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The role of Wi-Fi in a 5G World

28 Apr

wi-fi 5G

Google trends is a fascinating tool that provides unparalleled insight into what people across the world are thinking and doing. A quick glance at the search trend for the term “5G” reveals a growing interest in this wireless connectivity technology  (in case you are curious, here is the comparison against the search trend for “WiFi” and here it is against the trend for “4G”). At CES 2020, Lenovo announced Yoga 5G, the world’s first 5G laptop. Although it has yet to ship, its technical specs list 5G and Bluetooth 5.0 as the only two supported connectivity technologies. Wi-Fi is conspicuously absent on this laptop, which has a starting price of $1499. Is this a precursor of what’s to come or does the Yoga 5G merely address a small market segment? Several other questions arise: Is Wi-Fi going to be replaced by 5G? Is 5G superior to Wi-Fi? What is Wi-Fi’s role in a 5G world? Before we answer these questions, let us start with a quick primer on 5G.

What is 5G?

Over the last 40 years, the world has witnessed a new generation of mobile communication technologies every decade. The first-generation technologies (1G), which emerged around 1980, were based on analog transmission and limited to voice services. The first major upgrade to mobile communication arrived in the early 1990s with the introduction of second generation (2G) technologies based on digital transmission. The target service was still voice, although the use of digital transmission allowed 2G systems to support limited data services – and almost accidentally created text messaging. The third generation (3G) was introduced in 2001 to facilitate greater voice and data capacity, thereby laying the foundations for mobile broadband. While the first two generations were designed to operate in paired spectrum based on Frequency Division Duplex (FDD), 3G introduced operation in unpaired spectrum based on Time Division Duplex (TDD), although this was rarely implemented. We are currently in the 4G era, which began in 2010. 4G technologies leverageOFDM and MIMO techniques to achieve higher efficiency and higher end-user data rates – enabling mobile broadband and harmonizing the fractured ecosystem.

5G is the fifth and the latest generation mobile communication technology that  supports three primary use cases: enhanced mobile broadband (higher speeds to current users), low latency with high reliability (to enable services such as safety systems and automatic control), and massive machine to machine communication (the ability to concurrently connect a lot more devices – IoT). 5G operates in many different frequency bands — from 600 MHz to 39 GHz — to service a wide variety of use cases. Signal propagation and bandwidth availability at mmWave (24 – 39 GHz) is very different from signals below 6 GHz. While mmWave can achieve 10+ Gbps data rates by leveraging as much as 800 MHz bandwidth, its range is limited because of the higher path loss at higher frequencies. On the other hand, sub 6 GHz has good range, but the data rate is less since the bandwidth is limited to 100 MHz.

Is Wi-Fi going to be replaced by 5G? 

We often debate whether 5G will replace Wi-Fi. Ultimately, we concluded that both Wi-Fi and cellular technologies will continue to be strong complements to each other for the foreseeable future.

  1. Total Ownership Cost: IP licensing costs associated with cellular technologies make cellular infrastructure and clients more expensive than their Wi-Fi counterparts. Unlike Wi-Fi, each new cellular generation is typically accompanied by new, and often expensive, spectrum. In addition, cellular services typically come with subscription fees paid to the network operator who owns the infrastructure and spectrum.
  2. Installed Base: Wi-Fi is ubiquitous. There are more than 13 billion Wi-Fi devices in active use worldwide and many of them have a long replacement cycle. Every new generation of Wi-Fi ensures that these devices can continue to connect to the new Wi-Fi infrastructure just as they did with the older ones, thereby protecting the existing investment in legacy devices. On the other hand, cellular chips don’t provide complete backwards compatibility and typically support only one or two generations.
  3. Ease of deployment: Wi-Fi uses free unlicensed spectrum and does not require any complex backend infrastructure such as a packet core. It can be deployed in minutes without requiring a skilled technician. Cloud management has further simplified Wi-Fi deployment, making it as simple as plug and play. Now that the Wi-Fi calling feature is natively supported on most smart phones, Wi-Fi is a good alternative to deploying dual systems for calling.
  4. In-building coverage: We spend most of our time indoors, yet outdoor cellular signals have trouble penetrating buildings. While there are several ways to bring cellular services into a building, this has not proven economical for wireless service providers. Thus, Wi-Fi remains the preferred choice and offers an additional benefit for the tenant, as the spectrum is unlicensed and can be controlled entirely.

In the next section, we will see that the latest generation of Wi-Fi performs on par with 5G for most use cases.

Is 5G superior to Wi-Fi?

As with cellular, Wi-Fi has gone through several generations of evolution over the last three decades. Client and infrastructure products supporting the sixth generation of Wi-Fi, commonly referred to as Wi-Fi 6, have been shipping since 2018. Notably, all models of Samsung Galaxy S10 and all models of iPhone 11 ship with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G use OFDM and OFDMA for PHY layer signaling and support up to 8 MIMO streams. While Wi-Fi 6 supports peak data rate of 9.6 Gbps, smartphone clients with two transmit and two receive chains can achieve over 1.7 Gbps TCP throughput in both uplink and downlink. This is comparable to the performance achievable with 5G. Wi-Fi 6 achieves a spectral efficiency of 62.5 bps/Hz, which exceeds the 5G requirement of 30 bps/Hz. It also includes several new features that enable AR, VR, and IoT applications through higher data rates, reduced latency, increased range, and extended battery life (similar to many of the features of 5G).

Wi-Fi 6 is optimized for extremely dense environments, with a single Wi-Fi 6 access point capable of serving a whopping 1024 clients concurrently. The trigger frame feature of Wi-Fi 6 enables scheduled access, similar to cellular, resulting in improved reliability of transmissions due to the elimination of collisions.

With the introduction of Passpoint, network discovery and selection have been fully automated rendering Wi-Fi roaming as seamless as cellular roaming. The latest security protocols, such as WPA3 and Enhanced Open supported on all Wi-Fi 6 devices have made Wi-Fi as secure as cellular. These protocols provide more secure and individualized encryption, making it difficult for hackers to snoop traffic even in an “open” network. Furthermore, features such as Rogue Detection supported on Wi-Fi access points protect users from “man-in-the-middle” attacks.

One of the areas where Wi-Fi falls short is mobility, as it is not specifically designed for high speed mobility. While cellular systems avoid interference by using different set of licensed frequencies from neighboring cells and provide guaranteed service quality, this is not the case, especially for unmanaged Wi-Fi networks.

The bottom line: Wi-Fi 6 is widely deployed today and measures up well against 5G.

What is Wi-Fi’s role in the world of 5G?

Given the favorable economics and high performance of Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi will remain a very attractive choice for indoor and enterprise applications. While cellular has its origins outdoors, we expect Wi-Fi and 5G to co-exist both indoors and outdoors.

Moreover, Wi-Fi continues to evolve faster than cellular with new Wi-Fi technology introduced once every 5 years – compared to the 10-year cadence of cellular technologies. Work has already started on the seventh generation of Wi-Fi, based on IEEE 802.11be. Wi-Fi 7 is targeting a peak throughput of at least 30 Gbps and strives to reduce the worst-case latency and jitter.

Recent efforts by Federal Communications Commission and OFCOM to open up in excess of 500 MHz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use is expected to be another major game changer for Wi-Fi. This clean spectrum will double the number of lanes on the Wi-Fi superhighway and turbocharge the user base with added capacity for existing and new applications. This spectrum is expected to bring significant reductions in latency, since it will be occupied only by highly efficient Wi-Fi 6 devices (also known as Wi-Fi 6E devices), further enabling latency sensitive applications.

There has been cross fertilization of ideas between Wi-Fi and cellular, and this trend will continue as the two technologies move closer and closer together. For example, Wi-Fi introduced OFDM as part of its third-generation technology ratified in 1999, while cellular leveraged OFDM as part of its fourth-generation technology introduced in 2010. The latest sixth generation of Wi-Fi (2018) supports OFDMA, which cellular has supported since 4G (2010). Wi-Fi 6 introduced scheduled access, in addition to the traditional Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance (CSMA/CA), bringing the Wi-Fi and cellular channel access methods closer. While Wi-Fi has always restricted itself to unlicensed bands, cellular dabbled with deployments in the unlicensed 5 GHz spectrum using LTE-U (although it wasn’t as successful).

In summary, Wi-Fi and 5G will move closer together and coexist as complementary technologies for the foreseeable future.

Source: 28 04 20

Ericsson’s LTE-Advanced helps T-Mobile continue to expand LTE Network coverage and capacity

26 Sep

(ENP Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ENP Newswire – 25 September 2014 Release date- 23092014 – Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) has been selected to provide equipment and services to help T-Mobile continue expanding its nationwide 4G LTE network, improve in-building, highway and rural performance, and expand the availability of high-quality VoLTE services, which offer faster call setup times than a non-VoLTE call, and enable customers to access the LTE network for data services during a voice call.

The contract is an expansion of T-Mobile’s groundbreaking 2012 network transformation project with Ericsson and includes RBS 6000 base station equipment, installation and integration of 700,1900 and 1700/2100 MHz LTE-Advanced radio sites and tuning services.

Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile US, says: ‘We are constantly working to enhance and grow our network for our customers. With the help of Ericsson LTE equipment and services, not only have we rolled out the fastest nationwide LTE network in the US in record time, we’re able to continue advancing voice and data performance at an unprecedented pace.’ 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 in LTE to existing 2G or 3G networks, ensuring a customer’s experience is seamless[1]. As voice remains a critical service for LTE networks, Ericsson has delivered its Session Border Gateway (SBG) and Ericsson Media Resource System (MRS) to support voice handovers using eSRVCC.

As T-Mobile expands its lineup of devices that can support handover of voice calls between LTE and Wi-Fi, Ericsson has enabled Wi-Fi calling through its evolved Packet Data Gateway (ePDG)1 and interoperates with T-Mobile’s existing IP Multimedia System and Evolved Packet Core network infrastructure.

Additionally, Ericsson’s Services organization will help T-Mobile achieve OPEX reduction through the decommissioning of MetroPCS sites and ecological repurposing or recycling of removed site material.

Angel Ruiz, Head of Ericsson North America, says: ‘We are pleased to provide T-Mobile with both equipment and services to support its dedication to innovation and rapid deployment plans.’ Ericsson is the market leader in LTE. Today, 50 percent of the world’s LTE smartphone traffic is served by Ericsson networks, more than double the traffic of the closest competitor.

To meet the growing demand for mobile broadband, Ericsson is delivering LTE-Advanced solutions to expand LTE coverage and capacity. These include carrier aggregation for delivering high-speed mobile data across the network, advanced antenna technologies for better coverage and cell data throughput, and small cell integration to deliver real network performance within heterogeneous networks, in addition to other LTE enhancements.

Ericsson has supported the majority of the world’s first commercial VoLTE launches and is the market leader in Evolved Packet Core with more than 150 commercial contracts in 70 countries and has more than 115 commercial IMS contracts.

NOTES TO EDITORS T-Mobile selects Ericsson for billing solution and new customer experience: Ericsson maintains leadership in the Magic Quadrant for LTE Infrastructure 2014: Download high-resolution photos and broadcast-quality video at Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society – a world leader in communications technology and services. Our long-term relationships with every major telecom operator in the world allow people, business and society to fulfill their potential and create a more sustainable future.

Our services, software and infrastructure – especially in mobility, broadband and the cloud – are enabling the telecom industry and other sectors to do better business, increase efficiency, improve the user experience and capture new opportunities.

With more than 110,000 professionals and customers in 180 countries, we combine global scale with technology and services leadership. We support networks that connect more than 2.5 billion subscribers. Forty percent of the world’s mobile traffic is carried over Ericsson networks. And our investments in research and development ensure that our solutions – and our customers – stay in front.

Founded in 1876, Ericsson has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden. Net sales in 2013 were SEK 227.4 billion (USD 34.9 billion). Ericsson is listed on NASDAQ OMX stock exchange in Stockholm and the NASDAQ in New York. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT Ericsson Corporate Communications Phone: +46 10 719 69 92 E-mail: Ericsson Investor Relations Phone: +46 10 719 00 00 E-mail: [1] Available on selected T-Mobile smartphones.


Cost Optimised Indoor Coverage

24 Sep

In my last post Bringing LTE Indoors, I discussed the compelling need to address LTE coverage indoors to enable service migration off 3G, particularly for Voice. We know there is a variety of options for MNOs to address indoor coverage, either from outside in with more outdoor sites, or from inside with wider use of Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS), repeaters or small cells. The “outdoor in” approach would mean even more BTS sites, but site acquisition challenges and build costs generally mean this is no longer an option in urban areas. Addressing coverage from indoors makes sense, but what is the optimal solution?

I’ve heard people talking about a “toolbox” approach to indoor coverage, but which tool is right for which job? There is no point using a six inch spanner on a 1/4 inch nut, and it’s the same with providing coverage and capacity you need an optimal cost solution for the size of the indoor hole to fill.

Cisco has worked with many operators on modelling Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for various indoor coverage solutions. The results of one recent study are shown below, comparing Distributed Antenna Systems to small cells; either installed by the MNO or by the end-user themselves (DIY).


“5-Year TCO study for various indoor coverage solutions”

Obviously this isn’t an “Apples for Apples” comparison since the capacities are so different. But even if we normalise by the number of design users, small cells show clear TCO per user benefit.


“Normalised TCO per user for various indoor coverage solutions”

The other thing I observed in this study was how much the DAS system TCO improved when a larger number of users are required to be served in a location. I therefore extended the study to look at how the DAS vs Smallcell TCO comparison varied for different sized enterprises.


“Comparison of DAS versus Smallcell TCO for various Enterprise sizes”

For small enterprises of <50 people, which represents the majority of businesses, small cells are clearly more cost effective. Due to their more modular capacity, re-use of WLAN infrastructure and easier installation small cells could be more than five times cheaper to own. As the size of the enterprise to cover gets larger, DAS TCO is more comparable, but even for large enterprise (>250 people) small cells could still work-out with 50 per cent lower TCO. Such comparisons would vary on a case-by-case basis, for example often larger enterprise locations are already covered with DAS for 3G which can be reused.

The “toolbox” approach to solving indoor coverage challenges makes sense, but for SME locations small cells seem to be the right tool for the job.


How small cells are becoming an integral part of futuristic mobile networks?

8 May

LTE as a technology and air interface has been hogging the bulk of limelight in the world of wireless communications. But another strategically crucial technology that many major mobile operators globally are going after is the small cell. In simple terms, small cell is a miniature version of the traditional macrocell. It compresses the attributes of a cell tower like radios and antennas into a low power, portable and easy to deploy radio device. Small cells typically have a range varying from 10 meters to a few hundred meters and are used by operators to either offload traffic from the macro network in a high density short range environment or to strengthen the range and efficiency of a mobile network. Before going into further details about small cells, have a look at the following diagram that illustrates how they fit into an operator’s network and strategy.

Small Cell Network

As seen in the image above, small cells provide enhanced coverage and capacity both indoors and outdoors. Umbrella coverage is provided by the macrocell. Microcells and picocells are designed to support hundreds of users and can be used in smaller networks that are not necessarily inside the range of a macrocell. Residential areas that are located outside the range of a cell network can deploy femtocells for better signal and bandwidth indoors. WiFi can be utilized for traffic offload or can serve as a standalone high speed short range network. Following are some of the advantages that small cells bring to the table –

  • Augmented coverage and capacity – The quality of signal on a device and whether that signal is good enough for multimedia data browsing are two factors that decide a customer’s experience in the mobile world nowadays. Small cells bring ubiquity to this idea, along with the added advantage of low latency. So whether you are in a packed stadium or office basement, you will be covered.
  • Superior in-building and cell edge performance – Contemporary wireless networks regularly face issues of poor coverage inside buildings and in areas far away from the cell tower. Small cells significantly improve the overall experience in such circumstances.
  • Support for various environments – The main conclusion to be drawn from the diagram above is that these tiny base stations find utility in multiple scenarios. Femtocells inside a house not only provide 3G or higher level speeds, they also reduce strain on the user devices’ battery. And all this is achieved by using the Internet service provider’s backhaul. At an enterprise level, microcells enhance service quality in the highly dense office environment. Similarly, they can be equally effective in remote rural or dense urban spaces.
  • Easier technology integration – Small cells can be integrated with all flavors of 3G, LTE, LTE-Advanced and WiFi technologies. An operator’s small cell strategy could be influenced by the type of wireless technologies it has deployed, the area of service and regional demand. Microcells, picocells and femtocells are fortunately compatible with all major types of wireless networks.
  • Higher spectrum bands are welcome – Recently, the mobile network providers have been fighting a battle for the lower band spectrum below 1 GHz. But since limited propagation characteristics are not an issue for these miniscule networks, and more bits/Hz are required, spectrum over 2 GHz is considered good. The FCC in US has been pushing for 3.5 GHz spectrum for small cell networks. Some stakeholders have asked for unlicensed spectrum for such networks. Europe is said to be discussing the 2.3 GHz TD-LTE spectrum this purpose.
  • Long term solution for the operator – Even though more base stations and state-of-the-art technologies can be deployed to temporarily resolve network congestion issues, the demand will generally exceed the supply. However, small cells are designed to offer adequate network resources to handle growing data demand for a few years within a specific environment.
  • Attractive business case – The reduced capital and operational expenditure (CAPEX/OPEX) involved in the small cell ecosystem has made them a tempting business proposition for the mobile service provider. Studies have shown that the cost of radio equipment for small cells could be just one-tenth of the corresponding costs for a macrocell. The ease, flexibility and swiftness of deployment make such networks even more appealing.

Many operators and vendors around the globe showcased their small cell strategy and progress at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona earlier this year. Vodafone emphasized that this technology is vital to their network portfolio. The telco plans to deploy about 70,000 small cells within the next 2 years. Korea Telecom announced that they have 18,000 such cells already active in urban areas of the country. Samsung Mobile was tapped by Verizon as a vendor for indoor LTE small cell solutions. Verizon already had similar partnerships with both Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson for indoor enterprise and outdoor environments. TIM Brazil, the country’s second largest operator, shared details about a deal with Alcatel-Lucent at MWC that will integrate femtocells into the carrier’s 3G network. SingTel from Singapore has been investing in these tiny networks too and has contracted Ericsson for the deployment. Many other small cell related developments have been picking up in the last year or so. AT&T’s 3G small cells are available in 18 states across the US. The operator has committed to deploying 40,000 multimode little base stations by the end of 2015. Sprint has been testing indoor and outdoor small cells for many months and intends a commercial launch later this year. The telco has also been running trials with Qualcomm’s network equipment. World’s biggest wireless service provider by subscribers, China Mobile, recently showed off a self-organizing outdoor small cell backhaul system as part of its TD-LTE network. Japan’s NTT Docomo has been using multiband small cell base stations for more than a year in some of its major markets. Note that as of now, most small cell networks operate on service provider’s existing spectrum holdings. But in the near future, dedicated airwaves could be allocated for these networks.

Multiple recent studies and analyses have predicted a ramp up in the small cell market. Infonetics Research has reported that small cell revenue was a modest $771 million last year but will grow by 65% to $1.3 billion this year. According to their report, 642,000 small cell units were shipped last year and about half of them were 3G, although LTE is projected to take the lead this year. ABI Research forecasted $1.8 billion market for outdoor small cells in 2014. The Asia-Pacific region will represent half of the small cell market by 2019. Allied Market Research put the global femtocell market size at $305 million in 2013 and predicted that this could grow more than ten-fold to $3.7 billion by 2020.

Although the predictions are upbeat, challenges remain for the small cell ecosystem. The cost and availability of backhaul for such stations is an issue. Because of municipal regulations, outdoor site acquisition can be a problematic process. The coordination and synchronization of these cells with local WiFi and the macro network is not as easy as it sounds. In urban scenarios, achieving line-of-sight may be technically difficult for low height in-building base stations. Despite these challenges, the overall small cell industry outlook is favorable. All major telcos and equipment providers have been evolving a small cell strategy. With consumers becoming increasingly intolerable towards bad wireless service, these tiny towers and stations are set to establish a niche but substantial market for themselves.


Blurred lines: are network planning and network optimization merging?

3 Mar

Here is the worst-kept secret in the entire telecoms industry:  small cells are going to play a critical role in network evolutions over the next several years. A lesser-known reality is that, as a direct consequence of the growing number of small cells deployments, the lines between network planning and network optimization are blurring. They will no longer be two separate, distinct processes handled by different teams. Instead, they will become one process – network planning and optimization – as they are inextricably linked. This unified process will act as a foundation for a more proactive and agile approach to managing mobile networks, with small cell deployments at the heart of it all.

There once was a good reason for the distinction between network planning and network optimization — the workflows were based around different sets of engineering software that often required a long series of manual steps. The focus was mainly on delivering network coverage to high-paying customers and reactive issue resolution. Today, we see a different story. The main goal for network planning and optimization efforts is to help mobile operators cost-effectively deliver the quality of experience (QoE) that customers expect in order to reduce churn. Mobile operators also need to match rapidly changing customer demands with adequate capacity. They face the dual challenge of managing the evolution to large, multi-technology networks while also controlling OPEX costs. As network complexity increases, mobile operators need unified systems rather than individual tools for specific tasks — systems that provide properly synchronized network data and plans across multiple technologies, and instant and accurate views of network coverage, quality and performance throughout the whole network lifecycle.

Mobile networks are evolving at a rapid-fire pace unlike anything we have ever seen before because subscriber expectations and demands for data are increasing like never before. While dealing with the challenges associated with constant network evolution, it is important to remember that this is actually a very good thing. Mobile operators have been raising the bar in terms of quality of service (QoS) and QoE to better serve their customers. As a result, subscribers are using more mobile data and expecting fewer service interruptions. They continue to raise their own expectations, and while the ever-growing adoption of mobile services in society is a great cause for celebration, it also means that there’s no time for mobile operators to rest on their laurels — especially when over-the-top (OTT) services threaten their revenues.

With the right platform, mobile operators and RF engineering teams can get direct access to up-to-date network intelligence, allowing them to automatically generate usage and coverage simulations based on current network intelligence. The network planning and optimization process can be streamlined so that new capacity and technology deployments are made strategically, at the right times and in the right places. This allows operators to leverage predicted traffic loads based on the traffic development in the network, and gives them the opportunity to identify evolving hotspots and prevent issues in the network before they are noticed by subscribers. Such a proactive approach is critical if mobile operators expect to improve QoE and stand out among their competition, while improved accuracy in network analyses and shorter turnaround time leads to both CAPEX and OPEX savings.

Like I mentioned earlier, customer expectations are growing, and as network technologies advance and networks become more complex, the network planning and optimization processes will become one and the same.

So where do small cells fit into all of this? While micro, pico and femto cells have been around for a while, it’s only in the last few years that small cells have really risen to prominence as a tool for mobile operators to substantially expand their network capacity and improve their coverage. Operators in all markets are showing interest in various small cells solutions, spanning from residential solutions to large deployments of outdoor metro cells. For example, mobile operators in Korea have focused early on LTE small cells, while major US carriers like Verizon and AT&T have outlined their plans to deploy large numbers of small cells in 2014 and beyond, and others are guaranteed to follow suit.

We already know that small cells are capable of expanding network capacity and coverage, in turn enabling operators to deliver a better level of service and user experience, provided they are used in an efficient manner. Analysys Mason estimates that moving forward three to four small cells will be deployed per macro cell and other estimates go even higher. And there’s the link between network planning and optimization and small cells. Small cells and heterogeneous networks (HetNets) will be much more complicated to manage and, without a unified network planning and optimization approach, OPEX will skyrocket. Essentially, the prevalence of small cells is causing the lines between network planning and network optimization to blur, making a single, unified process all the more critical.

The reality is that mobile technologies and networks are constantly evolving. There isn’t a beginning and an end in the traditional sense. And, no matter how well operators plan their networks, the need for network optimization will always exist as subscriber bases grow, their usage behaviors change and their expectations increase. This non-stop evolution means that network planning and optimization must be an ongoing endeavor following a strategy that is regularly updated to address increasing subscriber expectations and technology enhancements operators are facing.

This brings us back to the relationship between network planning, network optimization and small cells. Small cells are one of the best solutions available today for mobile operators to expand their networks and simultaneously improve QoS and QoE for their customers. But, in order to reap those benefits, mobile operators must unite the siloed network planning and network optimization tools into a single network planning and optimization system that engineering teams can use to fuel the strategic deployment of small cells.


LTE network speeds, according to the latest OpenSignal report

24 Feb

The United States trails 13 countries when it comes to LTE network speeds, according to the latest OpenSignal report. The report found that average LTE network speeds in this country have declined 32% this year. Australia posted the fastest LTE speeds, with an average download speed of 24.5 megabits per second. Other countries with faster LTE speeds than the 6.5 Mbps posted by the United States were (in order) Italy, Brazil, Hong Kong, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico, Russia and Japan.

The United States suffered the biggest decline in network speeds of any country, as operators struggled to keep pace with increasing data downloads. Last year the U.S. ranked 8th in the OpenSignal study, with an average LTE network download speed of 9.6 Mbps.

Many of the nations with faster speeds than the United States do not have as much LTE coverage. Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, which together have roughly 200 million subscribers, are both nearing completion of their LTE roll outs with more than 300 million potential customers covered. Sprint and T-Mobile US both have substantial footprints as well, having recently surpassed 200 million pops covered. “The [United States] performs well on our coverage metric, with the average user experiencing LTE coverage 67% of the time, with Australia, the fastest country, on 58%,” OpenSignal said in a press release.

When it comes to domestic network speeds, T-Mobile US had the best performance among the carriers. The carrier posted average download speeds of 11.21 Mbps, with AT&T Mobility No. 2 at 8.9 Mbps. Verizon Wireless clocked in at 7.8 Mbps and Sprint’s average download speed was 4.2 Mbps. Sprint currently has the least amount of spectrum dedicated to its network at just 10 megahertz in most markets, while the others provide at least double that amount.

The State of LTE

Network operators around the world are working hard to convince their users to make the jump to LTE. The term “4G” acts as a convenient label for marketers to emphasise the superiority of this new standard over its predecessors, but just how standard or consistent is the experience of users on LTE?

The OpenSignal app allows users to contribute to our impartial coverage maps of mobile networks, we took data from those of our 6 million users who have LTE and focussed on their experience of two key metrics: download speed, and the proportion of time spent with LTE access. All data included in this report comes from the second half of 2013.

We found that not all LTE networks are created equal, indeed there is an extremely broad range of experience across both metrics. Only about a quarter of networks surveyed achieve both good coverage and fast speeds; clearly there remains much work before LTE lives up to its full potential.

Steve Perlman Thinks He Can Completely Change How Cellphone Service Is Delivered

20 Feb

It has been taken for granted that cell service faces inevitable slowdowns as more users look to grab more data from ever-more-crowded cell towers using a limited amount of wireless spectrum.

It’s why even ultra-fast LTE service starts to bog down in dense urban areas as more and more people adopt data-hungry smartphones and tablets. To avoid interference, each device essentially takes turns grabbing the information it needs, meaning that as more users try to connect, the speeds get further away from the theoretical maximum.

The only answers served up so far have been to adopt faster network standards, use so-called “small cells” to boost coverage or add spectrum.

But tech industry veteran Steve Perlman says the industry has gotten it wrong.

His 12-person startup, Artemis Networks, proposes carriers use an entirely different kind of radio technology that the company says can deliver the full potential speed of the network simultaneously to each device, regardless of how many are accessing the network. The technology creates a tiny “pCell” right around the device seeking to access the network and sends the right signals through the air (via licensed or unlicensed spectrum) to give each of the tiny cells the information it needs.

Think of a pCell as a tiny bubble of wireless coverage that follows each device, bringing it the full speed of the network but only in that little area. The signals are sent through inexpensive pWave radios and, because Artemis technology doesn’t have to avoid interference, the radios can be placed with far more freedom than cell towers or small cells. It also means that, in theory, the technology would be able to bring high-speed cellular service even in densely packed settings like stadiums — locations that have proven especially thorny for traditional cellular networks.

Artemis plans to demonstrate the technology publicly Wednesday at Columbia University. In demos, Artemis has been able to show — in only 10MHz of spectrum — two Macs simultaneously streaming 4K video while nearby mobile devices stream 1080p content, a feat that Perlman says would not be possible with even the best conventional mobile networks. The company has been testing the network in San Francisco, and Perlman says that by late this year the company could have a broader test network here up and running.

The plus is that, while the system requires a new kind of radio technology for carriers, it is designed to use existing LTE-capable phones, such as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4. The pCell technology can also be deployed in conjunction with traditional cellular networks, so phones could use Artemis technology where available and then fall back to cellular in other areas.

That said, while the infrastructure is potentially cheaper than traditional cellular gear, Artemis faces the task of convincing carriers to invest in a radical new technology coming from a tiny startup.

Perlman is no stranger to big ideas, but he has also struggled to get mainstream adoption for those technology breakthroughs.

After achieving fame and success selling WebTV to Microsoft, Perlman aimed to change the pay-TV industry with Moxi but found that most of the large cable and satellite providers were not eager for such disruptive technology. Moxi was eventually sold to Paul Allen’s Digeo and the combined company’s assets eventually sold to Arris in 2009.

With OnLive, Perlman proposed using the cloud to deliver high-end video games streamed to users on a range of devices, a technology it showed off at the D8 conference in 2010.

Despite cool technology, though, Perlman’s venture struggled and abruptly laid off staff in August 2012. The business as it had been initially founded closed, though its assets did get sold to an investor who is still trying to make a go of things under the OnLive banner.

Perlman insists he has learned from the obstacles that kept him from making those past visions into market realities.

“The challenges are always when you have reliance or dependencies on other entities, particularly incumbents,” Perlman said.

That, in part, is why Artemis took its technology approach and made it work with traditional LTE devices. Perlman said he knew getting the Apples and Samsungs of the world to support it was a nonstarter.

So how will he convince the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world? Perlman said a key part there was to wait to launch until the need for the technology was clear.

“We’ll wait until they get congested and people start screaming,” Perlman said.

Artemis is so far funded by Perlman’s Rearden incubator, though Perlman has met with VCs, even briefly setting up a demo network on Sand Hill Road to show off the technology.

Richard Doherty, an analyst with Envisioneering Group, says Artemis’ pCell technology seems like the real deal.

“[The] pCell is the most significant advance in radio wave optimization since Tesla’s 1930s experiments and the birth of analog cellular in the early 1980s,” Doherty said in an email interview. “I do not use the word ‘breakthrough’ often. This one deserves it.”

As to whether and when cellular carriers bite, Doherty acknowledged that is the $64 billion question.

“If one bites, none can likely be without it,” he said. If none do, he said Artemis can use pCell in conjunction with Wi-Fi to demonstrate the promise and challenge operators. “My bet is a handful will run trials within the next year.”

Here’s a video of Perlman demonstrating the technology.


LTE Benchmarking in Madrid

26 Nov
  • Coverage, throughput and interoperability benchmarking

  • Study of the networks of the four mobile operators in September 2013

Top Optimized Technologies has performed a complete study with the aim of analyzing the features offered by the new LTE deployments in Madrid. Sony LT25 Xperia V terminals with TEMS Pocket and TEMS Discovery Tool were used. Some of the highlights are included in this report.

Download: White Paper – Benchmarking LTE in Madrid


The studied area was in central Madrid between Paseo Castellana, Alcalá, Príncipe de Vergara and María de Molina. The images below show that the coverage is adecuate for a new deployment, although operators 1 and 4 have signal levels above those of operators 2 and 3, obtaining very few points below -110 dBm RSRP (red colour).


Furthermore, indoor measurements were conducted in the same area proving that, due to the high transmission frequencies, indoor penetration is very low and the signal level drops very fast as you get inside the buildings.

To complete this coverage tests, measurements were made in some strategic spots:

  • In Barajas airport T4 only one of the operators had coverage.
  • In Atocha train station there was no coverage when the terminal moved away from the outside areas.
  • The measurements in shopping centers had mixed results, some of them completely covered and others with no coverage at all.


Throughput is not only affected by the received signal level RSRP, but also by the transmission bandwidth, the quality of the signal (RSRQ), configuration parameters, etc.

Measurements included http, email sending and receiving and ftp. They were performed in several spots: Plaza de Colón, Sor Angela de la Cruz, commercial center in Serrano Street and Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The following graph shows ftp results after downloading 25 files of different sizes from 4 to 20MB. It includes tests with the 3G network technology to compare technology performance:


The throughputs obtained are much higher than those of the 3G network, being more than three times faster in most cases, although important differences exist between operators. Stands out one of the operators, with average rates of 20 Mbps in 4G, well above the others.


One of the design criteria of LTE technology was to reduce network delays. The latencies directly impact the quality of service perceived, not only because of the delay at the beginning of the data connection, but because they are critical for some advanced services such as online gaming. Also, as a fully packet switched network, very low delays are mandatory in order to offer voice over packet in the future (voice over LTE:VoLTE), as opposed to the traditional voice over circuit switched network in 3G and 2G.

The graph below summarizes the results achieved with 50 pings per operator and technology over two different servers:


In all cases operators show significant improvements in network delays in comparison with the 3G technology, always below 100 ms including peak values. In 3G there are also important differences, with the first two operators exhibiting latencies much higher than the other two. Furthermore, LTE traffic priorities can be assigned by service type which, properly configured, could improve the delays offered for services that are sensitive to this parameter.

CS Fallback and fast return to LTE

Today in LTE networks in Spain and in most of the world, the voice service is not offered through the LTE network, but the call is redirected to another technology with CS support like 3G, in what is known as CS Fallback. A series of calls were made to analyze how this process was performing, concluding that calls were directed to 3G properly, without drops, and with almost unnoticeable delays.

Nevertheless, there were differences in behavior in the way the call returned to 4G and in the delay to return after the call ends. As it turned out, for three of the operators, if at the end of the voice call there was an active data session, the mobile remained in 3G indefinitely. After the data session finishes, the terminal does return, but with different delay depending on the operator.

One of the operators analyzed proved an appropriate behavior, returning immediately to 4G right after the voice call ends even if there is an ongoing data session. However, for one operator it took up to 1m19s to reconnect to the 4G network. This is a very important behavior to have in mind as many instant messaging applications perform regular updates at short intervals, which could cause to stay attached to the 3G network indefinitely. A good parameter setting and implementation can make the terminal to immediately return to 4G, preventing it from getting stuck in the 3G network.


Deployed LTE networks in Madrid show great improvements over existing 3G networks, especially in terms of throughputs and latencies, which is going to establish a significant step forward in the user experience and in the use of mobile networks. However, it is necessary to pay attention and optimize some of the issues arisen, because they might impact users when traffic and number of LTE terminals start to grow.

Even between different networks deployed by the same supplier there are important differences in behavior, which shows the need for a proper network configuration and optimization. Companies with experience like Top Optimized Technologies can be helpful in these activities.

Download: White Paper – Benchmarking LTE in Madrid

Published originally in by Jesús Martínez de la Rosa (contact)or follow me on Linkedin

ITU releases latest tech figures & global rankings

31 Oct

  • 250 million additional people came online in 2012
  • Republic of Korea tops ICT ranking for 3rd year in a row
  • By end 2013 40% of the world will be online – but 1.1 billion households – or 4.4 billion people – remain unconnected
  • Mobile broadband is now more affordable than fixed broadband
  • Almost the whole world is now within reach of mobile cellular service
  • 30% of the world’s young population are ‘digital natives’
  • Broadband is getting faster; 2Mbps now most popular basic package
  • Telco operator CAPEX peaked in 2008; despite economic upturn investment levels have not returned

Mobile broadband over smartphones and tablets has become the fastest growing segment of the global ICT market, according to ITU’s flagship annual report Measuring the Information Society 2013.

New figures released today show buoyant global demand for information and communication technology (ICT) products and services, steadily declining prices for both cellular and broadband services, and unprecedented growth in 3G uptake.

By end 2013 there will be 6.8 billion total mobile-cellular subscriptions – almost as many as there are people on the planet.

An estimated 2.7 billion people will also be connected to the Internet – though speeds and prices vary widely, both across and within regions.

Mobile broadband connections over 3G and 3G+ networks are growing at an average annual rate of 40 per cent, equating to 2.1 billion mobile-broadband subscriptions and a global penetration rate of almost 30 per cent. Almost 50 per cent of all people worldwide are now covered by a 3G network.

ICT Development Index country rankings

New data from the 2013 edition of Measuring the Information Society reveal that the Republic of Korea leads the world in terms of overall ICT development for the third consecutive year, followed closely by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Hong Kong (China) also rank in the top 10, with the UK nudging into the top 10 group from 11th position last year.

ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI)* ranks 157 countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills, and compares 2011 and 2012 scores. It is widely recognized by government, UN agencies and industry as the most accurate and impartial measure of overall national ICT development.

Top performers – and connectivity challenges

All countries in the IDI top 30 are high-income countries, underlining the strong link between income and ICT progress.

There are large differences between developed and developing countries, with IDI values on average twice as high in the developed world compared with developing countries.

The report identifies a group of ‘most dynamic countries’, which have recorded above-average improvements in their IDI rank or value over the past 12 months. These include (in order of most improved): United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Barbados, Seychelles, Belarus, Costa Rica, Mongolia, Zambia, Australia, Bangladesh, Oman and Zimbabwe.

The report also identifies the countries with the lowest IDI levels – so-called Least Connected Countries (LCCs). Home to 2.4 billion people – one third of the world’s total population – the Least Connected Countries are also the countries that could potentially derive great benefits from better access to and use of ICTs in areas such as health, education and employment.

“This year’s IDI figures show much reason for optimism, with governments clearly prioritizing ICTs as a major lever of socio-economic growth, resulting in better access and lower prices,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré. “Our most pressing challenge is to identify ways to enable those countries which are still struggling to connect their populations to deploy the networks and services that will help lift them out of poverty.”

Broadband pricing & affordability

Analysis of trends in broadband pricing in more than 160 countries shows that in the four years between 2008-2012 fixed-broadband prices fell by 82 per cent overall, from 115.1 per cent of average monthly income per capita (GNI p.c.) in 2008 to 22.1 per cent in 2012.

The biggest drop occurred in developing countries, where fixed-broadband prices fell by 30 per cent year on year between 2008 and 2011.

The average price per unit of speed (Mbps) also decreased significantly between 2008 and 2012, with a global median price of USD 19.50 per Mbps in 2012, almost a quarter of the price that was being charged in 2008.

The report also presents for the first time the results of a comprehensive price data collection exercise that was carried out for four different types of mobile-broadband service. Results show that in developing countries mobile broadband is now more affordable than fixed broadband, but still much less affordable than in developed countries.

Austria has the world’s most affordable mobile broadband, while Sao Tomé and Principe, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least affordable, with service cost equal to or higher than average monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. Other countries that rank well for mobile broadband affordability include Qatar, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait and France.

The global broadband affordability target set in 2011 by the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to bring the cost of entry-level broadband service to less than 5% of average monthly income.

Digital natives

A new model developed by ITU for this year’s report estimates the size of the digital native population worldwide, showing that in 2012 there were around 363 million digital natives out of a world population of around 7 billion. This equates to 5.2 per cent of the total global population, and 30 per cent of the global youth population. The model defines digital natives as networked youth aged 15-24 years with five or more years of online experience.

Out of a total of 145 million young Internet users in the developed countries, 86.3 per cent are estimated to be digital natives, compared with less than half of the 503 million young Internet users in the developing world. Within the next five years, the digital native population in the developing countries is forecast to more than double.

The report shows that, globally speaking, young people are almost twice as networked as the global population as a whole, with the age gap more pronounced in the developing world.

“This first-ever global measurement of the number of digital natives is very timely, coming just after the presentation to the UN General Assembly in New York of the Youth Declaration developed at ITU’s BYND2015 Global Youth Summit, by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla. Young people are the most enthusiastic adopters and users of ICTs. They are the ones who will shape the direction of our industry in the coming decades, and their voice needs to be heard,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, which produces the MIS report.

Digital divide

At the beginning of 2013 almost 80 per cent of households globally had a TV, compared with 41 per cent of households with a computer and 37 per cent with Internet access.

The report shows that the number of households with Internet access is increasing in all regions, but large differences persist, with penetration rates at the end of this year set to reach almost 80 per cent in the developed world, compared with 28 per cent in the developing world.

An estimated 1.1 billion households worldwide are not yet connected to the Internet, 90 per cent of which are in the developing world.

The trend is strongly positive, however, with the proportion of households with Internet access in developing countries increasing from 12 per cent in 2008 to 28 per cent in 2013 – a remarkable 18 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

Internet users as a percentage of the population has been growing on average at double-digit rates over the past ten years. The percentage of the population online in the developed world will reach almost 77 per cent by end 2013, compared with 31 per cent in the developing world.

Telecoms investment

ITU research shows that telecommunication operators’ capital expenditure (CAPEX) peaked in 2008 with global investment totalling USD 290 billion, followed by two consecutive years of decline. Despite the upturn in 2011, 2008 investment levels have not yet been restored.

Sluggish investment levels after 2008 are consistent with an overall economic environment of restricted access to capital markets, which may limit the capacity of operators to raise funds for new investments. With the expansion of global operators into new markets, many operators are active in both developing and developed countries, with the adverse financial environment in the developed world likely impairing investments in the developing world.

See a selection of charts and tables highlighting key findings here.

Measuring the Information Society 2013: Charts and Tables

Chart 1: IDI rankings end 2012
ICT Development Index, Selected economies, 2012
Source: ITU
Table 1: Most dynamic countries – changes between IDI 2012 and 2011
Source: ITU. Note: * Australia, Bangladesh, Oman and Zimbabwe all went up four places
in the IDI rankings between 2011 and 2012.
Figure 1: Least connected countries (LCCs), end 2012
Source: ITU
Chart 2: Fixed-broadband prices, as a percentage of GNI per capita
Source: ITU. GNI p.c. is based on World Bank data. Note: Simple averages. Based on 144 economies
for which 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 fixed-broadband prices were available.
Chart 3: Digital natives as a percentage of total population,
by region and level of development, end 2012
Source: ITU
Chart 4: Digital natives as a percentage of youth (15-24),
by region and level of development, end 2012
Source: ITU
Chart 5: Percentage of households with Internet access by level of development, 2003-2013*
Source: ITU. Note: * Estimate.
Chart 6: Annual Investment (CAPEX) of telecommunication operators, world and by level of development, 2007-2011, total in USD
Source: ITU. Note: ‘World’ includes 67 countries accounting for 87 per cent of world GDP. ‘Developed’ includes 31 developed countries accounting for 96 per cent of total GDP in the developed world. ‘Developing’ includes 36 developing countries accounting for 72 per cent of total GDP in the developing world.

*Note to editors:

The IDI combines 11 indicators into a single measure that can be used as a benchmarking tool globally, regionally, and at national level, as well as helping track progress in ICT development over time. It measures ICT access, use and skills, and includes such indicators as mobile cellular subscriptions, households with a computer, Internet users, fixed and mobile broadband Internet subscriptions, and basic literacy rates.

ITU statistics are widely recognized as the world’s most reliable and impartial global data on the state of the global ICT industry. They are used extensively by leading intergovernmental agencies, financial institutions and private sector analysts worldwide.

ITU statistics are available at

An Executive Summary of the MIS 2013 report can be found at:

Journalists wishing to receive a free copy of the full report in PDF format should contact Sarah Parkes at the ITU Press Office

Download the MIS 2013 infographics at:

Download the MIS 2013 PowerPoint presentation at:

Download images and photos of the launch at:

Follow the discussion on Twitter at: #ITUdata



Mapping out the world’s LTE coverage (It’s in fewer places than you think)

21 Sep

LTE deployments have grown at a steady pace around the world, but after three years there are still relatively few places you can actually get an LTE signal.

You would think that after three years of non-stop LTE rollouts a good hunk of the globe would now fall under the 4G umbrella. Well, think again. Geographically LTE still only touches a tiny fraction of the world. Juniper Networks has prepared a heat map of all of the live LTE networks currently running, and as you can see for yourself there’s not much red on this map.

LTE global heat map

The U.S. is responsible for much of that coverage with most cities east of the Mississippi River and on the Pacific coast in at least one U.S. carrier’s 4G footprint. Japan and South Korea are responsible much of the world’s global LTE growth, but the two count for relatively little landmass. Otherwise we’re looking at patches of red in Europe, Australia and Canada as a few splotches here or there in Asia and the Middle East.

What might be even more surprising is that Juniper’s map shows that 3G actually covers relatively little of the globes’ land mass though it does capture the majority of the world’s population. Most of Canada, Russia and Australia as well as the interiors of South America, Africa and Asia either have 2G network or no networks at that all. That’s not unreasonable, considering relatively little of the world’s population live in these areas (with the exception of Africa). But it’s still interesting to note that in most places in the world it’s still impossible to get a decent mobile data connection.

Juniper LTE penetration

Juniper also crunched the numbers on LTE connections, and as you might expect penetration is high in the U.S. and Japan where the first large-scale rollouts occurred in late 2010. After three years, though, the U.S. not only trails Japan in penetration, it’s behind South Korea and Australia as well. What’s even more remarkable is how quickly Korea embraced LTE. According to Juniper’s figures, 62 percent of Korean the population has an LTE device, compared to just 19 percent in the U.S.

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