Although 5G captures all the headlines, 4G wireless technology will account for two-thirds of the global mobile connections by 2025, according to GSMA’s second annual ‘Global Mobile Trends’ report published yesterday at Mobile World Congress Americas being held in San Francisco. On a global basis, 5G networks will be rolled out at a slower rate than 4G and adoption is also likely to be slower.
“5G continues to occupy thought space as the next big thing in mobile,” the report said. “4G, however, will dominate in volume terms for at least the next 10 years.” GSMA predicts a net 3.6 billion 4G users will be added, versus 1.2 billion 5G users, between 2016 and 2025.
The United States and China are virtually tied with two thirds of all connections currently occurring LTE smartphones, with mobile data traffic growing at 20 percent to 30 percent per year.
“LTE is going to get faster, meaning that networks can deliver more intensive video traffic. This is one of the main reasons why 5G is likely to co-exist with 4G for many years, as opposed to replacing it,” the study said.
Enterprise IoT will be the key revenue opportunity for 5G according to 69 percent of all operators, the report said. Early consumer 5G deployments may target high-bandwidth applications as an extension to 4G, such as 8K ultra-HD video, virtual reality and augmented reality.
“The approach being pursued by U.S. carriers is to use 5G as a last-mile technology for home broadband,” the report said. “The ability to apply a pricing premium remains to be seen – to a large extent, it depends on how sufficiently different consumers perceive 5G to be to LTE.”
More Takeaways from the 2017 edition of the Global Mobile Trends
March 21, 2017
I recently saw highlights from a report by ABI research. I am very familiar with that firm and have spoken with many of their subject matter experts about a variety of topics. While I think they are well entrenched in many industries, and have some of the best experts around, sometimes I think their analysis may be a bit off the mark.
For example, the firm recently did a research report on the transition to 5G. while it was pretty spot-on about how 5G will be a gradual transition, I’m not so sure they are right about 4G predictions – at least concerning the time frame.
The report implies that 4G, and its enhancements over the next few years as 5G emerges, will offer some of the same advancements that 5G will eventually offer. I have to wonder about that. I think that may be true in some of the more generic platforms, such as social media and text/voice. But I am not so sure it will be able to handle the data tsunami that is ramping up – especially with multimedia.
There are some issues with the present 4G, such as latency, modulation schemes and some others. Not that people aren’t working on that. Some advanced “4G+” platforms have shown promise in dealing with such challenges. But so far, they are mostly in the lab or out in a test scenario.
ABI says LTE carries about 67 percent of all mobile traffic currently. Well, I can tell you this; while that may be true, my 4G connections leave a lot to be desired when it comes to speed. And that speed is all over the map, depending upon where and when. ABI claims that by 2022 LTE will carry 82 percent of all mobile traffic. While that also may be true, the QoS of that number will leave a lot to be desired. So, just because the number is plausible, it isn’t just always about the numbers.
2022 is only two years past the inauguration year for 5G. it is pretty predictable that, in 2022, 5G will still be evolving. In fact, many experts I talk to say 5G won’t be the predominant wireless platform until late into the 2020’s, so saying 82 percent of all mobile traffic will still be 4G in 2022 is a pretty safe guess as a bounded statistic.
I think there is a pretty wide margin here. A couple of years at least. And if the numbers get better, that is good for all of us. If they get worse, well, we are all familiar with the promises versus delivery in the wireless arena.
The industry is developing gigabit LTE in response to the changing demand for bandwidth. Various schemes like carrier aggregation are part of that arsenal. But spectrum is still finite for LTE and latency always rears its ugly head. And that is more important than bandwidth for some apps, especially real-time ones.
Now don’t get me wrong. 4G LTE is here to stay. Especially in rural and sparsely populated sprawling areas. But in the densification arena, 4G LTE is likely to become strained.
Since 5G is going to start out mainly as point to point or point to multipoint, using mmWave, the coverage areas are relatively limited and sensitive. But deployment of hardware will eventually resolve that issue.
And, let’s not forget Edge Computing, which is going to become a very important metric that ideally lends itself to 5G.
In the end, the variations of 4G LTE will play alongside 5G. But at the very end, 5G will be the predominant, next generation platform for much of the wireless world and LTE will handle the back end in many cases.
February 16, 2017 – Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel) and AT&T have complete completed multiple commercial trials featuring a Massive MIMO in licensed Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) LTE spectrum using technology from Blue Danube Systems.
The trials were conducted using Blue Danube’s BeamCraft 500 active antenna product for advanced 3D beamforming, which is capable of delivering 160 watts of transmit power for a Massive MIMO system. Based on its underlying High Definition Active Antenna System (HDAAS) technology, the 96-element BeamCraft 500 can intelligently and seamlessly focus signal energy where it is needed, allowing wireless carriers to better serve high demand areas and minimize interference zones.
“The demand for Massive MIMO solutions continues to increase as industry gears towards delivering 4G advancements and 5G. Mobile carriers are looking for innovative and cost-effective ways to improve network capacity and Blue Danube’s BeamCraft 500 is the first product designed to provide operators a low friction upgrade at existing sites targeting lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) for high-capacity,” said Earl Lum, president at EJL Wireless Research.
The trials supported more than 10 terabits of data during a three-month period through a simple retrofit of the existing antenna with Blue Danube’s BeamCraft 500 unit. At the trial sites, users experienced an improvement of 2X to 5X in throughput in high traffic demand areas using the same transmit power as the legacy installation. Additionally, users received up to 20X improvement in instantaneous video throughput and experienced smooth 1080p HD videos in locations where existing systems were stalling and previously only capable of 144p.
“Massive MIMO opens up a new way to boost capacity in mobile telecom, by using the spatial dimension and multiple antennas to create multiple paths that re-use spectrum more effectively. Instead of waiting for 5G, mobile operators are upgrading thousands of TD-LTE base stations with Massive MIMO this year,” said Joe Madden, founder and principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “It’s an exciting development which, as it gains momentum, may be able to leap into the FDD market as well.”
A second phase of trials is now ongoing to test additional operational modes and traffic scenarios.
To improve their network performance, mobile network operators (MNOs) must strategically deploy their next-generation wireless network equipment on a national scale — and they must do it faster and at higher volumes than ever before. The equipment volume necessary to support these deployments will be significant; therefore, the macro cell tower deployment process must be reimagined to support increased demands.
Originally, requirements mandated that macro cells be installed on the tallest structure available to provide the most coverage possible. Fast-forward through 20 years of macro cell deployments and technological developments, and you’ll find that most MNOs have achieved reasonable coverage in most areas. However, MNOs must still solve two problems: dead spots and capacity overload. MNOs can solve dead spots by using heterogeneous equipment infrastructure deployed by wireless infrastructure providers. Heterogeneous equipment infrastructure complements existing MNO networks, providing more reliable national coverage.
Radio and antenna manufacturers have created several equipment types containing various form factors and capacities to provide MNOs with several choices to improve their mobile network performance using heterogeneous networks. The new equipment can make use of several new infrastructure types. Thus, small cells and macro cells represent a growing portion of wireless carriers’ heterogeneous radio networks — networks that also include micro cells, distributed antenna system (DAS) networks, pico cells, femto cells and Wi-Fi radios. Each of these radio systems has varying capacity and coverage capabilities; therefore, each needs varying amounts of space and power to deploy. To satisfy these requirements, MNOs seek wireless infrastructure providers that have secured the rights to lease several infrastructure types — including buildings, rooftops, signs and parking lot light poles, all with power and data transport connections. MNOs want access to a high volume of standardized heterogeneous equipment to make their network improvements faster and easier.
To help MNOs with access to heterogeneous wireless infrastructure, two companies — MCF Communications and Syscom Telecom — formed a partnership. MCF brought its MNO experience and 20 years of tower and rooftop development to the partnership. Although the company’s initial focus was on national and regional multiple-location and franchise store companies, MCF locations now supply buildings, rooftops, signs and parking lot light poles with power and data transport connections. Syscom Telecom brought more than 77,000 locations nationwide, including billboards and other complementary infrastructure, to the partnership.
Through this partnership, wireless carriers can select from almost 80,000 locations to deploy their heterogeneous network equipment using standardized infrastructure. “This will expand the options for the larger, national carriers and increase performance of those carriers across the country,” said Michael McFadden, president of MCF Communications. “We understand there is no one-size-fits-all solution for wireless deployment. In light of this, we realize that if we can offer thousands of reliable installation locations covered under our master lease agreement (MLA), with 80 percent of them allowing the same or very similar designs, it provides an expedited leasing, design and approval process, thereby increasing the MNO’s speed of deployment of their next-generation services.”
The partnership further offers MNOs increased speed to market because each carrier uses only one MLA for thousands of standardized locations. The single MLA expedites processing with consistent permitting and standard, consistent lease pricing for thousands of locations. When necessary, Syscom will provide backhaul connections to the fiber network at select locations. MCF will continue to work with MNOs on locations under their contracts. Syscom will lead the process completion for their locations. Syscom primarily brings billboard assets and street furniture to the partnership, and MCF primarily brings restaurant and retail rooftop locations in populated suburban areas.
Syscom wants to maximize the value of unconventional infrastructure by providing solutions to telecom operators. It gears its services at providing solutions, empowering infrastructure and improving service nationwide. “By combining Syscom Telecom’s expertise in making use of wireless antenna locations to improve business performance with MCF Communications’ vision of the carrier-grade industry, we can define exciting new opportunities for nationwide carrier transformation,” said Santiago Quintana M., Syscom’s CEO.
Together, MCF Communications and Syscom Telecom strive to unlock the potential of unconventional infrastructure by facilitating the needs of the telecommunications industry. The two companies are working together to improve service and assist with optimizing communications by helping to deploy better technology.
On the multi-front war that is now a function of being a wireless carrier, 2016 was a watershed year for Verizon. From 4G densification to fiber, internet of things (IoT), 5G and Content, executives emphasized that the carrier made many strides forward during its fourth quarter earnings call.
Verizon’s total capex for the fourth quarter was $5.7B and $17.1B for all of 2016, consistent with company estimates, according to Matt Ellis, Verizon chief financial officer. Wireless capex totaled $3.5B in the fourth quarter 2016 and $11.2 billion for the full year, as LTE usage rose 49 percent.
“We invested in adding capacity through densification of the 4G network, acquired telematics and smart city businesses and extended ecosystems to monetize data traffic,” Ellis said.
Organically, internet of things revenue was $243 million, up 21 percent in the fourth quarter. Including acquisitions, IoT revenue increased more than 60 percent in the fourth quarter.
IoT profits helped offset lost earnings from the divested wireline market, Ellis said.
Verizon began its fiber optic network deployments in Boston during the quarter. Its pending XO Communications acquisition will also add to its fiber footprint with additional metro rings in 45 out of the top 50 markets.
“Fiber is an important element of our wireless networks as it allows us to strengthen our 4G LTE capacity, which also preparing for 5G, Ellis said.
5G is a focus for Verizon, Ellis said, and the carrier is launching about 10 pre-commercial pilots across the country with multiple use cases including dense urban and suburban neighborhoods.
“Our goal is to test the 5G fixed wireless technology in different environments in order to successfully operationalize 5G for a commercial launch,” he said.
Verizon is expanding its platforms and building new business models to monetize digital mobile video traffic on its network. AOL’s content and ADTECH capabilities, as well as the go90 “social entertainment” pay service and other content, also have added to Verizon’s video offerings. go90 users average 30 minutes per viewer a day, with less than 20 percent of traffic surfed on the wireless network in the second half of the year.
In 2016, through a joint venture with Hearst, Verizon launched unique content through Complex Media and a 25 percent stake in AwesomenessTV, and we are looking forward to expanding these offerings this year.
“With a focus on delivering timely, short form versions of video clips we have seen digital video consumption gain traction in the last year,” Ellis said. “We have seen increased usage in the go90 application through this exchange and we are expanding our unique content offerings.”
While the IoT may still seem ethereal to some, Verizon continued to take concrete steps to expand into this area. In September, it purchased Sensity, which enables light owners to embed networking technology within retrofit and new LED luminaires.
In November, Verizon purchase LQD WiFi, whose Palo technology hubs allow “citizen engagement experiences” as well as security, transportation, and wayfinding service. Not to mention Wi-Fi capabilities.
“We now have a deep inventory solutions on our IoT platform to provide to our customers,” Ellis said. Overall, we are confident in our ability to execute deliver results and return value to our shareholders while continuously transforming the business.”
In July, Verizon Telematics purchased Telogis, a fleet navigation Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider with distribution through Ford, General Motors, Hino, Isuzu, Mack and Volvo’s Class 8 truck unit.
A Transcript from Seeking Alpha was used in this article.