Thursday, 3 April 2008

CTIA Wireless 2008

When: April 1-3, 2008
Where: Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada

I am collecting links on CTIA08 on this page. Please feel free to contribute yours.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Just keep texting

Last year I blogged about SMS being the killer App and it seems to be still going strong. Sprint recently launched $99 plan known as Simply Everything allows unlimited voice and texts. These plans will make people more addicted to texting.

A recent study by Portio Research confirms continued healthy SMS growth. ABI predicts the overall mobile messaging market will grow to become a US$212 billion market opportunity by 2013, while Portio Research argues SMS will be least a US$67 billion revenue opportunity during the same period.

Yet while it’s clear SMS growth is showing no signs of slowing down, wireless operator margins have not grown with the wireless consumer’s appetite for low-priced service sets. Industry research points out SMS revenues will only see a 28 percent increase from 2007 to 2012. This means all-you-can-eat plans by Sprint and other wireless operators, coupled with increasing competition, will minimize the rise of new SMS revenue.

A quick search about SMS news gave some very interesting results:

Interesting list, isnt it?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

No Mobile Phobia

This one is very interesting. From The Independent:

Being out of mobile-phone contact is as stressful as moving house or breaking up with a partner for nearly one in five phone users, according to a survey which suggests many Britons are in the grip of "nomo-phobia".

Anxiety over running out of battery or credit, losing one's handset and not having network coverage affects 53 per cent of the UK's 45 million mobile-phone users, according to the study by YouGov.

Read the article here.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

IMS rolling on! Quiet and Steady

IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) is expected to provide mobile telephone operators with a forecasted $300 billion in extra revenue over the next five years, according to a new study from ABI Research. Major operators such as Sprint, Verizon and British Telecom (BT) will increasingly deploy IMS across their networks in a quickening tempo starting this year.

“Until recently IMS was mainly the province of fixed-line operators,” says senior analyst Nadine Manjaro, “but now it is essential to the success of mobile and fixed operators who are losing revenue from traditional sources. IMS enables rapid development and deployment of new services.”

Some firms – notably Verizon and BT – are facilitating this process by offering an open IMS interface allowing third-party developers easy access, as a way of ensuring a flow of new applications. This means faster testing and deployment of services, which will be critical to their success.

“Operators are forced to look at IMS and similar solutions because they need to start generating more revenue,” notes Manjaro. “With recent moves by Sprint, Verizon and AT&T to offer less profitable flat rate services as a way to fight subscriber churn, that need becomes more acute.”

One impediment to IMS’s success in the past has been the difficulty of proving the business case for it. But Manjaro suggests that planners were incorrectly considering IMS as a service rather than a platform. In fact IMS supports multiple services, and it takes several of them to make a valid business case. To use the hackneyed phrase, there has been a paradigm shift in operators’ strategic thinking.

The major remaining challenge for operators is to integrate IMS without seriously disrupting existing services. That need is being met by the major infrastructure vendors such as Ericsson, Alcatel, and Nokia-Siemens, which have been packaging IMS (at additional cost) with the network upgrades they provide to operators. Manjaro points out that, “It’s easier to quantify the opportunity for operators because you can look at it in terms of potential revenue. It’s more difficult with regard to vendors, because they’ve been bundling it with the air interface, the base station, the architecture upgrade.”

In other new IMS pulse-taking – Forward Concepts’ ‘Femtocells: The Emerging Solution for Fixed Mobile Convergence’ report – it’s predicted that IMS-powered femtocells will capture the dominant fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) market share by 2010. The argument here is that Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) is a transitional technology and cellular carriers will ultimately transition to IMS-enabled femtocells. Forward Concepts calculates that global femtocell equipment revenues will grow at a CAGR of 126% from 2008 to hit US$4.9bn in 2012. Western Europe will be the largest market, driving 32% of the revenue, followed by North America with a 22% share.

Check my old blog on IMS and UMA.

The IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and the NGN (Next Generation Networks) Forums announced recently the successful completion of interoperability testing at the IMS Forum Plugfest 4 and plans for the NGN Plugfest 5. Plugfest 5, scheduled for June 2008 at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL), will test consumer and enterprise M-play interoperability.
The IMS and NGN Forums are dedicated to interoperability and certification of M-play, mobile multimedia services, and applications for wireless, wireline, and cable broadband over IP networks.

The IMS Forum's Plugfest 4, held at the UNH-IOL Feb 25 - 29, was the latest in a series of events designed to deliver IMS and NGN interoperability and certification. Participating companies tested a number of leading technologies and services for interoperability, including triple play, VoIP (voice over IP), fixed mobile convergence (FMC) from multiple vendors, test and measurement equipments, SIP (session initiation protocol), class-5 features (voicemail, etc), Diameter IMS stacks, and instant messaging with presence support. Plugfest 4 was the first successful IMS call between mobile UE (user equipment) devices and core network elements P-CSCF servers, S-CSCF, and HSS, all from separate vendors.

Plugfest 4 was expanded to include billing interfaces for charging for IMS services. Tests included an IMS-compliant charging/billing system working with multiple network configurations, as well as interoperability of operational support systems and business support systems (OSS/BSS). This is a major milestone since the charging/billing systems are a major component for network operators to deploy IMS.

More than 15 companies participated in IMS Plugfest 4, including Intel as a platinum sponsor, HP, Amdocs, Acision, Alpha Networks, Aricent, Data Connection Ltd., Empirix, Mavenir Systems, Mu Security, NextPoint Networks, Radvision, Shenick Network Systems, Sonus Networks, Starent Networks, Tekelec, and UNH-IOL. PulverMedia and IMS Magazine served as media sponsors.

Finally, Ericsson has announced an agreement with Beijing Netcom, a branch of China Netcom, to provide the company with a Command Supporting System based on Ericsson's IMS solution for the Beijing Olympic Games.

China Netcom is the official fixed-telecom service partner for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Under the agreement, Ericsson will be the sole supplier and systems integrator for an IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) platform to enable personal multimedia communication.

Ericsson's IMS solution enables the convergence of data, speech and network technology over an IP-based infrastructure. It supports fast and efficient management and coordination of value-added services, including voice, text, pictures and video, providing end users with a personalized, richer communications experience.

Deployment and systems integration has started and is set to be completed by March 2008. It will span the six Olympic Games cities in China.

The agreement is an extension of a contract signed between Ericsson and Beijing Netcom in April 2007 to build the first commercial IMS network in China.

Beijing Netcom says: "As an official partner for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this agreement emphasizes our commitment to providing telecom-quality IP multimedia services that combine voice, data, audio and video. This move will bring an enhanced communications experience to users in Beijing and across other Olympic cities."

Mats H. Olsson, President of Ericsson Greater China, says: "Ericsson is extremely proud to build on its longstanding relationship to provide Beijing Netcom with the first IMS-based multimedia service for the 2008 Olympic Games. This contract confirms that IMS has come of age, enabling volume deployment supporting multimedia capabilities within the fixed-network operator's service."

Ericsson is the world's leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. The market leader in 2G and 3G mobile technologies, Ericsson supplies communications services and manages networks that serve more than 185 million subscribers. The company's portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, and broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and developers. The Sony Ericsson joint venture provides consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices.

Do we need mobile on Planes

One of the last refuges from annoying ringtones and anodyne phone conversations is likely to disappear after communications watchdog Ofcom cleared the use of mobile phones on aircraft yesterday, with some airlines ready to launch services in time for the summer holidays.

The prospect of passengers shouting "I'm on the plane" at 11,000 metres (37,000 ft) may fill many with dread, but for the airlines it could be a real moneyspinner to charge passengers a hefty premium to make and receive calls in the air.

Passengers will still be banned from using their mobile or Blackberry email device at take-off and landing. Once at 3,000 metres the cabin crew will switch on equipment to pick up the signal from a mobile and relays it to the ground via satellite.

Ofcom confirmed plans to enable airlines to offer mobile communication services on UK-registered aircraft, if they wish to do so. This will be subject to approval by the relevant UK and European aviation authorities - the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK.

The decision has been developed jointly with other EU countries and will enable use in European airspace. It follows an Ofcom consultation on the proposals published in October 2007.

The safety of passengers is paramount and mobile systems on aircraft will only be installed when they have secured approval by EASA and the CAA in the UK. If such approval has been secured it will be a matter for individual airlines to judge whether there is consumer demand for these services.

The proposed system utilises an on-board base station in the plane which communicates with passengers' own handsets. The base station - called a pico cell - is low power and creates a network area big enough to encompass the cabin of the plane.

The base station routes phone traffic to a satellite, which is in turn connected to mobile networks on the ground.

A network control unit on the plane is used to ensure that mobiles in the plane do not connect to any base stations on the ground. It blocks the signal from the ground so that phones cannot connect and remain in an idle state.

Calls will be billed through passengers' mobile networks. "

The story of WiMAX in India

Read an article on WiMAX in India in Rediff:

On March 4, India's Tata Communications, an emerging broadband player, announced the countrywide rollout of a commercial WiMax network, the largest anywhere in the world of the high-speed, wireless broadband technology.

Already 10 Indian cities and 5,000 retail and business customers use the product, and by next year Tata will offer service in 115 cities nationwide. The folks at Tata can hardly contain their excitement. "WiMax is not experimental, it's oven-hot," says Tata's Prateek Pashine, in charge of the company's broadband and retail business.

Of course WiMax is not new. Most everyone in the industry has been talking about it for years. Intel chairman Craig Barrett has been propagating its virtues in pilot projects across the world, including India and Africa.

Sprint will be rolling out a WiMax network in Washington next month, and in other US cities next year. Until now the most advanced use of WiMax has been in Japan and Korea, where Japanese carrier KDDI and Korea Telecom offer extensive WiMax networks.

However the Japanese and Korean services are not available nationwide - KDDI will have its major rollout only in 2009 - and most people use them as supplements to the wired services.

It's in emerging economies like India, where there is little connectivity and where mobile usage is soaring because of the difficulty in getting broadband wires to homes and offices, that WiMax is likely to see its full potential as a commercially viable technology.
Intel, whose silicon chips power WiMax, has been pushing for this technology for some years and its executives are practically salivating at the thought of the successful rollout in India.

"The more countries and telcos that get behind this technology the better," says R. Sivakumar, chief executive of Intel South Asia. Predicting that the new technology will make other types of Internet access obsolete, he boasts "Tata will set the cat among the pigeons."

Tata Communications has been working on setting this up for a couple of years, and successfully completed field trials last December. It has used the technology from Telsima, a Sunnyvale (Calif.) maker of WiMax base-stations and the leading WiMax tech provider in the world.

For now, the technology will be restricted to fixed wireless, but Tata plans to make it mobile by midyear. The company has invested about $100 million in the project, which will increase to $500 million over the next four years as it begins to near its goal of having 50 million subscribers in India.

The world is watching

Global tech analysts are will be watching carefully. Though WiMax is prevalent in Korea, the Korean service is a slightly different version, says Bertrand Bidaud, a communications analyst with Gartner in Singapore. It's a Korea-specific pre-WiMax technology called WiBRO.

But the Indian market is where the conditions for a WiMax deployment are the best, he says, because of limited fixed lines. That means Tata has fewer hurdles to overcome. And as WiMax scales up fast, it will give service providers greater flexibility and costs will drop equally rapidly.

"If it doesn't succeed in India, it will be difficult (for it to succeed) anywhere else, and Bharti, Tata has been virtually asleep, with a limited subscriber base for its limited product. In fact, even with as many as seven broadband providers in the market, the total Indian subscriber base is just 3.2 million and there is no clear market leader.
But with the WiMax rollout Tata can gain a leadership position and add "a few thousand subscribers a day," says Alok Sharma, chief executive of Telsima. Tata is, of course, going for the heavy-billing corporate customer - a target audience that is beginning to make big investments in technology.

Temple service via WiMax

But also important is the ordinary Indian retail customer who can watch movies via WiMax and enjoy Tata's other unique offerings. For instance, users can take in an early morning worship service at the famous Balaji temple in South India.

The temple permitted Tata to install cameras so that Hindu devotees from around the world could watch the proceedings in the temple around the clock. To get connected initially, users will simply have to go to a store, buy a router, install it, and then they become instantly connected. It will be as easy as buying apples, Tata executives promise.
The Tata rollout is a chance for India to become cutting-edge in mobile Internet services, say WiMax boosters. For India, which "always used last year's fashion to dress itself up," says Sharma, it is a chance to launch a brand new. fourth-generation technology that the world can follow. "India is becoming the knowledge centre of the world; it should take the lead in this," he adds.

There are some other bits which I got from one of VSNLs (now known as Tata Communications) presentation:

  • ISPs using 3.3GHz spectrum for WiMAX roll-out
  • At least 3 networks being built in all large towns
  • Best spectral efficiencies

Wireless Broadband opportunity in India bigger than:

  • Entire LatAm (predominantly on 3.5 GHz)
  • Korea (at 2.3 GHz)

Current deployments by Indian operators rival the biggest ofWiMAX deployments around the world. VSNL deploys the largest WiMAX network in a city across the world.

Soft launched on December 31, 2007 in BANGALORE:

  • Silicon Valley of India
  • 8 million people and over 10000 industries
  • 86% literacy ( national avg – at 61%) - second highest literacy rate for an Indian metropolis, after Mumbai.
  • More than 1000 software companies - Infosys and Wipro, India's second and third largest software companies are headquartered in Bangalore
  • The population of the IT industry folks in Bangalore is 5% i.e 400,000.
  • Bangalore's per capita income of Rs. .49,000 (US$ 1,160) is the highest for any Indian city.
  • Launched with 132 BTS, will be adding another 28 by March 2008
  • 3.3 Ghz, 12 Mhz, 3 Mhz/sector, 4 sectors85% of the city covered
  • The response has been far better than what we had anticipated
  • In 20 days we have installed an equivalent of 10% of the existing wireline base
  • Currently a huge backlog of orders to be installedCustomer experience has been fantastic
  • Additional BTS to ensure full coverage planned

Way forward:

  • Enterprise roll out into another 300 cities over the next 15 months
  • Retail roll out into another 15 – 20 cities over the next 15 months
  • Spectrum in 2.5/2.3 Ghz awaited

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Those Engineering days

I still remember my university days as an engineering student. Over the weekend i read couple of funny posts on engineers:

First is "Top 5 Reasons It Sucks to Be an Engineering Student". The best reason i like is:

1. Every Assignment Feels the Same: Nearly every homework assignment and test question is a math problem. Only a few courses require creativity or offer hands-on experience.

The other one, " Understanding Engineers" is posted by me after receiving in an email. My favourite in this was:

Understanding Engineers - Take Three
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

The engineer fumed, "What's with those blokes? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes !"

The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I'venever seen such inept golf!"

The priest said, "Here comes the greens keeper.Let's have a word with him."

He said, "Hello, George! What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's agroup of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group fell silent for a moment.

The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there'sanything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"

Sunday, 23 March 2008

802.11 family is getting quite big

Having only studied 802.11a, b and g in past, I was surprised to find that there are many other 802.11 protocols in the family.

See which ones do you know:
  • 802.11a - 54 Mbps standard, 5 GHz signaling (ratified 1999)
  • 802.11b - 11 Mbps standard, 2.4 GHz signaling (1999)
  • 802.11c - operation of bridge connections (moved to 802.1)
  • 802.11d - worldwide compliance with regulations for use of wireless signalspectrum (2001)
  • 802.11e - Quality of Service (QoS) support (2005)
  • 802.11f – Inter access point protocol to support roaming clients (2003)
  • 802.11g - 54 Mbps standard, 2.4 GHz signaling (2003)
  • 802.11h - Enhanced version of 802.11a to support European regulatory requirements (2003)
  • 802.11i - Security improvements for the 802.11 family (2004)
  • 802.11j - Enhancements to 5 GHz signaling to support Japan regulatoryrequirements (2004)
  • 802.11k - WLAN system management
  • 802.11l - Skipped to avoid confusion with 802.11i
  • 802.11m - Maintenance of 802.11 family documentation
  • 802.11n - Future 100+ Mbps standard
  • 802.11o – Voice over WLAN, faster handoff, prioritize voice traffic over data
  • 802.11p – Using 5.9GHz band for ITS (long range)
  • 802.11q – Support for VLAN 802.11r – Handling fast handoff when roaming between APs
  • 802.11s – Self-healing/self-configuring mesh networks
  • 802.11t - Wireless Performance Prediction
  • 802.11u - Interworking with External Networks
  • 802.11v - Wireless Network Management standard
  • 802.11w - Protected Management Frames standard
  • 802.11x – Summarize all 802.11 standards, but it is not a standard.
  • 802.11y - Contention Based Protocol Study Group
For a quick introduction see the following links:
You may also be interested in this new book:

What can mobile operators learn from Laloo

I am sure a lot of you have no Idea who Laloo or 'Lalu Prasad Yadav' is. He was long term chief minister of Bihar state in India is well known for corruption and scandals (as are many other politicians in India). In 2004 he became the Railways Minister of India.

Indian Railways is a very sensitive topic. As much as people like to complain about it, its makes everyone proud. Its one of the biggest railway network in the world, employs over 1.5 million people and the total distance covered by the trains is 3.5 times the distance to moon.

In 2001 an expert declared that Railways will be bankrupt by 2015 unless privatised. It was making huge losses and was expected to make US$15.4 billion loss by 2015. Lalu turned it around in 2-3 years and now its made profit of U$2.47 billion.

To turn this huge organisation from loss making to profit making he followed some simple logic.
  • Reduce the fares instead of increasing them and the occupancy will improve
  • Increase the freight loading hours from 10 hours to 24 hours daily
  • Make everything simple for ordinarly people to follow including reservations
  • Once the basics are working keep improving the infrastructure and make further cost reductions

Now lets compare this to how mobile operators behave.

  • They provide big subsidy for the handsets but they think this gives them right to charge whatever they wish.
  • The tariff's are still not competetive for international calls and while roaming abroad. A simple call making and receiving for a UK mobile on roaming to US can be charged to £1.20 per min. Compare this to making it free using Skype. This puts off so many people in calling home when abroad and receiving calls on their mobiles. If its cheaper more and more people will make and receive calls when abroad.
  • Using data abroad could be like commiting suicide.
  • There are couple of networks who give huge student discounts but with them text messages can take upto 12 hours to be delivered.
  • Some networks have customer service open for limited hours and they charge calling the number even with the same network mobile.
The mobile operators like to complain that the voice call revenues are decreasing and there is still not enough data uptake. I would urge them to set their house in order before they complain. In the end the consumers will always find cheaper alternatives like VoIP and WiFi unless its something important. On the oher hand if some cheap options are available we do not mind trying them.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

And the winner is . . . DVB-H

Brussels has now officially endorsed DVB-H as the mobile TV technology of choice in Europe. This means that member states are now required to "encourage" use of the technology, though the commission has no advice as to how to encourage punters to tune in.

In the UK both T-Mobile and Orange are about to launch trials using the competing MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) technology, which utilises existing 3G networks and spectrum. The technology for that trial is being provided by NextWave Wireless, and CMO Jon Hambidge is dismissive of EU attempts to mandate a mobile TV technology "when [the network operators] spent billions of dollars on their licences MBMS [was] part of that business case".

Note that in an earlier blog I had mentioned that Mobile TV and MBMS will co-exist. See here.

Viviane Reding, EU telecoms commissioner, has made it clear that if companies don't migrate to DVB-H she'll use regulatory measures to create an EU-wide standard.

Background Material:

The DVB-H standard is a recent extension of the DVB-T standard. It is intended to allow reception of television programs with portable and mobile terminals of relatively small size (the H of DVB-H means “handheld,” which indicates the primary type of devices targeted).

In most cases, the terminal will be a mobile phone. In fact, one of the main goals of DVB-H is to avoid the limitation inherent to UMTS of the number of terminals which can receive the same broadcast television program at one time. The main extensions of DVB-H compared to DVB-T are as follows (their use is signaled by specific TPS bits):

• addition of a 4 k COFDM mode, better suited to the implementation of SFN networks of medium cell size and allowing a reduction of the power consumption of the terminal compared to the 8 k mode;
• addition of a longer time interleaving (double for the 4 k mode and quadruple for the 2 k mode), which improves the behavior in case of signal fading and resistance to impulsive noise;
transmission of a given service in periodic bursts by a process known as “time slicing” which permits a subscriber to activate the receiver only during a fraction of the time (5 to 10%) in order to reduce the power consumption, thus increasing the battery operating time;
• the ability to increase robustness by means of an optional additional link layer error correction (MPE-FEC) to improve the reception with an integrated antenna of necessarily very limited performances.

In order to allow the best use of these extensions, TV programs or other broadcast services are transmitted to mobile terminals as elementary streams (ES) formatted as IP (Internet Protocol) datagrams. The use of the IP protocol is, however, different from the one in TV by ADSL using DVB-IP: in DVB-H, the IP datagrams are encapsulated according to the so-called multiprotocol encapsulation (MPE) and then inserted in an MPEG-2 transport stream for transmission (in DVB-IP, it’s the transport stream which is IP encapsulated). This operation consists of encapsultaing the IP datagrams in DSM-CC sections by adding a header and a CRC termination. These sections are then segmented into MPEG-2 transport packets.

In order to realize the desired time-slicing, sections are not transmitted immediately, but are accumulated in order to form records of a maximum size of 191 kb, which will correspond to the duration of the time slice allocated to a service. These records can be represented as a table of 191 colums by a maximum of 1024 rows on which an optional additional error correction called “MPE-FEC” can be applied. This MPE-FEC consists of a Reed–Solomon coding RS (255,191) applied to words of 191 bytes made of the lines of this table. This will produce a second table made of an RS word of 64 bytes for each line of the original table. The result will be a new table of 255 colums by a maximum of 1024 lines which will be read column by column for transmission.

The DVB-H standard can be used in the UHF TV band with usual DVB-T channel widths (6, 7, or 8 MHz, depending on the region) or in other frequency bands (e.g., L-band in the United States around 1.67GHz with other channel widths, 5MHz in this case).

One of the problems with the use of the UHF band for TV reception in a GSM phone is the proximity of the high part of the UHF band (up to 862 MHz) to the GSM 900 transmit band of the terminal (880 to 915 MHz). Taking into account the current filtering capabilities, this prevents in practice the possibility of using the high UHF channels (>750 MHz) in a TV receiver integrated into an operating GSM phone.

The DVB-H standard can in principle use all the combinations of modulation parameters allowed by the standard (QPSK to 64-QAM, etc.) but, given the required robustness of this application, in practice only QPSK and 16-QAM with FEC of 1/2 or 2/3 are realistically usable, which permits bit-rates of 5 to 11 Mb/s in an 8MHz channel (without MPE-FEC correction). The video encoding used will be mainly H.264 with a CIF or QCIF resolution and bit-rates in the order of 256 to 384 kb/s.

Various experiments took place in Europe from 2004 onward to test the technical performances of the system in order to define the characteristics of the network, and to find out the user acceptance and expectations in order to establish a viable business model. The reactions of the test sample have been positive or enthusiastic everywhere. The first commercial DVB-H services started in Finland and Italy in mid-2006.
For more information see: