August 20, 2015 — In its first foray into VoLTE, Verizon has expanded to almost 4 million customers on what it calls Advanced Calling 1.0, David Small, EVP of wireless operations, Verizon Wireless Capital, said during the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet & Communications Conference, held Aug. 11, in Boston.
“Our call-in rate [to complain] on those customers is not any higher than what we would see from a non-Advanced Calling 1.0 consumer. And I do think they very much value that experience,” he said.
Small went on to say that the carrier has 100 people drive testing the VoLTE network, as well as system performance engineers working with the handset manufacturers and hardware providers to ensure overall network performance. He said the system has achieved a dropped call rate of .4 in half the time of previous network technology upgrades.
“So we feel very good about the service and we are testing it every day and having very good experiences,” Small said.
VoLTE Goes Global
Around the world, a number of contracts for VoLTE, as well as voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), were signed in recent weeks.
China Mobile has signed a flurry of contracts to move its VoLTE aspirations forward. Alcatel-Lucent, which heretofore had only penetrated the United States with its VoLTE equipment, received a contract for its Rapport VoLTE communications software from what is known as the world’s largest telecom provider. It will the deploy platform in nine provinces, including Jiangsu and Zhejiang, as well as the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing.
China Mobile is also conducting a trial of Rapport as a network functions-based VoLTE solution. The deployment will also set the stage for China Mobile to offer VoWi-Fi.
Alcatel-Lucent wasn’t alone, thought. Huawei won nearly half of China Mobile’s VoLTE procurement project and was selected to be responsible for deployment of commercial VoLTE networks in the developed coastal provinces. ZTE Corporation said it too was a big winner securing large-scale orders for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) core network solutions from China Mobile to enable the rollout of VoLTE services, including equipment and systems integration.
Elsewhere, Telenor Sweden has chosen Ericsson as the sole supplier for a full-scale upgrade of the operator’s core network, enabling VoLTE and VoWi-Fi to its customers. In Iceland, Síminn (Iceland Telecom) has entered into a five-year strategic partnership with Ericsson to further rollout of LTE across Iceland and eventually deploy VoLTE and VoWi-Fi. Under the agreement, Ericsson will be the prime supplier of all radio access equipment and the common core network, including the Ericsson IMS and Evolved Packet Core.
April 23, 2015 — Last issue I penned a missive on the state of small cells. I guess I am not the only one looking at the small cell landscape and wondering about the state of the platform. I recently came across some interesting metrics that make sense along the road to small cell deployment and making the small cell picture a bit clearer.
The first one being carrier small cells. Two things here are a given. Licensed spectrum will continue to be under the crunch gun, regardless of the evolution of the “Gs,” and macro cells will never be able to cover the world.
Extrapolating, small cells will be the great equalizer. In a recent statement, Verizon CTO Tony Melone, said small cell deployments will be an increasingly cost-effective way to add capacity while at the same time improving cell-edge performance and thus further increasing the value of the spectrum we hold. He went on to say that as small cell technology is improving and backhaul issues are worked out, small cells will move forward.
Next, enterprises are beginning to see the value in small cell deployments. That is significant because now they will put dollars into it. Building owners, hospitals, sports and entertainment venues are feeling the pressure to have ubiquitous wireless connectivity within the premises. And, once the small cell network is in place, MNOs are also seeing the value in connecting that network to theirs. It is a win-win for the enterprise and the MNO.
And, vendors are coming to the table with integrated solutions, not just products. That is a sure sign that they are seeing dollars. Here’s why; Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia have announced plans to merge next year. Nokia has acquired a strong small cell deployment capability in the United States with its recent purchase of SAC Wireless. The company’s program for carriers is called Services for HetNets.
Ericsson has launched Small Cells as a Service (SCaaS) to facilitate deployments for carriers. The network equipment giant wants to deploy small cell networks that will serve multiple carriers from a single location.
And Huawei is partnering with facilities owners that can provide location, power and backhaul for small cell deployments. The company calls its solution Crowd-sourcing Small Cells, and incorporates an open platform which supports third-party interfaces.
Next, the move to higher frequencies is in full swing (see the FCC short below). The higher the frequency, the shorter the wavelength, and the closer the cell. Can you see the obvious here? That is a sure recipe for densification of cells, and small ones are the only logical solution.
Plus, In ABI’s recent report on the small cell backhaul market pegs the dollars at $4 billion in five years. “We believe that 4G / LTE small cell solutions will again drive most of the microwave, millimeter wave and sub 6-GHz backhaul growth in metropolitan, urban and suburban areas with backhaul for 4G/LTE small cells growing at double-digit rates and surpassing 3G in this year,” Nick Marshall, research director at ABI Research, wrote.
Finally, someone told me that VoWi-Fi is going to impede the progress of the small cell segment. Hmmm….aren’t Wi-Fi cells small cells? I don’t really see how adding voice to them changes anything… really.
April 16, 2015 — Nokia announced its plans this week to buy Alcatel-Lucent in a stock transaction valued $16.6 billion, creating the second largest telecom manufacturer behind Ericsson. The deal brings together complementary product portfolios, including fixed and mobile broadband, IP routing, core networks, cloud applications and services. The combination will have particular strength in the United States, China, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
“There are a lot of complementary aspects to the companies. The combined company will be within 2 or 3 percent of the market cap of Ericsson, but won’t have the revenue,” Ted Abrams, telecom consultant, said. “The sought after prize is to be the number one telecom manufacturer. It is exciting and healthy for the U.S. market to have a viable number two contender.”
Nokia/Alcatel-Lucent will need to provide managed network services for the wireless carrier to compete against Ericsson, which provides the managed services for Sprint, according to Abrams.
Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia dominate the LTE network infrastructure market, according to Tolaga Research. In terms of contract value, Ericsson has 26 percent, and Huawei and Nokia have 22 and 21 percent, respectively. Ericsson has lost the most market share and Huawei has gained the most in recent years, the firm said.
“With the market penetration made by Huawei, everyone in the industry has been affected. The consolidation of Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent was inevitable,” Jake MacLeod, Gray Beards Consulting, said. “But the success of the merger will depend upon how it is executed.”
The combined company will be positioned to create the next phase of seamless connectivity, including the Internet of Things and the transition to the cloud. Development will be accelerated for such future technologies as 5G, IP and software-defined networking, analytics, sensors and imaging.
The new company will bring together Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs and Nokia’s FutureWorks, as well as Nokia Technologies, totaling more than 40 000 R&D employees.
“They have to make certain to take advantage of the efficiencies, avoiding duplication of responsibilities and functions. If they achieve that they will be a powerful entity,” MacLeod said. “Competition is fierce. There can be a race for the bottom. That makes it tough for any entity in the industry to be profitable. So things like research and development budgets get cut.”
Sofia Mogilewskaja, Analysis Mason, agreed, “For success, Nokia must do a complete acquisition and be able to perform a portfolio rationalization very fast, or it can suffer the worst pains of its former mergers.”
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2016, subject to approval by Nokia’s shareholders and regulatory agencies.
Turbulent Times at Alcatel-Lucent
Alcatel-Lucent is currently in the second year of a three-year plan, known as the Shift Plan, where it sought to change from a telecom equipment generalist into a specialist provider of mobile and fixed broadband access and core networking. In 2013, the manufacturer began a reorganization into four main business lines: IP Routing & Transport, IP Platforms, Wireless and Fixed Networks.
Michel Combes was hired as CEO to replace Ben Verwaayen, who left the company after it incurred a net annual loss of $1.8 billion, down from a net profit of $1.1 billion the previous year. It was the only one of the major wireless infrastructure companies that incurred a loss. As a matter of course, Alcatel-Lucent decided to shift its assets and resources to high profit areas. Alcatel-Lucent intended to focus on FDD and TDD LTE overlay equipment, exiting from the 2G and the 3G markets.
Less than two year later, the OEM is making an even bigger shift.
March 12, 2015 — In the last year, allowing users to make voice calls and send and receive text messages via a Wi-Fi network has gained momentum among carriers. Perhaps the most aggressive on this front has been T-Mobile, making it a part of its ad campaign, but Sprint has also provided Wi-Fi calling for more than a year. Carriers with the best coverage and supposedly the least need for Wi-Fi coverage, AT&T and Verizon, will follow the trend sometime this year. The seminal event bringing Wi-Fi into the cellular fold was Apple’s release of its iOS 8 platform last fall, which allows Wi-Fi calling on iPhone 6.
“Blending the capabilities of Wi-Fi and cellular to achieve performance gains beyond standalone networks, we can embark on new, exciting discussions around the go-to-market strategy for in-building wireless that embraces both technologies while improving the consumer and enterprise experiences,” said Peter Jarich, VP of Consumer and Infrastructure Services, Current Analysis.
With 80 percent of tablet-based devices having a Wi-Fi connection and a huge amount of cellular data offloaded to Wi-Fi, carriers need another way to tie users to their networks. As carriers embrace Wi-Fi, it only makes sense that equipment providers will follow suit and several made their intents known at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this month.
Ted Abrams, Wi-Fi Wireless CTO, said the OEM’s announcements fit into his company’s vision of the future of purpose-built carrier grade Wi-Fi networks that are set out for the next generations of licensed-spectrum use.
“Probably the best example is the way T-Mobile is paving the way toward License Assisted Access,” Abrams said. “Their plan to offload traffic to the 5 GHz Wi-Fi frequencies is right in line with our game plan to build our networks with high-band [5.8 GHz] first, and then low-band only opportunistically. The convergence of Wi-Fi and LTE is the solution to the problem of capacity and subscriber need for speed.”
Alcatel-Lucent announced its ‘Wireless Unified Networks’ strategy that blends the upload and download of Wi-Fi and cellular to increase system capacity in high-traffic or low-signal locations.
As opposed switching users between cellular and Wi-Fi to load-balance the network, Alcatel-Lucent’s “Wi-Fi boost” technology combines the downlink of Wi-Fi with the uplink of cellular. Using LTE Wi-Fi Aggregation (LWA), download speeds can be more than doubled compared with standalone network capabilities. Wi-Fi boost capabilities will be trialed in the second quarter of 2015 with commercial availability in the second half of 2015.
Alcatel-Lucent is developing “cellular boost” technology, which uses unlicensed spectrum bands to enhance the cellular network. Standards are being developed to allow LTE users to coexist with Wi-Fi users on the unlicensed spectrum, known as LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assist Access (LAA), which will guide Alcatel-Lucent’s small cell development. The LTE-U standard provides the carriers with some network management control on the unlicensed frequencies.
The OEM plans to support trials in the second half of 2015 and to commercially introduce the technology in early 2016.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link.
October 9, 2014 – Last week, Alcatel-Lucent formed an alliance with Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, to help communications service providers and large enterprises implement integrated broadband solutions. The alliance, known as Accenture Alcatel-Lucent Business Group, will explore small-cell wireless network solutions with a focus on integrating cellular technology and Wi-Fi.
Accenture will be Alcatel-Lucent’s preferred supplier for software and network integration services, and Alcatel-Lucent will be a preferred technology provider for Accenture’s customer care and small cell solutions needs.
“We look forward to working with Alcatel-Lucent to help fulfill the increasing demand for broadband services over wireless networks,” said Pierre Nanterme, chairman and CEO, Accenture. “The collaboration is consistent with our strategy of working at the heart of the digital ecosystem and growing our network services to enable communications service providers to undergo the transformation they need to thrive.”
Alcatel-Lucent reorganized in June 2013 and announced the three-year Shift Plan in which will shift its focus to its core networking segment (IP networking), broadband mobile and fixed access networks and rely on forming partnerships to speed market penetration. The Accenture alliance is in keeping with that plan.
“Our collaboration with Accenture is strategic to our growth as we work to enable our clients to deliver on consumers’ communications expectations,” said Michel Combes, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent. “By combining our outstanding IP platforms with Accenture’s consulting, systems integration, delivery and process optimization skills, we will be well-positioned to significantly and measurably improve the world’s communication experience.”
Accenture will provide Alcatel-Lucent with the connections it needs with Fortune 500 companies, but that does not necessarily mean it is the best choice for every company, James Carlini & Associates, a consultant, told AGL Small Cell Link.
“There are companies that want a large Mongolian herd of consultants to look at something, but other companies would rather have one or two consultants who really know their stuff and who won’t overstep the people in the organization,” Carlini said. “I competed with the Big 6 consulting firms for the Chicago 911 center and they hired my firm because, at that time, the police did not want to work with a bunch of consultants.”
Alcatel-Lucent/JCDecaux Combo Aimed at Street Furniture
The same day as the Accenture alliance announcement, Alcatel-Lucent publicized a partnership with JCDecaux, an outdoor advertising company, to develop connected street furniture. Alcatel-Lucent’s tests have demonstrated the relevance of combining its small cells with the street furniture developed by JCDecaux to improve connectivity in the city.
Personnel from each company are now working together in teams to optimize the aesthetic integration of small cells in street furniture in order to provide cities and telecom operators with a global solution that is in tune with the urban environment.
In August 2013, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm announced their plan to collaborate on small cell base stations that enhance 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity in residential and enterprise environments. The partnership combines Alcatel-Lucent’s experience developing small cells with Qualcomm’s small-cell chipset expertise.
As part of the partnership, the two companies are jointly investing in a strategic R&D program to develop the next generation of Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio small cell products featuring Qualcomm Technologies’ FSM9900 family of small cell chipsets.