is voice important for an operator? Probably not very much in the developed markets where users pay a good amount for data packages. In developing countries, voice is still a good source of revenue. At the TIP summit last year, Malaysian telecom giant Axiata said that ""every gigabyte costs about $1.40 to manufacture...generates only 80 cents in revenue...The 2G voice business currently funds any losses". This is not a long term sustainable model for these operators.


Funnily I just remembered that in a survey of over 1000 people in the USA regarding what they want from 5G, the third most important thing was "clearer voice quality". If you want to understand how voice quality is measured that see this tweet below


We may keep on seeing a boom in voice traffic as more lockdowns occur and they are even stricter. We will have to wait and see of this habit of talking sticks or it's just for this unusual situation.

Related Posts:

Friday, 20 March 2020

Real-life 5G Use Cases for Verticals from China

GSMA have recently published a series of reports related to China. This includes the 'The Mobile Economy China' report as well as reports on ‘Impacts of mmWave 5G in China’, ‘5G use cases for verticals China 2020’ and ‘Powered by SA case studies’. They are all available here.

China currently has 1.65bn subscribers (Excluding licensed cellular IoT) which is expected to grow to 1.73bn in 2025. The report quotes 1.20bn unique mobile subscribers that is expected to grow to 1.26bn by 2025. With a population of 1.44 billion, this would be assuming everyone over 10 years has a smartphone. 2G and 3G is being phased out so only 4G and 5G will be around in 2025. This would be different for IoT.

The 5G Use Cases for Verticals China 2020 report is comprised of 15 outstanding examples of 5G-empowered applications for verticals, ranging from industrial manufacturing, transportation, electric power, healthcare, education, to content creation, and zooms into the practical scenarios, technical features, and development opportunities for the next generation technology. Every use case represents the relentless efforts of 5G pioneers who are open, cooperative, and innovative.

  1. Flexible Smart Manufacturing with 5G Edge Computing (RoboTechnik, China Mobile, Ericsson)
  2. 5G Smart Campus in Haier Tianjin Washing Machine Factory (China Mobile, Haier)
  3. Aircraft Surface Inspection with 5G and 8K at Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac, China Unicom, Huawei)
  4. Xinfengming Group’s Smart Factory Based on MEC Technology (Xinfengming, China Mobile, ZTE)
  5. SANY Heavy Industry 5G and Smart Manufacturing (Sany, China Mobile, China Telecom, ZTE)
  6. Xiangtan Iron & Steel's 5G Smart Plant (Xisc, China Mobile, Huawei)
  7. The Tianjin 5G Smart Port (Tianjin, China Unicom, ZTE, Trunk)
  8. 5G Intelligent Connected Vehicle Pilot in Wuhan (China Mobile, Huawei, et al.)
  9. 5G BRT Connected Vehicle-Infrastructure Cooperative System (China Unicom, DTmobile, et al.)
  10. 5G for Smart Grid (China Mobile, Huawei, et al.)
  11. Migu's "Quick Gaming" Platform (China Mobile, et al.)
  12. 5G Cloud VR Demonstration Zone in Honggutan, Nanchang, Jiangxi Province (Besttone, China Telecom, Huawei)
  13. 5G Cloud VR Education Application Based on AI QoE (China Telecom, Nokia, et al.)
  14. China MOOC Conference: 5G + Remote Virtual Simulation Experiment (China Unicom, Vive HTC, Dell Technologies, et al.)
  15. 5G-empowered Hospital Network Architecture Standard (CAICT, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Huawei, et al.)

They are all detailed in the report here.

I have written about 5G Use Cases in a blog post earlier, which also contains a video playlist of use cases from around the world. Not many from China in there at the moment but should be added as and when they are available and I discover them.


Related Posts:

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.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Introduction to Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)


We have just produced a new tutorial on Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). The high level introductory tutorial looks at what is meant by Fixed Wireless Access, which is being touted as one of the initial 5G use cases. This presentation introduces FWA and looks at a practical deployment example.

According to GSA report, "Global Progress to 5G – Trials, Deployments and Launches", July 2018:

One use-case that has gained prominence is the use of 5G to deliver fixed wireless broadband services. We have identified 20 tests so far that have specifically focused on the fixed wireless access (FWA) use-case, which is five more than three months ago.

Embedded below is the video and presentation of the FWA tutorial.



If you found this useful, you would be interested in other tutorials on the 3G4G website here.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Multicast Operation on Demand (MooD) and Service Continuity for eMBMS


Many regular readers of this blog are aware that back in 2014 I wrote a post looking critically at LTE-Broadcast business case and suggested a few approaches to make it a success. Back in those days, 2014 was being billed as the year of LTE-Broadcast or eMBMS (see here and here for example). I was just cautioning people against jumping on the LTE-B bandwagon.

According to a recent GSA report 'LTE Broadcast (eMBMS) Market Update – March 2018':

  • thirty-nine operators are known to have been investing in eMBMS demonstrations, trials, deployments or launches
  • five operators have now deployed eMBMS or launched some sort of commercial service using eMBMS

Its good to see some operators now getting ready to deploy eMBMS for broadcast TV scenarios. eMBMS will also be used in Mission Critical Communications for the features described here.

In a recent news from the Australian operator Telstra:

Telstra is now streaming live sports content to a massive base of around 1.2 million devices each weekend and sports fans consume 37 million minutes of live content over our apps on any given weekend.

This increase brings new challenges to the way traffic on our mobile network is managed. Even though a large group of people might be streaming the same real-time content at the same time, we still need to ensure a high quality streaming experience for our customers.

This challenge makes our sporting apps a prime use case for LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B).

Earlier this year, we announced we would be turning on LTE-B functionality on the AFL Live Official app for Telstra customers with Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 devices. Following extensive testing, Telstra is the only operator in Australia – and one of the first in the world – to deploy LTE-B into its mobile network.

At a live demonstration in Sydney, over 100 Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S9 devices were on display showing simultaneous high definition content from the AFL Live Official app using LTE-B.

Its interesting to note here that the broadcast functionality (and probably intelligence) is built into the app.

According to another Telstra news item (emphasis mine):

The use of LTE-Broadcast technology changes the underlying efficiency of live video delivery as each cell can now support an unlimited number of users watching the same content with improved overall quality. To date though, LTE-B technology has required that a dedicated part of each cell’s capacity be set aside for broadcasting. This had made the LTE-B business case harder to prove in for lower streaming demand rates.

This has now changed as Telstra and our partners have enabled the world’s first implementation of the Multicast Operation on Demand (MooD) feature whereby cells in the network only need to configure for LTE-B when there are multiple users watching the same content.

This combined with the Service Continuity feature allows mobile users to move around the network seamlessly between cells configured for LTE-B and those which are not.

Earlier this year we announced our intention to enable LTE-Broadcast (LTE-B) across our entire mobile network in 2018. With MooD and service continuity we are one step closer to that goal as we head into another year of major growth in sporting content demand.

Supported by technology partners Ericsson and Qualcomm, Telstra has now delivered world first capability to ensure LTE-B can be delivered as efficiently as possible.

Service Continuity will allow devices to transition in and out of LTE-B coverage areas without interruption. For instance, you might be at a music festival streaming an event on your phone but need to leave the venue and make your way back home (where LTE-B is not in use). Service Continuity means you can continue to watch the stream and the transition will be seamless – even though you have the left the broadcast area.

Taking that a step further, MooD allows the network to determine how many LTE-B compatible devices in any given area are consuming the same content. MooD then intelligently activates or deactivates LTE-B, ensuring the mobile network is as efficient as possible in that location.

For example, if a die-hard football fan is streaming a match we will likely service that one user with unicast, as that is the most efficient way of delivering the content. However if more users in the same cell decide to watch the match, MooD makes the decision automatically as to whether it is more efficient to service those users by switching the stream to broadcasting instead of individual unicast streams.

Its good to see Ericsson & Qualcomm finally taking eMBMS to commercial deployment. Back in 2015, I added their videos from MWC that year. See post here.
I think the Telstra post already provides info on why MooD is needed but this picture from Qualcomm whitepaper above makes it much clearer. Back in 3G MBMS and early days or eMBMS, there used to be a feature called counting, MooD is effectively doing the same thing.
For Service Continuity, this paper 'Service Continuity for eMBMS in LTE/LTE-Advanced Network: Standard Analysis and Supplement' by Ngoc-Duy Nguyen and Christian Bonnet has interesting proposal on how it should be done. I cannot be sure if this is correct as per the latest specifications but its interesting to learn how this would be done when the user moves out of coverage area in Idle or connected mode.

Note that this Expway paper also refers to Service continuity as Session continuity.

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.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Digital Africa: Building the Internet Ecosystem


Got an opportunity recently to hear about the connectivity progress, challenges and issues in Africa. Agree that Africa is a very large continent with many different countries in different stages of development but it was nevertheless interesting to look at a high level picture on the progress of connectivity in the continent. The presentation by iDate Digiworld is embedded below.



Slides available from techUK website here.

Related Post:

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

LoRa is quietly marching on...


During the mobile world congress, I was pleasantly surprised to see how LoRa ecosystem keeps getting larger. There was also an upbeat mood within the LoRa vendor community as it keeps winning one battle after another. Here is my short take on the technology with an unbiased lens.


To start with, lets look at this short report by Tom Rebbeck from Analysys Mason. The PDF can be downloaded after registering from here.

As can be seen, all major IoT technologies (LoRa, NB-IoT, Sigfox & LTE-M) gained ground in 2017. Most of the LoRa and all of Sigfox networks are actually not deployed by the mobile operators. From the article:

These points lead to a final observation about network deployments – many operators are launching multiple technologies. Of the 26 operators with publicly-announced interest in LTE-M networks, 20 also have plans for other networks;
• 14 will combine it with NB-IoT
• four will offer LTE-M and LoRa and
• two, Softbank and Swisscom, are working with LoRa, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

We are not aware of operators also owning Sigfox networks, though some, such as TelefĂłnica, are selling connectivity provided by a Sigfox network operator.

The incremental cost of upgrading from NB-IoT or LTE-M to both technologies is relatively small. Most estimates put the additional cost at less than an additional 20% – and sometimes considerably less. For many operators, the question will be which technology to prioritise, and when to launch, rather than which to choose.

The reasons for launching multiple networks appear to be tactical as much as strategic. Some operators firmly believe that the different technologies will match different use cases – for example, LoRa may be better suited to stationary, low bandwidth devices like smart meters, while LTE-M, could meet the needs of devices that need mobility, higher bandwidth and support for voice, for example a personal health monitor with an emergency call button.

But, a fundamental motive for offering multiple networks is to hedge investments. While they may not admit it publicly, operators do not know which technology will gain the most traction. They do not want to lose significant, lucrative contracts because they have backed the wrong technology. Deploying both LTE-M and NB-IoT – or LoRa – adds little cost and yet provides a hedge against this risk. For operators launching LoRa, there has been the added benefit of being early to market and gaining experience of what developers want and need from LPWA networks. This experience should help them when other technologies are deployed at scale.

The following is from MWC 2018 summary by ABI Research:

LPWA network technologies continue to gather momentum with adoption from a growing ecosystem of communications service providers (CSPs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and IoT solution providers. LPWA networks are central to the connectivity offerings from telcos with support for NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRaWAN, and SIGFOX. Telefonica highlighted SIGFOX as an important network technology along with NB-IoT and Cat M in its IoT connectivity platform. Similarly, Orange and SK Telecom emphasized on their continued support for LoRaWAN along with Cat M in France and South Korea. On the other hand, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, while aggressively pursuing deployment of NB-IoT networks, currently have mostly large scale POCs on their networks. 

...
Smart meters — Utilities are demanding that meter OEMs and technology solution providers deliver product design life of at least 15 years for battery operated smart water and gas meters. LPWA technologies, such as NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, SIGFOX and wireless M-bus, that are optimized for very low-power consumption and available at low cost are clearly emerging as the most favored LPWA solutions.

The following picture is from Ovum post MWC-2018 Webinar:

Here is a short video from MWC by yours truly looking at LoRa Gateways


There are also few announcements / news from LoRa world just to highlight how the ecosystem is thriving:


Source: SenRa

So someone recently asked me is LoRa is the new WiMax? The answer is obviously a big NO. Just look at the LoRa alliance members in the picture above. Its a whole ecosystem with different players having different interests, working on a different part of the ecosystem.

NB-IoT & LTE-M will gain ground in the coming years but there will always be a place for other LPWA technologies like LoRa.

Finally, here is a slide deck (embedded below) that I really like. The picture above very nicely illustrates that LoRaWAN and Cellular complement each other well. Maybe that is the reason that Orange is a big supporter of LoRa.



So for operators who are just starting their IoT journey or smaller operators who are unsure of the IoT potential, may want to start their journey with LoRa to play around and understand the business cases, etc. In the meantime LTE-M and NB-IoT ecosystem will mature with prices coming down further and battery time improving. That may be the right time to decide on the way forward.


Further Reading:

Sunday, 3 December 2017

SMS is 25 years old today

SMS is 25 years old. The first SMS, "Merry Christmas" was sent on 3rd December 1992 from PC to the Orbitel 901 handset (picture above), which was only able to receive SMS but not send it. Sky news has an interview with Neil Papworth - the man who sent the very first one back in 1992 here.

While SMS use has been declining over some time, thanks to messaging apps on smartphones like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook messenger, etc., it is still thought to be used for sending 20 billion messages per day.

While I dont have the latest figures, according to analyst Benedict Evans, WhatsApp and WeChat combined are now at over 100bn messages per day.

According to Daily Mirror, by the end of 2017, researchers expect 32 trillion messages to be sent annually over apps compared to only 7.89 trillion text messages.


Tomi Ahonen makes an interesting in the tweet above, all cellular phone users have SMS capability by default while only smartphone users who have downloaded the messaging apps can be reached by a particular messaging app. The reach of SMS will always be more than any competing apps.


That is the reason why GSMA is still betting on RCS, an evolution of SMS to compete with the messaging apps. My old post on RCS will provide some basic info here. A very recent RCS case studies document from GSMA here also provides some good info.

RCS will have a lot of hurdles and challenges to overcome to succeed. There is a small chance it can succeed but this will require change of mindset by operators, especially billing models for it to succeed.

Dean Bubley from Disruptive Analysis is a far bigger skeptic of RCS and has written various posts on why it will fail. One such post that makes interesting reading is here.

Anyway, love it or hate it, SMS is here to stay!

See Also:

Sunday, 29 October 2017

5G Forecasts and 5G Deployed Claim

Source: GSA

5G forecasts have been arriving steadily with many different figures. Here are some numbers:

Date Predicted by Number of Connections Year Any other comments
23-Aug-16 Strategy Analytics 690 million 2025 "690M Connections and 300M Handset Shipments"
15-Nov-16 Ericsson 500 million 2022 "North America will lead the way in uptake of 5G subscriptions, where a quarter of all mobile subscriptions are forecast to be for 5G in 2022."
30-Nov-16 ABI Research 500 million 2026 "500 Million 5G cmWave and mmWave Subscribers Will Bring $200 Billion in Service Revenue through 2026" - what about non mmWave/cmWave 5G subs?
12-Apr-17 CCS Insight 100 million 2021 "Smartphones sales will rise to 1.90 billion in 2021, when smartphones will account for 92 percent of the total mobile phone market."
26-Apr-17 GSMA 1.1 billion 2025 "5G connections are set to reach 1.1 billion by 2025, accounting for approximately one in eight mobile connections worldwide by this time."
16-May-17 Ovum 389 million 2022 "Ovum now forecasts that there will be 111 million 5G mobile broadband subscriptions at end-2021, up more than fourfold from Ovum’s previous forecast of 25 million 5G subscriptions at end-2021"
14-Aug-17 Juniper Research 1.4 billion 2025 "an increase from just 1 million in 2019, the anticipated first year of commercial launch. This will represent an average annual growth of 232%."
17-Oct-17 GSMA 214 million in Europe 2025 "30 per cent of Europe’s mobile connections will be running on 5G networks by 2025"
23-Oct-17 CCS Insight 2.6 billion 2025 "1 Billion Users of 5G by 2023, with More Than Half in China", "broadly similar path to 4G LTE technology...more than one in every five mobile connections."

If we just look at 2025/2026, the estimates vary from 500 million to 2.6 billion. I guess we will have to wait and see which of these figures comes true.

I wrote a post earlier titled '4G / LTE by stealth'. Here I talked about the operators who still had 3G networks while most people had 4G phones. The day the operator switched on the 4G network, suddenly all these users were considered to be on 4G, even if they didn't have 4G coverage just yet.

I have a few questions about what 5G features are necessary for the initial rollout and when can an operator claim they have 5G? In fact I asked this question on twitter and I got some interesting answers.

Just having a few 5G NR (new radio) sites enough for an operator to claim that they have deployed 5G? Would all the handsets with 5G compatibility then be considered to be on 5G? What features would be required in the initial rollouts? In case of LTE, operators initially only had Carrier Aggregation deployed, which was enough to claim they supported LTE-A. Would 100MHz bandwidth support be enough as initial 5G feature?

Please let me know what you think.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Smartphones, Internet Trends, etc

Every few years I add Mary Meeker's Internet Trends slides on the blog. Interested people can refer to 2011 and  2014 slide pack to see how world has changed.


One of the initial slide highlights that the number of smartphones are reached nearly 3 billion by end of 2016. If we looked at this excellent recent post by Tomi Ahonen, there were 3.2 billion smartphones at the end of Q1 2017. Here is a bit of extract from that.

SMARTPHONE INSTALLED BASE AT END OF MARCH 2017 BY OPERATING SYSTEM

Rank . OS Platform . . . . Units . . . . Market share  Was Q4 2016
1 . . . . All Android . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,584 M . . . 81 % . . . . . . ( 79 %)  
a . . . . . . Pure Android/Play . . . . 1,757 M . . . 55%
b . . . . . . Forked Anroid/AOSP . . . 827 M . . . 26%
2 . . . . iOS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 603 M . . . 19 % . . . . . . ( 19 %) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 M  . . . . 1 % . . . . . . (   1 %)
TOTAL Installed Base . 3,211 M smartphones (ie 3.2 Billion) in use at end of Q1, 2017

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data


BIGGEST SMARTPHONE MANUFACTURERS BY UNIT SALES IN Q1 2017

Rank . . . Manufacturer . Units . . . Market Share . Was Q4 2016 
1 (2) . . . Samsung . . . .  79.4 M . . 22.7% . . . . . . . ( 17.9% ) 
2 (1) . . . Apple  . . . . . . . 50.8 M . . 14.5% . . . . . . . ( 18.0% ) 
3 (3) . . . Huawei  . . . . . . 34.6 M . . . 9.9% . . . . . . . (10.4% ) 
4 (4) . . . Oppo . . . . . . . . 28.0 M . . . 8.0% . . . . . . . (   7.1% ) 
5 (5) . . . Vivo . . . . . . . . . 22.0 M . . . 6.3% . . . . . . . (   5.6% ) 
6 (9) . . . LG  . . . . . . . .  . 14.8 M . . . 4.2% . . . . . . . (   3.3% ) 
7 (7) . . . Lenovo .  . . . . . 13.2 M . . . 3.8% . . . . . . . (   3.8% )
8 (8) . . . Gionee . . . . . . . .9.6 M . . . 2.7% . . . . . . .  (   3.5% )
9 (6) . . . ZTE  . . . . . . . . . 9.2 M . . . 2.6% . . . . . . . (   5.2% ) 
10 (10) . TCL/Alcatel . . .  8.7 M . . . 2.5% . . . . . . . (  2.4% ) 
Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80.2 MTOTAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350.4 M

Source: TomiAhonen Consulting Analysis 25 May 2017, based on manufacturer and industry data


This year, the number of slides have gone up to 355 and there are some interesting sections like China Internet, India Internet, Healthcare, Interactive games, etc. The presentation is embedded below and can be downloaded from slideshare



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Facebook's Attempt to Connect the Unconnected

I am sure that by now everyone is aware of Facebook's attempt to connect the people in rural and remote areas. Back in March they published the State of Connectivity report highlighting that there are still over 4 billion people that are unconnected.


The chart above is very interesting and shows that there are still people who use 2G to access Facebook. Personally, I am not sure if these charts take Wi-Fi into account or not.

In my earlier post in the Small Cells blog, I have made a case for using Small Cells as the best solution for rural & remote coverage. There are a variety of options for power including wind turbines, solar power and even the old fashioned diesel/petrol generators. The main challenge is sometimes the backhaul. To solve this issue Facebook has been working on its drones as a means of providing the backhaul connectivity.


Recently Facebook held its first Telco Infra Project (TIP) Summit in California. The intention was to bring the diverse set of members (over 300 as I write this post) in a room, discuss ideas and ongoing projects.


There were quite a few interesting talks (videos available here). I have embedded the slides and the talk by SK Telecom below but before I that I was to highlight the important point  made by AMN.


As can be seen in the picture above, technology is just one of the challenges in providing rural and remote connectivity. There are other challenges that have to be considered too.

Embedded below is the talk provided by Dr. Alex Jinsung Choi,  CTO, SK Telecom and TIP Chairman and the slides follow that.



For more info, see:
Download the TIP slides from here.