March 9, 2017 —
The Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week is a great place to see what is on the wireless edge; but really, it is just a nice, convenient place to meet and greet and enjoy a mini vacation while being able to write off the costs. I am glad that the age of instant information hasn’t totally eliminated the human aspect of the meet and greet that is so nice at these shows.
MWC seemed to have two major themes this year that are seeing a great deal of visibility; 5G and the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX). Progress in both have seen accelerated movement lately. And it seems the next stage of both are being seen – trials and devices in both 5G and the IoX, and mmWave for the IoX
For example, there is a recent consortium of players, Qualcomm, ZTE and China Mobile, who are setting up to conduct interoperability testing and over-the-air field trials based on the 5G New Radio (NR) specs. They are looking for data in the 3.5 GHz band to see if they can meet 3GPP release 15 standards.
This is a bit more on the edge since it is going to use some of the more advanced antenna technologies such as massive multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO), adaptive self-contained time-division duplexing (TDM), advanced beamforming techniques and scalable orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM)-based waveforms.
Next comes Samsung handholding with Verizon to deploy some 5G “commercial” services (they haven’t said what they consider commercial). The goal is to see how well these services will work it the 28 GHz band under a variety of conditions. It is a fixed wireless deployment.
Simply put, the Samsung 5G access units will be deployed throughout a city’s business and residential neighborhoods. These units will link radio signals to a virtualized core network that is set up within Verizon’s data centers. Sounds like a good plan to me and the trials are sufficiently widespread that the data collected can have some real value. Samsung is also looking to see how this project can be applied to certain IoX use cases.
In another shot across the 5G bow, the FCC recently authorized LTE-U devices for deployment in the 5 GHz band. We’ll find out now if the Wi-Fi Alliance’s compromise test plan will provide meaningful data on the interference issues.
Meanwhile, up in the 28 and 39 GHz band AT&T and Nokia have done some fixed wireless work. One of the more interesting apps was AT&T’s Internet streaming DirecTV service in the 39 GHz band. These bands are prime targets for services such as streaming video, because of their bandwidth availability. But on the flip side, so far it only works well with fixed wireless.
AT&T is doing a fairly good job of acquiring assets to set up in these higher bands. They just picked up FiberTower, which gives them that access at 39 GHz, and have been working with Nokia in that band for some months now. As well, AT&T is eyeing Straight Path, another stakeholder in the 39 GHz band. And, not to be left out, Verizon and XO communications are dabbling in those bands as well.
It seems that the obvious direction, at least for now is trying out those mmWave frequencies for fixed wireless and streaming media services. But one has to start somewhere and, frankly, we really could use some competition in the media biz. These $100+ packages from the cable and dish services are way over priced for someone like me who only watches a handful of channels but has to buy a premium package because they are straddled across them. A recent news report claims that the number of households that have dropped cable or dish packages for simple OTA or Internet TV has gone from 9 percent to 15 percent in the last year. Perhaps this mmWave fixed wireless app is yet another vector that can add a bit of competition and bring the prices back into a reasonable level.
As far as the IoX goes, mmWave has an alluring draw for some applications, but there is a lot that has to be addressed in the mobile arena. However, there is a bit of excitement for mmWave in the “smart” platform where fixed wireless has a lot more applications.