Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Texting and Internet being trialled on flights

BMI is piloting mobile internet and texting services on planes, but frequent flyers need not get up in arms about getting stuck next to chatty people, as the airline has wisely chosen to leave out voice calls.

The service, from OnAir, will be trialled for six months on just one plane – an Airbus A320, which flies between Heathrow and Moscow. Passengers will be able to use SMS, email and internet on mobiles, PDAs and laptops with GSM SIM cards or dongles.

Peter Spencer, managing director of BMI, said: “It opens up an exciting new era of travellers being able to stay in touch by text message and email whilst in the air.

The pilot project isn’t just about testing the tech or the take-up, however. “The trial will help us address some of the social and etiquette issues regarding the use of mobile communications devices inflight and provide valuable customer feedback which will be at the heart of deciding how the service is developed and rolled out across the remainder of our mid haul fleet,” Spencer said.

“We have chosen not to implement the voice call option as part of the trial,” he added.

On the other side of the world, Delta Air Lines officially launched Aircell's Gogo Inflight Internet service on six of its aircrafts. In-flight Internet initially will be available on five MD-88 aircraft flying Delta Shuttle routes between New York's LaGuardia Airport and Boston's Logan and Washington's Reagan airports plus one Boeing 757 flying throughout Delta's domestic system, with service spreading to other Delta routes as additional aircraft are introduced.

"In-flight Internet access is one of the most popular requests we receive from our customers," noted Tim Mapes, Delta's senior vice president of marketing. To celebrate the launch, Delta passengers traveling on the Gogo-equipped MD-88 Shuttle aircraft will be treated to a holiday surprise with complimentary access to Gogo during a Dec. 16 - 31, 2008 promotional period.

A "WiFi hotspot" decal will be prominently displayed adjacent to the boarding door of the MD-88 aircraft so customers will know Gogo Inflight Internet service is available on their flight. In addition, a Delta-Gogo instructional card will be available in each seatback, providing details on how to sign up for the service. Gogo representatives and Delta employees will be available at all three Delta Shuttle-served airports throughout the promotional period to provide information and assistance to customers traveling during this timeframe.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Mobile healthcare named 2009 tech pioneer

The World Economic Forum on Thursday named Japan-based Mobile Healthcare Inc (MHC) as a 2009 Technology Pioneer. The company, which develops real-time mobile health solutions for preventing and managing diabetes, obesity and other lifestyle-related illnesses that can be accessed over mobile phones, became one of the 34 technology visionaries to be honored at the 2009 World Economic Forum.

MHC Founder & CEO James Nakagawa said, “We have aspired from the outset to be pioneers, exploring the life-changing potential of mobile technology and finding solutions that empower people to tackle their own health issues affordably and easily via their personal cellular devices and the Internet. I was at once ecstatic and humbled by the news that our work had gained disciples from amongst the venerable body of global business and financial leaders put forth by the World Economic Forum.”

The company’s flagship product, Lifewatcher, is a mobile phone-based health management application for people with so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as diabetes and obesity. Users can monitor their own conditions by logging blood sugar levels, calorie intake, exercise and many other variables into their ‘always on’ mobile device, creating a one-glance health portfolio, which collates daily, monthly and even yearly data. It also delivers vital medical information, reminders and alerts with escalating alarm-levels if goals are not met.Using real-time cellular technology, diabetics and lifestyle illness sufferers can also be in constant dialogue with medical practitioners to ensure health measures are in check or, if not, to spark intervention that could save lives. With the dramatic rise of diabetes and obesity to pandemic levels in countries like Japan and the U.S., doctors have been welcoming this self-directed management tool that affordably and easily increases drug, nutrition, exercise and monitoring compliance for sufferers.

Motohisa Furukawa, a high-ranking Japanese politician and long-time participant at Davos said: “Japan is particularly proud this year to see Mobile Healthcare accepting this honor. It is my hope that government representatives attending Davos this year will recognize the particular relevance of innovative technologies like Lifewatcher, as a universal low-cost healthcare solution that is also environmentally sustainable, as we move forward in these tough economic times in a resource-constrained world.”

Nokia may be entering laptop market

With the telecoms market so tight every company especially the giants like Nokia are looking at the alternatives for their revenues to go further north. Some time ago there was a rumour that the Nokia might enter into the laptop market and hence widen its area of business. Although at that time this was categorically denied by Nokia, rumours the Finnish mobile giant may be planning to enter the laptop computer market have resurfaced. On this occasion it was through the medium of a research note from a Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) analyst. For a report that could just be speculative it contained a remarkable amount of detail suggesting as it did that the Nokia device would be a 9 to 10 inch notebook/tablet computer with touchpad, NFC and Linux OS.

In its early days Nokia did produce computers but by the mid-1980s it had exited the business, merging its PC division with Ericsson Information Systems.

In the past of couple of years we have seen that companies like HP and Apple have moved into the smartphone business and hence taken a small share of the market. This has really affected likes of Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and other vendors. Taking a leaf out of computer manufacturers such as HP and Apple who has moved into smartphone business, Nokia thinks that perhaps it is its time now to mount a counterattack.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Indian m-Commerce service among top tech pioneers for 2009

JiGrahak is behind ngpay, the brand name of a free mobile-commerce service that allows consumers in India to shop, order meals, make charitable donations, do their banking, and pay their bills, among other things. Launched last February, ngpay already has attracted more than 230,000 users and has become the largest channel for mobile-based transactions with Indian Railways and HDFC Bank, and for movie ticketing. The company expects to have 1 million users by mid-2009.

More information available from this youtube video:

Femtocell 3GPP Specifications

Now with Release 8 frozen, if you are Femtocell follower then there are couple of specs that you can read:

3GPP TR 25.820 - 3G Home NodeB Study Item Technical Report: Contains study of items from RAN#2, RAN#3 and RAN#4 point of view.

3GPP TS TS 22.220 - Service Requirements for Home NodeBs and Home eNodeBs: It lists different requirements as the title suggests. You can see some more info on this at Martin's blog.

Over the next few months since the Femtocell race is heating up, you would find these documents being updated with lots of details and probably stage 2 and stage 3 documents detailing some implementation details, etc. Will keep you informed.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Mobile phones can be very distracting

There are so many telecoms blogs which we read and write in our daily life. Today I want to touch on a different but very serious subject regarding the mobile phones.
Everybody knows how dangerous or distracting a mobile phone can be when we are involved in some other jobs e.g. driving.

I thought to touch on this subject and outline some important facts about the do’s and don’ts before we go into the festive period.

It’s very much evident that while driving it’s simply dangerous to chat on the mobile phone. It doesn't matter much whether the talking happens with a phone held to the ear, or through a speaker-phone, it's all distracting to the driver. In the past, it has been reported that chatting on mobile phones slows traffic. It’s quite simple that drivers who are talking on a cell phone clog traffic because they're driving more slowly (and reacting much more slowly) than drivers who take the radical path of paying attention to their driving. Well, yet another study, this time conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, finds that mobile phone calls are just plain distracting to drivers (must read this article). Admittedly, the sample size consist only 41 adults, with 41 of their passenger friends. What is interesting about this study though is that it pits drivers having conversations using hands-free mobile phones against drivers maintaining in-car conversations with their passengers.

The study noted that drivers on their mobile phones tended to drift in their lanes, and were four times as likely to miss pulling off the highway at a prearranged location. Drivers maintaining conversation with their passengers apparently fared much better. A plausible reason for this is that the in-car passengers actually supported drivers by their talking about surrounding traffic.
Last week in one of my blog I reported how texting is picking up especially in teens. Texting on the mobile is even more dangerous than chatting while driving as your eyes are down. In September this year a train crash was reported in California where the driver was blamed for the crash as he was busy texting.

Well this was for the drivers but how about normal person on the road. Everyday we come across people who walk across the street looking at their cell phone and not at the traffic.
This business of walking with you eyes down on the cell phone is equally a risky business as it is while driving.

Well I know that there is nothing new in whatever I mentioned above and it has already been told to us millions of time. I still considered myself a duty bound and thought if I mention here soma of you may be extra cautious while using the cell phone specially when during this festive period.

Please take care and I wish you wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.

Vodafone launches true "Pay as you go" data package

Vodafone launched a pay as you go USB modem that doesn't need topping up every month. It costs £39 upfront and comes with £15 worth of credit, which amounts to 1GB of data. According to Vodafone, 1GB of data lets you do 30 hours of Web surfing, or send 650 emails, or download 65 music tracks or short video clips.

Unlike certain other pay as you go mobile broadband services, the 1GB will not expire after 30 days. The minimum you can top up the dongle each time is £15, which can be done using a voucher or over the phone.

It is capable of speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, but customers should only expect speeds of up to 1Mbps to 2Mbps. The modem will also double as a 4GB USB memory stick.

I would like to refer to this as true pay as you go plan because the topup does not expire after a month. On the other hand, a similar amount on '3' would get you 3GB of data in their version of PAYG which expires after a month.

LTE functionality frozen as part of Release 8

According to 3GPP website: 3GPP has approved the functional freeze of LTE as part of Release 8.

There is significant commitment from operators to deploy this technology, and this landmark achievement will allow them to realize their early deployment plans.

But the 3GPP decided to give more time to the work on SAE -– a.k.a. evolved packet core (EPC) –- because the specs weren't complete enough. The standards body has drawn up a list of "exceptions" that will have until March 2009 to be finalized in order to be included in Release 8.

"There are a number of pieces of work which we thought should be included but weren't quite ready," says Scrase. "[There are] quite a number of parts for SAE, the work [on which] still lags behind LTE work. We have a high level of confidence that the items will be completed by March, otherwise we wouldn't have included them on the list."

Scrase says that it is common to extend deadlines in this way and that the 3GPP allowed a similar extension for Release 7.

The decisions about LTE and SAE took place at a 3GPP meeting in Athens last week, where the group definitively agreed on what is contained in Release 8 and what's not, according to Scrase. The group also agreed on what should be included in Release 9, which is scheduled to be frozen in December 2009.

And there is more to Release 8 than LTE and SAE. For example, some of the specifications for femtocells -- or "Home Node B" in 3GPP terminology -- are included in the release.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

It's Aeroflex turn now to launch it's LTE product

As the competition is spicing up for the LTE race, companies have now started to launch their LTE products.

Continuing with the trends and keep the competition alive it’s now Aeroflex which launched the TM500 TD-LTE test mobile.

This latest LTE test mobile is designed to support Time Division Duplex for 3G LTE (TD-LTE) and will definitely compliment Aeroflex's TM500 LTE-FDD for 3G LTE Frequency Division Duplex quite well.
Ever since China mobile announced its plans for TD-LTE there was immense pressure on the equipment vendors to meet the demands. TM500 TD-LTE test mobile is designed to enable infrastructure equipment vendor’s match that demanding timescales for TD-LTE trials in China.
The TM500 TD-LTE's extensive Layer 1, Layer 2 and higher layer test features make it an indispensable testing peer that provides complete visibility even into the lowest layers of the radio modem by generating the detailed diagnostic data needed for engineers to verify the required functionality and optimize network operation and performance.
Following are further characteristics of TM500 TD-LTE:
  • Support MIMO,
  • Handover testing is simple and supported well,
  • The test mobile can support 20MHz channel bandwidths and downlink data rates of upto 150Mbit/

All the above characteristics if the test mobile will enable comprehensive development and test support of base station and network infrastructure for the next generation of Chinese mobile technology.

The TM500 TD-LTE can co-exist in the same unit as the TM500 LTE-FDD protecting investment and maximizing test flexibility for engineers working on both standards.
Aeroflex will provide full in-country support for the TM500 TD-LTE so that technical questions and integration issues can be dealt with in Chinese and Aeroflex engineers can get on-site quickly, if needed, without having to fly in from Europe or the USA.

The TM500 TD-LTE will be available for customer shipment in late 2008.
It will be available both as a standalone unit and as an upgrade to existing TM500 LTE-FDD systems.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Satellite based Mobile Internet of the future

Background: The current US military satellite communications network represents decades-old technology. To meet the heightened demands of national security in the coming years, newer and more powerful systems are being developed.

Advances in information technology are fundamentally changing the way military conflicts are resolved. The ability to transmit detailed information quickly and reliably to and from all parts of the globe will help streamline military command and control and ensure information superiority, enabling faster deployment of highly mobile forces capable of adapting quickly to changing conditions in the field. Satellite communications play a pivotal role in providing the interoperable, robust, "network-centric" communications needed for future operations.

Military satellite communications (or milsatcom) systems are typically categorized as wideband, protected, or narrowband. Wideband systems emphasize high capacity. Protected systems stress antijam features, covertness, and nuclear survivability. Narrowband systems emphasize support to users who need voice or low-data-rate communications and who also may be mobile or otherwise disadvantaged (because of limited terminal capability, antenna size, environment, etc.).

For wideband communication needs, the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite program and the Advanced Wideband System will augment and eventually replace the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS). These satellites will transmit several gigabits of data per second—up to ten times the data flow of the satellites being replaced. Protected communications will be addressed by a global extremely high frequency (EHF) system, composed of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System and Advanced Polar System. These systems are expected to provide about ten times the capacity of current protected satellites (the Milstar satellites). Narrowband needs are supported by the UFO (Ultrahigh-frequency Follow-On) constellation, which will be replaced by a component of the Advanced Narrowband System

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Hughes Space and Communications and TRW have formed a National Team to build the Department of Defense's (DOD) next generation of highly secure communication satellites known as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system.

The Advanced EHF programme provides the follow-on capability to the Milstar satellite programme. It provides the basis for the next generation military communications satellite system, for survivable, jam-resistant, worldwide, secure, communications for the strategic and tactical warfighter. The system replenishes the Milstar constellation in the EHF band.

Each of these Advanced EHF satellites employs more than 50 communications channels via multiple, simultaneous downlinks. Launch of the first AEHF satellite is planned for April 2008 with the second AEHF satellite scheduled for launch in April 2009.

The fully operational Advanced EHF constellation will consist of four crosslinked satellites, providing coverage of the Earth from 65° north latitude to 65° south. These satellites will provide more data throughput capability and coverage flexibility to regional and global military operations than ever before. The fifth satellite built could be used as a spare or launched to provide additional capability to the envisioned constellation.

Current Status: After being plagued with project overruns and a scaling back of the final system, the US military's next generation satellite communications network is another step closer to reality, with completion of the payload module for the third and final Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) satellite.

Although the EHF band is a relatively lightly used part of the electromagnetic spectrum (30-300 GHz), it is for good reason. Atmospheric attenuation is the biggest problem faced in this band, especially around 60 GHz, however the frequencies are viable for short distance terrestrial based communication links, such as microwave Internet and telecommunication links (which already operate in this band). Millimetre wave radar, probably best known as the radar that can see through your clothes but not your skin, also operates in this band.

Designed to avoid problematic frequencies that are more susceptible to attenuation, but accepting increased overall atmospheric attenuation, are an increasing number of military and civil satellite systems that are using this band for uplink and downlink, as well as inter-satellite communication. Inter-satellite communication is really where EHF equipment shines (no atmosphere, small antennas, high data rates).

Civilian systems are currently around the Ku band (Intelsat), providing data rates of up to 2-4 Mbps (14 GHz uplink, 12 GHz downlink) however these rates have still to trickle into everyday user's hands for remote and mobile Internet access. It is more common that an aggregator will access this link/rate and use that to then portion out local Internet access. Systems such as this are in use for remote Australian territories like Cocos and Christmas Islands, and formed the backbone of Boeing's stillborn Connexion in-flight Internet access. High ongoing access costs (basically a share of the overall cost of the satellite) and limited access slots help keep the technology away from everyday use at this time. Militaries and governments around the globe also lease access on these circuits when they need the added capability, with Intelsat and Inmarsat systems being used in the first Gulf War.

Advanced EHF is designed to provide 24 hour coverage from 65 North, to 65 South across the K and Ka sub bands, and when combined with the prototyped Extended Data Rate (XDR) terminals and systems, will offer up to 8.2 Mbps data rates for around 4,000 terminals in concurrent use per satellite footprint (whether that scales to 12,000 systems in concurrent use globally isn't clear from source material).

Within the tri-satellite constellation, inter-satellite EHF links will allow terminals on opposite sides of the globe to communicate in near real-time without the use of a terrestrial link. Combined with smaller, directional antennas and the various options for anti-jamming technology, it represents a significant military capability for the US.

Already plans are being drawn up for the Transformational Satellite Communications System (T-Sat) which will replace Advanced EHF starting sometime in 2013, however it is already facing funding troubles. This could be problematic, with Advanced EHF still struggling to reach capability and the final launch not scheduled until April 2010. Dropping the fourth satellite of the Advanced EHF constellation has been planned to give the USAF time to implement T-Sat more rapidly.

If GPS and remote imaging (think Google Earth) have proven anything, it is that technology initially developed for military purposes, and extremely expensive for initial civil use, will eventually reach the point where it forms part of our daily lives without us ever being conscious of the massive investment to get to that point.