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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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?  Continue reading

LTE Flavors in Unlicensed Spectrum


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. Continue reading

700 MHz German Spectrum Auction Overview

The German 700 MHz auction concluded with a price tag of a billion Euro:

700 MHz Auction Results.

700 MHz Auction Results.

Continue reading

Are Small Cells for 5G?

5GcAs the Small Cell Summit winds down I can’t help but wonder whether small cells are a technology awaiting 5G networks. There were many discussions on architecture at the conference which cannot but lead me to ask whether the market and technology drivers are in place for mass adoption. My reading of the situation points to further delays which extends the timeline of deployment to overlap with the inception of 5G networks – whatever that turns out to be. If this happens, mass LTE small cell deployment will stall in favor of 5G. I know that I am not alone in this thinking as a few operators have privately shared the same believe stating out-right that “small cells are for 5G”. What’s said in public aside, the fact is that leading operators are looking at small cells as a part of a much larger package in network evolution that includes a rethink of the network architecture in light of evolving business models and technologies. Continue reading

What to Shut Down First 2G or 3G?

Spectrum RefarmingTelenor Norway announced it will shut down 3G network in 2020; five years before 2G.

This is yet another example of how operators in Europe are diverging from North American operators by opting to shut down 3G ahead of 2G. 3G is much less efficient in carrying data traffic than LTE which is twice better.  2G/GPRS is the workhorse for M2M services by operators. Also, the relatively small networks and markets in Europe and the amount of roaming makes a case to keep 2G operating for longer. Continue reading

Will 5G Be Irrelevant?

Is 5G Irrelevant?Last week I had the privilege to discuss the latest wireless industry trends with colleagues at the RAN and Backhaul conference. We discussed 5G in addition to host of other topics ranging from architecture to virtualization and much in between: spectrum, Het Nets, IoT, etc. As I contemplate the proceedings, I came to wonder about the relevance of 5G!

Today, the focus is on developing consensus on what 5G is and will be: what are the applications and which use cases will it serve? Which technologies and architectures will be best to meet the objectives? Which spectrum it will operate in?  What type of physical layer it will employ? These are but a few questions the ecosystem is debating. But what everyone agrees on is that 5G will support IoT connectivity for a great number ‘things’ in addition to providing better than ever personal broadband connectivity services. Continue reading

2600 MHz Canada Spectrum Auction Overview

The spectrum auction concluded on May 12 raising over C$755 million (US$624 m). Telus was the biggest spender with over C$478 m to secure 1339m MHz-PoP.

Canada 2500 MHz Band Plan

Canada 2500 MHz Band Plan

The blended cost per MHz-PoP for the overall spectrum auction is C$0.28 /MHz-PoP. Continue reading

Cellular IoT Connectivity: Threats and Opportunities

Cellular IoTThere has been a flurry of activities related to wide-area Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. The market recognizes that existing technologies, and more importantly business models and cost structures do not scale to meet IoT application requirements. A number of competing solutions have emerged and are today vying for commercial validation which scales through standardization. Hence, there is a strong push in standard organizations such as 3GPP and GERAN to develop and adopt IoT connectivity techniques. Additionally, investors who recognize the opportunity created by potentially disruptive models and the need to hedge existing investments have embarked on making strategic investments. It is against this background that we provide this brief with a summary of related opinions we developed based on multiple engagements in this space. Continue reading

Can Device-to-Device Communications Extend into the Home and SME?

DSL LTE BondingDSL and LTE bonding is a technology that have been hovering under the radar, not receiving the attention it deserves. A few operators have been experimenting with it, and some deployed it. Vodafone targets the solution at the enterprise sector, while Deutsch Telekom sees it as complementary service in rural areas. DSL/LTE bonding combines a DSL modem with a LTE UE modem at the user side along with integration in the core network to allow supplementing the service of one technology where the other falls short. It reduces bottlenecks in performance so for example when xDSL service slows to a crawl it taps the capacity of LTE. Having two separate links to the Internet creates redundancy of service and consequently increases reliability and quality of service. DSL/LTE bonding is a great technology, but I wonder if it can extend further to provide for additional applications. Specifically, can it be used as a platform for future device-to-device (D2D) communication? Continue reading

Meeting the Cost Requirements for IoT Devices

It seems many are convinced that the magic number for device cost in cellular M2M applications is $5. What should be the cost of a module, and how critical an issue is the device cost to start with, is a topic of debate and although I have my view on it, it is not what I will address here*. Instead, I like to focus on what needs to happen to get the cost to sub $5. So, how can we reach such a target price and what are the implications? Continue reading

Canada AWS-3 Spectrum Result Summary

AWS-3 Auction CanadaThe AWS-3 auction in Canada has wrapped up raising a total of C$2.11 billion (US$ 1.68b) in a sealed-bid second-price format that was completed in a day. Of the 50 MHz auctioned, 30 MHz was set aside for challengers like Wind Mobile, Videotron and Eastlink who paid just over C$98 m in total, or on average C$0.105 (US$0.084) per MHz-PoP, in what is considered a subsidy to these challengers in a market dominated by incumbents with overwhelming market advantage in spectrum assets and subscriber base. Industry Canada estimates that these operators increased their spectrum holdings by 107% on average, which is considerable. Mobilicity which has filed for Chapter 11 did not bid. Continue reading

MWC2015 Wrap-up Notes

MWCIf there’s a single theme to sum up this year’s MWC, it is the acquisitions that were announced. A number were announced and many are yet to be announced: NXP’s acquisition of Freescale ($11.8 bllion), HP of Aruba, Mitel of Mavenir, CommAgility of MIMOON are but a few examples. Consolidation is a natural outcome for an industry that transcends communications to offer multiple services including but not limited to entertainment, education, and financial services. So in a clear trend, we find more focus this year on how to enable mobile network operators (MNOs) generate more revenue as opposed to a focus on performance which is characteristics of past years. This represents a new level of maturity in a number of products and solutions that initially were brought upon as a mean to enhance performance but since have morphed into tools to generate revenue. It is also an acknowledgement that the status quo for MNOs characterized by eroding margins (EBITDA margins have dipped below 40% down from low 50% range a few years ago) has to change whereby data services are better monetized. Continue reading

600 MHz Incentive Auction Key Facts

Incentive Auction - TVWS - WhitespacesNow that the AWS-3 auction has concluded, not without controversy which will continue to reverberate for some time, attention will shift to the incentive auction planned by the FCC for next year. Being the first of its kind anywhere in the world, I thought it would be a good idea to summarize some of the inter-working of this auction by highlighting some key features: Continue reading