Edging Closer Towards Disruption in Radio Access Networks

Cloud-RANIn past articles [1, 2], I stressed that Cloud RAN is a disruptive technology. There are a few reasons for this, but I think that most critical reason is that Cloud RAN breaks open a pricing structure that’s been in use ever since the wireless industry was created. The current pricing model for base stations is based on a tight coupling between hardware and software that is impossible to separate. So, when a network operator buys a base station, the operator selects how many frequency carriers each sector would support and a corresponding number of remote radio heads. This model becomes obsolete in Cloud RAN where the hardware and software are decoupled. There is no longer a 1:1 relationship between baseband modules and RRHs due to pooling and virtualization. New pricing schemes are now possible as there is more room for operators to optimize the subsystems they need in the network. Cloud RAN not only decouples hardware from software, but also changes the coupling among hardware subsystems. This has profound implications on the future cost structure of wireless networks and operators have taken notice. OEMs looking to challenge the position of the primary entrenched incumbents are leading the charge in Cloud RAN development with a vision to increase their market share. Read more of this post

Is LTE-U DOA?

LTE-U vs Wi-FiReading some of the literature about LTE-U (and LAA) leads you to believe that its deployment is a foregone conclusion: operators love it; vendors support it, and products will be available within months. But operators lack the sales channel into the enterprise where LTE-U is envisioned to be deployed and provide most value.

While LTE-U may find its way into the handset fairly rapidly, its path into the Wi-Fi access nodes will be long and arduous as that ecosystem is not particularly friendly to LTE-U (Cisco for example), while the channels of the small cell vendors, such as Huawei and Ericsson, into the enterprise are less established.  Read more of this post

Is LPWA for Mobile Network Operators?

Is LPWA for MNOsYou don’t need to be a wireless carrier to operate an LPWA network and provide IoT connectivity services to hundreds of thousands of devices. LPWA technologies operate in unlicensed spectrum which opens a wide door to anyone to play in the IoT connectivity space, including of course mobile network operators (MNOs). But is LPWA for MNOs? Or more precisely, LPWA opens the door for new applications and business models, but to what extent can MNOs leverage LPWA and can they make a successful business out of it? Or are LPWA networks best run by new entities unencumbered with legacy solutions and processes? Read more of this post

Time for a Comprehensive Strategy for License-Exempt Spectrum

Spectrum ConnectivityCalls for regulators to release more unlicensed spectrum for Wi-Fi are getting louder: the 2.4 GHz band is heavily used and the 5 GHz band suffers from many restrictions that limit its applicability. LTE’s entry into unlicensed spectrum is further amplifying these calls and adding an acute sense of urgency.

But what is required is more than additional unlicensed spectrum. There needs to be a comprehensive strategy not only for additional unlicensed spectrum, but also for ensuring that regulations are harmonized to the extent possible between regions and are aligned with socio-economic needs. This is because we reached a point where additional spectrum means greater divergence between regions and increased market fragmentation, a similar scenario to the current state of the 5 GHz band. Read more of this post

Microcapacity: Unbinding Wireless Capacity Through Trading Exchanges

bandwidth exchangeMicrogeneration allows one to generate electricity for own use, typically using renewable resources such as wind or solar energy. Excess energy can be sold to the power company. The arrangement helps in evening out the variability in energy consumption. It reduces the peak load requirements for the main grid while energy generated during non-peak hours can be diverted to where it is most needed. There is no reason why wireless cannot work in a similar way. I call this “mcirocapacity”: individuals, businesses and communities can generate their own wireless capacity and sell the excess capacity to the wireless carriers. The concept is not novel and elements of it have already been developed. What is lacking is the impetus to put it into practice. Simply put, the time is yet to be right. Read more of this post

Are MVNOs the Next OTTs?

MVNOThe wireless market in Canada is on the cusp of changes due to new regulations that open the market for a new breed of MVNO services. Full MVNOs are now possible: they will be able to have their own mobile network codes (MNCs) and provision their own IMSI numbers. Full MVNOs own their core network including all subscriber related entities (HLR or HSS, etc.) while relying on wholesale service provider for the radio access network only. This makes these MVNOs independent at least from a retail perspective from the underlying host wireless carrier. MVNOs will be able to make arrangements with multiple wireless carriers and negotiate their own roaming arrangements with other national and international carriers. However, the regulator stopped short of mandating MVNO models, leaving it in the hands of incumbent MNOs. So the question remains: will these new rules stimulate the market and allow greater vitality in what is now a dull MVNO landscape?  Read more of this post

LTE Flavors in Unlicensed Spectrum

LTE-U LAA

Guest post by Faris Alfarhan*

The unprecedented increase in demand for high-speed broadband requires a bundle of solutions to satisfy the demanded capacity. Unlicensed spectrum is increasingly considered by cellular operators, internet service providers, and businesses as part of solution set. Unlicensed spectrum cannot match the quality of licensed spectrum, as the interference profile is much more stochastic. However, unlicensed spectrum offers a complimentary solution to licensed carriers for operators, and an opportunity to cable companies and internet service providers – who typically don’t own any licensed spectrum – to deploy wireless networks and hotspots. Read more of this post

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