April 8, 2015 — Looks like the 5 GHz band is seeing some movement now. T-Mobile has confirmed that it will be using License Assisted Access (LAA) on the 5 GHz spectrum, as early as 2016. Unlicensed LTE is emerging as a promising technology that is complementary to Wi-Fi and compatible with VoLTE.
As the 5 GHz band starts to see more deployments, it is very likely that many of the emerging unlicensed technologies will find a home at this frequency.
“Unlicensed LTE is emerging as a promising technology and it is complementary to Wi-Fi and compatible with VoLTE,” the company said in an emailed statement. “This new form of LTE, once matured, will enable utilization of the 5 GHz unlicensed bands.
Anecdotally, It’s worth mentioning that the aspiration to use LTE in the unlicensed 5 GHz band is backed by some of the industry’s biggest vendors. This segment has developed on a faster pace than is typical for new technologies, which bodes well for that piece of the spectrum.
Ernest Worthman is the editor of Small Cell Magazine. Email Me
Jan, 8, 2015 — Unlicensed wireless systems in the near future will be much more than hotspot-only Wi-Fi as Wi-Fi and LTE converge. Wi-Fi nodes become an integral part of the tapestry of licensed networks. And that convergence may aid the deployment of municipal Wi-Fi networks, according to Ted Abrams, chief technology officer, Wi-Fi Wireless.
“The view many have of Wi-Fi is that it should be a stand-alone best-effort, incidental and opportunistic hotspot solution,” he said. “Our design approach is much more comprehensive. The Wi-Fi network will be integrated hand in glove with the cellular network.”
Wi-Fi Wireless is designing public Wi-Fi networks for several municipalities, which may come online in the next year or two. Wi-Fi integration with the cellular network increases coverage and capacity of licensed networks because of Wi-Fi’s ability to provide offload services. The seamless integration of Wi-Fi and LTE is important to making muni Wi-Fi networks sustainable, according to Abrams.
“With VoLTE, the demand for carrier offload becomes a voice service, not just data. That demand, combined with all the other benefits of Wi-Fi, including fast Web access, voice and data services like Skype, location-based services and sponsorships can propel a municipality into a profitable cyber future when combined with the right business model,” he said. “Those factors define a very positive future for public spectrum.”
Technically, for Wi-Fi to integrate with LTE, several things will need to happen, such as the deployment of 802.11ac Wave 2 equipment. Additionally, handsets will need to be VoLTE-capable, and every carrier will need to have LTE available to its subscribers.
“When a large percentage of the North American handsets are VoLTE capable that’s when the wave of change will become visible to even the casual observer,” Abrams said.
With the new technology in place, voice over LTE (VoLTE) will move seamlessly from the cellular network over to a carrier-grade Wi-Fi system, which will handle the call just like another sector on a macrosite.
“The seamless crossover between VoLTE and VoIP [voice over Internet protocol] may be desirable to maximize the users’ experience if they are talking while surfing the Internet and they hit the limit of LTE coverage or capacity,” Abrams said.
Wi-Fi and cellular remain separate networks today because the old hotspot design approach does not take into account the way Wi-Fi can work with LTE. Abrams asserts that a convergence between the two will be a boon for wireless carriers, as well as municipalities.
J. Sharpe Smith is the editor of the AGL Link and AGL Small Cell Link newsletters.
This was a hypothetical question posed in one of the panels I moderated at the recent CTIA show. As you can imagine, the question solicited quite a bit of discussion among the audience and the panelists, which included mobile operators and the major infrastructure vendors. Before posing the question, the audience member quoted several news stories that talked about delays to the introduction of VoLTE and, most recently, Verizon Wireless’ decision to delay VoLTE-only handsets from late 2014 to mid-2016. Note that Verizon Wireless was not on the panel.
The answers given by the panelists to the question were simple: “don’t worry, we will get it to work.” In fact, the sentiment was more like “we MUST get it to work.” Generally, the view was that VoLTE is key to the future of the mobile operators and that since current 2G spectrum will be refarmed for LTE, VoLTE is required in order to provide voice services. Obviously, there is a lot of effort going into ensuring the performance of VoLTE is as consumers expect. I for one do expect that the industry will address the lingering issues, and in a year or so, VoLTE will be established.
But what if the CTIA panel and I are wrong? What if VoLTE continues to stumble or takes so long to stabilize that consumers lose interest? What if VoLTE becomes another wireless technology that took too long to develop and, by the time it was ready, other solutions had passed it by? The wireless industry is littered with examples like this from network-based location services (which competed for a time with handset-based GPS) to WAP (remember?) and WiMAX (which was overtaken by LTE). So even though VoLTE may eventually work, what if it comes too late for impatient consumers?
For the consumers, there may be little real impact. The fact is that there are multiple IP voice solutions available today from Skype and FaceTime (among others) to VoWiFi. The fact is that today I can call my kids with FaceTime and have a great audio experience. Skype will let me do the same thing and there are numerous solutions out there for Android users. In short, I do not need VoLTE today to make IP calls and I have numerous options available that are free.
But for the mobile operator, this becomes a major problem. Over the last few years, revenue has obviously shifted away from voice to data, as people use more and more broadband data.
Smartphones and tablets obviously encourage higher data use. And the operators have responded with bigger buckets and lower pricing. But many people use their mobile phones to make phone calls, just like in the olden days! Voice service is needed by the majority of consumers. And so a major part of the mobile operator value equation is the ability to provide mobile voice. If the mobile operators are unable to do this and consumers flock to the OTT voice applications and services, consumers will never look back.
At this point, the mobile operators will simply become bit pipes with no hope of offering differentiated services. Without VoLTE and associated services, consumers will simply look for the cheapest service on the network that provides the best service. Some would argue that the industry has already reached this point, but I would differ – the mobile operators still have the opportunity to provide services (like HD voice) that consumers will value and provide some differentiation. But without VoLTE, given the pace at which the OTT vendors are moving, it is unlikely the mobile operators will get another chance. VoLTE is likely the last chance the operators have; it is that critical. And for that reason, the industry MUST make VoLTE work and soon. And I believe they will.
IAIN GILLOTT, the founder and president of iGR, has been involved in the wireless industry, as both a vendor and analyst, for over 20 years. iGR was founded in 2000 as iGillottResearch, Inc. in order to provide in-depth market analysis and data focused exclusively on the wireless and mobile industry.
November 3, 2014 — After several quarters that were dominated by new leases, amendments accounted for two-thirds of the commenced new business activity domestically at American Tower in the third quarter, because of voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) rollouts, according to Tom Bartlett, company CFO.
“We saw very active amendment activity, which reflects additional equipment being placed on towers by our customers, in part driven by VoLTE rollouts,” Bartlett said. “As a result of the continuing strong new business trends in the U.S. we are raising our expectations for organic core growth in the United States to 9.5 percent for the full year.”
The two leading national carriers in VoLTE are Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is just finishing coverage and will be launching the product in the next year. AT&T says a VoLTE commercial launch should occur within the next year. T-Mobile has been working on VoLTE, according to Taiclet, but the towerco has yet to hear from Sprint on its VoLTE plans.
“So, over the course of 2015, I think you will see more advertising for this kind of product, more handset deployment that includes the technology that’s needed. And so it will take a few years to roll it all out, but it looks like it’s starting in 2015,” he said.
In September, Verizon quietly launched a VoLTE service branded Advanced Calling 1.0, which got high marks for clarity, according to Mark Lowenstein, a wireless analyst and consultant.
“The voice quality, when you’re talking with someone who also has a VoLTE device, is fantastic,” he wrote. “It sounds like the person is right next to you, and there is not the slight latency or over-talk that sometimes happens on cellular calls. In an area with good cellular signal, VoLTE sound is better than landline, regular cellular and VoIP calls.”
Verizon and AT&T announced on Nov. 3 that they are working on enabling VoLTE-to-VoLTE connections between Verizon Wireless and AT&T customers, which is expected to be achieved in 2015.
“Interoperability of VoLTE between wireless carriers is crucial to a positive customer experience,” said Krish Prabhu, president, AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T. “We are pleased to work with Verizon on this initiative. We continue to work with others in the industry on similar collaborative arrangements and hope to see similar collaboration across the industry in the near future.”
Strong Capex Marks Q3
Overall, elevated carrier capex spend led to a strong third quarter for American Tower as its domestic rental and management revenue grew more than 25 percent with core growth of around 28 percent. Domestic organic core growth was more than 9 percent, which consisted of 3 percent from escalations and more than 8 percent from existing site revenue growth less 1.6 percent from tenant churn.
“This organic core growth reflects our tenants continued aggressive network investments in 4G,” Barlett said.
With all of the projections that carriers will increase capex devoted to network densification and small cells, analysts questioned whether growth is going to slow in the coming years.
While not giving guidance for 2015, American Tower officials expressed confidence that the tower company could maintain 6 percent to 8 percent domestic core organic growth during the five-year and 10-year time horizons. Taiclet said American doesn’t see picocells, microcells or Wi-Fi to be a threat to its core business, which is in rural and suburban areas with fewer than 5,000 people per square mile.
“We do think that because of the consistent technology trends, the strength and size of the mobile operators, and also the fact that in the United States 85 percent of the people have to be served over that time, we are not going to see a tremendous fluctuation in our growth rates anywhere,” he said.
October 2, 2014 — Mobile carriers are continuing to make strides to evolve their LTE networks to provide increased capacity through carrier aggregation, improved voice quality through voice over LTE and connectivity with Wi-Fi networks.
T-Mobile selected Ericsson to provide equipment and services for the expansion of its nationwide 4G LTE network, improvement of in-building, highway and rural performance, and expansion of VoLTE services.
The contract is an extension of T-Mobile’s 2012 build out, which featured Ericsson’s RBS 6000 base station equipment, installed 700 MHz, 1900 MHz and 1700/2100 MHz bands.
T-Mobile is the first U.S. wireless carrier to deploy enhanced Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (eSRVCC) technology, which enables a seamless handover of VoLTE calls from LTE to existing 2G or 3G networks. As voice remains a critical service for LTE networks, Ericsson has delivered its Session Border Gateway and Ericsson Media Resource System to support voice handovers using eSRVCC.
Nokia Networks is also providing LTE-Advanced equipment and services to T-Mobile in the 700 MHz and 1900 MHz bands for expanded availability of VoLTE and Wi-Fi seamless call/text mobility. The LTE equipment includes the Flexi Multiradio10 Base Station platform for 700MHz radio sites and the LTE/GSM RF sharing solution for 1900 MHz sites. As part of the agreement, Nokia Networks is providing LTE-Advanced carrier aggregation for all T-Mobile spectrum bands.
Customers will be able to use any public or private Wi-Fi connection for calling and texting. This new technology is designed to deliver seamless voice coverage between T-Mobile’s VoLTE network and Wi-Fi with compatible smartphones.
VZW Doubles Spectrum Access in 80 percent of its Markets
Verizon Wireless has launched XLTE in 22 new markets, bringing the total to more than 400 markets or four out of five Verizon Wireless 4G LTE markets.
XLTE, Verizon’s brand for LTE Advanced technology, doubles the amount of spectrum available through the use of carrier aggregation, which accesses both 700 MHz spectrum and the AWS spectrum . Customers with 4G LTE devices operating solely on the 700 MHz spectrum in XLTE markets also benefit from the extra capacity created by XLTE Ready device traffic moving to the AWS spectrum.
New XLTE markets span from Ocala, Florida, to Sedalia, Missouri, and Lihue, Hawaii.