May 24, 2017
It is always interesting to see the evolution of technology at the Wireless Infrastructure Show from year to year and do a recap of the day’s events. But that is too easy and that is what the other publications in our space usually do. I believe our readers would better be served with some insight and detail on what will move and shake the industry.
One thing of note is that in the past few years, DAS and small cells had a relatively high profile. This year, not so much. What that tells me is that DAS and small cells have moved from the edge of technology to the mainstream.
I have commented about that from time to time, that they are now a tool in the various players (carriers, integrators, etc.) toolbox. However, this editor’s opinion, that is actually a good thing because it takes one speed bump off the road to 5G. With small cells and DAS being easily integrated, we are one step closer to 5G.
But what is hot is 5G, and there was a strong presence of the next generation of wireless. Ratcheted up from last year, both in the program and with vendors, 5G was discussed in speeches by FCC Comm. O’Reilly and others, and in panels from industry experts from companies like Nokia, Cisco, Boingo and others. Discussions included how operators will pivot from 4G to 4.5G and 5G, and their relationships with spectrum, the sharing of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, and working with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
Another interesting vector was the IoT or the Internet of Everything and Everyone (IoX) as I like to call it. There was a lot of discussion around how 5G and the IoX will play out. And, how the infrastructure will fit into the equation. There is a lot of confidence in the value of towers in this future ecosystem but the infrastructure is still trying to figure out how it’s going to fit in. The challenge here is in millimeter waves. As frequencies move beyond 3 GHz to 4 GHz, up to 20-30 GHz, all the way up to 60 GHz and beyond, they start exhibiting some interesting propagation phenomenon that isn’t friendly to the macro cell tower ecosystem. Although there were some interesting discussions as to solutions, there is a lot for everybody to wrap their arms around in these new platforms.
There was also some discussion on M2M. Something I haven’t seen at previous shows. Much of the discussion was around low-power, wide area networks (LPWANs) and the opportunities for carriers in this segment. LPWAN is an up and coming critical component of the next-generation of both infrastructure and technology. It will be critical to understand how they will integrate with both the IoX and 5G. This will be a game changer that infrastructure players will have to be up on.
One interesting vector that seems to be gaining traction is FirstNet. While FirstNet has been on people’s lips for years, at this show, there seems to be an air of confidence that it will be a significant cog in the expansion of the tower infrastructure in the near future. Many of those in the know are seeing FirstNet and the associated infrastructure as a countable resource in the tower infrastructure starting in the next year.
The rest of what goes on here is the usual progress in typical subjects such as FCC updates, municipality issues, building codes, location and building challenges, etc. BTW, Commissioner O’Rielly is a genuine and personable individual who sincerely seems to have the best interests of our industry at heart. I liked what he had to say. It seems a good time to be in the wireless infrastructure business.
May 11, 2017 —
Working with Qualcomm Technologies and SoftBank, Sprint is developing 5G technologies in the 2.5 GHz band, including the 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard.
“Today 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE is one of the largest global wireless ecosystems used by some of the most influential operators in the world such as SoftBank and all of China’s operators, including China Mobile,” John Saw, Sprint CTO, wrote in a blog today.
The agreement includes developing a 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) on the 2.5 GHz spectrum, which Sprint expects to deploy in late 2019.
“As one of the first proponents of 2.5 GHz and TDD-LTE for 4G, we understand the value of building a strong global ecosystem early on. This is why we are working with Qualcomm and SoftBank to develop the 3GPP 5G NR capabilities for 2.5 GHz,” Saw wrote.
Sprint has more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets, more mobile-ready 5G spectrum than any other U.S. carrier.
“Today we’re using this advantage to densify our network with more cell sites and antennas to build a strong foundation for 5G,” Saw wrote. “We are ensuring that Sprint’s deep 2.5 GHz spectrum is an early first-mover in the 5G ecosystem. Not all spectrum bands have this kind of global support and economy of scale.”
Last December, Sprint announced that it had developed technology that will increase 2.5 GHz network coverage by up to 30 percent to nearly match 1.9 GHz spectrum performance, while penetrating buildings at a rate of be 90 percent of what is achieved at 1.9 GHz spectrum.
The carrier demonstrated the advanced technology, known as High Performance User Equipment (HPUE), which a new power class – Power Class 2 – for end-user devices such as smartphones. In development for two years, HPUE was designed to improve the performance of TDD-LTE Band 41 networks, John Saw, wrote in a blog.
“In 2015, we began working on a solution to improve our 2.5 GHz coverage by increasing the uplink coverage of Band 41 devices,” Saw wrote.
Sprint said that its network is ready for the initial rollout of HPUE in its 250 LTE Plus markets. Samsung, one of Sprint’s most important ecosystem partners, is expected to support HPUE in devices slated for commercial launch sometime this year.
May 10, 2017
As the protection of innovation, patents are at the core of the wireless (and really every) industry. Who has them and who doesn’t has a lot to do with deciding the winners and losers when companies are making equipment. So when competing wireless OEMs CommScope and Kathrein entered into a long-term global agreement to cross-license portions of their patent portfolios, it stands out as evidence that the wireless industry is feverishly focused on the future breakthroughs on the way to 5G.
Under the agreement, both companies will be able access and implement the other company’s patents and technologies relating to passive base station antennas, DAS and filters.
The agreement was born out of the belief that each company had something to gain from sharing access their patents, according to Ben Cardwell, senior vice president, CommScope Mobility Solutions. In fact, Kathrein is the first and only company that CommScope has licensed to its digital DAS patent portfolio, while CommScope gains access to Kathrein’s passive base station antenna and filter portfolios.
“Kathrein and CommScope are obviously strong competitors in the marketplace — two of the biggest and most innovative. We battle fiercely out there at the same time.” Cardwell said. “We respect each other’s innovations. The reason we would cross license is we both have decades of patents in antennas and filters.”
CommScope and Kathrein decide cross-license their wealth of patented technology innovation in order to focus on future innovation, Cardwell said, instead of spending time designing around each other’s innovations.
“There are enough new problems in mobile networks as they get more and more complex that it is better to spend our time solving the new challenges,” he said.
The cross-licensing agreement is emblematic of an industry effectively hitting the fast-forward button. Cardwell pointed to steep challenges that will come with 5G technology, the speed of change and the need to keep up.
“Mobile networks are evolving faster than they ever have,” he said. “5G represents the biggest challenge for our customers going forward. There is enough future challenges dealing with the complexity of the networks right now and going forward that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Future antennas must also keep up with increase node densification, a raft of new frequencies in the centimeter and millimeter bands and network functions virtualization. Each node will have more capacity, more frequencies and will be closer to more nodes to keep up with the insatiable demand for data.
“With densification, there are more interference challenges than ever before. Those are problems we solve every day with our DAS and base station filtering products. Cardwell said.
May 2, 2017 —
Bashing the fixed-wireless, high-band 5G strategies of Verizon and AT&T, T-Mobile has announced that its 5G network will be mobile, nationwide and will use a portion of its low-band 600 MHz spectrum to deliver 5G coverage.
T-Mobile president and CEO John Legere laid out the carrier’s strategy to deliver 5G coverage to customers across the country in a video blog.
“5G will be amazing, and we can’t even imagine all the cool stuff it will bring, just like with our earlier network innovations. That’s why truly mobile 5G has to be nationwide — period, the end,” Legere said. “The carriers are using 5G to either distract from how badly they’re losing today or to give their shareholders some hope they can compete with Big Cable. Their ambitious vision for Fixed 5G to replace home internet will never provide mobile 5G coverage. It makes no sense.”
T-Mobile will leverage multiple spectrum bands to deliver nationwide mobile 5G coverage. Legere contrasted its approach with that of AT&T and Verizon, which he said was approaching 5G “much like a series of hotspots in select cities.” The 5G coverage will disappear once customers step outside these limited 5G zones, he said.
The T-Mobile announcement was made in response to AT&T’s announcement that it will build a “5G Evolution” with faster speeds in more than 20 major metro areas by the end of this year, while 5G standards are being finalized. The Verge called it a “Fake 5G Network” in its headline.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote a blog explaining the company’s nationwide Mobile 5G, where he complained about the marketing hype that currently surrounds 5G.
“5G is the buzziest of buzzwords in wireless right now. And, that’s a problem. The carriers are fueling the hype to create tons of confusion about 5G,” Ray wrote.
Ray took on what he called several myths about 5G, such as certain spectrum is now being call “5G spectrum.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘5G spectrum,’ and in the next decade we’ll see everything moving to 5G,” said Ray. “Nationwide Mobile 5G will require both high-band AND broad low-band coverage, and having unused nationwide 600 MHz spectrum means T-Mobile is in an ideal position to deliver.”
On top of its nationwide deployment, T-Mobile 5G said it will enable high bandwidth and massive throughput in urban areas using a combination of mid-band and millimeter wave spectrum.
T-Mobile’s 600 MHz 5G network will deliver increased radio efficiency, immense numbers of connected devices, lower latency and improved battery life and reliability, all of which Mobile 5G will make possible. T-Mobile expects to deploy 5G in its low-band 600 MHz spectrum across its existing nationwide macro network, in contrast with the carriers’ millimeter wave spectrum plans, which would require a number of small cells so massive that providing broad coverage would be impossible.
“The 600 MHz spectrum will allow 5G to be deployed nationwide, bringing the ultimate experiences to T-Mobile’s enterprise customers and consumers throughout the United States,” said Borje Ekholm, president and CEO, Ericsson. “We will support T-Mobile US with 5G radio development for this spectrum. Commercial availability of the product will be aligned with 3GPP standardization and ecosystem support.”
Along with device and infrastructure partners, T-Mobile will help drive 3GPP certification for 5G in 600 MHz. As 5G standards are defined, chipsets are delivered, and equipment comes to market, T-Mobile will quickly deploy 5G nationwide in a large swath of unused spectrum. 5G rollout is expected to begin in 2019 with a target of 2020 for full nationwide coverage.
May 4, 2017 —
It is utterly amazing how the industry can change direction on a dime. A year ago, it was ho-hum about Consumer Broadband Radio Service, which was established by the FCC two years ago last month. Today, they are all over it. why? Because all of a sudden, shared spectrum is now all the rage.
While there has been a lot of resistance to shared spectrum (we are talking unlicensed here), once organization such as Google, Nokia, Qualcomm, Intel and a couple dozen other companies, expressed interest in it, they woke up.
And rightly so, the 3.5 GHz band has a lot of pluses. It propagates decently for mobile applications, has a lot of potential for expanding LTE operations and can be utilized well in the 5G ecosystem.
But what is the wow factor here is that this band is going to be used as a testbed for a new concept called dynamic Spectrum Access System (SAS) administration. In short, that is a new way of managing the three tiers that are being looked at in a sharing capacity – the incumbents, a priority access tier and a general authorized access tier.
This is an interesting concept. The idea is to have dynamic, secure and efficient allocation, management and sharing of spectrum resources in real time. A great idea if it works. The approach goes something like this, according to Amer Hassan, Paul Garnett of Microsoft.
That seems plausible. It is yet to be seen if this is an approach that all the users will accept. It would be wonderful if spectrum comes as easily as a leasing request for a piece of spectrum, as long as it doesn’t conflict with anybody else.
But there are glitches in the silver lining – one is Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi camp is seriously looking at that band for a slice of the pie. How that will play into the equation is yet to be determined. But as unruly as Wi-Fi can be, it needs some updating to play in an SAS environment. It is also considered a prime candidate for small cells which have their own set of demands.
As well, there are already some players living there – the DoD and some satellite operators (hence the three-tier approach protecting these incumbent), although they don’t take up much of that band presently.
These incumbents, however, have necessitated the requirement for “exclusion zones”, which protect the incumbents within a certain radius, and near coastal areas. The current proposal for these exclusion zones would make it hard to implement CBRS in certain cities. Clearly, this needs to be resolved. And Incumbent users of 3.5 GHz channels will have to get comfortable with the idea of sharing the spectrum with private sector entities.
Still, CBRS is exciting because it makes available a substantial amount of spectrum (150 MHz) without the need for expensive auctions, and therefore are not tied to a particular operator.
Plus, a leading use case for CBRS is for improved in-building coverage and capacity augmentation using LTE, with the advantage of a more Wi-Fi-like business model and economics. This is something sorely needed. As well, more relaxed power requirements in the recent FCC Order also make CBRS use possible outdoors.
Finally, successfully implementing CBRS will require a highly cooperative level of public-private cooperation. Both the FCC and the interested players need to work closely to ensure proper development and implementation of the spectrum sharing scheme.
Mark Lowenstein, managing director Mobile Ecosystem, notes, “The next year or so will be fairly critical in determining whether this ambitious proposal will become reality and when services might become available. Google is running a test in Kansas City this summer. And, the FCC must review and determine who will operate the SASs. Business cases need to be refined. The technology for the sensor networks must be vetted and issues pertaining to the exclusion zones must be resolved,” Techpinions.Com