KDDI to bolster LTE with WiMAX and Wi-Fi support

Our extracts from comments by KDDI’s president and chairman, Tadashi Onodera:

  • Mobile data traffic in Japan set to grow by 15 times over the next five years - “a big problem”
  • LTE will double KDDI’s network capacity – as will additional spectrum
  • Increasing its site density in a bid to improve capacity by a further tenfold
  • “LTE will not be sufficient to cope with such huge data demands so we also need to use other technologies such as WiMAX and Wi-Fi”
  • KDDI plans to deploy LTE initially in the 800MHz band and later using 1.5GHz spectrum. Onodera said the 800MHz band will be used for nationwide coverage, while 1.5GHz will be used only in densely populated areas

- GSMA Mobile Business Briefing

LTE competition breaks out in Sweden

Both the companies have launched together, which is hardly surprising since the services are the fruit of an LTE network-sharing agreement.

The joint-venture network, Net4Mobility, will operate initially in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo and Karlskrona. Telenor and Tele2 users will get speeds up to 80Mbit/s (not less than 20Mbit/s).

Both Telenor and Tele2 are offering Huawei dual-mode modems operating on both LTE and HSPA networks. Both are selling the services as DSL-style replacements with mobility thrown in.

 

-TelecomTV

 

Why does it seem so difficult for operators to agree on similar capacity requirements?

We read a lot about the predicted growth in mobile data traffic and there has been at least 2 years of significant growth to allow operators to get a sense of continued growth into the future. The uptake of smartphones and dongles to drive this growth appears to be unquenchable – a recent prediction suggests that data per smartphone will grow by 7x by 2015 . Whilst the ability of an individual operator to accurately predict or anticipate traffic over a wide area is challenging given the uncertainties of customer demand, why does it appear to be so difficult for operators to agree on demand and therefore capacity requirements in a “closed” environment such as an airport, stadium or shopping centre. In a stadium environment the maximum number of people is known and whilst the profile of the users may change depending on what is taking place (football, rugby, concert etc.) should there really be a 2 or 3 fold difference between what the capacity requirements for different operators is, given roughly equal market shares?

Real Wireless comment on the reality of mobile network capacity growth at Industry Outlook Conference

On November 25th, Real Wireless’ Simon Saunders is speaking on a panel session at Informa’s Industry Outlook 2011: Telecoms and Media in the Internet Age. Our session is at 14:10 and will discuss: “Network Strategies for Addressing the Exponential Growth in Mobile Data Traffic: What is the Role of Technology as Opposed to Pricing Solutions?”

We plan to clarify our view that, contrary to some industry doom-mongers, mobile operators have plenty of options for economically expanding their network capacity to meet future demand without resorting to throttle demanding via unattractive pricing.

The panel comprises:

Moderator:

  • Kris Szaniawski – Principal Analyst, Informa Telecoms & Media

Panellists:

  • Ed Candy – CTO, 3 UK
  • Andy Macleod – Director Group Networks, Vodafone UK
  • Simon Saunders – Independent Consultant
  • Dimitris Mavrakis – Senior Analyst, Informa Telecoms & Media

See http://www.industry-outlook.com/ for further details.

White paper: Strategies for mobile network capacity expansion



One of the hottest topics in the mobile industry is the need for more capacity to serve the  growing  quantities of  data emerging from 3G-connected devices like iPhones, iPads, Android devices and 3G modems . Some commentators are keen to paint this as a crisis, leading to the imminent collapse of mobile networks. We have taken a more sober look at the available capacity options and concluded there is scope to meet the demand now and in the future – if you know where to look. See our free white paper Strategies for mobile network capacity expansion for details.

 

The changing face of the femtocell ecosystem – who is best placed to succeed?

The femtocell industry has traditionally been dominated by start up companies dedicated to building small cell products such as 3 Way Networks, Ubiquisys and ip.access.  However, as wireless broadband traffic forecasts have continued to highlight trends such as the high demand for capacity indoors and a high proportion of traffic being generated by a small proportion of users the case for smaller cells has gathered support.  This was demonstrated at Broadband World Forum last week where operators agreed that capacity bottlenecks won’t be solved by spectrum efficiency improvements of 4G alone and that smaller cells will be needed [1].  Recent auctions of spectrum at both 800MHz and 2.6GHz in Germany have also facilitated plans for a two tier network topology, further fuelling the interest in smaller cells [2].

This growing interest in smaller cells has led to some big industry players joining the traditionally niche and UK centric femtocell ecosystem.  For example in March this year Qualcomm announced that it would be providing its femtocell chipset to ZTE [3].  Most recently Broadcom has entered the market by purchasing the Israeli femtocell chipset vendor Percello [4].  Freescale has also recently joined the Femto Forum and has announced their intention to develop LTE System on a Chip (SoC) platforms suitable for femtocells [5].   This is perhaps an expected development to match the femtocell platform product range already launched by FSL’s rivals TI.


Figure 1 – The femtocell ecosystem with supply links shown

With these changes to the femtocell ecosystem, who is now best placed to succeed in this growing market?  While only time will tell exactly who the big winners and losers of the femtocell industry will be we can make some observations about what has worked well so far such as:

  • Being first doesn’t necessarily guarantee success
  • It’s good to know your niche in the ecosystem and to stick to it
  • Know your target market; home or enterprise

Being first doesn’t necessarily guarantee success – The first UMTS femtocell access point product was produced by Cambridge based start up 3 Way Networks [6].   The product successfully attracted interest from investors and 3 Way Networks was acquired by Airvana in 2007 [7].  However, being first to market unfortunately hasn’t guaranteed success and Airvana recently announced that they are discontinuing their UMTS femtocell product range [8]

It’s good to know your niche in the ecosystem and to stick to it– One of the success stories of the femtocell industry to date is the rise of picoChip.  Established initially as a flexible baseband processing solution for software defined radio platforms, picoChip were quick to pick up on the promise of femtocells and have focused their product roadmap around producing a cost optimised off the shelf femtocell PHY chipset with an onboard processor to allow femtocell access point vendors to add their own higher layer stack and interface to the femtocell gateway.  Making a clear decision to be a chipset vendor and sticking to this vision has also produced dividends for Percello who were recently acquired by Broadcom.

Know your target market; home or enterprise– Traditionally the femtocell industry has focused on the home market.  However, more recently femtocell vendors have turned their attention to the enterprise market which requires providing coverage to more users and over a larger cell radius in an office rather than home environment.   These are two very different markets with different cost considerations and technical challenges.  In the residential femtocell market a low unit cost is key and backhaul restrictions are a big concern.  The enterprise market is not as sensitive to cost and while backhaul may not be as much of a concern in an office environment the number of users and throughput will be.  Vendors trying to serve both markets may well be left with comprises in their product that a more focused vendor hasn’t had to make.

Over the next year it will be interesting to watch how the increasingly congested femtocell ecosystem evolves and whether the smaller vendors with more experience in this sector will be able to navigate their way past the challenges of the better known but relative newcomers to the femtocell industry.

References

[1] European telcos say LTE will not solve capacity crunch, http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=459850&G=1&C=4&Page=0

[2] German mega mobile spectrum auction ends, http://realwireless4g.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/german-mega-mobile-spectrum-auction-ends/

[3] Qualcomm Snags First Femto Wins, http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=189633

[4] Broadcom Corporation to Acquire Percello Ltd., http://www.broadcom.com/press/release.php?id=s523205

[5] Freescale plans basestation-on-chip, http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4200872/Freescale-plans-basestation-on-chip-

[6] World’s First Commercially Available 3G Femto Cell, http://www.3g.co.uk/PR/Feb2007/4221.htm

[7 ] Airvana Acquires 3Way Networks, http://www.airvanacom.com/products/news_378.htm

[8] Airvana’s Femtocell Market Focus, http://blog.airvana.com/airvana-blog/2010/09/airvanas-femtocell-market-focus.html

The LTE seminars of old

I attended an LTE seminar in October which was hosted by a number of key industry players with an intent to maintain the momentum of promoting the new technology.

The theme of the event was very much in the realms of how LTE technology features enhance performance of mobile broadband systems and how the expected increase in data demand can be addressed using LTE. The seminar was very informative and included a clear exposition of all the key component technologies for LTE such as OFDMA, MIMO and scheduling, highlighting the differences between those and the WCDMA technologies used in UMTS and HSPA.

However, most of the information was based on specifications and theoretical performance. LTE is now being deployed in markets around the world. For example, Verizon is reportedly due to announce its launch of LTE in over 30 markets in the US on 15th November and Telia Sonera’s network in Stockholm has been operational for almost a year. Our 4G blog provides much more detail of market progress.

There is now a clear appetite for knowledge of how LTE operates within a live or trial environment such as: what are real data rates being achieved under live conditions compared to those of simulations or the ‘headline’ peak rates. With my colleagues at Real Wireless I am now working extensively in this area, including engaging with the industry on projects such as our recently-announced study for Ofcom and several other projects for vendors, operators and potential users.

Now that the candidate radio interface technologies have been accepted by the ITU for IMT-Advanced for both LTE-Advanced and WiMAX 2 we will start to see much more information being provided in seminars and conferences on the real-world performance of the new features of LTE, including the data rates and spectrum efficiencies which users and operators can expect from LTE in practice.

Whither a path loss model for intelligent relays?

Book cover

Mobile network subscribers expect to have coverage. Whether it is for making calls or sending a text, or for accessing their favourite applications, they expect a nearby network to provide them with high quality service. Yet the network operators leave coverage gaps, especially in remote locations (rural areas) and underground levels (basements of department stores, London Underground).

Relays are an alternative solution to adding more base stations, which extend the network’s coverage (while not providing the additional capacity available from femtocells). Intelligent relays have attracted signifcant attention for early LTE deployments, when the network operators aim to provide wide area coverage yet LTE subscribers will be few.

My book on relaying technology, entitled “Low-Height Channel Modelling with Application to Multihop UMTS: A statistical model that characterises the low-height channel and application of this model to a multihop UMTS”, provides propagation tools that can be readily applied to link budget calculations for networks that employ relays, whether for 3G or 4G systems. The propagation mechanisms that apply to the relay-user link are distinctly different from conventional links because of the low antenna heights of both terminals, which traditional path loss models do not cover.

The suggested low-height mean path-loss, shadowing, and fast fading models were tuned with two measurement campaigns in urban and suburban locations in the UK, covering frequencies up to 2.1GHz. The performance of the models was evaluated with independent data sets. The book is available in Amazon and I’d be pleased to answer queries on this topic.