Thursday, 19 July 2007

Defining 4G (I mean IMT-Advanced)

3G Americas published a new white paper entitled "Defining 4G: Understanding the ITU Process for the Next Generation of Wireless Technology". The white paper provides the factual description of how IMT-Advanced or 4G will someday be defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). ITU is the internationally recognized authority that will produce the official definition of the next generation of wireless technologies beyond IMT-2000 or 3G.

Chris Pearson, President of 3G Americas, stated, "The ITU is currently establishing criteria for IMT-Advanced and will be screening various technologies for inclusion in the IMT-Advanced family. Only then will we understand what is and can be rightly and credibly called 4G.” He continued, "Any claim today that a particular technology is a so-called ‘4G technology’, in reality, is simply a marketing spin, creating market confusion and deflating the importance of the telecommunications industry standards. Technologies should be verified against a set of agreed-upon requirements in order to qualify as 4G, and this will happen in the future when the requirements are outlined by the ITU."

Significant progress has been made by the Radiocommunication Sector of the ITU (ITU-R) in establishing an agreed and globally accepted definition of 4G wireless systems, and ITU-R is close to releasing a full set of documentation for this definition. Working under a mandate to address systems beyond 3G, ITU-R has progressed from delivering a vision of 4G in 2002 to establishing a name for 4G in 2005 (IMT-Advanced). In 2006, ITU-R set out the principles for the process of the development of IMT-Advanced. The work of the ITU encompasses the important elements of business success in the wireless industry, especially the balance of a market and services view, a technology view, a spectrum view and regulatory aspects. In early 2008, ITU-R will translate the vision into a set of requirements by which technologies and systems can, in the near future, be determined a part of IMT-Advanced and in doing so, earn the credible right to be considered 4G.

During 2008 and 2009, ITU-R will hold an open call for 4G (IMT-Advanced) candidates as well as an assessment of those candidates' technologies and systems. The culmination of this open process will be a 4G, or IMT-Advanced family of technologies. Such a 4G family of technologies, in adherence to the principles defined for acceptance into this ITU process, is globally recognized to be one which can grow to include all aspects of a marketplace that will arrive beyond 2010.

“Third generation technologies are growing immensely in the marketplace, but they too once started out with a vision and requirements from ITU,” stated Pearson. “The evolving wireless marketplace and its customers will be well served by the current ITU process for the next generation of wireless services.”

As can be seen in the picture above, the main requirements for 4G are as follows:
  • Peak data rate of 100Mbps for high mobility applications such as mobile access
  • Approx. 1Gbps for low mobility applications such as nomadic/local wireless access
A very important point in the report is what i have been saying for years:

The communications industry is witnessing significant posturing about wireless technologies and systems that are claiming to be “4G.” Any claim that a particular technology is a 4G technology or system today is, in reality, simply
a market positioning statement by the respective technology advocate. Such claims must be verified and substantiated against a set of requirements in order to qualify as 4G.

3G FDD Operating Band Frequencies

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 1
UL 1922.6 MHz - 1977.4 MHz
DL 2112.6 MHz - 2167.4 MHz
This is also known as WCDMA 2100 and is used mostly in Europe and Asia. Core band for region 1 with many deployments

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 2
UL 1852.6 MHz - 1907.4 MHz
DL 1932.6 MHz - 1987.4 MHz
This is known as WCDMA 1900 and is used mainly in North America. Alternative to core band, which is not available in region 1. Existing GSM deployments use 850 or 1900. Service providers are seeking agreement torefarm this spectrum

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 3
UL 1 712.6 MHz - 1 782.4 MHz
DL 1 807.6 MHz - 1 877.4 MHz
This band has got Interest from regions 2 and 3, especially for the refarming of existing GSM spectrum

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 4
UL 1712.6 MHz - 1752.4 MHz
DL 2112.6 MHz - 2152.4 MHz
Paired bands are of interest in region 2 and Japan. This is being used by T-Mobile in USA

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 5
UL 826.6 MHz - 846.4 MHz
DL 871.6 MHz - 891.4 MHz
Used in North America and Australia. Alternative to core band, which is not available in region 2. Existing GSM deployments use 850 or 1900. Service providers are seeking agreement to refarm this spectrum

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 6
UL 832.5 MHz - 837.5 MHz
DL 877.5 MHz - 882.5 MHz
Used in Region 3, Japan

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 7
UL 2502.6 MHz - 2567.4 MHz
DL 2622.6 MHz - 2687.4 MHz
Designated by the ITU as the global expansion band, so far with limited interest for UMTS/HSxPA, although WiMAX lobbying for access

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 8
UL 882.6 MHz - 912.4 MHz
DL 927.6 MHz - 957.4 MHz
Interest from all regions, especially for the refarming of existing GSM spectrum

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 9
UL 1752.4 MHz - 1782.4 MHz
DL 1847.4 MHz - 1877.4 MHz
Region 1, USA and Japan

FDD reference frequencies for Operating Band 10
UL 1712.6 MHz - 1767.4 MHz
DL 2112.6 MHz - 2167.4 MHz

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

SMS! Still the killer application

Portio Research’s new report ‘Mobile Messaging Futures 2007 – 2012’ on SMS says that while SMS revenue growth won’t match the growth of SMS volumes as a result of declining prices, by 2012 global SMS revenues will reach US$67 billion driven by 3.7 trillion messages.

What’s contributing to the success of SMS services, says Portio, is that it’s a very fast means of peer-to-peer mobile communication and an ever- growing base of new subscribers.

Case in point is Asia Pacific.

Portio estimates that every five minutes now and over the next six years 2,267 people will purchase their first mobile phone that will likely only include standard voice and SMS service. Asia Pacific could potentially produce an additional 1.4 billion new subscribers with a new SMS traffic. In 2011, the emergence of smartphones and wireless Internet services in North America, which was initially slower to adopt SMS services, could be the driving factor of why MIM (mobile instant messaging) could potentially replace SMS as a messaging service by 2011. Still, wireless operators, says Portio, will have to be careful to not cannabilize their SMS revenues by striking a balance between SMS and MIM pricing.

How much do you love your mobile

BBDO has done another survey of 3000 customers around the world and released findings from that research, but that was already in April of 2006. Still the findings have lots of insights into mobile phone users. Juicy tidbits:

81% of youth aged 15 - 20 sleep with their mobile phone turned on.

Women in Japan have daytime and evening phones just like they have daytime and evening handbags.

96% of people screen their incoming calls.

76% of Australians and 76% of Spanish have already responded to mobile marketing campaigns, ie interacted with a brand via mobile.

In China if forced to choose between retrieving a forgotten wallet or retrieving a forgotten phone, 69% will go get the phone rather than the wallet.

And 63% of the phone owners will not lend the phone to anyone else.

So yes, the research is a year old but still very valid today.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Whoa! 40Gbps Broadband (wireline, ofcourse)

A 75 year old woman from Karlstad in central Sweden has been thrust into the IT history books - with the world's fastest internet connection.

Sigbritt Löthberg's home has been supplied with a blistering 40 Gigabits per second connection, many thousands of times faster than the average residential link and the first time ever that a home user has experienced such a high speed.

But Sigbritt, who had never had a computer until now, is no ordinary 75 year old. She is the mother of Swedish internet legend Peter Löthberg who, along with Karlstad Stadsnät, the local council's network arm, has arranged the connection.

"This is more than just a demonstration," said network boss Hafsteinn Jonsson.

"As a network owner we're trying to persuade internet operators to invest in faster connections. And Peter Löthberg wanted to show how you can build a low price, high capacity line over long distances," he told The Local.

Sigbritt will now be able to enjoy 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously. Or, if there is nothing worth watching there, she will be able to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds.
The secret behind Sigbritt's ultra-fast connection is a new modulation technique which allows data to be transferred directly between two routers up to 2,000 kilometres apart, with no intermediary transponders.
According to Karlstad Stadsnät the distance is, in theory, unlimited - there is no data loss as long as the fibre is in place.

"I want to show that there are other methods than the old fashioned ways such as copper wires and radio, which lack the possibilities that fibre has," said Peter Löthberg, who now works at Cisco.

Cisco contributed to the project but the point, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, is that fibre technology makes such high speed connections technically and commercially viable.

"The most difficult part of the whole project was installing Windows on Sigbritt's PC," said Jonsson.

Monday, 16 July 2007

300 Mbps with 'Super-FOMA'

NTT DoCoMo, Inc. announced that this month it began testing an experimental Super 3G system for mobile communications. With this experiment, DoCoMo will seek to achieve a downlink transmission rate of 300Mbps over a high-speed wireless network.
For people who are unaware, LTE is being branded as Super-3G as this term is more appealing as compared to LTE which would mean nothing to ordinary people.
DoCoMo will begin with an indoor experiment to test transmission speed using one transmitting and one receiving antenna. The company will then expand the experiment to examine downlink transmission by employing up to four Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antennas for both the base station (transmission side) and mobile station (receiving side); the goal is to achieve a downlink transmission speed of 300Mbps. MIMO is an antenna technology for wireless communications in which different data streams are spatially multiplexed using multiple antennas for both transmission and reception on the same frequency. Also to be examined is the "handover function" — switching of the connection between two base stations.
NTT DoCoMo's Super-3G timetable is available here
The reason i am calling this setup as Super-FOMA is because going back to when 3G was being introduced, DoCoMo wanted to be the first with 3G. As a result, they adopted a 3GPP Release version that wasnt stable and released it as FOMA. Now they are doing the same with LTE. LTE wont be stable in that timeframe so they might end up with Super-FOMA instead of Super-3G.
The company has also been aggressively pursuing 4G system development. In late December, the carrier came close to hitting a 5Gbit/sec. data transmission speed from an experimental 4G system to a receiver moving at 10 kilometers per hour.
Possibly it may be the first one with a 4G system and it might end up as Hyper-FOMA :)

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Truly open broadband network

The FCC's auction for 700-MHz bandwidth, scheduled for later this year, is gearing up to be an epic sale that could have a major impact on the world of wireless technology, especially with FCC Chair Kevin Martin now calling for an "open broadband network," one that will open the door to a lot of innovative wireless services.

You buy a cell phone, load any software you want on it, then choose your carrier. This vision of expanded consumer choices in the wireless world might be a little closer today than it has ever been, especially with reports that the chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is circulating an "open platform" proposal for the upcoming auction of the 700-MHz band.

FCC Chair Kevin Martin told USA Today on Monday that "whoever wins this spectrum" will have to provide a "truly open broadband network -- one that will open the door to a lot of innovative services to the consumer."

He said an open network would mean a consumer could "use any wireless device and download any mobile broadband application, with no restrictions," except for illegal or malicious software. USA Today and other news outlets are reporting that Martin has sent or is about to send a draft proposal to his fellow commissioners.

Martin noted that, in some other countries, consumers usually take their unlocked devices with them when they change carriers, as opposed to in the U.S., where cell phones typically are locked for use only on a given carrier's network.

Writing on Forum Oxford, Ajit Jaokar called this as the 'carterphone principle'
And the news gets better...
Writing Tuesday on its public policy blog, Google Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt applauded the reports of Martin's proposal. Whitt, hired by Google a few months ago, formerly headed up MCI's regulatory department.

Google, which said it has not decided whether it will participate in the auction, sent a letter to the FCC on Monday, according to Whitt, urging that winning bidders be required to adopt several types of "open platforms."

A key part of open platforms, Google contends, is that consumers would be able to use any combination of devices, software applications, content, or services. In addition, the company maintains, resellers should be able "to acquire wireless services from a 700-MHz licensee on a wholesale basis," and ISPs should be able to interconnect "at a technically feasible point" to a 700-MHz licensee's wireless network.

However, Current Analysis analyst Bill Ho identified potential issues with these ideas, notingthat interconnection and the use of any device could require some uniform or encompassing technological standards, rather than the competing standards that now exist.
The auction for bandwidth, scheduled for later this year, is gearing up to be epic. The sale will include spectrum in the 700-MHz band that has been used for analog television since the beginning of that medium, as U.S. TV is going completely digital by mid-2009.

The 700-MHz spectrum is particularly valuable because it penetrates walls and various obstacles more effectively than other frequencies, and the FCC is now developing the rules for the auction.

A 108-MHz block of bandwidth will become available after the analog TV stations complete their transition. Of that 108 MHz, 60 MHz will be auctioned in January 2008, public safety officials will receive 24 MHz, and 24 MHz already has been sold.

Estimates indicate that the auction could yield $20 to $30 billion for the government.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Motorola sales decline, but still clueless

Motorola looks in danger of losing its position as the world's second-largest mobile phone maker after reporting a collapse in sales during the second quarter of the year. With the Korean manufacturer Samsung gaining ground on the American technology company, pressure is building on Motorola to develop a new hit phone to replicate the success of its wildly popular Razr handset. The company's decision to pull out of the race to sell low-end handsets in emerging markets has boosted its average selling price but hit its volumes.

Motorola sold up to 35 million handsets in the second quarter of the year, 21 per cent lower than the 45 million it sold in the previous three months and 31 per cent lower than a year ago. After missing its sales and profit targets over the period, the company said it no longer expects to make a profit from its mobile phones sales this year.
This makes me wonder, why is Motorola in such a situation? Some years back when it brought RAZR, its sales were up and they started getting recognition they have been looking for. 'But' poor interface design and very poor GUI has been always there to haunt them. Also, they do not seem to care too much of UE stability and Phones freezing and crashing have been common problems.
Combined with all of the above, there are too many political problems and their habit of looking for short term gains (laying off people so that the share prices dont go down too much) rather than long term aims is hurting their innovation.
Meanwhile, Nokia, the Finnish group that transformed itself from a forestry company and a producer of rubber boots into the world's largest handset maker, is thought to have taken substantial market share from its US rival over the past three months, with Sony Ericsson and Samsung also expected to gain ground. Amid the hype around Apple's entry into the mobile phone market with its top-end iPhone, Nokia has been forging ahead with a number of high-end handsets and a strong position in emerging markets.

The joint venture between Sweden's LM Ericsson and Japan's Sony Corp. said net profit rose 54% to 220 million euros ($303 million) from 143 million euros in the same period last year.

Sony Ericsson seems to have done well with its Walkman-branded music and camera phones, where Motorola had a bad time with the ROKR, famously produced in association with Apple. Motorola has also been the leading proponent of Linux-based phones, but there's no indication whether this helped or hindered either sales or profits.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Femto-Mania catching on

Recently there is a lot of activity that is going on, on the Femtocell front.

It is an excellent concept as it would now be possible to have small (see figure on left) base stations in your house that will give you a reliable coverage even in your basement.

The most high profile announcement was by Nokia-Siemens Networks who plan to launch the technology commercially by Q3 2008.

According to Wireless Week, DSL box developer Thomson have partnered Nokia-Siemens to develop 3G devices for in-home wireless broadband access.

Our novel Femto Home Access solution meets what the market really needs. It is a strong combination of telecommunications end-to-end expertise, femto cell know-how and consumer mass market understanding,” says Ari Lehtoranta, Head of Radio Access, Nokia Siemens Networks. “We are driving a network solution with standard and open interfaces to enable open innovation and variety of supply for the Femto customer premises equipment.”

The Nokia Siemens Networks 3G Femto Home Access solution introduces a new network element, Femto Gateway. Femto Gateway does not require changes in the operators’ existing core network, as it connects to the core network over a standard interface. Furthermore, by extending this standards-based approach towards the Femto Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) at homes, the Femto Gateway will allow customer equipment from multiple vendors to be connected to it. The Femto Gateway will support any Femto CPE certified by Nokia Siemens Networks to conform with the interface. Nokia Siemens Networks will co-operate with Femto CPE vendors to ensure interoperability of their equipment to the Nokia Siemens Networks interface.

Femto CPE’s use IP broadband backhaul and are easy to install at home in the same way as xDSL/WiFi modems. The Femto cell functionality can be packaged to the operator-specific home gateway devices together with other functionalities, like WiFi, Ethernet routing or storage.

On the operator side, O2 has previously expressed interest in the technology, while Orange and Vodafone are assessing the potential of femtocells. The Japanese operator Softbank has also talked about launching the technology commercially.

It's not known which operators will be the first to undertake trials, said Nick Johnson, chief technology officer of IP Access, one of several companies that makes femtocells, the small 3G base stations that enable the improvement.

Mobile phone company Vodafone Group PLC has issued a request-for-proposal to femtocell vendors, said Stuart Carlaw, research director for ABI Research. "When you get to an RFP, it's pretty serious stuff," he said.

Sprint Nextel Corp. and Softbank Corp. in Japan are also out in front, with Softbank demonstrating femtocells earlier this week in Tokyo.

IP Access demonstrated its Oyster 3G home access femtocell deep in a London wine cellar on Friday (6th July), transmitting a video conference call between two mobile phones.

The technology will compete with other carriers' Wi-Fi coverage, which enables UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access), a way to make call over a Wi-Fi hotspot that's plugged into a home DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection and have them billed to a mobile phone account. UMA is used in offerings such as BT Group PLC's Fusion service.

Femtocells hold an advantage in that they can be used by 3G mobiles, while only a few models support UMA and Wi-Fi, Carlaw said.

Carriers will likely end up subsidizing the cost of a femtocell, which is probably now around US$120 to $130, or bundling it as part of a service package, Carlaw said. "A consumer is not going to pay," the analyst added.

Ubiquisys, a leading femtocell vendor, expects trials to begin in Europe this year. Martin McNair, a general partner at Advent Venture Partners, which has backed Ubiquisys, said that the technology would provide customers with better reception than a digital cordless phone, and will benefit mobile phone companies by stimulating more usage indoors, where most mobile phone calls are made. He said that mobile phone companies are likely to subsidise the mini base stations - which will be about the size of a small router and plug into a broadband connection - to benefit from higher mobile usage and increased customer loyalty.

PicoChip expects to triple revenues this year, and triple them again next year to about $15m a quarter, the level the firm has identified as suitable for an IPO, according to CEO Guillaume d'Eyssautier. "We expect to get to $15m a quarter in between 18 to 24 months," d'Eyssautier told EW. Driving a large part of the anticipated revenue growth is the adoption of femtocells by the wireless carriers.

Recently FemtoForum has been formed. Holding their first plenary Monday (July 2) in London ahead of the first Home Access Point and In-Building Conference that opens Tuesday (July 3) , the group has revealed the names only of seven of the founding members of the Forum. "We have about 40 members and sixty companies will be represented at the plenary, but some prefer for now to keep their powder dry as regards membership", Simon Saunders, an independent consultant who will chair the Forum told EE Times Europe .

Those going public now include femtocell technology pioneers such as picoChip, ip.access, Ubiquisys, Airvana, Netgear, RadioFrame, and Tatara.

ABI predicts around 52,000 femtocell units will ship this year, with around 1 million in 2008 when deployments become more widespread. However, femtocells are not likely to replace Wi-Fi, as some carriers already have huge investments in that technology.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

(3G) Civil War in US?

Interesting article from Telecom Magazine
In US Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless fly the flag for CDMA2000, while AT&T and T-Mobile USA spearhead the W-CDMA charge.
So far, CDMA2000 clearly has taken the high ground. Verizon laid claim to about 60.7 million CDMA2000 customers by the end of March 2007, while Sprint Nextel said it had captured 53.6 million. The W-CDMA operators, by comparison, could muster just 2.5 million customers between them.

The CDMA Development Group (CDG), which lobbies for CDMA2000, attributes this gulf to a technology lead. CDMA2000 operators, it notes, have deployed enhancements like EV-DO Revision A, which can deliver speeds of up to 3 Mbps for VoIP and multimedia applications. W-CDMA, in stark contrast, is still unavailable in many parts of the U.S. Even where it has been deployed, it typically is capable of a far less impressive 384 kbps.

W-CDMA, however, is definitely on the march. AT&T and T-Mobile USA are planning rollouts using HSDPA, a W-CDMA enhancement that offers speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps. More importantly, while W-CDMA’s customer base of 2.5 million appears low when judged alongside CDMA2000, it has grown from just 350,000 late last year.
“AT&T uses a higher frequency [than its CDMA2000 competitors], which is a disadvantage,” explains Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat.
Generally, U.S. operators have deployed CDMA2000 using spectrum in the 800 MHz or 1900 MHz bands, while AT&T is rolling out W-CDMA using 2100 MHz spectrum. The lower frequencies have better propagation characteristics, allowing CDMA2000 operators to serve a wider area using fewer base stations.

“AT&T is also in a transitional phase,” Nogee adds. “Although it can advertise its new HSDPA network, that network has not been rolled out everywhere yet.”

Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest operator in the U.S., plans to launch a W-CDMA service using the 2110 MHz to 2155 MHz spectrum it purchased in last year’s auction for advanced wireless services. Although it did not respond to requests for an interview, T-Mobile USA previously issued a statement on its 3G intentions in which it says the company will transition to a next-generation technology, which may include W-CDMA/UMTS with HSDPA, in the next two-to-three year timeframe.
And finally we cannot have a discussion without looking at the future (4G?):
Although W-CDMA is still in its early days in the United States, operators already are thinking about the next generation of mobile technology.
While a 4G standard is not yet defined, marketing departments are applying the label to some technologies already in development.

For W-CDMA operators such as AT&T and T-Mobile USA, the technology typically viewed as 4G is called long-term evolution, or LTE. It represents the destination on their journey through upgrades to HSPA, but will use a different air interface called OFDMA and require more work. Theoretically LTE will deliver downlink speeds of 100 Mbps and uplink speeds of 50 Mbps.

CDMA2000 operators also have 4G in their sights in the shape of EV-DO Revision C. Like LTE, Revision C promises vast improvements over the current crop of wireless standards. Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat, thinks both LTE and Revision C could see commercial deployment by 2010.

In the meantime, Sprint Nextel has been vocal about another 4G technology. Last year, it earmarked US$2.5 bn for investment in a nationwide deployment of WiMAX, using 2.5 GHz spectrum it already owned. WiMAX proponents have made some bullish claims about its capability (promising up to 70 Mbps on the downlink), but the technology has not evolved from other standards—unlike LTE and Revision C—and will lack any scale economies when it is launched next year.

Chris Pearson, president of 3G Americas (a lobby group for W-CDMA), is unconvinced by the WiMAX business case. “It’s a wild card. In our view, most subscribers will be using W-CDMA and EV-DO for years to come.”