VZW Challenges AT&T's Claim to Fastest & Most Reliable 4G-LTE Network in the U.S.

Cell TowerAT&T’s Bold Claim:

Ad in Sunday, July 21, 2013 NY Times (and other U.S. newspapers):

AT&T has the nation’s fastest and now most reliable 4G-LTE network.”

And that follows the telco giant’s July 18th press release with almost the same title:

AT&T’s Fastest 4G LTE Network Now Also Nation’s Most Reliable

That press release states:

“It’s time to take another look at your wireless network. AT&T not only has the nation’s fastest 4G LTE network, but now also has the most reliable 4G LTE network.  According to independent third-party data, AT&T has the highest success rate for delivering mobile content across nationwide 4G LTE networks.”

“More than 225 million people – in cities large and small – now have access to the nation’s fastest and most reliable 4G LTE network, and we want customers to know we’re setting the new standard for wireless performance,” said John Donovan, senior executive vice president for AT&T Technology and Network Operations.

Comment & Analysis:

AT&T’s new ads, which claim it has the “most reliable” 4G network, are based on “independent third-party data,” the company says.  AT&T claims it has the top success rate for delivering mobile content to its 4G network users, but hasn’t identified how that’s been proven or justified.  See what Verizon has to say about that in the next section of this article.

Why it matters: The dual claim to being both the fastest and most reliable is of prime concern to heavy mobile users, particularly those that watch streaming video or engage in video chats or other real time video conferencing on their mobile devices.  It’s also of concern to mobile cloud computing users, that access cloud resident apps on their smart phones or tablets.


Verizon Wireless Responds:

Verizon Wireless (VZW)– the joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone- has built its brand and reputation based on the superb reliability of its wireless broadband network. VZW’s advertising for years touted the “most reliable” 3G wireless network. In 2009, AT&T and VZW battled in court over advertising claims. The marketing battle has now shifted to 4G-LTE networks.

A VZW  Executive has just challenged AT&T’s bold claim:  “They have misled the public in the past,” said Mike Haberman, head of network solutions for Verizon Wireless, when asked about his initial reaction to AT&T’s ad. “I thought, ‘Here we go again.'”

Haberman said AT&T’s claim was backed by data that the company hasn’t disclosed. As a result, there’s no way to see how the tests were conducted and whether it reflected the true customer experience.  “If that’s how they want to make their claim, that’s fine,” he said in an interview with CNET on July 23rd.

Haberman touted a study by Root Metrics that found Verizon’s data and overall service to be superior in a majority of its markets in the United States. Haberman said he preferred Root Metrics because the firm attempts to replicate the customer experience. AT&T also cites Root Metrics as one of the studies that names it the nation’s fastest carrier.

“We have the most reliable network, and the public data supports us,” Haberman said.  He also noted AT&T hypocrisy flip-flop on its stance over HSPA+ as a 4G network. When T-Mobile began calling its HSPA+ network a 4G service, AT&T criticized the move. Three months later, it too adopted the same terminology.

Opinion: HSPA+ as 4G is a total stretch!  Many telcos, such as Verizon, have been steadfast against that designation.  For years, the ITU-R categorized both HSPA+ and LTE as 3G+ technologies, with LTE Advanced (not yet deployed) the only true “4G.”  So how can AT&T now come off and say that their HSPA+, with lower speeds than LTE, is a “4G” network? Especially after it criticized T-Mobile for doing the same thing!


Independent Analyst Opinion:

“It’s getting harder and harder to say what the ‘best network’ really means,” Craig Moffett, an analyst at Moffett Nathanson Research, told IBD.  

“For coverage, Verizon wins hands down. For speed, T-Mobile may actually have the best network. For capacity, Clearwire spectrum will give Sprint’s network the advantage.  And AT&T will be positioned as being pretty good on all dimensions, even if they’re best-in-class at none.”


Network Coverage, 4G-LTE Data Traffic and CAPEX:

VZW’s 4G network reaches 500 markets in the U.S. that is says can be accessed by some 300 million people. AT&T says its 4G network has been deployed in 328 markets covering more than 225 million people.

VZW has 94.3 million postpaid subscribers. These are the higher-spending customers who sign service contracts, as opposed to prepaid users who buy minutes as they go along. Verizon leads in U.S. postpaid users.  About 31 million of those subscribers used Verizon’s 4G LTE network via smartphones, tablets and laptop computers as of June 30. That’s up from 12% of its postpaid subscribers a year ago.

On Verizon’s quarterly earnings call, CFO Fran Shammo said that 59% of VZW’s total data traffic is running over its 4G network, though just a third of its customers have 4G enabled smart phones.  Shammo said Verizon users are buying wireless data plans with lots more  megabytes as they connect more LTE enabled devices to the company’s 4G-LTE network.

“Based on our trajectory of data usage, especially with where we see video going, we (expect) that the uptake in shared (data) plans will continue,” he said.  Verizon is hiking capital spending so it can meet demand, the CFO said.  “The incremental investment will more than pay for itself on top-line (revenue) growth from what I see,” he said. “And we are going to maintain our lead as the most reliable, consistent 4G LTE network. That’s what is driving the increase in capex.”


AT&T Reports “Solid Revenue Growth on Strong Wireless Gains Driven by Quality Network Performance:”

Nation’s Fastest and Most Reliable 4G LTE Network Driving Subscriber and Usage Growth:

  • 551,000 wireless postpaid net adds, best second-quarter postpaid net adds in four years
  • 35 percent of postpaid smartphone base LTE capable
  • Smartphone data usage per device up 50 percent year over year
  • LTE network expected to cover nearly 270 million POPs in 400 markets by year-end
  • LTE network build expected to be substantially complete by summer 2014

Strong Wireless Revenue Growth, Record Second-Quarter Smartphone Sales:

  • Wireless revenues up 5.7 percent, service revenues up 4.1 percent versus the year-ago quarter
  • Wireless data revenues up 19.8 percent versus the year-earlier period
  • Wireless operating income margin of 27.1 percent; wireless EBITDA service margin of 42.4 percent reflecting record second-quarter smartphone sales of 6.8 million, including record Android sales
  • Added 1.2 million new smartphone subscribers; smartphones 88 percent of postpaid phone sales
  • Total postpaid ARPU up 1.8 percent; phone-only ARPU up 3.0 percent

Comment & Analysis:

AT&T’s strong wireless growth comes at a cost, because the company has to pay hefty mobile device subsidies (especially to Apple for iPhones and iPADs)  for each new wireless customer it adds to its network.  Those subsidies reduce net profits and profit margins. AT&T expects 2013 wireless profit margins to be better than in 2012, due to “a longer phone upgrade limit for customers who sign a two-year contract as well as a new device upgrade plan where consumers pay full cost for their phone.”

AT&T also faced additional competitive pressure in the quarter as smaller rival T-Mobile US started selling Apple’s iPhone, a top seller for AT&T.

Note: We’ll report comments from other analysts related to AT&T’s wireless service revenues and profits in the Comment box below this article.

Infonetics Research: LTE Leadership in Wireless Infrastructure, IMS, VoLTE, and CAPEX

LTE and Wireless Infrastructure:

Graphic courtesy of Infonetics

Infonetics Research reports that LTE spending is up 128% from the year-ago first quarter, and the number of mobile operators committing to LTE continues to increase rapidly. The prestigious market research firm forecasts the LTE equipment market to grow to $17.5 billion in 2016.   In its 2G, 3G, 4G (LTE and WiMAX) Infrastructure and Subscribers report,” Infonetics states that the global 2G, 3G, and 4G equipment market decreased 14% to just under $10 billion in the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12) following an 8% increase the previous quarter.  That’s pretty rough stuff for a wireless infrastructure market that is already incredibly competitive (thanks to Huawei and ZTE).

“The overall mobile infrastructure market took a beating in the first quarter of 2012,” notes Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research. “We saw weak 2G and 3G activity across the board, exacerbated by China Mobile’s dramatic GSM pause on the heels of extraordinary shipment levels in the previous quarter. LTE and WIMAX equipment revenue also declined sequentially. Nonetheless, LTE spending is up 128% from the year-ago first quarter, and the number of mobile operators committing to LTE continues to increase rapidly. Infonetics forecasts the LTE equipment market to grow to $17.5 billion in 2016.”

2G, 3G, 4G MOBILE INFRASTRUCTURE MARKET HIGHLIGHTS

  • From the year-ago first quarter, the overall 2G, 3G, and 4G infrastructure market, including LTE and WiMAX equipment, is down 8%
  • One bright spot of the quarter is 3G mobile packet core network equipment (GGSNs, SGSNs, PDSNs), up 4% sequentially and up 5% from 1Q11, reflecting ongoing 3G expansion activity tied to 2G modernization
  • 319 mobile operators have committed to LTE as of early May 2012, up from 285 the previous quarter, and 72 LTE operators have launched commercial services in 37 countries, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA)
  • In 1Q12, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent are once again neck and neck in the race for global LTE revenue leadership, followed by Huawei
  • Infonetics expects a spike in TD-SCDMA equipment spending this year due to China Mobile’s expanding TD-LTE trials aimed at helping it move quickly to 4G

LTE and IMS deployments:

Graphic courtesy of Infonetics

In related research, Infonetics reports that LTE is the top driver for IMS deployments, according to an IMS operator survey the firm conducted.   In its new IMS Service Strategies, Product Features, and Vendor Leadership: Global Service Provider Survey, carriers with IP Multimedia (voice, video, data) Subsystem core equipment in their networks were interviewed to assess their needs and to analyze trends in the IMS market.

“For the first time ever, LTE is the top driver for IMS deployments in our annual IMS service provider survey,” notes Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP and IMS at Infonetics Research. “But while LTE may be the number-one driver, the reality is the majority of services running over IMS today are fixed-line VoIP. None of our survey respondents has yet deployed voice over LTE (VoLTE).”

Myers adds: “Ultimately, the longer-term inevitability of an all-IP mobile network is leading operators to IMS for other services first, even if VoLTE services are farther down the road.”

IMS Survey Highlights

  • IMS networks continue to be deployed by fixed-line operators, mobile operators, and cable operators; 71% of Infonetics’ survey respondents have already deployed IMS and the rest are in the process of deploying IMS (a requirement for participating in the survey)
  • Fixed-line VoIP service is the mainstay of IMS deployments, with 76% of respondents running residential voice over broadband, SIP trunking, or hosted business VoIP over IMS today, growing to 100% by 2014
  • Mobile services are growing in importance: by 2014, 71% of respondent operators plan to offer RCS/e, more than half plan to offer VoLTE, and more or less a third will offer VoIP over 3G and mobile messaging
  • Ericsson continues to be the leading IMS vendor in terms of equipment installed by respondent operators
  • Huawei is a real standout in this year’s survey, growing its installed base every year among survey respondents and topping the vendor leadership list for pricing, total cost of ownership, product roadmap, financial stability, and reliability

South Korea and U.S. leading the VoLTE charge:

Graphic courtesy of Infonetics

Infonetics Mobile VoIP Services and Subscribers report, tracks native mobile voice over IP (a.k.a. voice over Long Term Evolution, or VoLTE) and over-the-top (OTT) mVoIP service revenue, subscribers, and deployments by world region.

“The US and Asia, especially South Korea, are leading the voice over LTE charge, with Verizon Wireless, Metro PCS, SK Telecom and LG U+ all planning to launch VoLTE services this year,” reports Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research. “In fact, South Korea and Hong Kong have already successfully launched LTE data roaming and by August, SK Telecom expects to have the Samsung Galaxy S3, the first handset to support VoLTE on their network. This is all good news for VoLTE, of course, but to put it in perspective, even with the VoLTE market ramping quickly here on out, by 2016 VoLTE will make up only about 14% of global mobile VoIP revenue, while over-the-top mobile VoIP continues to make up the lion’s share by far.”

Co-author of the report Diane Myers, Infonetics Research’s principal analyst for VoIP and IMS, adds: “In the crowded OTT mobile VoIP market, Microsoft/Skype still dominates; however, while the tight integration of Skype with Windows Mobile 8 is important, the Windows Mobile operating system remains a distant player in the smartphone race. Meanwhile, independent OTT mVoIP providers like Google Voice, Fring, Line2, Nimbuzz, Talkonaut, ThruTu, and Truphone are working to differentiate from Skype and operator-driven OTT services such as T-Mobile’s Bobsled and Telefónica’s TU Me by making their service easier to use, lowering prices, integrating social networking, and adding video features. Still, with OTT mVoIP subscribers paying an average of only $14 per year, sustaining an OTT mobile VoIP service is extremely challenging, and most providers face daunting possibilities: go out of business or sell to a larger organization; or find a way to drive revenue beyond cheap calling.”

Mobile VoIP Market Highlights

  • The number of global OTT mobile VoIP subscribers more than doubled from 2010 to 2011, to 98 million, with about 40% of the subscribers based in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa)
  • With the first VoLTE services launching in late 2012, Infonetics expects the number of global VoLTE subscribers to reach about 300,000 this year
  • AT&T plans to have VoLTE in place by 2013, and Clearwire announced that it will offer VoLTE when it launches its TD-LTE network by mid-2013

Telecom Capex spike expected in 2012; Asia is world’s largest spender:

Graphic courtesy of Infonetics

Infonetics’  new report, Service Provider Capex, Revenue, and Capex-by-Equipment-Type, analyzes telecom operator revenue and capital expenditures (capex); forecasts capex by operator type, region, and telecom equipment segment; and provides insight into important telecom spending trends.  The firm expects a big CAPEX increase due to operators launching or expanding their LTE networks and modernizing their 3G mobile networks.

“We’re expecting a telecom capex hike in 2012 as operators around the world ramp their spending like crazy to launch LTE networks, modernize their mobile networks, and carry out national wireline broadband initiatives. Operators have to invest in their networks or they’ll disappear — competition is too cut-throat not to,” notes Stéphane Téral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research.

Téral adds: “High demand everywhere for telecom services, particularly mobile broadband, is fueling the latest investment cycle. The key capex contributors in 2012 will be Clearwire, Sprint, and T-Mobile USA in the US; NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile in Japan; and KT, LGU+, and SK telecom in South Korea. China recently revealed a US$58 billion economic stimulus package to fund a fresh round of investment in telecom infrastructure. Meanwhile, Europe’s Big 5 have increased capital intensity by 2 percentage points for the first time in 5 years, right in the middle of the critical economic downturn! As for Latin America, operators already spiked, with capex there up 25% in 2011, led by América Móvil and Telefónica.”

More Carrier CAPEX Highlights

  • Global telecom carrier capex grew 3% to $301 billion in 2011 from 2010
  • Spending on every type of network equipment grew in 2011, with the exception of TDM voice, which continued its steep decline
  • Asia Pacific was again the largest telecom carrier capex region, followed by EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa)
  • Infonetics expects worldwide capex to spike in 2012, then level out in 2015 and 2016 at around the US$345 billion mark
  • Wireless operators’ share of capex is forecast to grow from a quarter to nearly a third of global capex between 2012 and 2016, as the world continues to go mobile
  • Telecom service provider revenue grew 6% to $1.8 trillion worldwide in 2011 over 2010
  • Operators in Asia Pacific and EMEA are the largest revenue generators, each region with about a third of global revenue

To Purchase Infonetics Research Reports, Contact Sales:
N. America (West), Asia, Latin America: Larry Howard, larry@infonetics.com, +1-408-583-3335
N. America (East), Texas, Midwest: Scott Coyne, scott@infonetics.com, +1-408-583-3395
Europe, Middle East, Africa: George Stojsavljevic, george@infonetics.com, +44-755-488-1623
Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan: http://www.infonetics.com/contact.asp

Acknowledgement:

The author graciously thanks Kim Peinado,  Infonetics Marketing Director, for providing information on the firm’s key research findings.  Kim is a true professional in a world full of amateur marketing and PR people!

Sprint to use Clearwire's TDD-LTE to augment its own LTE network

The squabbles, break ups and make ups between Sprint and Clearwire have become worthy of a prime time soap opera.  Sprint has been reselling Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX network (CLEAR) and offering its own branded “4G” smart phones along with a Samsung tablet that works on CLEAR and Sprint’s 3G network.  But earlier this month, Sprint announced it wouldn’t be supporting new WiMAX smartphones at the end of 2012.   And Clearwire can’t generate enough cash or attract funding to build out the rest of its WiMAX footprint.  Instead, the company has opted for a TDD-LTE buildout.  Clearwire provided China Mobile considerable assistance with its TDD-LTE network at last year’s Shanghai World Expo.

Was Sprint shooting itself in the foot?  After all, it owns 49.7% of Clearwire!  What happens to all the orphaned WiMAX customers next year?

Evidently the two companies are still joined at the hip.  Sprint will use Clearwire’s TDD-LTE service to add capacity to its own LTE network, slated to launch early next year, said Sprint’s Bob Azzi during his keynote address at 4G World on October 26th.  “We’re taking advantage of the depth of Clearwire’s spectrum for hotspots and offload,” Azzi said, saying it will serve as an “offload layer in the hottest of hotspots.”   Sprint’s LTE network will have a “much broader footprint” than Clearwire’s WiMAX network, Azzi said.

Apparently, Sprint and Clearwire are working with vendors on chips and devices compatible with their respective FDD-LTE and TD-LTE networks. Smartphones will have to be compatible with both technologies to take advantage of the capacity boost from Clearwire’s network.  They’ll also have to work on Sprint’s 3G network so that customers can get Internet access in places where LTE coverage is not available.

On October 7th when Sprint announced its “Network Vision,” the company said that it would phase out its use of Clearwire’s WiMAX service next year in favor of its own LTE built network in 2012.  Sprint’s LTE network is expected to cover 250 million people by the end of 2013 and cost upwards of $4B to build out.  That decision was a blow to Clearwire, which depends on Sprint for the bulk of its wholesale revenue.  Furthermore, it seems mobile WiMAX will NOT be included in the new multi-mode LTE devices, which also must support 3G (EVDO/CDMA) and WiFi.  Hence, the mobile WiMAX eco-system will be shrinking next year and likely more so in the future.

Sprint’s decision to abandon WiMAX in favor of LTE was also noted in an October 26th 4G World talk by Tom Jasny, vice president of wireless and broadband network systems at Samsung.  Jasny said that the aggressive deployment of LTE in the United States by MetroPCS, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint has made it the hottest smartphone market in the world.  “Smartphone adoption has grown quickly in North America at rates exceeding the rest of the world,” he said, citing the 42 percent of all cell phone users in America that own a smartphone.   Of course, along with smartphone comes data traffic. Though LTE provides a clear advantage over 3G in terms of speeds and spectral efficiency, vendors like Samsung are already starting to talk about the need to increase capacity on the next-generation mobile broadband networks. Jasny said Samsung is stepping up to the challenge with new architectures that use a combination of macrocells and small cells.  Samsung is also providing network equipment for Sprint and C Spire Wireless’ respective LTE deployments and partnered with MetroPCS to bring the first LTE smartphone to the U.S. market, the Galaxy Indulge.

Sprint’s Mr. Azzi did not discuss timing or funding for Clearwire’s TDD-LTE network. Clearwire needs $600 million to deploy the service, which will serve as an overlay to parts of its WiMAX network. Sprint also needs to raise money before it can deploy its own LTE network and has not said whether it will help pay for Clearwire’s buildout.   There are rampant rumors that Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire Corp. are near an agreement to extend their existing network- sharing agreement for three to five years.  The current pact expires at the end of 2012.  Clearwire has said it needs about $1 billion to finance its operations and transition its mobile WiMAX network to LTE,  which must include migrating its existing WiMAX customers onto that “4G” wireless network.

“Assuming that Sprint and Clearwire sign a new agreement, it providesClearwire with an ongoing source of revenue,” Michael Nelson, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., said in an interview with Bloomberg. “This would likely help them get funding, because it would provide increased visibility into revenue- getting opportunitiesand reduce the risk profile.”

Yet with all these back and forth machinations, it is puzzling that Sprint isn’t more supportive of Clearwire who will have great difficulty wholesaling its future LTE network to other “4G” providers.   The saga continues.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Related Aricle: 

No Surprise: Clearwire to shift from WiMAX to LTE – But Who WIll Fund It?

http://community.comsoc.org/blogs/ajwdct/no-surprise-clearwire-shift-wimax-lte-who-will-fund-it

 

Emerging Devices and M2M Team Up for Explosive Growth- Part 2

Editors Note:
This is the 2nd of 3 articles that explore new telco markets and opportunities. Much of the information gathered for these articles comes from the 2011 Connections conference in Santa Clara, CA. The 1st article, New Telco Services Enable the Connected Home, described different versions of a “connected home,” including consumer electronics for home entertainment, home energy monitoring & control, and security/ surveillance systems. This article examines emerging devices (that have or will soon have embedded wireless communications capability) and M2M communications capabilities that enable those devices to connect to telco networks.

Introduction

While cell phones, media tablets and netbook/notebooks are generating the overwhelming majority of data traffic on wireless networks, there are a growing number of non-traditional devices which are gaining market traction. These are known as emerging devices, embedded devices, or “the Internet of Things (or IoTs).” They may be stand alone devices connected wirelessly to the Internet (e.g. digital signage on a billboard or a vending machine), tracking devices, eReaders, camcorders, on-line game players, or any device installed at home, in a vehicle, ship, or in an enterprise that has direct Internet connectivity (which is not necessarily broadband). These new devices will be described from AT&Ts perspective in this article.

On the network side, new telco platforms for Machine to Machine (M2M) communications are being built to support a very diverse, large and increasing installed based of connected machines and devices. We’ll examine Sprint’s M2M initiatives and enablement activities later in this article.

Note that this article does not discuss any of the consumer electronic, home energy monitoring or security gear in the “connected home,” which was the subject of Part 1 of this three part article series.

Glen Lurie’s Emerging Devices talk at 2011 Connections Conference

Glenn Lurie of AT&T
Click image for video interview with Glenn Lurie of AT&T

During a keynote session at the 2011 Connections conference, Glen Lurie – president of AT&T Emerging Devices, Resale & Partnerships- described the AT&T Emerging Devices Organization and its key intiatives. He noted the stupendous growth in both connected devices and wireless data traffic and predicted even more explosive growth in the years ahead.

The AT&T Emerging Devices Organization was formed in 2008 to leverage the tremendous growth in the demand for wireless data and build the “next big thing” in the communications industry. It was created to bring wireless connectivity to a host of new devices (not just smart phones, netbooks & notebooks) and applications in the consumer marketplace. One objective was to build strong partnerships (with AT&T) to launch innovative products in new connected consumer market segments. Recently announced partner relationships include: Ford Electric Vehicles, Sony Vita, Amazon Kindle eReader, BMW Telematics, and with multiple Tablet makers.

The U.S. wireless penetration in 1995 was 13%, in 2010 it grew to 96%, and by 2013 it’s expected to reach 107%. But that latter projection evidently doesn’t included M2M or Device to Device (D2D) connectivity, which would make the penetration rate much higher (more on this later in the article).

According to Mr. Lurie, the U.S. leads the world in mobile broadband and AT&T leads the U.S. in that category. AT&T mobile data traffic increased 8,000% in the last four years. Glen expects mobile data traffic volumes to be 8 to 10 X greater by 2015 The composition of that mobile data has changed significantly over the last few years with the availability of 3G/4G networks, smart phones and media tablets. For years, the majority of mobile data consisted of email and SMS messages. But now, it’s shifted to mobile apps, on line games, web surfing, video and audio streaming content and even content creation (still pictures and video) upload from the mobile devices. As a result of this shift in traffic types, total mobile data traffic has gone from 1/2PB per month in 2007 to 12PB per month in 2010 and is expected to reach 150PB per month in 2015.

AT&Ts wireless emerging device business is growing very rapidly. Here are a few AT&T 1Q11 highlights:

  • Added 1.6 M emerging devices in
  • 1Q11, 9 M in 2 years
  • 21.3% YOY quarterly growth in devices added

Looking ahead, Mr. Lurie referenced the forecasted phenomenal growth of “Connected Devices.”  Here are a few predictions made by IT industry leaders:

  • “Our vision is that by 2020, we will have 50 billion connected devices” – Ericsson CEO, Mar 2010
  • “There will be 1 trillion devices connected to the Internet by 2013” – Cisco CTO, Mar 2010
  • “Shipments of connected CE (consumer electronic) devices are forecasted to grow at a rate of 65.2% (CAGR) to reach 271 million in 2015” – Berg Insights, Feb 2011
  • “Machine-to-Machine (M2M) traffic will increase 40-fold between 2010 and 2015” – Cisco VNI Mobile Forecast, Feb 2011

Areas of emerging device growth are expected to be the connected car, home health, home automation, unified media and unified communications. These are all expected to sync our personal settings to the appropriate environment. A major challenge is to blend these business ecosystems into a unified business model with a single bill for users. That single bill model was pioneered by the Amazon Kindle- AT&T arrangement, where the Kindle user pays only to dowload an eBook from Amazon, which then pays AT&T a share of that for 3G access.


Table 1. Trends in Emerging Devices by Category (Source: AT&T)

eReaders

  • Purchase content anywhere
  • Share content across devices
  • Optimize reading experience

Picture Frames

  • Share memories as they happen
  • Manage control remotely

Healthcare

  • Dosage reminders – text or voice
  • Family alerts to ensure adherence
  • Track adherence over time

Tracking Devices

  • Track what’s important
  • Monitor vital stats
  • Use geofence parameters

Extending connectivity to the car via “Tethered Solutions”

  • Leverage content & apps from smartphone
  • Streaming audio & video
  • Access to web, cloud for entertainment

Embedded Solutions in the car

  • Engine, system diagnostics
  • Auto crash notification
  • Stolen vehicle assistance
  • Navigation, local search
  • Emergency voice calls
  • Remote Unlock, Remote Start
  • Real-time traffic, weather, parking
  • State of charge & pre-conditioning for Electric Vehicles

Home Automation

  • Moisture Sensing, Water Shut Off
  • Temperature Control
  • Garage Open/Close
  • Lights On/Off/Dim
  • WiFi Touch Pad
  • IP Cameras

Synching it all up with devices in the connected home…

  • The home becomes the hub of personal data
  • Access via any web-enabled device
  • Share content across all connected devices
  • Transition experiences between devices

To handle the explosive growth in mobile data traffic and the huge increase in connected devices, AT&T claims they are building the nation’s most advanced wireless network. Mr. Lurie cited a sustained investment of $19B which is committed to build out AT&T networks in 2011. LTE deployment has been accelerated and is planned to be largely complete by the end of 2013. Mr. Lurie said AT&T’s proposed merger with T- Mobile would bring integrated tower grids with compatible technology to drive efficiency and add capacity. With that merger, AT&T can commit to cover 97% of all Americans with LTE. [Editor’s note: one source estimates that this represents approximately 50% of the U.S. landmass].

According to Mr. Lurie, several factors are coming together in this space of non-traditional connected wireless devices: Demand is exploding, Innovation is soaring, Connected Devices provide the platforms, and Consumers will benefit as a result.

Mr Lurie concluded by saying, “Rethink is possible. AT&T is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of innovation and our Emerging Devices Organization is committed to accelerating next-generation wireless device development and speed-to-market on the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network.”
For more information, please visit: http://www.att.com/edo/


AT&T Emerging Device Innovation Center & Development Ecosystem

To help companies design, develop and finalize specifications for the many new emerging devices, AT&T has created a development community. This community consists of start-ups, device makers, application developers, and AT&T network personnel. It helps with IP and implementation plans, but also business models, business process development, and schedules for deployment. AT&T Emerging Devices CTO John Donovan is overseeing this ED Innovation Center. Read more about this new developer resource at:
http://www.att.com/edo/launch-your-device/finalize-specifications/


Sprint’s M2M Enablement and M2M Collaboration Center

Mike Finegan, Manager of M2M Solutions Engineering for Sprint’s Emerging Solutions Group has talked about Sprint’s M2M platform and initiatives at an IEEE ComSocSCV workshop and a seminar/ tour of Sprint’s Advanced Development Center earlier this year. We believe that Sprint is the leader in M2M communication platforms and has a very impressive M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, CA.

Mr. Finegan described Sprint’s network as being reliable and secure IP transport with nationwide mobile broadband (3G, mobile WiMAX-4G) coverage. They claim they offer the broadest network choice and are a leader in Location Based Services (LBS). Hundreds of non-Sprint devices have been certified and millions of non-Sprint devices are on their network. Sprint is currently very focused on support of many different types of M2M devices and applications.

Sprint has developed a M2M web services based platform to handle the many new and different devices that are and will be connected to their network. The platform handles provisioning, IP address assignment, operations management, billing and other functions (see quote below).

Please refer to Figure 1. for a functional block diagram of a typical M2M application.

Sprint M2M Architecture
Figure 1, Sprint M2M Architecture, source: Sprint

Sprint’s goal is to spur innovation by enabling the ecosystem and to that end they have a very impressive M2M collaboration center where device makers and application developers can work with Sprint to test their products over Sprint’s 3G and 4G network. This M2M center includes both public and private labs with:

  • Test equipment and RF chambers
  • Cabled and native wireless access
  • Solution design and engineering resources
  • Innovation and collaboration rooms
  • Solutions showcase and demonstrations
  • Access to leading partners

Mr. Finegan concluded by saying,

“The Sprint M2M Command Center is a purpose-built infrastructure that provides billing activation, billing suspension, automated API activation, private 5YY ESN assignment, IP addressing, billing plan pooling, utilization alerts and notification. This self-service portal allows customers to have command of the provisioning, activation, and billing process effectively giving them control and allowing them to be their own carrier.”

For more information on Sprint’s M2M initiatives, please visit: http://m2m.sprint.com/

Closing Comment on M2M Communications

When we look at M2M Communications from the network perspective, there are a lot of issues in need of clarification. Some of them are:

  • New services and billing arrangements for M2M, especially considering the machines/devices have widely varying traffic requirements, duty cycles, latency, and performance
  • Need for 2G vs 3G vs 4G for specific types of M2M communications
  • Service provider provisioning and operations platforms to automate subscriptions, manage and monitor connectivity, audit traffic, ensure SLA compliance
  • Other types of network management
  • Need for IP V6 to accomodate the large number of addressable endpoint devices
  • Different requirements and service for fixed wireless (e.g. a billboard signage, vending machine, factory floor, etc) versus mobile wireless (e.g. vehicular technology, ship)
  • Special requirements and arrangements for high priority machines/devices, e,g 1st responders, police/law enforcement, ambulances/medical emergencies, fire fighters, Dept of homeland security, etc
  • Failure recovery and restoration of service
  • Testing and certification of embedded devices/machines

Reference:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/infographic-the-internet-of-things/242073/

© 2011, Alan Weissberger

Sprinting to LTE

Alan Weissberger connects the dots regarding several different announcements from Sprint and Ericsson and infers that Sprint is building an LTE network. This is big news, as, to date, Sprint has relied on Clearwire and its WiMAX infrastructure for its next generation network build. Alan suggests, we may see a Sprint offering of an LTE Network as early as 2012.

Sprint awarded Ericsson a contract as a key equipment and service provider for Sprint’s Network Vision program. Integral to this program is the use of multi-band, multi standard radios that will consume significantly less space and support 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz from one base-station. Weissberger points out that Ericsson does not have a publicly announced mobile WiMAX product and is a strong advocate of LTE.

Further, in the Ericsson-supplied, edited video package below, Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg alludes to using assets purchased from Nortel. A quick look at past press releases indicates that CDMA and LTE were key technologies acquired in these purchases.

Weissberger concludes, “That Sprint will develop its own multimode EVDO/CDMA/LTE network while it continues to resell Clearwire’s Mobile WiMAX; and that LTE will operate in one or more of those bands.” He suggests that Sprint will continue to resell Clearwire in 2011.

Sprint estimates a net financial benefit of $10 to $11 billion over a 7-year period from capital expenditure savings, reduction in cell sites, lower energy expenses, backhaul savings and lower roaming costs. If Weissberger is right, this series of announcements may be part of a larger Sprint effort to demonstrate to Wall Street that it is not dependent on Clearwire for its 4G offering.

And Weissberger asks the question, "What happens to Clearwire when its 2011 WiMAX build outs are complete? There does not appear to be a WiMAX 2.0 (IEEE 802.16m) in the company's future and they will certainly require additional financing (beyond their proposed $1.2B debt offering) sometime in 2011 to survive as a viable entity."

What do you think?


Note: Features such as Push- to-Talk from Nextel’s iDEN network will be part of Network Vision

Viodi View – 11/09/10

It is back to where it all started for the Viodi View at this week’s TelcoTV conference. Innovation was a common theme at the first TelcoTV event eight years ago and, if the press releases that are flying around cyberspace are accurate, then innovation will be a good descriptor for this year’s event.  A couple of articles already posted in the Viodi View about some of the new developments that will be seen this week are below.


 The Voice Controlled TV Remote

With $129 Android tablets on sale at the virtual corner drugstore, the idea of what a remote control is, may soon radically change.  Innovative Systems is living up to their name by showing innovative new features on their IPTV platform at this week's TelcoTV tradeshow, including the use of an Android device as a voice-controlled, television remote control.  Click here to read more. 


Making TV Better for the Middle Class

On one extreme, there are the television cord-cutters;those people who will use broadband and/or a combination of off-air content to eliminate the need for a franchised cable or IPTV service. On the other extreme, are those people who are satisfied with the value they receive from and are willing to pay for the convenience provided by the video packages from their franchised operator. In between these bounds lies, what Entone’s CEO Steve McKay calls, the “middle class”.  Click here to read more.


A Few More Things to See, While at TelcoTV

Here is a sampling of some other announcements associated with the TelcoTV tradeshow that may be of interest:

  • Minvera Networks announced their xTVFusion platform, as well as an agreement with Edgeware to enable OTT with VOD, Network PVR and fast channel change. 
  • ADB promises sub one second channel changes and less than 7 second boot up with their ADB-5721WNX and ADB-3721WN high definition set-tops. 
  • Olson Technology and Transparent Video Systems will be showing a cost-effective, headend-to-home video solution for those operators wanting to upgrade on a sector-by-sector basis to an all-digital, all fiber system.
  • Cloverleaf Digital will introduce a version of an app store for operators. Lawrence Brickman of Cloverleaf Digital provided a sneak peek of this app store concept at the Minnesota Telecom Alliance. 

click here to watch the videoRetransmit This, If You Can

The Fox-Cablevision dispute may signify when things start to change in terms of the retransmission consent/must-carry rules, so said Matt Polka of the American Cable Association at MTA’s Video Peer Group meeting in Nisswa, MN. Retransmission legislation was a catalyst for the birth of the American Cable Association some 18 years ago. He pointed out that this high-profile dispute has wide-ranging consequences and could affect the Comcast-NBC merger as well as be a catalyst that determines whether the broadband content market moves to a wholesale model.  Click here to watch the video interview with Matt Polka.


Highlights of Sprint's Developers Conference by Alan Weissberger

In one of his recent articles, Alan Weissberger correctly pointed out, before the Wall Street Journal recently did, that what wireless operators are claiming to be 4G isn’t. His article covering the Sprint’s Developers Conference is very timely given the growing financial challenges its broadband wireless infrastructure partner, Clearwire, is having. One has to wonder how the Clearwire’s financial problems, will impact its MSO partners. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the MSOs to take control of their wireless destiny. It would certainly seem like a Comcast acquisition of Clearwire would face much less opposition than its purchase of NBC. Click here to read Alan’s article and join in on the many comments it has generated.


Find the TabletClick here to view the video

Jeffrey Powers and Roger Bindl team for this interview with Sprint at 4G World demonstrating the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 3G, Android 2.2 device that will launch November 14, 2010. In this video, a Sprint Overdrive WiFi hotspot served up wireless Internet via 4G. Although it is a cool device, integration of the 4G capability is something that would really set it apart from the tablet competition.  Click here to watch the video.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • 1.0 Is the Loneliest Number, so says WordPress maestro, Matt Mullenweg, "…..if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long."
  • Kansas State Research, 2nd-4th graders improve reading comprehension by watching themselves read by using webcam – a case to be made for operators to help schools embed video deeper into their programs?
  • NPCA Disqualifies 1st Place Winner due to copyright violation – good reminder of the importance of securing music rights
  • Santa Clara County Files for Investigation by Commerce IG of $50 Mil. BayWEB Broadband Stimulus Grant.  And a follow-up post can be found here.  Thanks @TonyVea 

The Korner – Back to the TelcoTV Future

Whether the 2002 TelcoTV was the first or the second (NTCA had produced the predecessor show in 2001 in Fort Wayne) is a question that could be up for debate. Regardless, the 2002 event definitely provided a spark of light in a telecom market that was in a very dark period. It was inspiring to hear from people with independent telcos who were charting new territory in implementing video over DSL (most, if not all at that point was Next Level Communication’s video over ATM product).

With all of the practical experience from my telco friends, it was an honor to be among them speaking on the topic of video on demand. Video on Demand was still somewhat nascent at that time. It turns out that the VOD discussion was somewhat premature, as things like DVRs, High Def and MPEG-4 compression became higher priorities through the years.

For seven months, we had been discussing launching a newsletter with a focus on the independent telcos and their efforts to supply video to their customers. With its abundance of information and useful gems, TelcoTV provided the nudge we needed to start the Viodi View. I created a file hierarchy scheme and coded some simple HTML and with the transmission of the first email (prior to CAN-SPAM), the first Viodi View was born.

It will seem like old times, as I get the chance to participate on a panel at this year’s TelcoTV on the topic of retaining and gaining video subscribers. I have been canvassing my telco friends for ideas and will be presenting those on Thursday at 3 PM on the panel, Moving Beyond the Low Hanging Fruit. In my quest to get some ideas, I reviewed one of the articles covering that first conference. Click here to look back at the early days of IPTV and get a preview of some bits of wisdom that still make sense eight years later.

Highlights of Sprint Developers Conference: Oct 26-28, 2010 Santa Clara, CA

Disclaimer Unlike all other Viodi View articles, this one will refrain from the analysis, insight, inferences and comments that this author is noted for.  Instead, that content is being provided exclusively on the IEEE ComSocSCV Discussion mail list.  Instructions for IEEE members to join are at the bottom of www.comsocscv.org

We will not offer opinions here or draw any conclusions on what we observed (and didn't see or hear) at this Conference. 

Conference Summary

I.  Paget Alves, President of Sprint Business Market Group said that Sprint would be putting more focus on business customers than in the past. In particular, Sprint would enable companies to securely connect with mobile workers..  They plan to identify industry sectors and target solutions to those vertical markets, which include: health care, retail, manufacturing, finance and professional services.  In addition, Sprint will be focused on improving two of their networks for business customers:  IP-MPLS VPNs and "4G" for mobile workers.

Investments will be in five major areas:  4G, M2M,Business Solutions, Wireless-to-Wireline convergence, and Sprint ID.

"4G" was proclaimed to be a "cut the cord" alternative for busines with video seen as the killer app.  For example, video surveillance and remote medical diagnostics are ways of coupling 4G with M2M communications.  Sprint claimed to be a leader in LBS/GPS services, but no supporting documentation was provided. 

Convergence involves seemlessly interconnecting fixed and mobile wireless networks with a global IP core network.  A fixed wireless campus network was seen as a viable replacement for a wired campus for enterprise and university customers.  Again, no details on how that wireless campus network was to be realized.  However, a Sprint employee provided me with the following information:after the conference:

Sprint is actively marketing this product today through Sprint’s Customer Network Solutions (CNS group). The concept is simple: many have found their internal 802.11 networks are overtaxed and planning expansions, sometime with 802.11n, sometimes with just more access points. Using 4G picocell technology, the CNS team can provide high speed data services in a building with between 5:1 and 10:1 less APs than WiFi. The enterprise controls the authentication of devices and the data stays local to the enterprise network (i.e. it doesn’t backhaul to Sprint/CLWR and then go back to the enterprise).

II.  Danny Bowman, President of Sprint's Solutions Group is "excited about M2M communications to improve people's live and improve enterprise productivity.  Because of the "unlimited possibilities" envisioned, Sprint has just opened a M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, CA.  (www.sprint.com/M2M).  30 new M2M partners will be working together to bring silicon and software solutions together.  The one that intriqued me most was a company called BodyMedia which makes a gadget that will monitor your sleep quality.

Danny highlighted the very bullish M2M market forecasts, which we have written about recently: Exponential Growth in M2M Market Dependent on Important Network Enhancements.

He said that electronic prescriptions could save the medical industry $27B and that remote patient monitoring could be a $1.1B market by 2013.  Other notable M2M examples cited were digital signage (said to revolutionize advertising) and connected vehicles including infotainment in cars.

III.  Todd Rowley, Sprint VP of 4G was very upbeat on Sprint's ability to handle the exponential increase in data traffic from smart phones, tablets, notebooks and netbooks.  While an iPhone consumes about 800M bytes per month, Todd predicted a future of 10+ G bytes per month for heavy duty wireless Internet users.  Sprint offers unlimited data to users of its "4G' network and there are no plans to impose data caps.  The Sprint 4G network will reach almost 120M people in 2010.  Sprint 4G is currently in 55 markets, which covers 63M people.  San Francisco and San Jose will be added by the end of this year.  In contrast, the Sprint 3G network covers 270 Million people.

Sprint/Clearwire together have four or five times more spectrum than their wireless telco competitors which enables them to offer more bandwidth to more 4G subscribers.  They claim 120 to 150 MHz of spectrum in each metro market served (using 2.5 GHz mobile WiMAX as the "4G" technology. vs the competition which has at most 30 to 45 MHz of spectrum (in lower frequency bands). As a result of all this spectrum, Sprint claims they can now support up to 420 M bits/sec of aggregate traffic per Cell Tower, with up to 840 M bits/sec per Tower in the future.

The following "Unique 4G Applications" were cited:

  • 2-way Video Conferencing (e.g. an X Ray being transmitted to a hospital or Doctor's office, while the Doctor's image and voice are transmitted in the other direction)
  • High Definition files, including full length videos
  • Live video surveillance
  • Simultaneous application viewing

4G M2M Applications identified were:

  • Video surveillance by the Annapolis, MD Police Dept
  • Remote diagnostics
  • Digital Signage
  • 2 -way Video Conferencing
  • WiFi Enablement
  • Resource tracing- including GPS tracking and receiving

4G was claimed to improve business productivity with new apps for vertical markets, including; virtual real estate, education, construction, health care, transportation, government and public safety, retail and insurance.

Two "personal hot spots" are the Sprint Overdrive and the Cradlepoint device.  They provide WiFi to 4G capability that enables any WiFi device or PC to access Sprint's 4G network.  The HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic 4G will connect to 4G if available and if not, fall back to 3G mode.  The screens on those phones were said to be "made for watching videos."

Session continutity and Location Based Services (LBS) were cited as 4G services available to app developers.

IV.  CEO Dan Hesse stated that Sprint was moving to an open platform and was planning a major initiative to help developers who create apps and content.  He said that Sprint was making six announcements at this conference:

1.  Browser based Value Added Services (VAS) powered by Openwave.  The objective is to deploy a new ecosystem of enhanced services within the browser.  Allowing developers to monetize and market application content to consumers and enterprise customers, the  Sprint Browser VAS ecosystem (from Openwave) will provide developers the tools they need to develop apps and value-added services that run in the browser.

2.  New Sprint  ID partners.   Announced earlier this month at CTIA, Sprint ID allows users to select, on one of three new Android smartphones, ID packs that feature apps, widgets, screensavers and more bundled in one convenient download. Up to five ID packs plus the My ID basic Android experience can be exploited to enable users to seamlessly move between experiences.  It gives businesses the opportunity to improve the productivity of their increasingly mobile workforces.  Mr. Hesse touted Sprint ID for the  search and aggregation of (Android based) apps.  He cited widgets, ringtones and "wallpaper" as examples and announced AOL and BodyMedia as new Sprint ID partners.

3,  Sprint Mobile Wallet was said to be the first mobile payment solution of its kind by a U.S. carrier.  Said to be an easy, secure way to buy physical and digital products using a Sprint phone, buyers use a universal PIN to make payments.  Developers can use Mobile Wallet to monetize apps out of the "walled gardens" of app stores, according to Mr. Hesse.

4.  M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, CA, where you can view the latest M2M technology, test new concepts/ideas and get support for commercial viability of your M2M application.  Danny Bowman's Emerging Solutions Group is dedicated to M2M and embedded solutions.  In 2011, a Command Center (a mini-NOC) will allow Sprint customers to monitor M2M devices from PCs at work or from a mobile device/ gadget.

5.  Enhanced Services Platform will provide direct access for all APIs via a single Web 2.0 interface.  It was described as a "seamless capability operating across all Sprint devices, including handsets."  3rd party value added services might include analytics, bar code scanning, and M2M prototypes.  This new platform was predicted to "make applications richer and more profitable."

6.  Communication Enablement will give 3rd party access to voice and messaging services (SMS).  A gaming console was cited as an example.   Voice and messaging continue to be among the most used services on a mobile device, yet they have seen little innovation in years.  Sprint’s goal is to enable third parties to seamlessly extend their mobile communication services using the Sprint platform. Imagine a social networking site integrating mobile communication preferences into its available features, an in-home gaming service providing in-game calling and messaging, or the ability to have mobile calling and messaging capabilities available to the individual on any connected device, even when you don’t have your device with you.

Sprint is also expanding the ecosytem for the developer community through open application distribution channels. There are brand name distributors for SMB/Enterpris (Dell, Cisco, UPS) as well as Wholesale MVNOs (Comcast, C Beyond, LEAP).

For more on these announcements, please see:  Sprint Announces New Sprint ID Partners, Sprint Mobile Wallet, Communication Enablement at 10th Annual Developer Conference   

Points to Ponder

We ask you to think why Clearwire was mostly absent from this conference and Sprint made no mention in its presentations that it was Clearwire (not Sprint) that was building out their "4G" mobile network.  This despite Sprint owning 55% of Clearwire and having 7 of 13 seats on Clearwire's Board of Directors.

You might also be curious as to why there are no 4G apps shown that take advantage of  inherent "4G" capabilities like optimized mobile video or QoS for high priority M2M communications or real time video conferencing.

And since Sprint refers to mobile WiMAX (IEEE 802.16e-2005) as "4G" we wonder if the ITU-R approved 4G RANs (LTE Advanced and IEEE 802.16m/ WiMAX 2.0) will be called 5G by Sprint?

We will leave it to the reader to figure out the these mysteries from the 2010 Sprint Developer conference.


[Editor's Note: Sprint summarized what they view as key DevCon announcements in an 11/12/10 email to conference attendees.  They are listed below for the convenience of the reader].

Appendix: Sprint DevCon Key Announcements:

Motion Pictures at 4G World

The last half of the 1800s brought pictures "to life" with the zoopraxiscope, kinetoscope, and the vitascope. These were the early days of moving pictures and Cinematographe.

The "Wheel of Life" Zoopraxiscope
PD Image from Wikipedia – view synchronization by Roger

Zoopraxiscope image

Although simple and presumably unrelated, the photo flip book below made me realize how life has changed and how amazing 4G really is. The booklet is a promotional item (look closely to see promotion text for Lotus), but it made me think. In the late 1800s, moving pictures and telephones were amazing, but they aren't anymore. The how, where, and when we talk or watch moving pictures today is amazing.

Photo Flip Book

Flip-book

I spent an afternoon at 4G World this week – about 120 years after a web of iron wires spread across the world and a time when vitascope wouldn't remind you of a mouthwash. I saw a light in WALL-E's eyes that could send millions of moving pictures for a mile or more. I recalled that the distant past was but a year or so ago and they called it 3G. It was fast, but not fast enough nor far enough. And the "can you hear me now" guy was replaced with a 4G test box (JDSU) that plots a map to where the box  "heard me now".

WALL-E's eyes were optical transceivers made by SkyFiber that use infrared light to send and receive 1Gbps of data through the air for over 1 miles. These are light waves that don't require licensing as it would with radio frequencies, and wouldn't you know it, Alexander Graham Bell created the Photophone in 1880, so the concept has been around for a while.

Jeffrey Powers, geekazine.com, and WALL-E like eyes

Wally Images

See Interview with Eliot Weinman, President, Events and Media Division, for Yankee Group below for an overview of 4G World. 4G is a great extension to the Internet and makes it contiguous. Voice, video, data, photos, socializing, games, news, television, searching, or finding your way are but applications or buttons on a device that is in the home, your pocket, or in your car.

Video Interview – Click Image

Image for Video

4G World had a good mixture of exhibits to get the big picture of all the elements behind the 4G network. It was a place to learn about the faster speeds and range with 4G (10-20 miles), testing for signal strength and plotting the results on a map, putting up the towers, the mobility of applications, the wide variety of applications,  the hardware, and the software.

Clearwire and Sprint ask 3GPP for TDD-LTE U.S. std in 2.6GHz band

 Introduction

Clearwire and Sprint are part of a group of operators and vendors that have asked the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards body to start work on specs that would allow TD-LTE to be deployed in the US in the 2.6GHz spectrum — which is now used for mobile WiMAX in the U.S.  The actual 3GPP contribution had many authors, with Clearwire, Sprint listed 1st (China Mobile also listed).

For more details on this move, please see:

www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=189890&f_src=lightreading_gnews

This is really not a surprise, even though IEEE 802.16m (WiMAX 2.0)  standard is close to being completed.  My opinion is that Clearwire will continue with its 802.16e CLEAR rollouts this year and net (if they get additional funding). In 2011-2012, they will evolve their network to LTE-TDD (rather than IEEE 802.16m). Sprint is behind this strategy as they own approximately 52% of Clearwire and resell CLEAR as a MVNO.

 Here is a key section of the 3GPP co-authored contribution:

3GPP™ Work Item Description

For guidance, see 3GPP Working Procedures, article 39; and 3GPP TR 21.900.

Title: LTE TDD in 2600MHz for US (Region 2) (Core)

The purpose and objectives of this work item are:

  • Study LTE TDD in 2600MHz band for deployment in US, generating a new technical report based on study results. The specific band to be studied is 2496 to 2690MHz with TDD channel arrangement for the US and region 2 only.

(AW note: Clearwire holds large amounts of spectrum in this band)

  • Develop channel arrangements using existing LTE channel bandwidths (such as 5, 10, 15, 20MHz) that take into account the nature of the FCC regulations (such as 5.5 and 6MHz channels, 16.5MHz blocks, etc)
  • Add the necessary changes to the relevant core requirements to support LTE TDD in the 2600MHz band as identified above. Note that it is not expected to have new demodulation performance requirements.

One of my conclusions was that this probably means we can kiss WiMAX 2.0 (IEEE 802.16m) goodbye.   We wonder what Intel's response will be?  All the other major WiMAX chip vendors have announced plans to also support LTE.  Can Intel be that far behind them?  I sent this mail to the IEEE ComSoc Discussion group and received quite a few replies.

IEEE ComSocSCV Discussion Group member  took  issue with my conclusion and wrote, "not so quickly, please."

"Clearwire (like any good business) is protecting its options..Clearwire wants this work item to included in the 3GPP new features.

Look at the WiMAX MS chipset ecosystem, it is large and healthy where the cost of a WiMAX chipset is lower than 3G chipset,

What will be the price for LTE, actually who are the Tier 1 semiconductors other than QCOM and STE can develop a LTE chipset?

Will LTE-TDD chipset prices be equivalent to WiMAX or equivalent to 3G or even lower!

This LTE-TDD is an important feature overseas and just complements WiMAX 16e."
 


Another Discussion list member wrote:
"I hear so much propaganda on LTE vs WiMAX. But reality is that only WiMAX is actually delivering on the promise of fast mobile internet connectivity speeds. All the LTE promoting 3G operators are busy deploying HSPA or HSPA+ or EVDO technologies and figuring out ways to offload their 3G data traffic to WiFi networks to save their networks, instead of deploying technologies like WiMAX that actually serve the user needs better than 3G. VZW and ATT have LTE plans that are still in the works and nothing significantly threatening to the WiMAX deployments in the US. Real end user experiences between WiMAX and LTE will be so similar that one would even wonder what are all these propaganda bits about. Especially some take information and blow it out of proportion."


Of course, we are not predicting that IEEE 802.16e based mobile WiMAX deployment will stop anytime soon., it is important to note that there is currently no TDD-LTE standard in the requested band (2496 to 2690MHz), so a network buildout using that modulation and duplexing scheme won't be ready anytime soon. It is at least two years away, in my opinion.  That is the timeframe when WiMAX 2.0 is scheduled to be available, but we don't see any market traction from network operators or chip companies in that space.

More articles documenting the TDD-LTE (AKA TD-LTE) movement:

In mobile tech war, LTE haunts WiMax again
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62T32Z20100330

TD-LTE: The most powerful weapon in the LTE arsenal against WiMAX

http://www.fiercebroadbandwireless.com/story/td-lte-most-powerful-weapon-lte-arsenal-against-wimax/2010-03-29#ixzz0jmxPlJQ5

Russia's Yota says 'did not vow to use WiMax'
http://in.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idINIndia-47294920100329

Sprint and Clearwire Among Time Division-LTE Proponents

http://www.phonenews.com/sprint-and-clearwire-among-time-division-lte-proponents-10721/

Future merger of LTE and WiMAX into a single 4G standard isn’t as far-fetched as it once seemed

http://urgentcomm.com/networks_and_systems/wimax/commentary/lte-wimax-4g-20100331/
 

AT&T Upgrades 3G Network while VZW On Track with LTE Buildout; IDC's Market Forecast

Introduction

On the eve of the CTIA WIRELESS 2010® show in Las Vegas this week, the two biggest U.S. wireless carriers are pursuing different paths to eliminate current 3G bandwidth congestion, provide higher speeds to users and achieve lower cost per bit transmitted. These initiatives are extremely important for the health of the wireless industry, which has moved from a "lock in" cell phone subscriber business model to a smart phone/gadget for mobile broadband Internet enablement . Forrester Research reports that at the end of 2009, 46% of mobile subscribers owned a 3G phone; and by 2014, that number goes to 81%. Further, smart phone penetration in the U.S. was 17% of mobile subscribers, up 61% from the year before! We all know that its the 3G smart phones that are generating the bulk of the wireless traffic on carrier networks (with the exception of CLEAR WiMAX where all of the traffic comes from data cards/dongles/embedded notebook or netbook PCs).

Forrester states that the number of Americans accessing the mobile Internet will more than double to 106 million users by 2015, from 52 million today. Mobile marketing spend should grow 27% a year compounded to $1.3 billion in 2014. And data revenue for U.S. carriers should grow from just under $11 billion last year to almost $20 billion in 2014. But that growth won't occur unless current 3G networks are enhanced and true 4G networks get deployed in a big way.

Although AT&T and Verizon Wireless are investing in LTE technology, there is a very long lead time for building out a full 4G (OFDM and all IP) network. It's been estimated that LTE deployment will require investment of about $8 billion over next 3 to 5 years, excluding the costs of spectrum acquisition, which could be even higher. Due to this long deployment cycle for LTE, 3G network will still hold its importance for wireless careers. Router maker Juniper Networks, estimates that 3G networks will have more traffic than 4G networks as far out as 2014. We would certainly agree with that prediction. Yet AT&T and VZW are taking different paths in improving their wireless networks: AT&T has been upgrading their 3G data network, while VZW is aggressively building out LTE (the current 3GPP version of which is considered 3G by the ITU-R, but 4G by VZW).

The Road to a Faster and More Cost Effective Mobile Internet

AT&T has been aggressively upgrading its HSPA based 3G network over the past year, The Trefis Team writes  that AT&T has been upgrading its 3G network by deploying HSPA 7.2 technology to enable faster speeds and to increase network efficiency. AT&T expects this 3G+ data network will comprise 90% of its current 3G network footprint by the end of 2011. HSPA 7.2 is a variation of the GSM-based HSPA technology that has a peak speed of 7.2Mbps, although AT&T cautions that most users are unlikely to see data rates approaching theoretical peak speeds. AT&T’s improved 3G network upload and download speeds could match Verizon’s expected initial "4G" LTE speeds. Verizon expects initial LTE speeds of about 5 to 12 M bit/sec.

During a conference call hosted by the GSM Association on March 18th, Kris Rinne, AT&T Senior Vice President of Architecture and Planning, said the company's 3G network would be strong enough to handle data demand until it was ready to roll out 4G next year. Our underlying GSM and HSPA networks will be able to upgrade their capabilities while laying the groundwork for LTE," she said. "By improving our current HSPA capabilities, we can add more devices to our 3G portfolio while also growing our LTE portfolio."

With respect to the company's LTE aspirations, Ms. Rinne said that users can initially expect that AT&T LTE services will deliver the same applications that AT&T 3G customers currently enjoy and that the applications delivered over 4G will be faster and more reliable. In particular she said that LTE would provide for enhanced video and mobile gaming systems, as well as eventually voice services.

In contrast to AT&T, VZW is going full bore with LTE. The company says it's "on track with building the nation's first 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless network. A host of ecosystem partners, along with the company's network engineers, equipment vendors, backhaul providers and device design experts, are preparing for the launch of the highly anticipated fourth-generation network later this year."

Verizon Wireless engineers report trials showing peak download speeds of 40 to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and peak upload speeds of 20 to 25 Mbps and expects LTE average data rates of 5 to 12 Mbps on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink in real-world environments.

Running on a nationwide license won at the FCC 700 MHz auction in 2008 [#], the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network is reportedly "being built to ultimately have the broadest geographic coverage and to leverage the deepest spectrum capabilities by using a commercial broadband technology that is unrivaled in its ability to extend into buildings."

[#] Please refer to these articles

  1. Has the 700 MHz Auction Been a Failure? 
  2. FCC 700 MHz Auction Postscript: Big loss for US Wireless Network Competition

Lowell McAdam, VZW President and CEO, recently stated, "The CTIA WIRELESS convention is the perfect setting to focus on the important behind-the-scenes work we are doing with more than 25 partners to bring 4G LTE to life. Our progress is good, and we're confident that the next generation of wireless network technology will deliver the speed, reliability and bandwidth that businesses, government and consumers have been anticipating. Our work on 4G LTE underscores our continuing commitment to provide the best wireless experience available today. Building and operating great wireless networks is what we do, and everything we do at Verizon Wireless – from devices to applications to solutions – stems from that foundation of network know-how." VZW is working with a variety of partners to create a "4G LTE ecosystem." The company has created a LTE Innovation Center, Open Development and the Verizon Developer Community to "foster and support on-ramps to LTE."          

IDC Market Forecasts for Mobile Broadband and LTE

At the March 10th IDC 2010 Directions Conference in Santa Clara, IDC analysts Amy Lind and Carrie MacGillivray predicted a 32% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for global mobile broadband connections, which were projected fo reach over 350M by 2013.  [We wonder if those include M2M connections, which are potentially much larger than human held device connections].

More significantly, LTE was predicted to have a CAGR of 471%, with 2012 (and later for some countries) as the critical inflection point for LTE mass adoption.  The technology was said to: offer improved capacity, full mobility (vs "mobile" WiMAX portability), be Initially oriented toward PCs  with pricing In flux as operators continue to rethink their business models.  

By 2013, IDC predicts:

  • Mobile broadband will be ubiquitous and the defacto way of communicating
  • Business models will be focused on revenues per subscriber or device   
  • Global mobile services spending will surpass $975 billion
  • Iconic 4G devices will be critical to success

The two IDC analysts offered their essential guidance to session attendees:

  • Wireless carriers should place emphasis on data services, which are essential for revenue growth.  
  • Detailed market segmentation is required to focus devices (and apps) on relevant audiences.  To achieve this objective, IDC believes that wireless network operators will deepen partnerships with device and application vendors (AT&T and Clearwire are already doing this now).
  • Integration key to staving off wireless displacement and driving mobile broadband adoption

In a separate presentation, IDC Research Manager Godfrey Chua was very optimistic about LTE.  This author was stunned to hear Mr. Chua predict that LTE infrastructure equipment sales would overtake all WiMAX infrastructure sales by 4G 2011!  That's less than 18 months from now!   According to Mr. Chua, both AT&T and VZW are looking to LTE to effectively deliver high quality mobile broadband service at the lowest cost per bit possible (through the more cost efficient OFDM based modulation and multi-carrier transport).  He sees 2012-2013 as the LTE market inflection point, which is consistent with the opinion of other IDC Analysts.  Why have all the major global cellular operators made such an early committment to LTE?  Here are a few reasons given: 

  • To deliver high quality mobile broadband at the lowest cost per bit
  • To relieve 3G capacity pressure by migrating laptop users to LTE
  • To create a more robust platform for applications and services –that lead to new business models and therefore revenue streams         

Godfrey next compared the rationale and position of LTE (vs WiMAX):

  • To address capacity pressure in 3G networks (vs WiMAX to address underserved broadband connectivity demand)
  • Full mobility is the value proposition (vs WiMAX portablity of netbooks/notebook access)
  • Geared towards developed markets (vs WiMAX orientation toward emerging markets)
  • Relevance to emerging markets not until 2015 (vs WiMAX being always relevent to emerging markets)                                 

2010 will be a critical year for LTE network equipment companies as they all seek to build momentum. in the forthcoming global market.  Mr. Chua sees Ericsson and Huawei as early leaders in providing LTE gear.  He says that Alcatel – Lucent’s Verizon Wireless win is key, but now they must convert trials into contracts.  Meanwhile, Nokia Siemens Networks is  looking to maintain relevance in LTE.  The competitive pressure will surely intensify as other players –Motorola, ZTE, NEC and Fujitsu –seek to up the competitive ante. 

In closing, Godfrey offered the following essential guidance: 

  • Realization of the long-held vision for the network is near
  • Mobile data traffic will continue to explode
  • Network transformation is critical, it is key to remaining competitive
  • Green efforts will persist, it goes hand in hand with the transformation process
  • Vendor positions will continue to shift