Tag Archives: Speed

Comparing the mobile data networks of Europe in OpenSignal’s newest report

18 Aug

Today, OpenSignal released its new Global State of Mobile Networks report, our first worldwide report that looks beyond 4G technology to examine the overall mobile data prowess of nearly 100 different countries. While you can see the overall conclusions and analysis in the report itself, we’re also drilling down to specific regions in a short series of blog posts. Today we’re starting with Europe.

The chart below shows how 33 European countries stack up in mobile data performance, plotting combined 3G and 4G availability on the vertical axis and average 3G/4G speed on the horizontal axis.

3G/4G speed vs. 3G/4G availability

3G/4G speed vs. 3G/4G availability

Europe does quite well in general in both speed availability, reflecting not only their investments in LTE but the mature state of their LTE infrastructures. Most of them are clustered in the upper central portion of the chart with speeds between 10 and 20 Mbps and high levels of mobile data signal availability. The vast majority of European users can latch onto a 3G or better signal more 80% of the time, according to our data.

Outside of that main cluster, we do see clumps of countries in similar stages of development. We find several Eastern European countries that haven’t quite caught up with the rest of the region in either speed or availability (sometimes both), though Germany falls in the underperforming category as well. Being a former member of the eastern bloc isn’t always indicative of poorer mobile data performance, though. Both Lithuania and Hungary are well to the right of Europe’s main cluster, joining the Nordic states and the Netherlands in an exclusive club of outperformers. These are the rare countries that are able to offer a consistent mobile data connection greater than 20 Mbps.

3G signals are plentiful around the world

3G has definitely taken hold in most countries. On the 95 countries in our sample, 93 of them had 3G or better signal availability more than half the time, while the vast majority had availability greater than 75%, according to our data.

Big differences remain in average consumer data speeds

Though 3G or 4G connections may be the norm, there are some sizable gaps country-to-country in our overall speed metric, which measures the average download performance across all networks. South Korea had the fastest overall speed of 41.3 Mbps, while the slowest average we measured was 2.2 Mbps in Afghanistan.

The dominant connection type is (surprise!) Wifi

We found high levels of mobile Wifi connections both in countries where mobile broadband is ubiquitous and in countries where mobile data infrastructure is more limited. The most mobile-Wifi-hungry country in the world was the Netherlands, where Wifi accounted for 70% of all of the smartphone connections we measured.

LTE development patterns are clearly emerging

When we correlated overall speeds with 3G/4G availability, we found distinct clusters of countries in similar stages of mobile development. Examining 3G and 4G together paints a much clearer picture of a country’s network progress than measuring 4G alone.

Source: http://opensignal.com/reports/2016/08/global-state-of-the-mobile-network/

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How IoT Forked the Mobile Roadmap

9 Jan

Since 1991, when GSM was first deployed, there has been a steady progression within the mobile industry toward ever-increasing bandwidth and speed. However, since that time and in particular during the past 12 months, there has been a radical bifurcation in the trajectory of the industry and the technology it requires.

One of the future growth markets for mobile operators is thought to be the Internet of Things (IoT). The challenge for IoT is that the major requirements are asymmetrically opposite the current industry direction; namely — very low bandwidth, very low data, very low power and very low cost devices.

In 2015, within the mobile industry there was widespread recognition that the converged technologies of LTE, with its heavy signaling overhead and wide channels, are totally inappropriate for these types of IoT applications. The resulting cost of LTE modules and services are unacceptable to the enterprise market as they start to investigate the business cases driving IoT.

More significantly, since 4G is so much more efficient than 2G and 3G for the delivery of traditional voice, and the fact that video traffic is growing exponentially, many network operators are looking at re-farming the spectrum in which 2G and 3G technology is deployed and putting 4G technology into that spectrum. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is doing this in the US, resulting in its announcement that it will shut down its GSM network and 2G machine-to-machine (M2M) business by the end of 2016.

This type of strategic decision has major economic consequences for customers that, over the years, have invested in 2G devices and modules in remote locations and usually don’t touch them from one year to the next. By the end of 2016, this network of things will go dark, undoubtedly causing a great deal of customer frustration.

In some respects, this strategy of re-farming means that the mobile industry has been, or is in the process of, shooting itself in the foot because the M2M industry that it has been supplying without much care or thought is, all of a sudden, asking if there are alternative technologies. Industrial companies are disinclined to get wrapped up in the arms race to constantly upgrade to the latest and greatest new technology, when all that they really want is a technology that can last 10 or even 20 years. Consequently, there has been increasing interest in companies that offer a viable alternative, such as Sigfox , the LoRa Alliance , the Weightless SIG and Ingenu — all low-power wide-area networks that are taking advantage of this strategic opportunity.

For the first time, there appears to be a real alternative competitive threat to the mobile operators from a growing number of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) specialists in terms of the provision of the IoT backbone. As a result, the industry is starting to see companies repositioning themselves: for example,Samsung Corp. , Telefónica and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) have all invested in Sigfox; Telefonica has a trial network with Sigfox; and Orange(NYSE: FTE), Bouygues Telecom , KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) andSingapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) have all started trials with LoRa technology.

We are likely to see an increase in hybrid networks that are both the traditional cellular as well as the non-traditional. The next three years are going to prove very interesting in terms of whether the LPWA companies can get their technologies to gain traction in the market on their own, or in partnership with other companies. Non-cellular players, such as cable companies, fixed-line players, as well as cloud providers that want to participate in the IoT space, could all be potential partners for these LPWA players.

Ingenu is an interesting example of the dynamics in this market. It is a startup LPWA company that has brought in seasoned industry players and done a pivot around its original business model. Formerly known as On-Ramp Wireless, it rebranded and changed its business model from being just a technology and platform supplier to also being a public network operator developing its Machine Network, similar to the Sigfox strategy. Its focus is on the utility and energy industries in the US, and in most of those use cases an operator doesn’t need to have a national footprint — it can just provide a local or regional one. This means that it can rapidly and cost-effectively tailor services for these customers without huge overhead. Incrementally, it can provide services to other industrial and enterprise companies on a regional basis. This can potentially be done in partnership with the local utility, which gives them the opportunity to monetize their spare capacity. This is the plan that Ingenu laid out in September last year and has been aggressively pursuing.

In 2015, the mobile industry recognized that it had an issue and began working frantically to agree a cost-effective solution to counter these LPWA competitive threats. The result was that, through 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) , the chipset vendors, network vendors and operators agreed on a compromise standard — NB-IoT — that combines the development work carried out on NB-LTE (Ericsson, Nokia & Intel) with the efforts on Cellular IoT (Huawei & Qualcomm). The standard is set to be agreed upon this month, with the intent to include it in the LTE Release 13 scheduled for May 2016. (See GSMA Lauds NB-IoT Standard Agreement .)

In November 2015, in anticipation of this standard, a preparatory planning meeting of the NB-IoT Forum was held in Hong Kong. Initial members of the consortium include China Mobile, China Unicom, Ericsson, Etisalat, the GSMA, GTI (Global TD-LTE Initiative), Huawei, Intel, LG U+, Nokia, Qualcomm, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Vodafone. The forum’s role is to promote proof of concepts, drive applications for vertical markets and ensure interoperability of solutions to ensure robust growth of the market and the strength of industry value chain. It is anticipated that pre-commercial trials should occur in the second half of 2016 and commercial deployments in 2017.

Vodafone, together with Huawei and u-Blox, deployed and completed a commercial trial of a pre-standard NB-IoT technology in its existing Spanish network and Deutsche Telekom is conducting a similar trial. (See Vodafone, Huawei Trial Pre-Standard NB-IoT.)

Meanwhile, Ericsson and Sequans Communications worked with Orange to test extended coverage GSM (EC-GSM) in 900MHz, as well as first trials of LTE-M. (See Eurobites: Orange Fine-Tunes IoT Vision.)

The question is, after the 2015 standards scramble and collective herding, is it too little too late? Looking ahead at the beginning of 2016, it’s difficult to predict the outcome for LPWA, IoT and the mobile industry over the next three to five years, but what is clear is that a bewildering array of credible alternative options are now available to enterprises looking to deploy industrial IoT capabilities.

The mobile operators are frantically trying to retain their position as the obvious connectivity choice and to re-establish their credentials as trusted long-term partners to the M2M industry. The networks that they will be managing will be more complex and, in all probability, a hybrid mixture of technologies. The progress made toward virtualization in 2015 will need to be rapidly accelerated to deal with this mishmash of technologies and the diversity of services offered across the network.

Those enterprises that have a need to deploy replacement or new IoT networks now will be seriously looking at the proprietary alternative players. Aiding this momentum are large chipset vendors, such as STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM), looking to take advantage of system-on-a-chip opportunities on these new LPWA technologies. This will enhance the possibility for the fledgling vendors to gain scale and market presence ahead of the standardized LTE and GSM offerings.

Another possibility is that this technology bifurcation will result in mobile operators splitting off their IoT business to focus on and evolve dedicated new business models and offerings, in the same way that telcos did with cellular 20 years ago. Some have postulated that content providers, such as Google(Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), could acquire a major mobile network at some point over the next couple of years: This scenario could be triggered if operators discover that their IoT operations are not the growth engines they envisaged.

Equally, it could mean that industrial giants, such as IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM),General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) or Bosch could see the opportunity to buy one or more of these split-outs and create IoT backbone networks to leverage their vertical market presence to provide industrial IoT services. Another possibility is for a cloud provider to scoop up and invest in the LPWA players as a means to providing the conduit between industrial capillary sensor networks and the cloud, without the cellular middleman.

Whatever the outcome, the mobile industry will look back at 2015 as the watershed year, when IoT radically and irrevocably changed the course of the industry and the relentless and predetermined convergence march to 5G was finally interrupted and divergent innovation was introduced into the industry.

 

Source: http://www.lightreading.com/iot/iot-strategies/how-iot-forked-the-mobile-roadmap/a/d-id/720262?

Do We Really Need “Superfast” Broadband?

21 Oct
broadband internet speed uk

Do we really need 1Mbps, 10Mbps, 100Mbps or even 1000Mbps (1Gbps) of Internet download and upload speed to enjoy the online world? It’s an interesting question and one with many different answers, usually depending upon both your perspective and personal expectations. But how much Internet speed is really enough?

Some of us still recall the dreaded days of 30-50Kbps (0.03-0.05Mbps) narrowband dialup, where a trek into the online world usually started with series of whistles and crunches from a small box (modem) next to your computer and a minute or so later you’d be connected. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for websites to take a minute or two to load, assuming they didn’t fail first, and even small file downloads could take hours, with some needing days or occasionally weeks to complete. A dire existence by modern standards, perhaps, but at the time this was considered normal.

Back in the days of dialup the idea of streaming even standard definition quality video online was something that only those able to spend £20,000 on a 2Mbps Leased Line could envisage and that would quickly clog up the network for hundreds of workers, yet today almost everybody has this ability. How times have changed.

Mercifully the modern Internet, after initially being revolutionised by the first-generation of affordable ADSL and cable (DOCSIS) based broadband connections at the start of this century, is much improved. Today most websites feel practically instant to load, while the wealth and quality of online content is vastly improved.

In fact you can still do almost everything you want online with a stable connection of 2 Megabits per second, provided you don’t mind waiting or doing it in a lower quality, so why even bother going faster? Obviously anybody hoping to stream a good HD video/TV show or wanting to get other things, such as big file transfers, done in a shorter period of time will laugh at that. Plus what’s HD today will be 4K tomorrow and then 8K after that.

At the same time many of us have perhaps become conditioned by our perceptions and experiences of current Internet technology to expect and accept delays and waiting times as normal.

Speed vs Need

Back when dialup was king a big website that loaded in 20-30 seconds was considered “fast” because that was the norm and then broadband came along to make it virtually instant, which is now the new norm. Perceptions change as technology evolves. Today the UK Government has defined “superfast broadband” as being connections able to deliver Internet download speeds of “greater than 24 Megabits per second“, which rises to 30Mbps for Europe’s universal 2020 Digital Agenda target.

Meanwhile a recent report from Cable Europe predicted consumer demand for broadband ISP download speeds will reach 165Mbps (plus uploads of 20Mbps) by the same date as the EU’s target and some others suggest that we should be setting our sights even higher and aiming to achieve 1000Mbps+. Naturally all of this takes money and usually the faster you go the more it costs to build and deliver (a national 1Gbps+ fibre optic network might need £20bn-£30bn to deploy), which is one of the main reasons why progress has been so slow.

Next to all this there’s no shortage of reports and ISPs telling us that most people will only “need” a much slower speed, such as this BSG study which suggested that a “median household” might only require bandwidth of 19Mbps (Megabits per second) by 2023. Never the less when we survey readers to find out what they want, most people always end up picking the fastest options. Naturally if you could buy a Supercar today then many probably would, so long as they could afford it.

Admittedly 24-30Mbps+ of speed is enough to run several HD video streams at the same time, while a 20-50GB (GigaByte) video game download over Steam or Xbox Live etc. could be done within just a few hours. In fact this is even enough to view a stable 4K video stream over Netflix, so long as nobody else is trying to gobble your bandwidth at the same time. Modern connections also have pretty good latency, which should be fine for playing games.

Make Everything Instant

So why go faster? Firstly it takes time, years in fact, to build out a new infrastructure and what is fast today will just as assuredly be deemed slow tomorrow. In other words, if you’re expecting to need a lot more speed in the future then it’s perhaps best to get started now than wait until tomorrow has arrived.

People might not all “need” that speed yet but the infrastructure should be there to support whatever they want, be it 20Mbps or 2000Mbps, and right now the only way to get that is by building a true fibre optic network (FTTH/P). Granted most of us will be happy with the hybrid-fibre solutions that are currently being rolled out but, as above, we need to be ready before tomorrow arrives and some of today’s hybrid solutions have big limits.. especially at distance (FTTC).

Meanwhile we’re all still conditioned to expect a delay. Every time you download a big multi-GigaByte file or attempt to upload a complex new drawing to a business contact, there’s a delay. Sometimes it’s a few seconds, others it can be minutes and for some it’ll be hours. A huge transfer will almost always attract some delay (especially if you’re the one uploading because upstream traffic is usually much slower). Time is what makes speed matter.

However one of these days we’d like it to be instant or at least as close to that as possible. For example, in an ideal world a 20GB game download wouldn’t take hours or even minutes, it would instead be done only moments after your click. No more long waits. So perhaps when next a telecoms company says “nobody needs more than xx Megabits per second” we should respond by saying, “Kindly be quiet! I want everything to be instant, now make it so“.

The problem is we’d also expect this to be affordable and thus it won’t happen, at least not for most of us and probably not for many more years, and even if it did then by the time you could achieve that the 20GB would have become 200GB or 2000GB and you’d be back to square one. But wouldn’t it be nice if, just for once, we built a national infrastructure that was way ahead of expectations and delivered Gigabits of speed no matter how far you lived from your local node / street cabinet.

Some providers are doing this already (e.g. Hyperoptic, CityFibre), albeit to a much smaller scale and focused on more viable urban areas, yet making the investment case for a 100% national deployment is much harder (you have to cater for sparse communities too) and we can’t blame some for choosing the halfway house of hybrid-fibre. It’s quick to roll-out, comparatively cheap and should help to plug the performance gap for most people. But it’s also likely to need significantly more investment in the future.

Now, does anybody have a few billion pounds going spare so we can do the job properly and keep it affordable?

Source: http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2014/10/telecoms-leaders-say-need-25mbps-broadband.html

 

The LTE revolution has only just begun and networks try to catch up

26 Sep

As networks expand LTE coverage and close down 2G systems, a lot of service providers will have to overhaul their businesses

cellphone tower

Companies relying on M2M communications will face tough choices by the end of the decade. Most wireless modules that provide security surveillance, industrial automation, environmental monitoring, energy management, pet tracking and whole slate of other applications will become obsolete as 2G networks, which date back to the late-1990s, are shut down around the world. Modules in devices embedded in buildings and machinery, as well as those in mobile devices, will have to be switched out. “It’s absolutely a painful, painful process,” says Kieran McNamara, manager of technical sales for global M2M & Internet of Things partnerships at Rogers.

Still, companies that play their cards right can leverage the newer networks for better applications and more efficient communications. The question is when and how to make the move.

Industry watchers predict most telecoms will abandon 2G by 2020, starting with AT&T in 2017. Carriers are redeploying their spectrum to 3G and LTE/4G networks that provide better speeds and more bandwidth for the data-hungry consumer market. With an estimated 90% of M2M communications still using 2G networks, that leaves a lot of devices looking for a new home. “You have to be on a network that exists. If you don’t have a network, you don’t have an application,” says Alex Brisborne, president and CEO of KORE Wireless, a provider of M2M services with close to two million devices operating on 11 carriers around the world.

The newer networks do offer advantages. LTE provides much more bandwidth than 2G, allowing for richer real-time video and voice applications. The cost of data is cheaper per megabyte. As well, LTE also has less latency than 2G, which can take 30 seconds or more to get a data connection. Waiting for a vending machine to process a credit-card transaction, for example, will be a whole lot less frustrating. That convenience may drive revenue and create new business opportunities.

“When the business models works, you’re going to see people creating all sorts of new solutions when they move to 4G,” says John Horn, president of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Raco Wireless, which signs up more than 100 solution partners every quarter. “Sometimes I feel like a kid in the candy store because all the time, I see so many new creative things nobody’s thought of before.”

LTE also provides better in-building coverage, allowing devices to be placed in locations that would have been dead zones with 2G and 3G. In rural areas, LTE towers provide more coverage than comparable 2G towers. “You’re going to see much better connectivity,” says McNamara.

Many companies have been reluctant to upgrade from 2G because it still offers the widest geographic coverage. That will change rapidly in the next couple of years as 3G and LTE expand. Costs are also a major obstacle. Though businesses using large quantities of data may save money on LTE, most M2M applications are modest data users. And hardware for 3G and LTE networks can be substantially more expensive, as much as eight times more expensive, says Horn. “When someone has thousands or tens of thousands of devices out there and their baseline module cost is $10 and now it’s $75, it’s really hard to make the metrics work,” he says.

Balancing coverage against cost is tricky. Horn suggests waiting a couple of years for LTE equipment to drop in price, then jumping straight from 2G to LTE, as he predicts LTE coverage will expand more quickly than 3G coverage. Brisborne agrees that 3G will have a significantly shorter life span than 2G and may be worth skipping. On the other hand, Vincent Pavero, director of products and innovation at Montreal-based telematics company IMETRIK Global, says that for a considerable time, 3G may play the M2M workhorse role that 2G has been playing until now. IMETRIK is currently ripping out 200,000 2G devices each year. “We have very good deals on 3G chips already. By the end of the year, operating 3G products will be cheaper than operating 2G products,” says Pavero.

McNamara advises against an LTE-only conversion at this point, suggesting that upgrades should be 3G/LTE compatible until LTE coverage increases. Backward compatibility will cost you though. “Especially LTE with 3G since 3G has a lot of intellectual property that’s privately held,” says McNamara. Unfortunately, backwards compatible LTE and 2G-only products are not common.

International enterprises hoping that LTE devices, unlike 2G and 3G devices, will be able to function anywhere in the world will be disappointed. Brisborne points out that LTE comes in 43 frequencies “depending on the regulator and how you want to implement it.” A universal standard remains over the next horizon.

Source: http://www.canadianbusiness.com/insights/the-lte-revolution-has-only-just-begun-and-networks-try-to-catch-up/

AT&T Announces ’4G LTE Advanced’ For 2013; Verizon 5G Next

10 Dec

If the rumors are true, real, honest-to-god 4G in the United States could be on the way sometime in the next 7 to 12 months.

FierceWireless reports on word from AT&T’s annual meeting with analysts that it will be “firing up” new “LTE Advanced” service across its network in the second half of 2013.

What is LTE Advanced? Well, it’s a lot like 4G LTE, only more, um, advanced.

See, in the old days of mobile broadband — like, all the way back in 2011 — carriers started marketing services they called 4G, but in the real world, they really only offered speeds one-tenth or one-twentieth those of the actual 4G standard, which is meant to deliver download speeds in the range of 100Mbps. That means we were suddenly able to download full songs out of the air in mere seconds on these new 4G services.

That’s right, I said seconds instead of the single second it should be taking us over true 4G. And thus we were robbed in the name of marketing. After all, who wants to wait five full seconds to download “Party Rock Anthem?”

But now it looks like next year will produce a savior in the form of a carrier to deliver us to a land of true 4G LTE Advanced with extra cheese… or whatever.

Sprint has LTE Advanced on their roadmaps as well, but was only talking speeds of 15Mbps at last check.

So if AT&T winds up as the first company that can actually deliver triple-digit Mbps speeds, we may finally stop poking fun at the company’s one-time inability to deliver consistent service without dropped calls and dead zones in the biggest of American cities.

That’s right my fellow soldiers of snark, it may finally be time to make nice with the big blue deathstar, for this may be the year we all fall to our knees and beg AT&T to bring its new network to our towns.

Then again, by that time it could all be a moot point, as Verizon’s CEO claimed this week that by the time the other guys are making their next big 4G moves, Big Red will already be looking at 5G and 6G networks.

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