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Have You Addressed the Skills Gap in Your AI-Powered Digital Transformation?

28 Sep
Have You Addressed the Skills Gap in Your AI-Powered Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation has been a buzzword for years, with AI and advanced analytics playing a key role in enabling Communications Service Providers (CSPs) to improve their customer experience, get new services and products to the market much faster, and reduce costs through automation. Skills Transformation, on the other hand, is another crucial aspect in this transformation yet is rarely discussed in-depth. One of the biggest challenges isn’t the implementation of technology but the skills gap – upskilling and training employees, especially given the shortage of AI specialists.

What specific skills are needed, in which areas of your company, and what steps can be taken now to address the gap? I’ll discuss this further in this article.

CSPs at present mode

The Network organization within a CSP is often the center of discussion. It’s where technology evolved from 1G to the current LTE/4G, and in the future to 5G. And this group tends to be one of the biggest, from a headcount and budget perspective. The illustration below shows daily collaborations internally within a particular network domain, cross-functionally/between domains, and externally with other organizations.

Figure 1: Network organization and its interactions internally and externally. Image credit: Guavus.

Some examples we’ve seen in terms of real practices and collaborations within CSP organizations include the following:

The RAN Capacity Plan, led by Planning, is jointly reviewed with the Optimization Team. This is important to not over-estimate expansion which could result in unnecessary CAPEX spending. Understanding temporary and/or seasonal traffic patterns from subscribers in particular areas is very important. Some of the capacity overload problems are still manageable by performing some physical changes on the sites, enabling RAN’s load balance features, and/or parameters tuning. Those actions are less expensive than buying more hardware/software and licenses for capacity expansion.

One root cause of the VoLTE muting call issue is non-optimal end-to-end timers setting across different network elements. A collaborative discussion between cross-domain experts (RAN, EPC, and IMS) to improve these timers is very important, taking into account several different scenarios with a steps approach and the least impact on subscribers.

The Customer Service Center often receives thousands of customer complaints daily. The customer service officer needs to quickly identify the problems (network or handset related) to take further actions with customers. The typical workflow starts with a generic query to find out if there was a service disruption within a location described by the customer during the period of time reported. If nothing is found here, the customer service officer then follows up on this issue by raising a ticket to the Network Operation Center (NOC) Team to perform further investigation which is typically around alarms and minor troubleshooting efforts. If it’s still not solved, the ticket is transferred to the next level, either the Tier-2/3 Advanced Technical Support Team or the Triage Team from Performance if it’s more on KPIs-related investigation.

These processes can easily take hours and days to sometimes weeks to resolve. For more complicated issues, another level of collaboration between the local and national team, and/or even cross-domain experts, is sometimes required. And this requires much longer time to resolve.

These practices can easily consume up to 90 percent of employees’ time, with huge numbers of people involved; long cycle times; costly hardware and software upgrades, licenses, third-party fees; etc. They’re not able to spend enough time to learn new technologies or innovate ways to improve cycle times since these workflows require intensive data readout analysis and trials (i.e., what-if scenarios).

Many of the CSPs we work with are introducing AI-based analytics and automation to make a drastic shift from this present mode of operation. However, they’re not just looking to us to “fish for them but to help teach them to fish.” Their teams are looking for AI-based analytics applications for customer care, network operations, marketing, and security they can put into place very quickly – but they also want to learn how to build their own custom AI-based applications to quickly address the unique needs of each of their business groups in the future.

What’s needed to make this shift? Below are some of the key steps they’re taking to make an AI-based skills and digital transformation in order to better operate and deliver an improved customer experience.

5 key steps to making an AI-powered skills and digital transformation

1. Data Lake Infrastructure with Self-Service Capabilities for Business Owners

Some major CSPs already have this type of data lake up and running, while others are still building it. This data lake has to be properly designed and provides self-service capability that enables business owners (as well as Network groups) to explore and mine the data for insights, any time they require, to make better business decisions. Simple SQL knowledge is optionally required, this can easily be obtained through their internal knowledge base or by searching the Internet. With this capability in place, there are no longer ad hoc and heavy-query requests from business owners to the IT/Data Team to build custom reports, which sometimes can take days.

2. End-2-end (E2E) Domains Knowledge as a Future-Looking Analytics Enabler

CSPs need to view and solve issues based on a cross-services or applications approach rather than a siloed or per domain approach. As an example, solving VoLTE quality problems, Mean Opinion Score (MOS), as seen on Fig. 2 below, is one of the most important metrics. It requires all domain experts to sit together and acknowledge MOS lies in the intersection of all domains. In mature CSPs, an E2E Team is often created that consists of senior-level experts with more than 15 years of cross-domain knowledge and experience. The E2E Team drives the overall Network organization into a better operating, cross-functional/domain collaboration compared to the siloed domain-based approach, hence the cycle time is greatly improved.

Figure 2: Network domains and the intersections. Image credit: Guavus.

3. Data Science Knowledge for Domain Experts

With the high demand for data science expertise and limited supply of data science experts in the market, acquiring the best resources is very challenging. Compensation for this job role is very high as well. It also introduces another level complexity within the CSP’s organization – that is, a new data scientist and AI organization. This does not mean that building a new Data Science Team is not important, but what really matters is justifying the right size of the organization and executing the right use cases based on real pain points found in the field. Thus, enabling Domain Experts to acquire new data science knowledge should be considered a strategic imperative. This can be done by having:

Domain experts develop the skills by participating in learning courses and/or obtaining a formal data science degree. Domain Experts can then practice what they’ve learned from the courses by building the models through various machine learning tools, writing code, performing what-if analysis, etc. However, this can require a big time investment before the CSP sees the value in a production environment.

Pick up an analytics solution that provides domain experts with an ecosystem that enables them to simply turn a new idea (or a new use case) into a production environment. The solution provides the domain experts with various prebuilt analytic algorithms and machine learning models to play with, import-your-own models capability, and simply drop-and-drag UI to build workflows without requiring them to write lines of code. This solution also requires architectural flexibility to interwork with any existing data lake infrastructure owned by CSP. This option is often a lot quicker compared to the previous one.​

4. Application-centric Analytics powered by ML/AI as a Revolutionary Way to Plan and Optimize Network Resources

Once the E2E Team has acquired additional data science knowledge, the next step is to build application-centric analytics powered by AI.

As an example is VoLTE Customer Experience Management (CEM) analytics with automated Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and a Recommendation Engine to close the loop. With this solution, an issue can be identified faster with proposed recommended actions to be taken. This implementation requires real-time analytics capability and truly brings efficiency within the CSP’s overall operation workflows – where the issue can be resolved within a few minutes versus days or weeks in the current mode of operation. This type of analytics will evolve towards 5G and IIoT with more stringent requirements.

Another example is 5G Capacity Management. Network Slicing and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing will drastically change the way Domain Experts plan for the 5G resources. Domain Experts can now analyze different capacity scenarios with what-if analysis based on different capacity requirements (e.g., application requirements, layer management and carrier bandwidth, special events, mobility patterns and threshold settings, time of day/week/month, coverage shape, the site’s physical configuration, etc.). This new method of operation will significantly decrease the amount of time consumed by a Domain Expert on analyzing historical data which previously took weeks or months into a matter of hours or days (or even seconds, if real-time action is required (such as in special events capacity management).

5.Innovation at Heart

Last but not least, being an innovative and data-driven company will determine ongoing success for CSPs. The ability to translate market needs, automate repetitive tasks, continuously improve internal processes, and minimize cycle time will sustain their competitiveness and secure their growth in future. As an example, having Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) process in place with the right use cases derived from real business problems can help them make the right investments. Most strong companies encourage their employees to innovate every day and reward their efforts. An innovative mindset should be owned by everyone, not just a few individuals in the company.

More than just technical skills

Digital Transformation is a must for every CSP whether they like it or not. They can’t provide the improved customer experience and new services to compete and gain new business with the many challenges ahead unless they can make this transformation. Vendors, on the other hand, can take their part by proactively researching CSPs’ main pain points and building solutions with AI capabilities that provide real value on Day 1 in production. With cost pressure on the shoulders of CSP executives, rather than doing everything themselves, creating partnerships with vendors who understand the complexity of the CSP business, organization, services and customer experience and know-how to not just apply AI and analytics technology but train CSP employees on how to use them is key to success. Addressing the skills as well as the digital gap enables CSP executives to truly be transformers of their business.

Source: https://www.thefastmode.com/expert-opinion/15575-have-you-addressed-the-skills-gap-in-your-ai-powered-digital-transformation
28 09 19

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5G Standard Technology Intelligence

13 Sep

Key global players in mobile telecommunication sector are currently focused on maximizing their contributions to 5G via declaration of their patented technologies to various technical aspects of 5G.  There are multiple parameters which can be used to provide an indication of a given company’s contribution to the standard.  Exemplary parameters which can be used to evaluate the declared patent data include the number of declarations, number of standard essential patents (identified by mapping each declared patent with standard specifications by technical expert), geographic filing activity, implementation analysis, distribution of declared patents across 3GPP TSGs (RAN, SA, CT), filing timelines, recent filing activity and overlap of 5G declared patents with 3G/ 4G declarations.  In light of this, CPA Global’s team of telecommunication experts has conducted an analysis on patent declarations to a set of selected key ETSI projects pertaining to 5G.  CPA Global’s analysis consists of three major sections, based on the parameters described above:

• Major companies’ declaration activity – based on declaration patent data

• Overview of patented technologies declared to 5G – based on family information of declared patent data

• Standard essentiality analysis of granted patent declarations – based on technical review of declared granted patent families by CPA Global’s experts.  This analysis consisted of a technical mapping of each declared patent’s claims to over 100 5G technical specifications from Release 15

Each separate analysis in the content below is based on diverse parameters (highlighted in each section).  Each parameter provides a unique perspective, and the analysis based on multiple perspectives, in combination, provides a useful indication about top contributors to the 5G standard.

Introduction 

5G (namely, “5th Generation”) is the new generation of mobile communications, which succeeds the 4G LTE/LTE-A/LTE-A Pro.  The 5G performance targets high data rate, reduced latency, energy saving, cost reduction, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has defined three main types of usage scenario for 5G – (i) Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), (ii) Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and (iii) massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC)/Massive Internet of Things (MIoT).

Release 15, the primary focus of which is support for the eMBB scenario, was mainly frozen at the June 2018 RAN plenary meeting and most 5G players have been focused on declaring their 5G standard related patents to European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).  CPA Global has retrieved this declared patent information and conducted an analysis on the declared patent information since patent declarations are good indicators of R&D focus, engagement and contribution of various entities to the standard.  The study, especially, the substantive technical review of the declared patents, provides a reliable approach for evaluating contributions to the 5G standardization activity.

CPA Global’s Methodology and Team 

As mentioned above, the study includes the following three parts: (1) major companies’ declaration activity, (2) overview of patented technologies declared to 5G based on family information of declared patent data, and (3) standard essentiality analysis of granted patent declarations.

Part 1 and part 2 are based on statistical analysis of declared patent data retrieved from ETSI without any technical review being performed on the data.  Moreover, part 1 is majorly based on standard declared patent data (with each declared patent application considered individually, totally, ~40,000 declarations) whereas part 2 analyses the data from a patent family perspective (by grouping the published declarations, totally, ~9,400 patent families).  A patent family, as defined by EPO, can be broadly defined as a collection of patent applications which are related and cover the same or similar content in different jurisdictions.  As such, both perspectives become important with the analysis on individual declarations (part 1) representing the overall declaration activity and the family based analysis (part 2) representing the innovation activity within the declared data.

Part 3 is based on a substantive technical review of families with granted patents (totally, ~3,900 patent families) within the declared patent dataset.  The analysis has been focused on granted patents since the claims of these applications are presumed to be valid over prior art (allowed after prosecution of the patent application by the patent examiner) and have minimal possibility of being amended in the future.  Pending patent publications, on the other hand, have a greater likelihood of their claims being amended during their prosecution (or not even being granted) and therefore, technical review of such pending publications’ claims has not been performed.  The technical review in part 3 was based on analysis of one representative granted patent per patent family.  The representative member for each family was taken as the latest granted patent which has been declared.

The scope of the technical review included mapping of the broadest independent claim of each representative granted patent to more than 100 Release 15 technical specifications that are related to 5G, which resulted in 644 granted patent families being identified as “core”.  Moreover, part 3 also includes implementation analysis which consisted of identifying whether the claims of each representative core granted patent are implementable on one or more of (i) terminal (UE), (ii) Base Station (BS) and (iii) core network.

The technical review which forms the basis of part 3 in this article, has been conducted by CPA Global’s worldwide pool of telecommunication experts.  These experts hold Master’s or Bachelor’s degrees in telecommunications and are equipped with experience in 3GPP standard mapping projects.  Our pool of experts also includes patent agents and certified experts on 3GPP technologies.  Further, technical review of Chinese patent data has been conducted by telecommunication experts from CPA Global’s China team.

Part I: Major Companies’ Declaration Activity

Article 3 of the ETSI Intellectual Property Right (IPR) Policy indicates, amongst other things, that the ETSI IPR policy seeks a balance between the needs of standardization for public use in the field of telecommunications and the rights of the owners of IPRs.

The ETSI IPR Policy maintains this balance by requiring every ETSI member to use reasonable endeavours to inform ETSI of essential IPRs in a timely fashion.  Once an essential IPR is identified, the IPR owner is asked to make an irrevocable undertaking in writing that it is prepared to grant irrevocable licences on Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions under the IPR. In order to facilitate the process of notification of Standards Essential Patents (SEPs), members can use General Declarations by which they make an irrevocable undertaking that they are prepared to grant licenses under FRAND terms and conditions for all their SEPs within a given standardization area.  Therefore, members have obligation to at least declare their SEPs on ETSI.  Patent data declarations on ETSI consist of granted patents, published applications and un-published applications; hereafter referred to as Standard Declared Patents (SDPs).

CPA Global has conducted its analysis by retrieving Standard Declared Patents (SDPs) declared to a set of key ETSI projects on or before January 31st, 2019.  These ETSI projects were selected because of their relevance to 5G standard.  For projects having overlap with previous generation technologies, CPA Global further focused on the most relevant data pertaining to 5G by using a set of more than 100 Release 15 technical specifications to filter the 5G SDPs.

Declaration overview

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A timeline of the patent declaration data has been shown above, which indicates that maximum declarations were submitted in 2018.  The 5G SDP statistics in the quarter 1 of 2019 includes the patent declaration data on or before January 31st, 2019, which may not be complete.

The below charts illustrate the quantity of 5G SDPs for top 15 declaring companies, where the SDPs include declared granted patents/ pending applications which have been declared to the set of selected ETSI projects on or before January 31st, 2019. The declared patents have also been grouped into families.

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Based on individual declarations, Korean, US, Chinese and European companies are major participants in the constitution of the 5G standard.  Among Korean companies, Samsung is the leading company based on the quantity of SDPs and followed by LG.  Samsung’s volume of SDPs is more than 3 times that of LG.  There are several major participants from the United States, and Qualcomm has an obvious lead in the SDP filings, followed by Intel and Interdigital.  Qualcomm’s volume of SDPs is more than 10 times that of the second biggest US player, that is, Intel.  Among Chinese companies, Huawei is the top SDP filer, followed by ZTE and China Academy of Telecommunications Technology (CATT).  Huawei’s SDP portfolio is around 4 times that of ZTE.  Ericsson and Nokia are two major participants from Europe with SDP count of Ericsson being more than 3 times that of Nokia.  Therefore, based on the quantity of SDPs and comparison with other companies from the same jurisdiction, Samsung, Qualcomm, Huawei and Ericsson form the first tier in the major participants from both global and regional perspective.

When viewed in terms of number of declared families, Chinese players Huawei and ZTE, along with Samsung have the highest contributions to the declared patent data.  More detailed analysis on family based data has been presented in the next section.

Geographic activity

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The above chart illustrates the geographic distribution of the SDPs for the top 15 companies and provides some interesting insights:

• A majority of the SDPs are from US, followed by WIPO patent applications and Chinese and EP patent applications;

• The first tier companies have a global coverage of patent portfolio, where their portfolio in the major jurisdictions (US, CN, EP, JP and KR) is stronger than other jurisdictions;

• Samsung has a larger declared portfolio in US than other major jurisdictions including Korea;

• Qualcomm has a much stronger portfolio of SDPs in Chinese Taipei as compared to other companies.  This may be related to Qualcomm’s focused efforts in Chinese Taipei, particularly, their collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the region;

• Samsung’s count of SDPs in China is comparable to its count of SDPs in Korea;

• Compared to other companies, Huawei has the highest number of declared PCT applications;

Overlap with 3G/4G standard declared patents

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The above chart illustrates the overlap of the retrieved 5G SDPs with 4G SDPs and 3G SDPs.

Among the first tier companies, Huawei has the highest volume of such patents declared only to 5G, followed by Qualcomm and Sharp.  In fact, 80% of Huawei’s retrieved 5G SDP portfolio has not been declared to 3G or 4G.  Among other leading companies, Sharp, ZTE, Intel and CATT have a majority of their 5G SDPs only declared to the 5G standard.  In fact, more than 97% of ZTE’s and Intel’s 5G SDPs are declared only to the 5G standard.  Similarly, more than 90% of CATT’s 5G SDP portfolio also has not been declared to 3G or 4G.

On the other hand, 90% of Samsung’s retrieved 5G SDP portfolio has also been declared to 3G or 4G standards.  Similarly, 70% of Ericsson’s retrieved 5G SDP portfolio has also been declared to 3G or 4G standards.

On the other hand, around half of LG’s and Nokia’s 5G SDPs have been declared to either 3G or 4G standards.

Part II: Overview of Patented Technologies Declared to 5G 

Using bibliographic information from Innography and other sources, the retrieved SDPs comprising of published patent applications (granted and pending) have been collated into 9,423 patent families, where each patent family includes at least one published SDP (granted or pending) declared on or before January 31st, 2019.  The collated family data has been used to identify further insights.  The study of the patent families from multiple aspects, such as timeline, geographic activity and major companies’ activity has been presented below.

Note that the analysis in this section is based on published data only and the non-published declarations have not been included in this analysis.  The counts indicated in this section are therefore bound to increase as declared applications get published over course of time.

 

Timeline

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The above chart illustrates the earliest priority timeline of all patent families which include at least one published 5G SDP.  Earliest priority date of a patent application correlates with its innovation time frame; and therefore, earliest priority trends in a patent dataset can be used to get indicative insights on innovation activity.

A quarter of the patent families have an earliest priority before 2010 – this portion of the 5G SDP families has a high probability of including legacy technologies from previous generations such as 3G or 4G.  In contrast, the patent families having earliest priority in and after 2016 are more likely to be specifically related to 5G.

Further, as observed, there is a steep increase in innovation activity from 2013 to 2016, which reaches a crest of 2,196 patent families having earliest priority in 2016.  This also correlates to the official start of the 3GPP 5G standardization activity in 2016.  Because of delay in publication, the data of 2017 and 2018 may not be complete.

 

Geographic activity

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The above chart illustrates the geographic distribution of the 9,423 patent families, based on the earliest priority jurisdiction of these patent families.  Based on the earliest priority jurisdiction analysis of the 5G SDP data, China and US are the two major locations for innovation on 5G.  Particularly, in the last 5 years, China has steamed further ahead of the US on 5G standard declarations.  Further, for the last 5 years, the contribution from Europe has been relatively lesser.

Although Korean companies are active in the 5G standardization activity as mentioned before, not all of their 5G SDP filings have originated in Korea.  A good proportion of Samsung and LG SDPs have originated from US.  This also aligns with the previous observations that Samsung and LG have more US patent data than KR patents.  In addition, PCT route has been frequently adopted for 5G SDP filings in the last 5 years.

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The above chart illustrates the timeline of the earliest priorities for the top 10 jurisdictions.  As observed, there is an obvious increase in the number of patent families originating in China from 2014 to 2016, which reaches a peak of 860 patent families in 2016.  This indicates that many new 5G standard related inventions originated from China during this time period.  Furthermore, the 5G standard related R&D in Chinese Taipei becomes more active from 2015.  The PCT route experienced a big spike in 2015 and 2016.  In fact, around 35% of the patent families with priority in 2015 and 2016 adopt the PCT route.  Particularly, 964 patent families used the PCT route in 2016; with Huawei, Intel and Ericsson being the key contributors to this count.

 

Major companies’ activity

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The above chart illustrates the overview of patent families including at least one published SDP for the top 15 entities.  As on January 31st, 2019, Huawei has the highest number of patent families consisting of at least one published SDP and is followed by Samsung.

A majority of the top 15 players can be divided into three sets based on the proportion of recent filings in the declared patent families.  Huawei, ZTE, CATT, Intel and KT Corp form one set of players which have a majority of their 5G SDP families filed in the last 5 years with a majority of the SDPs currently pending.  The portfolios of these players may have a higher possibility of being related to new technologies pertaining specifically to 5G.

On the other hand, Samsung, LG and Fujitsu form a second set of players with lesser proportion of 5G SDP families filed in the last 5 years and with a higher proportion of SDP patents being granted.  The portfolios of these players have a higher possibility of being focused on legacy technologies compatible to 5G.

Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Sharp, Interdigital, ETRI and ITRI form a third set of players with a balanced proportion of filings before and after 2014.

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The above chart illustrates the timeline of patent families for the top 15 entities based on the earliest priority year data.  The quantity of patent families with priority in and after 2016 are also presented, since these are more likely to be related to new technologies specifically pertaining to 5G.  The 5G SDP portfolio of Huawei has an even proportion of priority filings before and after 2016.  Moreover, Huawei has the highest number of patent families filed from 2016 onwards and is followed by ZTE.  ZTE, CATT and Intel have more patent families filed from 2016 onwards than those filed before 2016.  On the contrary, Samsung, Qualcomm, Ericsson, LG, Nokia and Sharp have more patent families filed before 2016.

 

Part III: Standard Essentiality Analysis of Granted Patent Declarations 

From the 9,423 retrieved patent families, 3,929 patent families have at least one granted patent, which was issued on or before January 31st, 2019.  CPA Global has conducted the standard essentiality analysis based on analysis of one declared granted patent per patent family.  Specifically, key features in the broadest independent claim of the representative granted patent in each family have been compared to more than 100 Release 15 technical specifications that are related to 5G.  A majority of these technical specifications are related to working groups from Radio Access Network (RAN) TSG of 3GPP.

 

In this analysis, a patent was marked as ‘core’ if a significant overlap was identified between the scope of the patent’s independent claims and the content of one or more of the Release 15 specifications.  On the other hand, the patent was marked as ‘non-core’ if the patented technology was merely related to one or more technical concepts from the specifications but had a lesser likelihood of being implemented in the standard.

Based on this analysis, 644 core granted patents (families) were identified.  The deep-dive analysis of the core granted patent families from multiple aspects, such as geographic activity, technology implementation overview, major companies’ activity and overlap with the 3G/4G standard declared patents are presented below.

 

Geographic activity

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The above charts illustrate the geographic distribution of the core granted patent families, which is based on their earliest priority data.  Around 36% of the core granted patent families originated from US and another ~20% each from China and Europe.  Note that the identified core granted dataset does not contain any patent with priority in 2017 or 2018 and therefore, data with priority from 2012 onwards has been depicted in this analysis.

 

Technology implementation overview  

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Our analysis of the 644 core granted patent families also included a review of their independent claims from an implementation perspective – that is, whether the claims were implementable on one or more of (i) terminal (UE), (ii) Base Station (BS) and (iii) core network.  The claims of a patent can be applicable to more than one categories.  As such, if one claim of a patent is relevant to Terminal (UE) and another claim of the same patent is relevant to Base Station (BS), the patent has been marked as being relevant to both UE and BS.

 

The above chart illustrates the implementation analysis for the core granted patent families.  Around 80% of the core granted patent families include claims that can be implemented on a terminal (UE).  Around 60% of the core granted patent families include claims that can be implemented on a BS.  Only around 14% of the core granted patent families include claims that can be implemented on the core network.

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The above chart illustrates the distribution of the core granted patent families across the three 3GPP Technical Specification Groups (TSGs): Radio Access Network (RAN), Service & systems Aspects (SA) and Core network & Terminals (CT).  As observed, more than 85% of the core granted patent families are pertaining to RAN, which is over 8 times the number of core granted patent families pertaining to SA and 22 times the number of core granted patent families pertaining to CT.  Again, the reason for the high proportion of RAN in the above chart is also the fact that a majority of the technical specifications used in this analysis were pertaining to TSG RAN.  A further analysis on the major Work Groups (WGs) for each TSG is presented below.

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The above chart illustrates the distribution of the core granted patent families across major technical specifications of RAN: RAN1 (Physical layer) and RAN2 (Radio interface layers).  For this analysis, we have selected the major technical specifications which have been mapped to 10 or more core granted patent families.  For RAN1, TS 38.213 and TS 38.214 are the two most frequently mapped technical specifications, which are related to the physical layer procedures for control and data, respectively.  These are followed by TS 38.211 and TS 38.212, which pertain to physical channels & modulation, and multiplexing & channel coding, respectively.

 

For RAN2, TS 38.300, TS 38.321 and TS 38.331 are the three frequently most mapped technical specifications, which pertain to the the overall architecture of NG-RAN, the Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol and Radio Resource Control (RRC) protocol, respectively.  TS 37.340 is another major technical specification for RAN2, which pertains to multi-connectivity and overall description.

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The above chart illustrates the distribution of the core granted patent families across major technical specifications of SA: SA2 (Architecture) and SA3 (Security).  There are only three technical specifications from TSG SA having more than 10 mapped core granted patent families.  For SA2, TS 23.501 and TS 23.502 are the most frequently mapped technical specifications, which pertain to the system architecture and procedures for the 5G system, respectively.  For SA3, TS 33.501 is the most frequently mapped technical specification, which is about the security architecture and procedures for 5G System.

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The above chart illustrates the distribution of core granted patent families across major technical specifications of CT: CT1 (User Equipment – Core network layer 3 radio protocols) and CT3 (Interworking with external networks & Policy and charging control, end-to-end QoS mechanisms).  For CT1, there is only one technical specification having 10 or more mapped core granted patent families; namely, TS 24.501, which pertains to Non-Access-Stratum (NAS) protocol for 5G System (5GS).  For CT3, there is no technical specification having more than 10 mapped core granted patent families.

 

Major companies’ activity

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The above chart illustrates the overview of the core granted patent families for the top 12 companies.

The top 7 companies account for around 96% of the total quantity of the core granted patent families.  Huawei has the highest number of core granted patent families and is followed by Samsung and LG.  Among the top 7 companies, Huawei also leads in terms of the proportion of core granted families from within its overall set of declared families and is followed by LG.  Moreover, Huawei and Sharp have relatively recent core granted patent families, as compared to other players such as LG, Qualcomm and Nokia.

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The above chart illustrates the timeline of the core granted patent families for the top 12 companies.  The timeline is based on the earliest priority years of the core granted patent families.  As mentioned before, the core granted patent families having the earliest priority before 2010 have a higher likelihood of being legacy technologies carried forward from previous generations of technologies.  Further, the data within the time frame from 2010 to 2015 may contain some proportion of legacy technologies as this time period marks the transition from 4G to 5G development.  Finally, the core granted patent families having earliest priority in or after 2016 are likely to be specific to 5G.

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The above chart illustrates the company-wise distribution of the core granted patent families based on the implementation subjects – that is, terminal (UE), Base Station (BS) and core network.  Overall, for the top 6 companies’ core granted patents, terminal (UE) is the most focused implementation subject.  Nokia and Huawei have the highest proportions of technologies from within their respective core granted patent families which are implementable on core network.  On the other hand, LG, Sharp and Ericsson have minimum number of core granted patent families with claims implementable on core network.  For the implementation on BS, Huawei, Samsung, Qualcomm and LG are the top 4 players.

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The above chart illustrates the distribution of company-wise core granted patent families across the three 3GPP Technical Specification Groups (TSGs): Radio Access Network (RAN), Service & systems Aspects (SA) and Core network & Terminals (CT).  Huawei has the highest number of core granted patent families related to TSG RAN and is followed by Samsung and LG.  Huawei also leads based on the number of core granted patent families related to TSG SA and TSG CT.

 

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The above chart illustrates the company-wise distribution of core granted patent families for major technical specifications of RAN: RAN1 (Physical layer) and RAN2 (Radio interface layers) which have been mapped to 10 or more granted patent families.

For RAN1, Huawei leads the number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.211, TS 38.213 and TS 38.214, which are related to physical channels and modulation; physical layer procedures for control and physical layer procedures for data, respectively.  Samsung has the highest number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.212, which discusses multiplexing and channel coding.  LG and Sharp have a higher number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.213 than to other RAN1 technical specifications.  Similarly, Qualcomm has a higher number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.214 than to other RAN1 technical specifications.

For RAN2, Qualcomm leads on the number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.300, which discusses the overview and overall description of the NG-RAN.  LG leads on the number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.321, which is related to Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol.  Moreover, Huawei has the highest number of core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.331, which discusses Radio Resource Control (RRC) protocol.  Samsung has more core granted patent families mapped to TS 38.321 and TS 38.331 than to other RAN2 technical specifications.  In addition, all of the top 6 companies have minimal presence in TS 37.340, which is related to NR and multi-connectivity.

Similar analysis has been provided below to illustrate company-wise distribution of core granted patent families for major technical specifications of TSG SA and TSG CT respectively.  However, as mentioned before, the majority of the technical specifications used in this analysis were pertaining to TSG RAN and this is a key reason for the lower numbers in the below analysis.

图片23.png

The above chart illustrates the company-wise distribution of the core granted patent families for some major technical specifications of SA: SA2 (Architecture) and SA3 (Security).  For TSG SA, there are only three technical specifications having more than 10 mapped core granted patent families.  For SA2, Huawei leads the number of the core granted patent families mapped to TS 23.501 and TS 23.502, which are related to the system architecture and procedures for the 5G system, respectively.  For SA3, Huawei again leads on the number of the core granted patent families.

图片24.png

The above chart illustrates the company-wise distribution of the core granted patent families for some major technical specifications of CT: CT1 (User Equipment – Core network layer 3 radio protocols) and CT3 (Interworking with external networks & Policy and charging control, end-to-end QoS mechanisms).  For CT1, TS 24.501 is the only technical specification having more than 10 mapped core granted patent families.

 

Overlap with the 3G/4G standard declared patents

图片25.png

The above chart illustrates the overlap of the core granted patent families with 3G and 4G declarations.  Huawei, LG, Sharp and Qualcomm are the key players having a minimal overlap of their 5G core SDP portfolio with their declarations to 3G or 4G.  Particularly, Huawei has the highest number of granted patent families which have been identified as core to 5G but have not been declared to the 3G or 4G standard.  In terms of percentages, 75% of Sharp’s 5G core granted patent families do not have any overlap with their declarations to 3G or 4G.  Sharp is followed by Huawei (50%), LG (40%) and Qualcomm (40%) in this regard.  On the other hand, Ericsson and Samsung have a high proportion of their 5G core granted patent families, also declared to 3G or 4G – that is, 93% for Ericsson and 98% for Samsung.

 

Conclusions

CPA Global’s review of the 5G declared patent data (from the set of selected ETSI projects) has included analysis from multiple perspectives – the number of declarations, number of standard essential patents (identified via mapping the declared granted patents with the standard specifications by technical expert), geographic filing activity, implementation analysis, distribution of declared patents across 3GPP TSGs (RAN, SA, CT), filing timelines, recent filing activity and overlap of 5G declared patents with 3G/ 4G declarations.  This overall analysis has been conducted using a combination of raw data retrieved from ETSI, bibliographic information for the raw declaration data retrieved from Innography and a technical review of the granted patents from the declaration data by CPA Global’s technical experts.  Based on this overall analysis, Huawei, Samsung, LG, Qualcomm and Ericsson (in no particular order) seem to be the key contributors to 5G standard development and account for a significant portion of the IP relevant to the implementation of the standard.

Source: http://www.iprdaily.com/article/index/15259.html
13.09.19

5G Network Slicing – Moving towards RAN

28 Aug

The CU-UP is a perfect fit for the Radio Network Sub Slice

Network Slicing is a 5G-enabled technology that allows the creation of an E2E Network instance across the Mobile Network Domains (Access, Transport, & Core). Each slice is ideally identified with specific network capabilities and characteristics.

The technique of provisioning a Dedicated E2E Network Instance to End users, Enterprises, & MVNOs is called “Slicing” where one Network can have multiple slices with different Characteristics serving different use cases.

The technology is enabled via an SDN/NFV Orchestration framework that provides Full Lifecycle management for the Slices enabling the dynamic slicing (on-demand instantiation & termination for Slices) with full-Service Assurance Capabilities.

The Concept is not relatively new where the Mobile Broadband Network has always succeeded to provide services to end-users via partitioning the network through Bearers & APNs. Below is how the evolution looks like transiting from one Network serving all services to Dedicated Core Network Instances serving more targeted segments.

 

With the introduction of 5G, the 4G Dedicated Core logic evolved to be 5G Network Slicing with a standard framework that advocates 4 standard slices to be used for global Interoperability (eMBB, uRLLC, MIoT, & V2X)and allowing more space for dynamic slices addressing different Marketing Segments. These slices are globally identified by Slice/Service Type (SST) which maps to the expected network behavior in terms of services and characteristics.

 

New terms and concepts are introduced with Network Slicing such as

  • Network Slice Instance (NSI) – 3GPP Definition – A set of Network Function instances and the required resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources) which form a deployed Network Slice.
  • Network Slice Subnet Instance (NSSI) – 3GPP Definition – A representation of the management aspects of a set of Managed Functions and the required resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources).

If the above definitions are not clear, then the below diagram might clarify it a little bit. It is all about the customer-facing service (Network Slice as a Service) and how it is being fulfilled.

I’d say that the Core NSSI is the most popular one with a clear framework defined by 3GPP where the slicing logic is nicely explained in many contexts. However, the slicing on the RAN side seems to be vague in terms of technical realization and the use case. So, what’s happening on the radio?!

The NG-RAN, represented by gNB consists of two main functional blocks (DU, Distributed Unit) & (CU, Centralized Unit) as a result of the 5G NR stack split where the CU is further split to CU-CP & CU-UP.

Basically, a gNB may consist of a gNB-CU-CP, multiple gNB-CU-UPs & multiple gNB-DUs with the below regulations

  • One gNB-DU is connected to only one gNB-CU-CP.
  • One gNB-CU-UP is connected to only one gNB-CU-CP;
  • One gNB-DU can be connected to multiple gNB-CU-UPs under the control of the same gNB-CU-CP.

The Location of CU can vary according to the CSP strategy for Edge and according to the services being offered. There can be possible deployments in Cell Sites, Edge DCs, & Aggregation PoPs.

The CU-UP is a perfect fit for the Radio Network Sub Slice.

But Is there a framework to select the CU-UP based on Network Slice Assistance Info?!

Ideally, The CU-CP must get assistance information to decide which CU-UP will serve the particular PDU. Let’s explore that in the 5G (UE Initial Access) Call flow below

 

At one step, in RRCSetupComplete message, the UE declares the requested Network Slice by having the NSSAI (Network Slice Selection Assistance Information) that maps to SST (Slice/Service Type). However, this info is not used to select CU-UP but can be used by CU-CP to select the Serving AMF.

The mapping between PDU Session(s) and S-NSSAI is sent from AMF to gNB-CU-CP in Initial Context Setup Request message. This looks like the perfect input to build logic for Selecting the gNB-CU-UP but looking to the standards, one may realize that the mechanism for selecting the gNB-CU-UP is not yet clear and missing in 3GPP.

Although it is mentioned in many contexts in 3GPP Specifications that the CU-CP selects the appropriate CU-UP(s) for the requested services of the UE, the full picture for the E1 Interface is not yet clear especially for such detailed selection process

This will definitely impact the early plans to adopt a standard RAN Slicing Framework.

The conclusion from my side and after spending some time assessing the Network Slicing at the RAN Side is summarized in the below points.

It is very early at this stage to talk about a standard framework for 5G RAN Slicing.

The first wave for Network slicing will be mainly around slicing in the core domain.

RAN Slicing is a part of an E2E Service (NSaaS) that is dynamic by nature. An Orchestration Framework is a must.

5G Network slicing is one of the most trending 5G use cases. Many operators are looking forward to exploring the technology and building a monetization framework around it. It is very important to set the stage for such technology by investing in enablers such as SDN/NFV, automation, & orchestration. It is also vital to do the necessary reorganization, building the right organizational processes that allow exposing and monetizing such service in an agile and efficient manner.

Source: https://www.netmanias.com/ko/post/blog/14456/5g-iot-sdn-nfv/the-cu-up-is-a-perfect-fit-for-the-radio-network-sub-slice

Why the industry accelerated the 5G standard, and what it means

17 Mar

The industry has agreed, through 3GPP, to complete the non-standalone (NSA) implementation of 5G New Radio (NR) by December 2017, paving the way for large-scale trials and deployments based on the specification starting in 2019 instead of 2020.

Vodafone proposed the idea of accelerating development of the 5G standard last year, and while stakeholders debated various proposals for months, things really started to roll just before Mobile World Congress 2017. That’s when a group of 22 companies came out in favor of accelerating the 5G standards process.

By the time the 3GPP RAN Plenary met in Dubrovnik, Croatia, last week, the number of supporters grew to more than 40, including Verizon, which had been a longtime opponent of the acceleration idea. They decided to accelerate the standard.

At one time over the course of the past several months, as many as 12 different options were on the table, but many operators and vendors were interested in a proposal known as Option 3.

According to Signals Research Group, the reasoning went something like this: If vendors knew the Layer 1 and Layer 2 implementation, then they could turn the FGPA-based solutions into silicon and start designing commercially deployable solutions. Although operators eventually will deploy a new 5G core network, there’s no need to wait for a standalone (SA) version—they could continue to use their existing LTE EPC and meet their deployment goals.

“Even though a lot of work went into getting to this point, now the real work begins. 5G has officially moved from a study item to a work item in 3GPP.”

Meanwhile, a fundamental feature has emerged in wireless networks over the last decade, and we’re hearing a lot more about it lately: The ability to do spectrum aggregation. Qualcomm, which was one of the ring leaders of the accelerated 5G standard plan, also happens to have a lot of engineering expertise in carrier aggregation.

“We’ve been working on these fundamental building blocks for a long time,” said Lorenzo Casaccia, VP of technical standards at Qualcomm Technologies.

Casaccia said it’s possible to aggregate LTE with itself or with Wi-Fi, and the same core principle can be extended to LTE and 5G. The benefit, he said, is that you can essentially introduce 5G more casually and rely on the LTE anchor for certain functions.

In fact, carrier aggregation, or CA, has been emerging over the last decade. Dual-carrier HSPA+ was available, but CA really became popularized with LTE-Advanced. U.S. carriers like T-Mobile US boast about offering CA since 2014 and Sprint frequently talks about the ability to do three-channel CA. One can argue that aggregation is one of the fundamental building blocks enabling the 5G standard to be accelerated.

Of course, even though a lot of work went into getting to this point, now the real work begins. 5G has officially moved from a study item to a work item in 3GPP.

Over the course of this year, engineers will be hard at work as the actual writing of the specifications needs to happen in order to meet the new December 2017 deadline.

AT&T, for one, is already jumping the gun, so to speak, preparing for the launch of standards-based mobile 5G as soon as late 2018. That’s a pretty remarkable turn of events given rival Verizon’s constant chatter about being first with 5G in the U.S.

Verizon is doing pre-commercial fixed broadband trials now and plans to launch commercially in 2018 at last check. Maybe that will change, maybe not.

Historically, there’s been a lot of worry over whether other parts of the world will get to 5G before the U.S. Operators in Asia in particular are often proclaiming their 5G-related accomplishments and aspirations, especially as it relates to the Olympics. But exactly how vast and deep those services turn out to be is still to be seen.

Further, there’s always a concern about fragmentation. Some might remember years ago, before LTE sort of settled the score, when the biggest challenge in wireless tech was keeping track of the various versions: UMTS/WCDMA, HSPA and HSPA+, cdma2000, 1xEV-DO, 1xEV-DO Revision A, 1xEV-DO Revision B and so on. It’s a bit of a relief to no longer be talking about those technologies. And most likely, those working on 5G remember the problems in roaming and interoperability that stemmed from these fragmented network standards.

But the short answer to why the industry is in such a hurry to get to 5G is easy: Because it can.

Like Qualcomm’s tag line says: Why wait? The U.S. is right to get on board the train. With any luck, there will actually be 5G standards that marketing teams can legitimately cite to back up claims about this or that being 5G. We can hope.

Source: http://www.fiercewireless.com/tech/editor-s-corner-why-hurry-to-accelerate-5g

5G Network Slicing – Separating the Internet of Things from the Internet of Talk

1 Mar

Recognized now as a cognitive bias known as the frequency illusion, this phenomenon is thought to be evidence of the brain’s powerful pattern-matching engine in action, subconsciously promoting information you’ve previous deemed interesting or important. While there is far from anything powerful between my ears, I think my brain was actually on to something. As the need to support an increasingly diverse array of equally critical but diverse services and endpoints emerges from the 4G ashes, network slicing is looking to be a critical function of 5G design and evolution.

Euphoria subsiding, I started digging a little further into this topic and it was immediately apparent that the source of my little bout of déjà vu could stem from the fact that network slicing is in fact not one thing but a combination of mostly well-known technologies and techniques… all bundled up into a cool, marketing-friendly name with a delicately piped mound of frosting and a cherry on top. VLAN, SDN, NFV, SFC — that’s all the high-level corporate fluff pieces focused on. We’ve been there and done that.2

5g-slicing-blog-fluff.png

An example of a diagram seen in high-level network slicing fluff pieces

I was about to pack up my keyboard and go home when I remembered that my interest had originally been piqued by the prospect of researching RAN virtualization techniques, which must still be a critical part of an end-to-end (E2E) 5G network slicing proposition, right? More importantly, I would also have to find a new topic to write about. I dug deeper.

A piece of cake

Although no one is more surprised than me that it took this long for me to associate this topic with cake, it makes a point that the concept of network slicing is a simple one. Moreover, when I thought about the next step in network evolution that slicing represents, I was immediately drawn to the Battenberg. While those outside of England will be lost with this reference,3 those who have recently binge-watched The Crown on Netflix will remember the references to the Mountbattens, which this dessert honors.4 I call it the Battenberg Network Architecture Evolution principle, confident in the knowledge that I will be the only one who ever does.

5g-slicing-blog-battenberg-network-evolution.png

The Battenberg Network Architecture Evolution Principle™

Network slicing represents a significant evolution in communications architectures, where totally diverse service offerings and service providers with completely disparate traffic engineering and capacity demands can share common end-to-end (E2E) infrastructure resources. This doesn’t mean simply isolating traffic flows in VLANs with unique QoS attributes; it means partitioning physical and not-so-physical RF and network functions while leveraging microservices to provision an exclusive E2E implementation for each unique application.

Like what?

Well, consider the Internet of Talk vs. the Internet of Things, as the subtitle of the post intimates. Evolving packet-based mobile voice infrastructures (i.e. VoLTE) and IoT endpoints with machine-to-person (M2P) or person-to-person (P2P) communications both demand almost identical radio access networks (RAN), evolved packet cores (EPC) and IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) infrastructures, but have traffic engineering and usage dynamics that would differ widely. VoLTE requires the type of capacity planning telephone engineers likely perform in their sleep, while an IoT communications application supporting automatic crash response services5 would demand only minimal call capacity with absolutely no Mother’s Day madness but a call completion guarantee that is second to none.

In the case of a network function close to my heart — the IMS Core — I would not want to employ the same instance to support both applications, but I would want to leverage a common IMS implementation. In this case, it’s network functions virtualization (NFV) to the rescue, with its high degree of automation and dynamic orchestration simplifying the deployment of these two distinct infrastructures while delivering the required capacity on demand. Make it a cloud-native IMS core platform built on a reusable microservices philosophy that favors operating-system-level virtualization using lightweight containers (LCXs) over virtualized hardware (VMs), and you can obtain a degree of flexibility and cost-effectiveness that overshadows plain old NFV.

I know I’m covering a well-trodden trail when I’m able to rattle off a marketing-esque blurb like that while on autopilot and in a semi-conscious state. While NFV is a critical component of E2E network slicing, things get interesting (for me, at least) when we start to look at the virtualization of radio resources required to abstract and isolate the otherwise common wireless environment between service providers and applications. To those indoctrinated in the art of Layer 1-3 VPNs, this would seem easy enough, but on top of the issue of resource allocation, there are some inherent complications that result from not only the underlying demand of mobility but the broadcast nature of radio communications and the statistically random fluctuations in quality across the individual wireless channels. While history has taught us that fixed bandwidth is not fungible,6 mobility adds a whole new level of unpredictability.

The Business of WNV

Like most things in this business, the division of ownership and utilization can range from strikingly simple to ridiculously convoluted. At one end of the scale, a mobile network operator (MNO) partitions its network resources — including the spectrum, RAN, backhaul, transmission and core network — to one or more service providers (SPs) who use this leased infrastructure to offer end-to-end services to their subscribers. While this is the straightforward MNV model and it can fundamentally help increase utilization of the MNOs infrastructure, the reality is even easier, in that the MNO and SP will likely be the same corporate entity. Employing NFV concepts, operators are virtualizing their network functions to reduce costs, alleviate stranded capacity and increase flexibility. Extending these concepts, isolating otherwise diverse traffic types with end-to-end wireless network virtualization, allows for better bin packing (yay – bin packing!) and even enables the implementation of distinct proof-of-concept sandboxes in which to test new applications in a live environment without affecting commercial service.

2-and-4-layer-models-5g-slicing-blog.png

Breaking down the 1-2 and 4-layer wireless network virtualization business model

Continuing to ignore the (staggering, let us not forget) technical complexities of WNV for a moment, while the 1-2 layer business model appears to be straightforward enough, to those hell-bent on openness and micro business models, it appears only to be monolithic and monopolistic. Now, of course, all elements can be federated.7 This extends a network slice outside the local service area by way of roaming agreements with other network operators, capable of delivering the same isolated service guarantees while ideally exposing some degree of manageability.

To further appease those individuals, however, (and you know who you are) we can decompose the model to four distinct entities. An infrastructure provider (InP) owns the physical resources and possibly the spectrum which the mobile virtual network provider then leases on request. If the MVNP owns spectrum, then that component need not be included in the resource transaction. A widely recognized entity, the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) operates and assigns the virtual resources to the SP. In newer XaaS models, the MVNO could include the MVNP, which provides a network-as-a-service (NaaS) by leveraging the InPs infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). While the complexities around orchestration between these independent entities and their highly decomposed network elements could leave the industry making an aaS of itself, it does inherently streamline the individual roles and potentially open up new commercial opportunities.

Dicing with RF

Reinforcing a long-felt belief that nothing is ever entirely new, long before prepending to cover all things E2E, the origin of the term “slicing” can be traced back over a decade in texts that describe radio resource sharing. Modern converged mobile infrastructures employ multiple Radio Access Technologies (RATs), both licensed spectrum and unlicensed access for offloading and roaming, so network slicing must incorporate techniques for partitioning not only 3GPP LTE but also IEEE Wi-Fi and WiMAX. This is problematic in that these RATs are not only incompatible but also provide disparate isolation levels — the minimum resource units that can be used to carve out the air interface while providing effective isolation between service providers. There are many ways to skin (or slice) each cat, resulting in numerous proposals for resource allocation and isolation mechanisms in each RF category, with no clear leaders.

At this point, I’m understanding why many are simply producing the aforementioned puff pieces on this topic — indeed, part of me now wishes I’d bowed out of this blog post at the references to sponge cake — but we can rein things in a little.  Most 802.11 Wi-Fi slicing proposals suggest extending existing QoS methods — specifically, enhanced DCF (distributed coordination function) channel access (EDCA) parameters. (Sweet! Nested acronyms. Network slicing might redeem itself, after all.) While (again) not exactly a new concept, the proposals advocate implementing a three-level (dimensional) mathematical probability model know as a Markov chain to optimize the network by dynamically tuning the EDCA contention window (CW), arbitration inter-frame space (AIFS) and transmit opportunity (TXOP) parameters,8 thereby creating a number of independent prioritization queues — one for each “slice.” Early studies have already shown that this method can control RF resource allocation and maintain isolation even as signal quality degrades or suffers interference. That’s important because, as we discussed previously, we must overcome the variations in signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) in order to effectively slice radio frequencies.

In cellular networks, most slicing proposals are based on scheduling (physical) resource blocks (P/RBs), the smallest unit the LTE MAC layer can allocate, on the downlink to ensure partitioning of the available spectrum or time slots.

5g-slicing-blog-prb.png

An LTE Physical Resource Block (PRB), comprising 12 subcarriers and 7 OFDM symbols

Slicing LTE spectrum, in this manner, starts and pretty much ends with the eNodeB. To anyone familiar with NFV (which would include all you avid followers of Metaswitch), that would first require virtualization of that element using the same fundamental techniques we’ve described in numerous posts and papers. At the heart of any eNodeB virtualization proposition is an LTE hypervisor. In the same way classic virtual machine managers partition common compute resources, such as CPU cycles, memory and I/O, an LTE hypervisor is responsible for scheduling the physical radio resources, namely the LTE resource blocks. Only then can the wireless spectrum be effectively sliced between independent veNodeB’s owned, managed or supported by the individual service provider or MVNO.

5g-slicing-blog-virtual-eNobeB.png

Virtualization of the eNodeB with PRB-aware hypervisor

Managing the underlying PRBs, an LTE hypervisor gathers information from the guest eNodeB functions, such as traffic loads, channel state and priority requirements, along with the contract demands of each SP or MVNO in order to effectively slice the spectrum. Those contracts could define fixed or dynamic (maximum) bandwidth guarantees along with QoS metrics like best effort (BE), either with or without minimum guarantees. With the dynamic nature of radio infrastructures, the role of the LTE hypervisor is different from a classic virtual machine manager, which only need handle physical resources that are not continuously changing. The LTE hypervisor must constantly perform efficient resource allocation in real time through the application of an algorithm that services those pre-defined contracts as RF SNR, attenuation and usage patterns fluctuate. Early research suggests that an adaptation of the Karnaugh-map (K-map) algorithm, introduced in 1953, is best suited for this purpose.9

Managing the distribution of these contracted policies across a global mobile infrastructure falls on the shoulders of a new wireless network controller. Employing reasonably well-understood SDN techniques, this centralized element represents the brains of our virtualized mobile network, providing a common control point for pushing and managing policies across highly distributed 5G slices. The sort of brains that are not prone to the kind of cognitive tomfoolery that plague ours. Have you ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?

1. No one actually knows why the phenomenon was named after a West German left wing militant group, more commonly known as the Red Army Faction.

2. https://www.metaswitch.com/the-switch/author/simon-dredge

3. Quite frankly, as a 25-year expat and not having seen one in that time, I’m not sure how I was able to recall the Battenberg for this analogy.

4. Technically, it’s reported to honor of the marriage of Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. And yes, there are now two footnotes about this cake reference.

5. Mandated by local government legislation, such as the European eCall mandate, as I’ve detailed in previous posts. https://www.metaswitch.com/the-switch/guaranteeing-qos-for-the-iot-with-the-obligatory-pokemon-go-references

6. E.g. Enron, et al, and the (pre-crash) bandwidth brokering propositions of the late 1990s / early 2000s

7. Yes — Federation is the new fancy word for a spit and a handshake.

8. OK – I’m officially fully back on the network slicing bandwagon.

9. A Dynamic Embedding Algorithm for Wireless Network Virtualization. May 2015. Jonathan van de Betl, et al.

Source: http://www.metaswitch.com/the-switch/5g-network-slicing-separating-the-internet-of-things-from-the-internet-of-talk

The CORD Project: Unforeseen Efficiencies – A Truly Unified Access Architecture

8 Sep

The CORD Project, according to ON.Lab, is a vision, an architecture and a reference implementation.  It’s also “a concept car” according to Tom Anschutz, distinguished member of tech staff at AT&T.  What you see today is only the beginning of a fundamental evolution of the legacy telecommunication central office (CO).

The Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) initiative is the most significant innovation in the access network since the introduction of ADSL in the 1990’s.  At the recent inaugural CORD Summit, hosted by Google in Sunnyvale, thought leaders at Google, AT&T, and China Unicom stressed the magnitude of the opportunity CORD provides. CO’s aren’t going away.  They are strategically located in nearly every city’s center and “are critical assets for future services,” according to Alan Blackburn, vice president, architecture and planning at AT&T, who spoke at the event.

Service providers often deal with numerous disparate and proprietary solutions. This includes one architecture/infrastructure for each service multiplied by two vendors. The end result is a dozen unique, redundant and closed management and operational systems. CORD is able to solve this primary operational challenge, making it a powerful solution that could lead to an operational expenditures (OPEX) reduction approaching 75 percent from today’s levels.

Economics of the data center

Today, central offices are comprised of multiple disparate architectures, each purpose built, proprietary and inflexible.  At a high level there are separate fixed and mobile architectures.  Within the fixed area there are separate architectures for each access topology (e.g., xDSL, GPON, Ethernet, XGS-PON etc.) and for wireless there’s legacy 2G/3G and 4G/LTE.

Each of these infrastructures is separate and proprietary, from the CPE devices to the big CO rack-mounted chassis to the OSS/BSS backend management systems.    Each of these requires a specialized, trained workforce and unique methods and procedures (M&Ps).  This all leads to tremendous redundant and wasteful operational expenses and makes it nearly impossible to add new services without deploying yet another infrastructure.

The CORD Project promises the “Economics of the Data Center” with the “Agility of the Cloud.”  To achieve this, a primary component of CORD is the Leaf-Spine switch fabric.  (See Figure 1)

The Leaf-Spine Architecture

Connected to the leaf switches are racks of “white box” servers.  What’s unique and innovative in CORD are the I/O shelves.  Instead of the traditional data center with two redundant WAN ports connecting it to the rest of the world, in CORD there are two “sides” of I/O.  One, shown on the right in Figure 2, is the Metro Transport (I/O Metro), connecting each Central Office to the larger regional or large city CO.  On the left in the figure is the access network (I/O Access).

To address the access networks of large carriers, CORD has three use cases:

  • R-CORD, or residential CORD, defines the architecture for residential broadband.
  • M-CORD, or mobile CORD, defines the architecture of the RAN and EPC of LTE/5G networks.
  • E-CORD, or Enterprise CORD, defines the architecture of Enterprise services such as E-Line and other Ethernet business services.

There’s also an A-CORD, for Analytics that addresses all three use cases and provides a common analytics framework for a variety of network management and marketing purposes.

Achieving Unified Services

The CORD Project is a vision of the future central office and one can make the leap that a single CORD deployment (racks and bays) could support residential broadband, enterprise services and mobile services.   This is the vision.   Currently regulatory barriers and the global organizational structure of service providers may hinder this unification, yet the goal is worth considering.  One of the keys to each CORD use case, as well as the unified use case, is that of “disaggregation.”  Disaggregation takes monolithic chassis-based systems and distributes the functionality throughout the CORD architecture.

Let’s look at R-CORD and the disaggregation of an OLT (Optical Line Terminal), which is a large chassis system installed in CO’s to deploy G-PON.  G-PON (Passive Optical Network) is widely deployed for residential broadband and triple play services.  It delivers 2 .5 Gbps Downstream, 1.5 Gbps Upstream shared among 32 or 64 homes.  This disaggregated OLT is a key component of R-CORD.  The disaggregation of other systems is analogous.

To simplify, an OLT is a chassis that has the power supplies, fans and a backplane.  The latter is the interconnect technology to send bits and bytes from one card or “blade” to another.   The OLT includes two management blades (for 1+1 redundancy), two or more “uplink” blades (Metro I/O) and the rest of the slots filled up with “line cards” (Access I/O).   In GPON the line cards have multiple GPON Access ports each supporting 32 or 64 homes.  Thus, a single OLT with 1:32 splits can support upwards of 10,000 homes depending on port density (number of ports per blade times the number of blades times 32 homes per port).

Disaggregation maps the physical OLT to the CORD platform.  The backplane is replaced by the leaf-spine switch fabric. This fabric “interconnects” the disaggregated blades.  The management functions move to ONOS and XOS in the CORD model.   The new Metro I/O and Access I/O blades become an integral part of the innovated CORD architecture as they become the I/O shelves of the CORD platform.

This Access I/O blade is also referred to as the GPON OLT MAC and can support 1,536 homes with a 1:32 split (48 ports times 32 homes/port).   In addition to the 48 ports of access I/O they support 6 or more 40 Gbps Ethernet ports for connections to the leaf switches.

This is only the beginning and by itself has a strong value proposition for CORD within the service providers.  For example, if you have 1,540 homes “all” you have to do is install a 1 U (Rack Unit) shelf.  No longer do you have to install another large chassis traditional OLT that supports 10,000 homes.

The New Access I/O Shelf

The access network is by definition a local network and localities vary greatly across regions and in many cases on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.  Thus, it’s common for an access network or broadband network operator to have multiple access network architectures.  Most ILECs leveraged their telephone era twisted pair copper cables that connected practically every building in their operating area to offer some form of DSL service.  Located nearby (maybe) in the CO from the OLT are the racks and bays of DSLAMs/Access Concentrators and FTTx chassis (Fiber to the: curb, pedestal, building, remote, etc).  Keep in mind that each of the DSL equipment has its unique management systems, spares, Method & Procedures (M&P) et al.

With the CORD architecture to support DSL-based services, one only has to develop a new I/O shelf.  The rest of the system is the same.  Now, both your GPON infrastructure and DSL/FTTx infrastructures “look” like a single system from a management perspective.   You can offer the same service bundles (with obvious limits) to your entire footprint.  After the packets from the home leave the I/O shelf they are “packets” and can leverage the unified  VNF’s and backend infrastructures.

At the inaugural CORD SUMMIT, (July 29, 2016, in Sunnyvale, CA) the R-CORD working group added G.Fast, EPON, XG & XGS PON and DOCSIS.  (NG PON 2 is supported with Optical inside plant).  Each of these access technologies represents an Access I/O shelf in the CORD architecture.  The rest of the system is the same!

Since CORD is a “concept car,” one can envision even finer granularity.  Driven by Moore’s Law and focused R&D investments, it’s plausible that each of the 48 ports on the I/O shelf could be defined simply by downloading software and connecting the specific Small Form-factor pluggable (SFP) optical transceiver.  This is big.  If an SP wanted to upgrade a port servicing 32 homes from GPON to XGS PON (10 Gbps symmetrical) they could literally download new software and change the SFP and go.  Ideally as well, they could ship a consumer self-installable CPE device and upgrade their services in minutes.  Without a truck roll!

Think of the alternative:  Qualify the XGS-PON OLTs and CPE, Lab Test, Field Test, create new M&P’s and train the workforce and engineer the backend integration which could include yet another isolated management system.   With CORD, you qualify the software/SFP and CPE, the rest of your infrastructure and operations are the same!

This port-by-port granularity also benefits smaller CO’s and smaller SPs.    In large metropolitan CO’s a shelf-by-shelf partitioning (One shelf for GPON, One shelf of xDSL, etc) may be acceptable.  However, for these smaller CO’s and smaller service providers this port-by-port granularity will reduce both CAPEX and OPEX by enabling them to grow capacity to better match growing demand.

CORD can truly change the economics of the central office.  Here, we looked at one aspect of the architecture namely the Access I/O shelf.   With the simplification of both deployment and ongoing operations combined with the rest of the CORD architecture the 75 percent reduction in OPEX is a viable goal for service providers of all sizes.

Source: https://www.linux.com/blog/cord-project-unforeseen-efficiencies-truly-unified-access-architecture

5 Years to 5G: Enabling Rapid 5G System Development

13 Feb

As we look to 2020 for widespread 5G deployment, it is likely that most OEMs will sell production equipment based on FPGAs.

SON Progress Report: A Lot Still to Be Done!

22 May

SON

Since the first building blocks of SON were laid down around 2008 by 3GPP and NGMN, uptake in SON deployments has been very selective by a few leading carriers for some use cases. However, universal applicability remains elusive. To say the least, the SON market is struggling – but why, and how that can be turned around is what interests me. Having just attended the SON USA conference, I had made a few observations and like to put some down here.

The context: SON building blocks were laid by NGMN and 3PGG in 2008 and have progressively been revised and updated to widen the scope of SON. They used a bottom up approach to define SON use cases for LTE which has expanded with every new 3GPP release of this technology. Specifications on 3G are more limited and follow from those of LTE. Applications of SON to the macro cell has been limited to a few use cases such as configuration and provisioning (neighbor relation is one of the most used features).

The operator perspective: There are multiple sentiments aired by operators when it comes to SON. There are questions on the value proposition which is difficult to quantify. For activities that can be streamlined, operators have developed in-house processes that substitute external SON systems. Operators are also more prone to test the water with the SON system provided by the RAN vendor rather than opt for a third party SON. With this approach, operators aim to limit investment in SON. This makes more sense wherever vendors are managing operator networks – especially in this case, SON becomes a feature of the RAN that the OEM can have a complete lock on. Network engineers perceive SON as a threat in the worst case. In the meantime, SON can be a contentious domain between different functional groups within the operator organization. Operators are highly vocal about having a multi-RAN SON system, yet this is ironic since a single SON system invests power into a single SON vendor.

The vendor perspective: The vendor space can be divided into RAN equipment vendors and third parties. RAN vendors have the advantage of easy access to data that the network elements generate (OEMs can easily hamper third parties’ access to this data). However, they don’t have monopoly on smarts and third party vendors differentiate by having innovative solutions that actually solve specific problems for operators. The third parties have specifically focused on 3G networks. Yet, some of the third party solutions have a narrow focus while some of the RAN OEM solutions struggle in terms of performance.

What’s next: escape forward! This sums up the state of SON. One emerging concept is pairing SON with big data analytics. While this is an interesting idea, the devil is in the details. Analytics target a certain use case – a well defined problem which is solved by customizing a process and algorithms. Coupling SON with data sciences requires good knowledge of both spaces. How the benefits are imparted to the network still remains to be seen especially as a closed-loop approach forms the basis of such pairing. Operator resistance to closed-loop processes limits the effectiveness of this new approach.

SON is widely viewed as essential for HetNets and while the uptake in small cells has lagged market expectations, it is not strange that SON has lagged correspondingly. But waiting for HetNets to take off means, to me, that it will be many years before SON sees some traction: The pain is not large enough yet to warrant its application.

Source: http://frankrayal.com/2014/05/19/son-progress-report-a-lot-still-to-be-done/

The Hidden Face of LTE Security Unveiled – new framework spells out the five key security domains

19 May

Stoke is very excited to roll out what we believe to be the industry’s first LTE security framework, a strategic tool providing an overview of the entire LTE infrastructure threat surface.  It’s designed to strip away the mystery and confusion surrounding LTE security and serve a reference point to help LTE design teams identify the appropriate solutions to place at the five different points of vulnerability in evolved packet core (EPC), illustrated in the diagram below:

 1) Device and application security; 2) RAN-Core Border (the junction of the radio access network with the EPC or S1 link); 3) Policy and Charging Control (interface of EPC with other LTE networks); 4) Internet border; 5) IMS core

LTE_Security_Framework

Here’s why we felt this was necessary:  Now that the need to protect LTE networks is universally acknowledged, a feeding frenzy has been created among the security vendor community. Operators are being deluged with options and proposals from a wide range of vendors.  While choice is a wonderful thing, too much of it is not, and this avalanche of offerings has already created real challenges for LTE network architects. It’s a struggle for operators to distinguish between the hundreds of security solutions being presented to them, and the protective measures that are actually needed.

This is because the concepts and requirements for securing LTE networks have only been addressed in theory, despite being addressed by multiple standards bodies and industry associations. In LTE architecture diagrams, the critical security elements are never spelled out.

Without pragmatic guidelines as to which points of vulnerability in the LTE network must be secured, and how, there’s an element of guesswork about the security function. And, as we’ve learned from many deployments where security has been expensively retrofitted, or squeezed into the LTE architecture as a late-stage afterthought, this approach throws up massive functional problems.

Our framework will, we hope, help address the siren call of the all-in-one approach. While the appeal of a single solution is compelling, it’s a red herring. One solution can’t possibly address the security needs of the five security domains. Preventing signaling storms, defending the Internet border, providing device security – all require purpose-appropriate solutions and, frequently, purpose-built devices.

Our goal is to help bring the standards and other industry guidelines into clearer, practical perspective, and support a more consistent development of LTE security strategies across the five security domains.  And since developing an overall LTE network security strategy usually involves a great deal of cross-functional overlap, we hope that our framework will also help create alignment about which elements need to be secured, where and how.

Without a reference point, it is difficult to map security measures to the traffic types, performance needs and potential risks at each point of vulnerability. Our framework builds on the foundations of the industry bodies including 3GPP, NGMN and ETSI and you can read more about the risks and potential mitigation strategies associated with different security domains in our white paper, ‘LTE Security Concepts and Design Considerations,’.

A jpeg version of the framework can be downloaded here.  Stoke VP of Product Management/Marketing Dilip Pillaipakam will be addressing the topic in detail during his presentation at Light Reading’s Mobile Network Security Strategies conference in London on May 21, and we will make his slides and notes of proceedings available immediately after the event.  Meanwhile, we welcome your thoughts, comments and insights.

 

White Papers
Name Size
The Security Speed of VoLTE Webinar (PDF) 2.2 MB
Security at the Speed of VoLTE (Infonetics White Paper) 848 Kb
The LTE Security Framework (JPG) 140 Kb
Secure from Go (Part I Only): Why Protect the LTE Network from the Outset? 476 Kb
Secure from Go (Full Paper): Best Practices to Confidently Deploy
and Maintain Secure LTE Networks
1 MB
LTE Security Concepts and Design Considerations 676 Kb
Radio-to-core protection in LTE, the widening role of the security gateway
— (Senza Fili Consulting, sponsored by Stoke)
149 Kb
The Role of Best-of-Breed Solutions in LTE Deployments—(An IDC White Paper sponsored by Stoke) 194 Kb

 

Datasheets
Name Size
Stoke SSX-3000 Datasheet 1.08 Mb
Stoke Security eXchange Datasheet 976 Kb
Stoke Wi-Fi eXchange Datasheet 788 Kb
Stoke Design Services Datasheet 423 Kb
Stoke Acceptance Test Services Datasheet 428 Kb
Stoke FOA Services Datasheet 516 Kb

 

Security eXchange – Solution Brief & Tech Insights
Name Size
Inter-Data Center Security – Scalable, High Performance 554 Kb
LTE Backhaul – Security Imperative 454 Kb
Charting the Signaling Storms 719 Kb
Operator Innovation: BT Researches LTE for Fixed Moile Convergence 470 Kb
The LTE Mobile Border Agent™ 419 Kb
Beyond Security Gateway 521 Kb
Will Small Packets Degrade Your Network Performance? 223 KB
SSX Multi-Service Gateway 483 KB
Security at the LTE Edge 345 KB
Security eXchange High Availability Options 441 KB
Scalable Security for the All-IP Mobile Network 981 Kb
Scalable Security Gateway Functions for Commercial Femtocell Deployments and Beyond 1.05 MB
LTE Equipment Evaluation: Considerations and Selection Criteria 482 Kb
Stoke Industry Leadership in LTE Security Gateway 426 Kb
Stoke Multi-Vendor RAN Interoperability Report 400 Kb
Scalable Infrastructure Security for LTE Mobile Networks 690 Kb
Performance, Deployment Flexibility Drive LTE Security Wins 523 Kb

 

È

Wi-Fi eXchange – Solution Brief & Tech Insights
Name Size
Upgrading to Carrier Grade Infrastructure 596 Kb
Extending Fixed Line Broadband Capabilities 528 Kb
Mobile Data Services Roaming Revenue Recovery 366 Kb
Enabling Superior Wi-Fi Services for Major Event and Locations 493 Kb
Breakthrough Wi-Fi Offload Model: clientless Interworking 567 Kb

 

Source: http://www.stoke.com/Blog/2014/05/the-hidden-face-of-lte-security-unveiled-new-framework-spells-out-the-five-key-security-domains/ – http://www.stoke.com/Document_Library.asp

Cellular Broadcast may fail again

9 Jan

It’s happening again! The excitement, business cases, discussion on how the technology has matured, lessons learnt from previous such rollouts, etc. Believe it or not, it’s happening all over again. LTE Broadcast TV (a.k.a. eMBMS) is coming to an operator near you, soon.

Back in 2006, when Release-6 of UMTS was released, MBMS (without the leading ‘e’) was being hailed as a great technology that would solve many of the ills that had been plaguing the Mobile TV rollout. For example, the biggest issue was additional spectrum that was required with any of the other Mobile TV Broadcast technology, was not a problem for MBMS. In case of MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service), the spectrum of the UMTS channel (fixed 5MHz) could be dynamically partitioned to serve the regular Voice(CS) + Data(PS) traffic and the broadcast data. None of the other competing broadcast standards then like DVB-H, T-DMB, ISDB-T, CMMB and MediaFLO could offer such an advantage. Another big advantage with having 3GPP cellular broadcast standard (MBMS) in comparison to the competing technologies was that no additional hardware/chipset was required and there was no necessity for additional authentication and security mechanisms.

 

Even after many such advantages, MBMS never got off the ground. The simplest of explanations revolved around the limitation that UMTS channels bandwidth is fixed to 5MHz, which means only limited number of channels could be supported for Mobile TV transmission. Another reason was that the operators tried to do too much too soon and as a result their business case fell flat. This was a result of using Multicast to sell subscription services to the users who had very little or no experience of watching TV/Video. Let’s look at the broadcast and multicast concept in detail.

 

Unicast, Broadcast and Multicast

pic1-jan2014-resized.png

In case of ‘Unicast’, the radio access network (RAN) has to setup a dedicated bearer with the cellular device and then transmit the broadcast video. This would defeat the purpose of broadcast as a dedicated bearer is set up with the device and the device is effectively using the data. This is not a preferred approach and used in extreme cases for the sake of continuity. If only a few users in the cell are watching the mobile TV then there could be a saving of bandwidth by letting each of these users have a unicast connection rather than sending all information using the broadcast. Unicast mode is also known as ‘one-to-one’ or ‘point-to-point’ (ptp) transmission. Normal video streaming (using Youtube, Netflix, etc.) is always using the Unicast mode.

 

pic2-jan2014resized.png

In case of ‘Broadcast’ mode, the transmitted information is available for every device to be able to view. Broadcast mode is also known as ‘one-to-many’ and ‘point-to-multipoint’ (ptm) transmission.

 

pic3-jan2014resized.png

‘Multicast’ mode is a special case of Broadcast mode where the information may be available for all users but could only be decoded / deciphered by a device that belongs to the multicast group. To belong to this group, the user would have to subscribe to the service beforehand by calling the operator or using some online website, etc.

 

While in case of 3G MBMS, all the three modes were supported, in case of LTE eMBMS (‘e’ stands for evolved), Multicast mode is not supported. To highlight the similarity with 3G MBMS, the abbreviation was not changed to eMBS.

 

High profile Mobile TV launches in the past

Over the last few years, many big players have tried their hands on Mobile TV. Here is a summary of a few of them:

 

MediaFLO: A very ambitious and bold Mobile TV attempt was made by Qualcomm when it launched its services back in June 2009. Initially it was sold by AT&T and Verizon but the users had to pay $15 for subscription per month. This pricing was reduced and there were also other discounts available for users to sign up to the service. Qualcomm also sold a standalone device with subscription and tried to partner for in-car entertainment systems. The main reason for failure was high subscription prices for limited content and lack of smartphone models supporting MediaFLO. We have to remember that this required additional spectrum and hardware (chipset) which meant additional subscription charges. This service was eventually shut down in early 2011. chart1-jan2014resized.png
chart2-jan2014resized.png NOTTV: Japan has always been a trendsetter and a leader in technology. No discussion on Mobile TV could be complete without mentioning Japan or their leading operator NTT Docomo. Back in April last year, they announced that they have 680K subscribers to their NOTTV Mobile TV service after a year of launch (though they were expecting atleast 1 million). Each subscriber pays 420JPY (roughly $4/£2.5/€3) per month. One of the ways NOTTV was made appealing to the end subscibers was by providing original content that was only available here and was also archived so playback was possible too. Subscribers can also provide live feedback or answers to what was being shown thereby increasing participation and value over the traditional television.
China Mobile TV Service: China Mobile is another operator with clout and loads of subscribers. It has been pushing the Chinese mobile TV standard (CMMB – China multimedia mobile broadcasting), not only in China but in other parts of the world as well. Again, this requires an additional hardware and spectrum for the receivers to be able to receive the content. A report back from 2010suggested that the number of users of this service were much less than expected and only a few of them were actually paying subscribers. China Mobile Hong Konglaunched mobile TV services based on CMMB in Dec. 2011. CMMB based mobile TV is also being launched in Philippines this year. chart3-jan2014resized.png

 

Many other operators and other television & media companies have launched mobile TV services based on the streaming (unicast) model discussed above. While this may work in the short term, in the long term this is going to congest the mobile networks thereby impacting the traditional voice and data services. An easy option available with the operators is reduce the priority of the mobile TV data but this would mean the quality of experience (QoE) of the mobile TV subscribers would suffer and they may desert the services.

 

 

‘eMBMS’ as the saviour

Back in March last year, a top Verizon executive confirmed that they will be launching Mobile TV based on LTE broadcast technology, eMBMS, sometime in 2014. In June last year, Verizon is reported to have agreed a multiyear $1 billion deal with NFL for the rights to broadcast the games on smartphones. The deal though is only for the smartphones, not for the tablets. My guess is that it’s for any device that has a SIM card in it. eMBMS would make sense for broadcasting content such as live games to a wide audience without overloading the network.

 

AT&T doesn’t want to be left behind and its building its own eMBMS network on the old MediaFLO spectrumit bought off Qualcomm. In fact, if it reserves an entire 5MHz spectrum available nationally for eMBMS, it can use the alternative eMBMS configuration of 7.5KHz channels (rather than the regular 15Khz channels) which could result in more channels being available and also better performance.

 

Finally, the Australian operator Telstra recently conducted LTE-Broadcast (eMBMS) trials over its commercial 4G network, broadcasting several sport events and even a file download to several mobile devices over the same wireless transmission. Qualcomm and Ericsson, who partnered Telstra in these trials, believe that they have found the right model to make broadcasting work.

 

Do users want Mobile TV

The short answer is, of course they do. I remember being told many years back about this survey where the users were asked if they would want TV on their mobile and if they would prefer to pay for that. The answer was a resounding yes. The only problem with that survey was that nobody asked the respondents what they understood by Mobile TV and how much would they prefer to pay. Over the last many years I remember asking people I meet in various works of life the same questions. The most common answers I get are; Mobile TV is like Youtube or iPlayer and the maximum about anyone would prefer to pay is £2($3). I am sure this is not what the operators expect. In fact in this day and age where the Freemium model is being used for Apps and services, are the users not going to expect the same from any Mobile TV offering. Maybe some users wouldn’t mind paying extra in a bundle offering.

pic4-jan2014.png

The above picture from the Adobe’s digital Index team highlights the important point that users still prefer watching video on tablets, rather than the small smartphone screens.

 

pic5-jan2014resized2.png

This picture above from Business Insider article early last year highlights the difference in viewing habits with smartphone and other kind of devices. Frankly, I am surprised by the number of users on the smartphone watching video longer than 10 minutes.

 

pic6-jan2014.png

Another piece of statistics from an eMarketer article, also from early last year, shows that the top three kinds of content for both smartphones and tablet users were movies, user-generated content (such as YouTube videos) and TV shows. But the difference lies in emphasis: Tablet viewers were much more likely than mobile phone viewers to prefer feature-length movies and TV shows. Mobile phone viewers were more likely to watch user-generated content.

 

It is important to highlight that the span of attention and the patience required watching lengthy content on smartphone is a tricky job. Mobile TV is exactly what smartphone users don’t want.

 

There’s still hope for eMBMS and Mobile TV

I have tried my best to reason why Mobile TV on smartphone may be difficult to succeed. Tablets are becoming increasingly the main means of watching lengthy videos but most of them are Wi-Fi only. Two simple ways in which Mobile TV uptake may get a boost would be to have unique content, tailored for smaller screens and to have similar content being broadcasted on other connected devices like tablets, regardless of whether they are Wi-Fi only or support cellular access. Without allowing these alternative devices to receive Mobile TV, eMBMS may suffer the same fate as those of MBMS and MediaFLO.

Source: https://communities.cisco.com/community/solutions/sp/mobility/blog/2014/01/06/cellular-broadcast-may-fail-again#!

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