Friday, 25 March 2016

State of LTE & Connectivity


There are some reports that have been recently published on connectivity and connection numbers. This post intends to provide this info.

Facebook released "State of connectivity 2015" report. As can be seen in the picture above, at the end of 2015, estimates showed that 3.2 billion people were online. This increase (up from 3 billion in 2014) is partly attributed to more affordable data and rising global incomes in 2014. Over the past 10 years, connectivity increased by approximately 200 to 300 million people per year.

While this is positive news in terms of growth, it also means that globally, 4.1 billion people were still not internet users in 2015.

The four key barriers to internet access include:

Availability: Proximity of the necessary infrastructure required for access.
Affordability: The cost of access relative to income.
Relevance: A reason for access, such as primary language content.
Readiness: The capacity to access, including skills, awareness and cultural acceptance.

The PDF version of report is available here.


The number of LTE users crossed 1 Billion, end of 2015 according to a report by GSA. OpenSignal has a summary blog post on this here.



Finally, Open Signal has published Global State of LTE Market report that provides coverage, speeds and a lot more information.

South Korea and Singapore have set themselves apart from the main body of global operators, providing both superior coverage and speed. The biggest standouts were South Korea’s Olleh and Singapore’s Singtel. Olleh excelled in coverage, but also provided one of the fastest connections speeds in our report, 34 Mbps. Meanwhile Singtel hit the 40 Mbps mark in speed while still maintaining a coverage rating of 86%. There are other notable country clusters in the upper right-hand quadrant as well, for instance operators from the Netherlands, Canada and Hungary.

Meanwhile, other countries have staked positions for themselves in specific regions of the plot. U.S. and Kuwaiti operators are tightly clustered in the lower right, meaning they offer excellent coverage but poor 4G speeds. Japan and Taiwan congregate in the middle far right with their exceptional coverage but only average speeds. Most of New Zealand and Romania’s operators hover at the center top of the chart, indicating impressive bandwidth but a general lack of availability.

Its makes interesting reading, PDF available here.

*** Added Later: 25/03/16:12.15 ***

A good breakdown of LTE subscriptions by countries by Ovum:



Saturday, 12 March 2016

The role of satellites in 5G world

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

Monday, 29 February 2016

The Internet of Me: It’s all about my screens - Bob Schukai


I had the pleasure of attending the IET Turing lecture last week and listening to Robert Schukai. He gave a brilliant talk on how Smartphones are changing the way we do things. Its a very interesting talk but its nearly 87 minutes long. Slides are not available but the video is embedded below.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Possible 5G Network Architecture Evolution


Came across this interesting Network Architecture evolution Roadmap by Netmanias. Its embedded below and available to download from the Netmanias website.



Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Art of Disguising Cellular Antennas

When I did a blog post 'Disguising Small Cells in Rural areas' last year, many people were surprised to see these things. So here is another post showing how the antennas looks like and how they have to be disguised to blend in with the environment.


The above pictures shows fake date trees (with dates) near Koutoubia mosque, Marrakech, designed to blend in with the surroundings. In fact I have been told that these fake date trees are common in the Middle East and North African countries.


The above picture is from Dubai, showing similar palm tree. Source unknown.


The above picture, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter shows a cell site near Blandford Forum. I hope you can spot the fake tree on top right.


Another one, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter shows a cell site between motorway M56, J10 & 11 in Cheshire. Single operator but could be shared, single frequency band, x-pole with 3 cell sectors. Only two of the possible 3 cell sectors connected here. Pointing up and down motorway hence 4 feeders.







Another one courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter. Its been disguised to not look out of place unless someone is observing very carefully.
All three are fake trees and each is a separate cellular installation. The location is Lancashire, off the A6 between Slyne and Bolton-le-Sands. They are all different operators, left to right, O2, T-Mobile, Orange - although two will become one as part of EE of course.


Modern Art and Cellular Antenna, courtesy of Andy Sutton on Twitter.

What will happen when we transition to 5G, where we will have a lot more antennas because of MIMO (massive or not). China Mobile is researching into Smart Tiles, which are antennas that can be hidden inside Chinese characters. See the following for example:

With more antennas becoming commonplace in the urban environment, operators and vendors will have to keep up coming with innovative ways to disguise the antennas and hope no one notices.

See Also:


Saturday, 30 January 2016

SDN & NFV lecture

I have been meaning to add this interesting lecture delivered by Dr. Yaakov Stein of RAD at IETF.

The video, which cannot be embedded, is available here. If you cant wait to get into the main presentation, jump to 19.40 on the time bar at the bottom.

The slides from the presentation are embedded below.



Assuming that you understand NFV and SDN well, have a look at another interesting whitepaper that was published by Signals Research group, "Bending Iron – Software Defined Networks & Virtualization for the Mobile Operator", available here.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

IET Lecture: 5G – Getting Closer to Answers?


I was fortunate to be able to hear the IET Appleton lecture last week. The good thing about these lectures are that the speakers get plenty of time to talk about the subject of interest and as a result they can cover the topic in much greater depth.

Some interesting tweets from the evening:




Here is the video:



As I was sitting in the front, I managed to ask a question - "5G is going to be evolution and revolution. Will it be revolution first then evolution or vice versa". If you cant wait to hear the answer, you can jump to 1:21:30 in the video.

The answer also ties in nicely with my Linkedin post on '5G: Mine is bigger than yours'. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Interesting gadgets from CES 2016

Here are some gadgets from the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016. These are all collected from the tweets and there is a Youtube video below if you are interested. There are just too many interesting things to list but do let me know which ones are your favourites.





Saturday, 9 January 2016

5G Spectrum Discussions

While most people are looking at 5G from the point of new technologies, innovative use cases and even lumping everything under sun as part of 5G, many are unaware of the importance of spectrum and the recently concluded ITU World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15).

As can be seen in the picture above, quite a few bands above 24GHz were identified for 5G. Some of these bands have an already existing allocation for mobile service on primary basis. What this means is that mobile services can be deployed in these bands. For 3G and 4G, the spectrum used was in bands below 4GHz, with 1800MHz being the most popular band. Hence there was never a worry for those high frequency bands being used for mobile communication.

As these bands have now been selected for study by ITU, 5G in these bands cannot be deployed until after WRC-19, where the results of these studies will be presented. There is a small problem though. Some of the bands that were initially proposed for 5G, are not included in this list of bands to be studied. This means that there is a possibility that some of the proponent countries can go ahead and deploy 5G in those bands.

For three bands that do not already have mobile services as primary allocation, additional effort will be required to have mobile as primary allocation for them. This is assuming that no problems are identified as a result of studies going to be conducted for feasibility of these bands for 5G.


To see real benefits of 5G, an operator would need to use a combination of low and high frequency bands as can be seen in the picture above. Low frequencies for coverage and high frequencies for capacity and higher data rates.


As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, 5G will be coming in two phases. Phase 1 will be Rel-15 in H2, 2018 and Phase 2, Rel-16, in Dec. 2019. Phase 1 of 5G will generally consist of deployment in lower frequency bands as the higher frequency bands will probably get an approval after WRC-19. Once these new bands have been cleared for 5G deployment, Phase 2 of 5G would be ready for deployment of these high frequency bands.

This also brings us to the point that 5G phase 1 wont be significantly different from LTE-A Pro (or 4.5G). It may be slightly faster and maybe a little bit more efficient.

One thing I suspect that will happen is start of switching off of 3G networks. The most commonly used 3G (UMTS) frequency is 2100MHz (or 2.1GHz). If a network has to keep some 3G network running, it will generally be this frequency. This will also allow other international users to roam onto that network. All other 3G frequencies would soon start migrating to 4G or maybe even 5G phase 1.

Anyway, 2 interesting presentations on 5G access and Future of mmWave spectrum are embedded below. They are both available to download from the UK Spectrum Policy Forum (SPF) notes page here.








Further reading:


Saturday, 2 January 2016

End to end and top to bottom network design…


A good way to start 2016 is by a lecture delivered by Andy Sutton, EE at the IET conference 'Towards 5G Mobile Technology – Vision to Reality'. The slides and the video are both embedded below. The video also contains Q&A at the end which people may find useful.




Videos of all other presentations from the conference are available here for anyone interested.