Will Operators Deploy Phase 1 5G?

5G MobileStandardization of 5G is split into two phases. The first phase, which is scheduled for 2H2018, will focus on a subset of use cases and features. The second phase which is scheduled for December 2019, will meet ITU2020 requirements for 5G technology. Phase 1 will also focus on sub 6 GHz bands although carriers in Asia are pushing to include millimeter wave bands. The question is whether phase 1 will matter at all? Would operators bother with an intermediate step towards 5G, or opt to deploy the mature version when it becomes available? Continue reading

Which IoT Technologies Will Die Out?

LPWA LTEIoT use case are fragmented with different requirements. To match these requirements, a number of IoT connectivity solutions are available including wide-area low-power (LPWA), cellular wireless technologies (EGPRS, UMTS, LTE of different varieties), and short range technologies adapted to cover wide areas through mesh networking (ZigBee, WirelessHART, etc.) or extension of point-to-multipoint technologies (e.g. 802.11ah/HaLow). Each of these technology spaces is crowded with options, so which will survive and which will die out? Continue reading

5G: Revolution or Evolution?

5G VirtualizationIs 5G an evolution or a revolution? In an earlier article I said 5G is an evolutionary stage. Many disagreed: 5G is a revolutionary technology. But this is all a matter of perspective.  The evolution vs. revolution debate has largely focused on the air interface, or the ‘subscriber interface’: everyone wants to have fast wide-bandwidth connectivity. Naturally, it is the user experience that takes center attention. In my opinion, this is not a revolutionary aspect as 5G will package the same technologies with upgrades in implementation that reflects advancements in technology since LTE was first conceived in 2004 (yes, that’s 12 years ago!!). Instead, I think that the revolutionary aspect is related to the ‘backend’ or the ‘operator interface’: it is in virtualizing the network. Continue reading

Top 3 Drivers of Investments in the LPWA Market.

LPWA vs LTEHundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT connectivity market over the past 2 years alone to kick start a fledgeling ecosystem of companies across a wide range of products and services. In the process of due diligence and research in this market that we undertook at  Xona Partners, we find the following key drivers for investments: Continue reading

5 Things You Need To Know About 5G.

5G TechnologyThe 5G picture is getting clearer by the day. While there is still a lot of fuzziness that will take take time to crystallize the broad outline for 5G is now more clear. Below, is a summary of some of our findings on 5G. Needless to say, 5G developments will have significant ramifications especially as the capital expenses to build 5G networks will be greater than ever before. This should not be a surprise as despite the call to reduce the unit cost of data transport (i.e. $/bit), the overall network expenditures continue to rise. So, here is the broad outline for 5G: Continue reading

Cell Site Talk!

Mobile cell sites - wirelessMobile network operators love to compete on performance (a few forget they need to make money!). Throughput takes most attention as does coverage. Other parameters like latency has been gaining popularity as data consumption increases. Not many MNOs talk about the sites they operate, except in financial statements and annual reports. I wanted to see if the cell site count has any bearing on performance. Can anything be judged by it other than an indicator of capex and opex?   Continue reading

Can Runaway Spectrum Prices Stimulate New Business Models?

Thai Spectrum AuctionEvery once in a while a spectrum auction brings big and interesting surprises. The last example is the 900 MHz Thai auction concluded last week which raised close to THB152 billion ($4.2 billion) for the right to use two licenses of 2×10 MHz. This is over 6x the reserve price THB12.8 billion per license, and one of the most expensive in the world. To put this into another perspective, the auction of 1800 MHz spectrum concluded last month in mid November raised to total of THB80.8 billion ($2.25 billion) for two licenses of 2×15 MHz. That’s 2.8x lower than the 900 MHz band on per MHz-PoP basis. Continue reading

WRC-15: Win Some, Lose Some

WRC 2015WRC15 concluded with new spectrum assigned for mobile services:

L-band:  1427-1518 MHz is now assigned for fixed and mobile services. The L-Band is used for mobile satellite services. Technical measures need to be developed for co-existence with mobile satellite in 1518-1559 MHz. The 1350 – 1400 MHz was also a target for IMT, but it did not get the required support. Continue reading

How Much is 700 MHz Spectrum Worth?

Spectrum pricing and costThe 700 MHz auction in France closed last week raising a total of €2.8 billion ($3.17 billion). Orange and Free Mobile secured 2 block of 5 MHz duplex spectrum, while Bouygues and SFR secured one 5 MHz block each. The operators will have now to bid for the position of the allocation in the band: they got four choices, so the price will go up. In this second bid process, the second and third choice placements cost 2/3rd and 1/3rd the price of the winning bid, respectively. The operator left with the last choice pays nothing.  Continue reading

The Cusp of a New Phase For Mobile Network Operators

Data Analytics and SONThe wireless industry is rapidly entering a phase of reduced spending on infrastructure. This is evident from the many operator discussions on their future plans and is inline with analysts forecast of peaking infrastructure spending at $23 billion this year. Deployments in in the US, Japan and Korea have taken their course, but still some recently acquired bands are due to be built (e.g. AWS in the US and 3.5 GHz in Japan). China will continue with LTE deployments as will lagging European operators. With most LTE infrastructure in place, the move to LTE Advanced is not as capital intensive, and I don’t believe that we cannot count on densification to significantly increase spending. With 5G years away, where will operators focus and what will they increase spending on? Continue reading

The Challenges of 5G Spectrum

5G MobileThere has never been as much uncertainty about spectrum for a new generation of mobile service technology as there exists today for 5G. GSM was set in the 800 / 900 MHz band and 3G was set in the 2.1 GHz band. Vendors aligned their products with the target bands. There was clear focus and purpose. Then came LTE where uncertainty on spectrum began to creep. Looking back at 2006-2009 timeframe when LTE was under developments and in trials, a number of bands were identified and available instead of specific spectrum. Initially the thought was for higher bands such as 2.5 GHz, but LTE was deployed in 700 / 800 MHz first reiterating that coverage is always the lead driver for deployments of new technologies for both regulatory and practical business and operational considerations: after all, there’s no capacity challenge on new networks. Today, fragmentation of spectrum is the hallmark of LTE. While much of the same will be for 5G when it happens, it promises to be even a deeper problem. Continue reading

International Carriers’ Path to The IoT Gold Mine

Wholesale IoT OpportunityThe following excerpts are from a paper we recently published in collaboration with Hot Telecom on the business opportunity for wholesalers in IoT. Here, I capture the opportunity for the enterprise and transport sectors, but we also address the consumer sector. You can download the paper at this link to begin exploring recommendations for international wholesale carriers.

Opportunities in Enterprises

Providing services to Enterprises of all types and complexity is one of the key opportunities. International carriers can leverage their existing relationships and local presence to provide a multinational service platform offering a number of applications in the industrial and commercial sectors. For instance, multi-national corporations will require solutions to help them manage: Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

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? Continue reading