Monday, 28 September 2009

LTE World Series YouTube Channel!

Informa has just launched its YouTube channel featuring an archive of interviews that have been conducted over the space of a year at the LTE World Summit events!

Interviewees have included the top tier 1 operator speakers at the LTE World Summit events with thier thoughts and vision for LTE and mobile broadband and a host of vendors with specific insights into thier field. Most notable interviews are by Franz Seiser, Head of Core Networks at T-Mobile, Dan Warren, Director of Technology at the GSMA and interviews from the recent LTE Asia conference includes and interview with the CEO of CSL, Tarek Robbiati.

The LTE Americas conference with includes speakers such as Tony Melone, CTO of Verizon Wireless and Kris Rinne from AT&T will also be taking place on the 4th and 5th of November in Dallas

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Will LTE Be Reliable When it is First Launched?

“We can build all the bells and whistles and make lots of bold claims, but none of it will matter if the network - and all of the underlying infrastructure that supports the network - isn't fundamentally reliable," This was the comment made by the Verizon CTO, Tony Melone.

Can operators ensure that it will be a smooth evolution to LTE? The launch of the early 3G networks will certainly be in the back of operator’s minds, and with Verizon's promise that LTE will be launched in 25-30 markets next year, and everywhere by the end of 2013; ensuring that everything works when they press the “on” button is no small task.

LTE is expected by some in the industry to have lots of glitches to start with and that it will take some time before the engineers learn how to get the best out of the network, even with all of the trials that have been taking place.

According to Melone, Verizon will focus on delivering the most reliable next-generation LTE wireless network in the USA, and they have already taken a proactive approach on the matter. Various collaborative initiatives are already in place, including:

  • Open Development, meant to offer developers the possibility to come up with devices that will work on its network, with more than 55 devices certified to date;
  • Verizon LTE Innovation Center, also focused on the development of products based on Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE network;
  • Verizon Developer Community and V CAST Apps; a group of application developers focused on helping Verizon on delivering new applications to its users on the upcoming network (V CAST Apps should become available before the end of the year)
  • Joint Innovation LabDesignated M2M Focus for Important Market Segments

Another important message to the vendors was the importance of partnerships between operators, vendors and all other LTE industry players, in order to everyone to benefit. But can they all get together to keep costs low in order to reach the mass market?

Tony Melone with be giving an exclusive keynote at the LTE Americas conference on the 4th and 5th of November in Dallas.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Do Operators Want Net Neutrality?

The chairman of US communications authority the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has vocalised his support for net neutrality as a way of preserving the free and open internet. The (FCC) chairman, Julius Genachowski outlined the steps he believes the Commission must take to ensure all net traffic, services and applications are treated equally.

The call for neutrality expands upon the FCC’s previous drive behind four open internet principles supporting consumers’ ability to access the lawful internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.

The addition of two new principles would prevent internet access providers from discriminating against content or applications, while allowing for “reasonable network management”. The second principle would ensure that internet providers are transparent about the network management practices they use.

Governments around the world acknowledge that the internet is an extraordinary platform for innovation, job creation, investment, and opportunity and so the FCC wants to ensure that the internet is free and open. They have even launched a website at to encourage public participation in the move.

The concept of net neutrality is a hotly debated and controversial issue, with the content and application providers of the internet world accusing broadband network operators of acting as gatekeepers, preventing consumers from enjoying the full range of innovation and choice available through the open internet.

To date, the issue has only been seriously contested in the USA, where a union of web companies including YouTube, Skype, Google and eBay have been lobbying the FCC (with some apparent success) to take a stronger role in promoting a neutral and open internet. Barak Obama is a known supporter of net neutrality, a stance which may have broad ramifications for both fixed and mobile operators that provide internet access and data services. So how does net neutraility affect operators, especially ones looking to deploy LTE? Operators will be able to vary the QoS to customers depending on how much they pay and will also be able to use DPI to ensure the real time content such a video is prioritised or that P2P traffic clogging up the network is slowed down. Will the FCC allow this kind of activity?

"Operators need to have the ability to compete" according to Helen Ponsford, Programme Director for Informa's Broadband Traffic Management conference. "They need to have the ability to control the network otherwise user experience will be impaired and with high bandwidth applications, this have never been so important" For operators having this control is more about ensuring user experience. Deploying LTE provides the opportunity to fully upgrade the network in this way in addition to providing additional capacity. What "reasonable network management" is, I am not quite sure.These complex issues will be discussed and debated the the Broadband Traffic Management conference on the 17th and 18th of November in London.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Feedback from the LTE Customer Consultation Day

Taking part in the LTE customer consultation day, were some of the top vendors including Ericsson, Huawei, NSN, Motorola and others including picoChip, Freescale, Signalion and Rohde & Schwarz. They attended the consultation day, as they really wanted to get involved in the LTE conferences in 2010 and to get their input into the agenda.

With regards to content, the LTE business model that the most important topic that they highlighted. Now that a lot of the technical details have been ironed, operators have committed to LTE the attention has been turned to the business model and how can operators monetise LTE.

Can we really still have flat rate data plans? We've seen the cost/revenue divergence diagram a hundred times at various conferences, but has anyone really come up with an answer as to how operators need to address this divergence and try to take control of the network? With LTE operators are able to differentiate services and charge accordingly to the customer's QoS requirements, but there is no clear indication that operators are willing to change the their pricing models.

The application and service providers are a key new entrant into the market and there needs to be a discussion on how operators can profit more from these applications and services - will LTE make operators think differently?

Who are we going to be selling LTE to beyond the average user? LTE would be attractive to vertical markets such as the public safety organisations, the healthcare industry and I as mentioned in one of my earlier blogs; the car industry.

These are certainly areas to explore and it will be interesting to get feedback from different markets, not involved in the telecommunications industry and hear about what they they think of the future of mobile broadband.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Will India Get LTE? (Part 2)

I blogged a few weeks ago about whether India would get LTE and I had the opportunity to meet with a few of the the indian regulators at the LTE Asia conference last week.

They confirmed that that auction would go ahead this year on December the 7th, but since there have been so many delays and setbacks already, who knows... The WCDMA auction kicks off first, with the CDMA and WiMAX auctions taking palce 2 days later. I was also told that the FDD spectrum will only be allowed for 3G networks and TDD will likewise be for WiMAX deployments only. The TDD spectrum is expected to sell for a much lower price than FDD spectrum - no surprises there.

Its does indeed seem that the Indian regulators are keen on WiMAX and this is simply down to the infrastructure cost. Currently in India, the ARPU from a subscriber in the cities is $4 and just $2.50 in rural areas! Although the WCDMA networks are likely to be upgraded to LTE at some point, can LTE ever be affordable for India?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

CSL Crystal Clear About Their LTE Strategy

Tarek Robbiati, the CEO of CSL opening the LTE Asia conference in Hong Kong last week. The problem: 3G was always going to be disadvantaged against 2G spectrum bands of 900 and 1800 MHz. It set the scene for the rest of the conference, where spectrum was the topic discussed the most.

CSL will be launching UMTS900 and are looking to have a LTE ready network, by leveraging the SDR capabilities of ZTE. SDR (Software Defined radio) is a topic that has been talked about for years, but always looked like something that was ahead of its time. CSL have put in the time and the investment to make it work for them. They want their equipment to be software upgradable, so that they can quickly and smoothly to improve their time to market with LTE and save on costs.

CSL owns spectrum in the 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600MHz bands (the latter acquired in the recent auctions in 2009). They are going to start by addressing UMTS coverage by deploying it in the 900MHz band. LTE is then going to be rolled out across multiple bands! Whilst some operators are mulling over what band they will choose for an LTE deployment, Tarek simply stated that thay will use whatever spectrum they have and as much as they can for LTE. LTE will therefore be deployed in all four of the spectrum bands that they own.

Concerns were raised about standards that still need to be defined for voice services and the need for devices, but all of the CSL employees at the conference could not praise the Hong Kong regulator OFTA enough for the way the recent spectrum auction was managed. They must be over the moon with all of the spectrum they have and what they will be able to achieve with it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

MetroPCS Picks Ericsson for Its LTE Network

MetroPCS a regional carrier in the USA and a leading provider of unlimited, flat-rate, no contract service announced today that it has selected its infrastructure and initial handset vendors for its second half 2010 LTE launch.

MetroPCS selected Ericsson as its infrastructure vendor for the launch of its LTE service. This is Ericsson's second major LTE vendor win in the US market (the first being the contract secured with Verizon Wireless) and further evidence of the company's strengthening position in North America. In addition, MetroPCS has also selected Samsung Telecommunications America, which is actually the number one mobile phone provider in the USA to provide the Company's initial LTE handset. They plan on offering LTE services and a dual-mode LTE/CDMA smartphones in their major metropolitan markets in late 2010. This will be before Verizon starts to offer its own dual mode handset, which is planned for 2011.

MetroPCS has successfully encouraged customers to "cut the cord" on their landline phones by introducing their unlimited, flat-rate, no signed contract plans. MetroPCS offers a diverse selection of service plans, which allow customers to talk 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week and currently serves 5.4 million customers. With MetroPCS, services do not require a signed contract, deposit or credit check! This type of pricing seems set to continue with the launch of LTE, even though it has been called disruptive by some in the industry. It will be interesting to see what sort of pricing plans other operators adopt for LTE and whether tariffs will be as diverse as MetroPCS's. A diverse selection of service plans should help to encourage the uptake of LTE even if there is a lack of variety with the devices available early on.

The Staff VP for LTE, Solyman Ashrafi will be speaking at the LTE Americas conference on the 4th and 5th of November in Dallas.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A Day at the Huawei Campus in Shen Zhen

My colleagues and I at Informa were invited to visit the Huawei campus in Shen Zhen last week, the day before the LTE Asia conference which took place in Hong Kong to discuss their plans for the future with LTE being central to their growth prospects.

Huawei has been an early investor in LTE and it is clear that they have been thinking ahead. Huawei launched their All-IP based FMC solutions back in 2006. To maintain a leadership position in All-IP FMC, they established an integrated core network product line, with 6,000 engineers engaged in R&D supported by a service team of 2,000 professionals around the globe dedicated to providing customers with all-round consultation, planning, delivery maintenance and training services.

Its no wonder that the campus in Shen Zhen has grown to include an administration centre, marketing centre, R&D centre, testing centre, training centre, exhibition hall, logistics and manufacturing centre and a staff condominium. Just to cater for all the staff on the campus requires a total of 9 canteens providing food for 30,000 employees, catering for all tastes and cultures. What was clear during our tour of the facilities was that Huawei does not do things by halves and why would they when they serve 36 of the world’s top 50 operators?

Huawei is a relatively young company they are continuing to gain steady recognition and acceptance from operators in more developed telecommunications markets. Although I have heard rumors about their integrity as well as to product quality ranging from the absurd to the bizarre, this has clearly not deterred their customers. To a significant degree, Huawei’s early and ongoing experience with successful deployments under the constraints of emerging markets has helped to win contracts with the now price conscious operators in most developed markets. This includes TELUS and Bell Canada’s LTE-oriented HSPA network as well as winning the world’s first LTE contract with TeliaSonera along with Ericsson.

Operators are increasingly looking at vendors that have a comprehensive, end-to-end portfolio of products and solutions for LTE. Huawei’s strength lies in the full breadth of their comprehensive, scalable and interoperable offerings for customers and so it was no surprise that Huawei was recently recognized by BusinessWeek as one of the world’s most influential companies.