Real Wireless plays crucial role on spectrum requirements for 5G in European Commission 5G report

At a workshop in Brussels this week, the final results of our eagerly-awaited study on the socioeconomic impact of 5G in Europe, were presented to the European Commission and interested stakeholders.

The in-depth report has been produced by experts and academics from across the industry, including Real Wireless, who spent the past year researching the impact 5G will have on vertical industry sectors — and quantifyingthe economic value of this. The study gathered inputs from industry stakeholder workshops and existing 5G projects to determine which verticals and environments to examine in the study. It was decided to focus on four specific verticals which included healthcare, transport, automotive and utilities and four environments including smart cities, non-urban areas, smart homes, and workplaces.

Enabling verticals to explore new avenues
For the reasons we outlined in our recent report, 5G is much more than a new “mobile industry” technology, offering different benefits to different industries, enabling better machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to improve the way businesses operate.

For healthcare, 5G will pave the way for true preventative care, connecting patients with doctors anywhere, anytime. For automotive and transport, 5G can facilitate real-time telematics data to improve the way drivers interact with their vehicles, support the implementation of driverless cars creating a new media hub for passengers and also enabling authorities to better shape and manage traffic on the roads. And for utilities, 5G can turn the vision of smart meters into a genuine mass-market reality, helping consumers and businesses save money and reduce emissions.

5G — creating 2.4 million jobs and delivering benefits of €50.6 billion+
This project was established by the European Commission to fill a major void in 5G research so far, forecasting the quantitative and qualitative impact that 5G will have on society and the economy.

Real Wireless has played a pivotal role in the production of the report, working specifically on how to overcome spectrum challenges when different use cases run concurrently on the same spectrum band:

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We also were at the heart of both 5G information gathering workshops. Our business and technical expertise enabled us to bridge the gap between representatives of different verticals and those from the telecoms industry.

Forecasts in the report suggest that deployments of 5G will cost around €56 billion, creating around 2.4 million jobs. The investment will in turn deliver benefits of €95.9 billion per annum in 2025 across these four verticals — and €50.6 billion in benefits for the other four environments. Businesses will benefit from more than half (63%) of the benefits, with consumers and society receiving 37% of the benefits.

A crucial milestone in 5G development
Given the lack of significant research in to the socio-economic impact of 5G, and the important role a vertical-industry led business-case will play in any role, this report is a defining moment for the future of mobile connectivity.

The European Commission plans to publish the full report including all results in April 2016.

The evolution of regulation for telecoms by 2020

Cell-TowerTelecoms regulation needs to evolve to cope with a rapidly changing industry — the traditional mechanisms are no longer working.

With mergers and new entrants complicating the marketplace, regulators must find a way to balance competition with encouraging investment and innovation while still ensuring consumers get the best service.

Greater knowledge and understanding of mergers will need to be developed, something that the current consolidation trend force. This will need to be knowledge that can be put in to practice, implementing it on a basis that does not distort competition, yields benefits to consumers, and still incentivises investment and innovation.

As a result many of these changes need to happen before 2020 to support the balance between traditional telecoms operators and OTT (over-the-top) players. At present there is a lack of symmetry on many issues such as switching, privacy and data protection, identification and safety which regulation will need to resolve.

By 2020 increased broadband rollout and superfast speeds coupled with new market entrants will have changed the fixed market — meaning that regulators will need to pay close attention to new issues as pricing, bundles, competition and barriers to entry.

Regulation in 2020 will also need to not be restricted to the management of present market conditions. It needs to play a role in supporting and encouraging the development of new fixed and mobile technologies — including 5G, G.FAST, TWDM-PON — in order to guarantee and improve the long term health of the industry. It will also need to be designed to support innovations in telecoms, particularly those that enable operators to begin investing in infrastructure that can support ultrafast dense networks.

This role will also need to extend to ensuring that less-profitable ventures, such as the extension of fibre in to rural areas, are not overlooked at the expense of new technologies and super-fast city networks.

Crucially, this is not just a challenge that the regulators themselves need to tackle. Governments also need to evolve mobile spectrum policy, enabling quicker access to spectrum for operators and balancing the needs of new entrants and incumbents. This needs to extend beyond national border, particularly in Europe where the EU needs to be implementing uniform regulation across member states to limit distortions in competition.

The need for governments to play a part in the evolution of telecoms regulation in coming years highlights how rapid the requirements of this challenge need to be met. We may be discussing the regulation of 2020, but steps need to start being taken in 2016 if we’re to be fully prepared — particularly as regulators’ remit will need to expand.

Originally published on TechUK as a guest blog during Telecoms2020 week.

Future of the mobile industry: network operators must increase capacity without irritating customers with higher prices and data caps

At the end of October, Real Wireless hosted a breakfast meeting with Bloomberg to discuss what the future holds for the mobile industry.

Around 40 Bloomberg subscribers from across a number of sectors, including financial institutions, telecom vendors, analysts and operators attended the event. The morning’s talk featured a presentation from Real Wireless’s director of technology, Professor Simon Saunders, who provided a compelling overview of what the future shape of the mobile industry will be — and what the implications of this are for operators.

The challenge at hand
In particular, the presentation highlighted how MNOs now face the dual challenge of delivering major capacity increases and improving their earnings while avoiding customer churn through price increases and data caps. This challenge is set against a backdrop of increased competitive pressures from disruptive new-style players — like Uber and Netflix — that are adopting completely new technology and business models to attract customers away from established competitors.

Growth in mobile demand over the next 15 years is a given, even if the exact rate of growth varies widely between forecasts. Ambitious predictions state that mobile demand will grow to 30 times present levels by 2030, while conservative estimates place growth at 23 times. Whatever the exact rise, meeting demand will depend on many factors — particularly how efficiently mobile operators can supply capacity.

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But as growth continues to increase exponentially, revenues remain largely static, squeezing operator margins and in turn impacting capital available for investment.

Facing up to the task
To address these challenges, Simon outlined several potential options available to operators who wish to maintain current standards of mobile connectivity while keeping pace with demand.

One option available is for operators to try and reduce demand themselves by increasing prices and capping data volumes, which would almost certainly prove unpopular with consumers. Operators could also charge differentially according to need through daily or hourly ‘pay-as-you-use’ fees, or attempt to compress data to ease capacity strains.

The ideal option though would be to reduce the cost of delivery while increasing quality. This approach would involve operators combining different spectrum bands, technology (for example enhanced modulation and coding, carrier aggregation and antennae techniques) and topology (for example small and macro cells) in certain ways and to varying degrees to meet the varying levels and patterns of demand.

The importance of small cells
Small cells in particular could play a vital role in the future of the mobile industry. By offloading subscribers from macro cells in busy areas, they can offer a better throughput and quality of experience at a significantly lower cost than macro cells. Operators will find they are able to keep their tariff prices low, whilst touting the benefits of their enhanced service to subscribers.

Past Real Wireless projects have demonstrated how the benefits of small cells align with market drivers and, when rolled out intelligently by operators, can deliver a positive return on investment. Capacity-driven projects in urban areas can yield benefits of up to $48.6m, with a total cost of ownership of $29.8m and a return on investment of 136%. Coverage-driven projects, meanwhile, can save operators who lack low-frequency spectrum between $2.8m–$7.2m while achieving equivalent coverage as expensive macro cells.

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Automated Wi-Fi systems for better QoE
Operators can also save money and reduce mobile capacity strains by taking advantage of automated Wi-Fi. Our calculations across 10 global cities show that operators could be $17.9 billion better off in a mixture of cost savings and additional revenues by using automated systems to enhance Wi-Fi quality of experience. This approach enables operators to offer seamless hand off to Wi-Fi and back on to the network given certain signal strength, capacity and optimisation metrics. However, the operation support system (OSS) and the business support system (BSS) must be set up to manage the traffic across the different networks.

For example, a mobile operator in New York that has 25% mobile market share could save $71m. Using those savings, the operator can reinvest in expanding capacity without having to increase prices for consumers. It’s a win-win situation.

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There’s no doubt that MNOs have some stern challenges ahead — and it’s all being driven by insatiable consumer demand. Operators need to act now if they’re to make life easier for themselves in the next few years and avoid a public backlash on price increases.

MoD spectrum auction — business as usual or time for new entrants?

1280px-Tropo_Scatter_Microwave_System_AntennaThe recently announced MoD spectrum auction is the culmination of 10 years’ work, numerous reports and even more consultations — some of which I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with.

It’s taken a lot of effort to get to this point and, as one of the first countries to auction off public spectrum assets, it’s a process that is being closely watched both at home and abroad.

The details of the auction have already been covered in good detail here and here and — while what’s on offer clearly isn’t going to result in a new, nationwide mobile network — we’re likely to see it being used to add capacity to existing networks in busy city centres.

The spectrum to be auctioned has some associated and additional complexities for operators to contend with, including coordination with RAF and naval bases and a much smaller device ecosystem compared to 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz.

The 2.3 GHz spectrum will be adjacent to other MOD services. As a result, new mobile services will need to both protect these existing services and also manage potential incoming interference from MOD deployments, all without impacting the QoS for users.

The mobile operators will almost certainly put in bids nonetheless. Having invested hundreds of millions in purchasing 4G licenses just over two years ago that they are yet to recoup, investment in further spectrum rather than network rollout may be challenging for some mobile operators.

But if operators didn’t bid how else could it be used?

One potential model might be the ‘small cells as a service’ approach that has been discussed for some time, but as of yet has never really got off the ground. This would allow someone, potentially a provider with existing fibre assets, to offer a small cell network over a city centre or business district and charge operators for access. Given the challenges holding back urban small cell deployments, it’s a model that many are pushing for and the FCC’s move to promote shared access for small cells in 3.5 GHz may end up driving this model in the UK.

Businesses involved in smart city or vertical applications could also be interested, particularly in the 3.4 GHz band given the issues with mobile device compatibility. The 3.5 GHz spectrum could encourage new entrants or new services from existing fixed line players, however the business case for these models is not straightforward, as existing owners of spectrum in this band can testify.

With no coverage obligations and no focus on encouraging new entrants, it is difficult to predict how this auction will develop. The varied block sizes in each band of spectrum and a number of issues with coexistence may put off one or two of the established players that have other higher priorities, instead encouraging new entrants or business models from fixed-line operators. Regardless of the outcome it’s an exciting time for the industry and great to see the spectrum finally being released to the market after many years of hard work.

Industry verticals can see the benefit of 5G — but trust is still an issue

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Last week in Brussels, Real Wireless helped deliver the second and final workshop of the “5G Socioeconomic” study for the European Commission.

The event saw attendees from four vertical sectors — automotive, healthcare, transport and utilities — each with their own needs and priorities for 5G. For example, automotive and transport were looking to reduce accidents and traffic congestion, utilities to reduce energy costs and healthcare needed to improve access and care provision.

During the workshop, participants were tasked with validating 5G for their own sector. They needed to identify the top three 5G capabilities from a list of nine which are part of the capabilities developed by the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) for their own industry. For each, participants captured the economic value, social value and other values — in each case identifying if the value was high, medium or low. Prioritising the capabilities helped those involved realise which were of most value to each sector.

Participants were also tasked with discussing the value of 5G in four key environments; smart homes, smart workplaces, smart cities and non-urban environments. Participants identified the economic, social, environmental and other impacts and value in each environment and subsequently mapped the results to each of the 5G capabilities.

The results — scalability is key
Understandably, the capabilities and requirements varied between sectors. So where healthcare saw the need for a “dynamic increase of network capacity on the fly”, those in utilities did not see that as a key capability.

However, almost all vertical sectors had at least one common capability requirement, such as the ability to deliver a scalable Internet of Things or sensor solution.

The ‘trust and control’ barrier
Before 5G can become a real success, however, concerns were raised around trust. With 5G, industries and businesses will be running their “virtualised” networks over third-party infrastructure. So, many were understandably concerned by the lack of control they would have over that network. Who would be liable for any costs incurred by network outages? And how would operators address concerns around security?

To address these trust issues, verticals argue that network operators will have to relinquish control of their 5G network slice or solution. If we get to a stage where there is harmonised spectrum and stable, reasonable, coherent regulation and policies, industries will buy into 5G, manufacturers will want to produce hardware, there will be economies of scale and no need for more physical networks (verticals that need a network can become MVNOs over 5G).

These findings clearly highlight that industries are willing to embrace 5G, but there are still certain aspects that need careful consideration before each widely adopts it. Based on this feedback, the project team will later write up into its second workshop report. Watch this space…

Auctions and preparation for WRC ’15 key topics at European Spectrum Management Conference 2015

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Real Wireless attended the 10th annual European Spectrum Management Conference last week in Brussels, which is a key event on the spectrum management calendar. The well-attended conference covers the most relevant topics in spectrum management with representation from across the industry including regulators, vendors, operators and industry associations. The conference is worthwhile to gain a sector status update from a broad cross sector of the industry. The two-day event is divided into a number of sessions in which a particular relevant topic is discussed by a panel of industry representatives that varied depending on the discussion.

Day 1

In the first sessions, the panel discussed the future of the 700 MHz band and considered the development of a blueprint for the benefit of users and consumers in Europe. Keynote speeches about the impact of this on spectrum policy at the European Commission, RSPG and BEREC was highlighted. Talks from both the broadcast industry and mobile industry presented their respective cases for using the band, which demonstrated how key stakeholders would be affected by the transition. It was clear in some countries such as Italy, which is a heavy user of the 700 MHz band for DTT viewers and broadcasters, will be affected. In contrast other countries such as the Netherlands would not be so affected and could benefit from a swift move to mobile services.

A session on offloading discussed how Wi-Fi and small cells have helped and will continue to help to ease congestion on macro networks, which now includes LTE-LAA. The session provided an overview of how different methods including satellite can contribute to easing network congestion. However, there was no mention of the difference in costs for these solutions, which would have helped demonstrate which solutions would likely offer the most cost-effective solution.

The second half of the afternoon included breakout sessions on auctions and spectrum awards best practice — which I was allocated — and backhaul. These sessions were interactive and lively particularly the spectrum auction session given that the German multi band spectrum auction was going on in parallel.

Day 2

The second day commenced with a session on WRC ’15 common ground, areas of disagreement and likely outcomes. Presentations from Africa, Europe and China provided a broad overview of the impact each of the key agenda items would have on these regions. Notably there was common agreement and support for 700 MHz allocation for mobile services and some disagreement between sectors in relation to coexistence with mobile and satellite in C-Band amongst others.

The second session on delivering a world-leading mobile ecosystem in Europe was interesting because it covered current issues facing the mobile industry today — namely how mobile operators can overcome declining revenues from subscribers and limited funding for network investment at a time when Europe plans to lead in 5G. There were comparisons with the model used in the US and Canada in which auction proceeds and revenues are still increasing.

The third session discussed innovative technologies and policies to improve spectrum efficiency, which included presentations from regulators, operators and advisors. It covered the different innovative methods currently used for licensing and releasing spectrum. For example in Sweden they no longer apportion spectrum via exclusive licensing, instead focusing on better management and sharing. In the US the FCC described its approach to sharing the 3.5 GHz spectrum for low-power access. Other talks mentioned the challenges and complexities of sharing for PPDR and the satellite/fixed links in the C-Band.

The final session addressed the changing face of spectrum management between 2005 and 2025. A panel responded to statements and questions about where spectrum management we will be in 10 years’ time. This session required audience participation by voting against a set of predetermined questions. The key questions sought to address the issues include the largest influencers in spectrum management and what methodologies will be in place to continue the development of spectrum management. Overall it was felt that in 10 years. the European Commission would have the largest influence and that we would be in a similar position to where we are now but with some changes in approach.

Real Wireless’s view of the conference

Overall the event provided useful interaction with spectrum management colleagues within Europe and beyond. The topics and material were interesting with lively debates and reactions from industry demonstrating that spectrum management is fundamental to the continuous evolution and success of wireless technologies. We look forward to participating in at the 11th annual spectrum management conference and providing support and advice to the sector.

Real Wireless joins Future Communications & Positioning System Advisory Group 

Guangzhou_South_Railway_Station_3F_East_ConcourseYesterday, Real Wireless attended the Intelligent Rail Infrastructure seminar from the IET. The event examined the physical and technical challenges associated with modernising our railway assets – a challenge that we have long considered in our work.

The reasons why this is a topic that interests us is that wireless offers the potential to revolutionise a global mode of transport. This is not just for passengers, where some individuals lose hundreds of hours each year outside of data connectivity, but also throughout the industry’s large and multinational ecosystem. With the advent of M2M communications, its potential to create a truly intelligent national transport network is highly desirable.

It’s to this end that Real Wireless is pleased to announce it has joined the cross rail-industry Future Communications & Positioning System Advisory Group (FC&PS AG), a sub-group of the Vehicle/Train Control and Communications System Interface Committee.

Members of the group include Network Rail, the Department for Transport, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the ORR, train operators, RSSB and representatives from the wider communications industry.

The group’s aim is to provide advice and direction to the industry on communications and positioning technologies as enablers to the Rail Technical Strategy Vision 2012.

The FC&PS AG say they welcome our membership to the group,and look forward to our input in the fast moving area of digital wireless technology, particularly given our extensive experience of working in other industries than rail alone.

As a member, Real Wireless will therefore be providing expert input on both future wireless communications technologies, and the feasibility and practicalities of implementation to support the growth of rail communications in Britain.

This is an area we already have significant experience in, thanks to projects such as our landmark business case analysis that found passenger-facing services (ie: customer Wi-Fi) could not ever give ROI itself: it only can deliver this if it is one of a variety of operational benefits.

We look forward to participating at our first meeting in London on 19th May, providing insight and experience and supporting the growth of communications for the rail industry.

For an overview of the opportunities wireless offers for the transport network, download our free guide The business opportunities for wireless in transport. 

If you’d like to learn more about the RSSB, please find them at www.rssb.co.uk, on Twitter @RSSB_rail, and LinkedIn RSSB.

Supporting the rail industry’s wireless communications

Real Wireless was involved in a cross-industry rail project in 2011 to support the development of rail communications strategy and business-case to satisfy all the stakeholders that rely on rail communications. This means both passengers and railway workers. The work was for the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and we worked in partnership with Mott MacDonald on the T964 research project Operational Communications – a programme of work to develop an effective strategy that supports rail innovation. 

Real Wireless led and supported a number of work packages notably the spectrum position paper (registration required) and also the Technology options paper (registration required). The aim of spectrum position paper was to inform the rail industry of the importance of spectrum and in particular the characteristics of the different frequency bands relevant to mobile use and the impact of the regulatory policy and decisions including frequency allocations and assignments.

The technology options paper highlighted the differences and characteristics of mobile technologies that would be suitable to both operational and passenger applications and services. In particular the paper discusses how future mobile technologies such as LTE may support future data applications in delivering priority operational traffic for the efficient operation of the rail network and also mobile broadband applications for passengers.

It may seem surprising, but one of our findings was that it is not actually too expensive to install mobile equipment on all the carriages of all the trains in the country if it’s done in a coordinated fashion. And that the cost is massively outweighed by the reduction in cost of the necessary trackside infrastructure, given the right use of technology and spectrum.

(Note: we do other work in the transportation industry too – see our thoughts on wireless on planes)

Real Wireless visit Critical Communications World 2013 in Paris

Real Wireless was in attendance at the 15th annual Critical Communications World conference on its opening day in Paris yesterday. This is the first time Real Wireless has attended this event which attracts over 120 exhibitors from across the world showcasing the latest critical communications products, networks and services.

The show was hosted at the Parc Exposition in Villepinte Paris Nord and runs over three days this week. Each day there is a theme relating to critical communications and Wednesday saw Critical Communications for Transport Users. This featured talks from vendors and integrators discussing the latest applications and case studies for use in the worlds transport systems. In addition, the show featured TETRA World Congress in which members in this community discuss different topics such as in-building public safety coverage, future of critical communications and personal security communications.

Exhibitors were differentiating themselves with highly interactive applications from control room dispatcher suites through to fully integrated TETRA networks which incorporated the VoIP, location based services and new data services. Also on show is a lot of hardware including antennas, handsets, tablet-like data terminals and cars packed with critical communications features.

LTE featured prominently at the event too with some vendors introducing LTE into their critical communications suite of products with some vendors supporting 700 MHz band and others, mainly European vendors, supporting the 400 MHz currently. Discussions with other delegates and visitors suggested that LTE still needs to find a place in global critical communications due to the disparity of spectrum availability within different global regions, with Europe high on the agenda. However, this has not deterred vendors from utilising the technology itself either in a region that can support a suitable frequency band or in the case of one large vendor in very remote areas where no frequency assignments are made which was deployed for M2M services.

The event show cased a lot of innovation with smaller players demonstrating some very interesting solutions and not just in private mobile and TETRA bands but making use of public cellular and Wi-Fi. This indicates a recognition that critical communications, or services that can support critical communications can find many different methods of delivering what is needed to end users. Overall the critical communications industry continuously strives to enhance the end user experience and address the growing demands of end users across all sectors from emergency response to transport and utilities.

Real Wireless will continue to play its role in supporting the critical communications sector by way of building relationships across the ecosystem and identifying the opportunities that will help the industry grow and move forward within a highly competitive and innovative sector.

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.