Why data analytics is key to the future of mobile networks and user experience

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It’s become common now for the big vendors to provide the telecoms and wireless industries with a regular view of the growth or decline in various sorts of traffic, services and devices.

The most recent update comes from Ericsson, with the publication of its latest Ericsson Mobility Report covering the period to 2021. As you might perhaps expect, Ericsson has forecast significant growth in a wide range of factors. Some of the highlight figures include:

  • Mobile broadband subscriptions: CAGR of 15%
  • LTE subscriptions: CAGR of 25%
  • Data traffic per smartphone: CAGR of 35%
  • Total mobile data traffic: CAGR of 45%

Video to dominate traffic growth
Ericsson expects video to continue to play a large part in the data traffic growth. In 2015 video was some 40–55% of the total mobile data traffic depending on the device type and is forecast to have a CAGR of 55% to 2021. By 2021 Ericsson forecasts that video will account for some 70% of mobile data traffic. As the report notes: “Today’s teens… have no experience of a world without online video streaming.”

To meet such growth, LTE continues to provide fast speeds with current deployments providing up to 600Mbps (Cat 11), which will grow to 1Gbps LTE (Cat 16) with deployments in in 2016 according to Ericsson.

5G to start in 2020
Looking beyond 4G and the massive growth, Ericsson forecasts that 5G services will commence in 2020 based on ITU IMT2020 standards, and that there will be 150 million 5G subscribers by 2021 led by rollouts in South Korea, Japan, China and the US.

IoT to overtake mobile phones
In one of the most eye-catching predictions, Ericsson suggests that the number of IoT connected end points — such as cars, machines, smart meters and consumer tech — will overtake the number of mobile phones in 2018. IoT devices are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 23% over the period, and what is worth noting is the connectivity types including non-cellular IoT connectivity and the various low-power wide-area (LPWA) proprietary systems like SIGFOX, LoRa and Ingenu. Ericsson forecasts non-cellular IoT to be almost 10 times the cellular IoT by 2021.

VoLTE set for rapid growth
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) also features in the report. Ericsson forecasts that the 100 million VoLTE subscriptions at the end of 2015 will increase to 2.3 billion by 2021 — representing over 50% of all LTE subscriptions. In the US, Canada, South Korea and Japan this figure rises to over 80%.

What does this all mean?
One of the key conclusions from the report is that managing the user experience is key for network operators and infrastructure providers – and all of the trends highlighted above are making that an increasingly complex challenge. As such, Data analytics are increasingly being applied to find the relationship between user experience and network performance statistics. Such an understanding is vital for operators to prioritise network investment as well as keep churn low. As the data from the report shows, operators face many calls on capex and opex as new technology combined with new use cases (and hopefully more spectrum), gives operators new opportunities and as well new challenges.

Of course, vendors put time and effort in to these reports to bring these challenges into sharp focus for the operators along with whatever solutions the vendor may have to offer. Real Wireless provides deep independent expertise in all of the areas and topics covered in such vendor reports including LTE, 5G and IoT. We’re involved in the business, technology, regulation and markets, working with all parts of the ecosystem including vendors, operators, regulators and end users. We help bring clarity and understanding to the challenges as well as the opportunities in the wireless world — without bias.

Bad neighbours? A comparison of LPWA technology options

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.24.43While the carrier community is celebrating the steady arrival of 3GPP defined cellular IoT that will enable the use of existing GSM networks with minimal impact through upgrades, there remains significant interest in alternative solutions in the unlicensed space.

Some of this interest comes from service providers who lack access to licensed spectrum, but the majority is being driven by use cases where the long range, extended battery life, and very low cost of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) wireless technologies is a fundamental necessity. What is emerging though is a fragmented area of largely proprietary solutions, making it difficult for users to decide on which option best suits their particular use case.

The key approaches to unlicensed M2M connectivity can be split in to two groups: UltraNarrowBand (UNB) technologies; and those that employ some form of spread spectrum modulation (SSM).

Growth forecasts for the M2M market underline the need for these LPWA systems to be able to co-exist in license exempt spectrum and that any LPWA solution should be able to support  many connected devices – and this requirement is only going to become more important over time as the number of devices increases.

Real Wireless recently carried out a study that compared the levels of interference between networks using these two different physical layer architectures. This required us to model a scenario in which a UNB and a SSM network had overlapping coverage areas and various other sources of interference, including non-LPWA users, in order to study the ability of both technologies to mitigate interference.

This insight gained was that UNB and spread spectrum modulation networks can only effectively co-exist in very low capacity deployments. Shared channel operation, either between a SSM and a UNB network, or two SSM networks, would result in mutual interference and uplink blocking of both networks, except in cases of very low simultaneous user numbers.

In other words, the reality is that a SSM LPWA network architecture should be considered a ‘bad neighbour’, and multiple unlicensed IoT networks can only effectively share access to spectrum when they all also share a UNB architecture. However, given the number of use cases for these technologies, they will undoubtedly coexist in one location. As a result, this study has significant implications for technology choices in this important growth market.

To find out more about our study and approach to modelling of unlicensed IoT solutions, download our new white paper today.

The future of wireless and the case for exploring verticals in 5G

CdGpWwtW4AAQjhTAs we outlined last month in our guide to the challenges facing 5G and IoT, the connected devices of the future offer real potential to make existing businesses, services and utilities more efficient and more effective — better tailoring the service they provide.

In the wireless industry, the reality is that there is limited appetite to pursue the new generation of wireless technology (5G) for the industry’s own sake. Despite rapid takeup of LTE (4G) cellular technology, shrinking profit margins are affecting infrastructure spending, leaving finances that may not look attractive to investors and cause difficulties for a further round of investment so soon after completing the last round of upgrades.

The real business case for 5G, therefore, needs to come from the vertical industries that will benefit from the technology.

The rationale behind this was recently vindicated by the results of the European Commission 5G socioeconomic project Real Wireless contributed to, announced in Brussels on the 9th March 2016 (which we explored in more detail in a separate blog post). Our work found that, for an approximate deployment cost of €56 billlion, 5G can be expected to generate benefits of €95.9 billion across automotive, healthcare, transport and utilities alone — per annum.

However further quantitive evidence is required for a vertical-orientated business case to be established, and it falls to the wireless industry to lead the way in kick starting this process.

Any eventual solution will need to account for not only what dynamics are at play in the verticals, but also expert input from the leaders in these vertical industries on how they will evolve in the coming decades. It’s therefore crucial that the other verticals that could benefit from 5G are stakeholders in the development of this technology, to ensure they can fully benefit.

As chair of the executive committee for Cambridge Wireless’s Future of Wireless International Conference, I believe this year’s conference will provide an important opportunity for the industry to come together and explore how wireless can impact these verticals. Not just the cost savings each vertical can enjoy, but the challenges 5G will need to overcome, the opportunities that exist and — crucially — the common themes that span across these vertical industries enabling platforms of scale.

The Future of Wireless International Conference 2016 will be held at The IET, Savoy Place, London on 21–22 June. More information and registration details can be found here: http://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/futureofwireless/

Why 2016 is crucial to the development of 5G and IoT — an expert briefing

RW-Manifesto-2016_coverAs we approach another Mobile World Congress (MWC), the noise is again ramping up around 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). Many years in development, and seemingly filling newspaper column inches everywhere for just as long, it’s becoming increasingly hard for many to follow their progress.

Despite the noise, the world is still a long way off a public 5G network, and the delivery of the technology’s full economic value not expected until around 2025. This long timescale is because 5G will be unlike any other mobile standard to date — there’s incredible potential for the technology to revolutionise different verticals like automotive, healthcare and utilities.

But, whilst the mobile industry needs to lead these discussions, it’s the responsibility of all who wish to benefit to collaborate and ensure the technology works to everyone’s advantage.

As a result, getting the foundations of technology and negotiations right during 2016 is crucial to making sure the end standard reaches its full potential.

Conversely, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has existed for more than a decade, yet the consumer facing version — IoT — is still struggling to get traction. This is the result of an industry littered with multiple competing standards, no harmonisation on spectrum, and no singular roadmap for development to maximise scale economies.

So 2016 is a genuine make-or-break year for the technology; if the industry gets it right, we could see a truly universal, robust standard start to take off. If it gets it wrong, we will be left with fragmentation and clear barriers to the IoT’s future potential.

Real Wireless has been working at the forefront of both of these technology areas, across the technological, social, and economic aspects of their development, providing independent research and analysis.

This includes our work with the European Commission, research as part of 5G NORMA, and membership of the UK’s 5GIC, where we are working to understand the socioeconomic impact of 5G and how the wireless industry should engage with other vertical industries in its development.

To this end, Real Wireless today launches a short primer outlining exactly what needs to happen in 2016 for 5G and the IoT to be able to reach their full potential. This concise, comprehensible piece distils the knowledge of our many experts in to three pages, providing an essential briefing for anyone interested in the telecoms industry in 2016.

Download our summary to cut through the industry noise and find out why 2016 is a milestone year for 5G and IoT — and how the industry can make sure it gets it right.

We’re also at Mobile World Congress (MWC Barcelona, 22–25 February) next week, so please get in touch if you would like to speak with one of our experts about either of these issues in more detail.

UK Launches Spectrum Forum: Real Wireless Chairs “Spectrum Needs” Group

Forum to develop national strategy for spectrum, including plans for 5G and IoT

London, 27 Sept 2013:  Real Wireless announced that Professor Simon Saunders will be chairing the working group on “Spectrum Applications and Demand” within the newly formed UK Spectrum Forum. The Forum, which was launched by Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, is an initiative to bring together the needs of industry, government and regulators to maximise the benefits of spectrum for the UK. This comes at a time of growing awareness of the importance of wireless spectrum to the UK, and will consider the relationship between TV and cellular, the needs of government, military and emergency services, developments in Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G mobile devices amongst others. Real Wireless is Europe’s leading expert advisory firm on wireless technology and strategy, and being chosen for this role reflects the company’s reputation for both technical expertise and independence in being able to reconcile the views of the different groups.

Spectrum is a critical element in economic growth and social activities: wireless systems, for which spectrum is essential, are at the heart of an increasing array of products and services across the whole economy. The wireless spectrum is a scarce resource, delivering £52 billion of value per year (1) to the British economy and balancing the needs of different users is a challenging task. In a recent study Real Wireless forecast a need for extra allocations of 200-300 MHz of licensed spectrum for mobile applications and 350 MHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi applications by 2020 to meet even a medium forecast of growing demand (2). This has to be achieved without compromising on the needs of other sectors such as transportation, emergency service and many others.

The Forum is Chaired by Professor Jim Norton, and has groups looking at both the demands for spectrum and the regulatory environment in UK and globally. Real Wireless Director Professor Simon Saunders will be chairing the group considering applications and the future requirements. The scope of this group includes: what the new technologies and applications will be and how they will be used; what these mean for spectrum demand; what needs to be done to ensure adequate and appropriate availability of spectrum.

Professor Saunders commented, “Wireless is an essential part of our daily life and global economy. Whether it is voice phone calls, broadband data, emergency services or M2M those all rely on enough of the right spectrum being available; but as consumers use more services and as new technology advances there is a pressing demand for more spectrum. We have seen from the difficulties of digital switchover or the debate on the balance of licensed and licence-exempt spectrum that these decisions are not easy, and as we consider the demands of emergency services and military then they become even harder. And yet if the UK is to progress with 5G or to seize the opportunities presented by M2M and IoT then the need for a spectrum strategy that reconciles these different desires is critical. Real Wireless is proud to have been asked by the Spectrum Forum to chair this group and to support its initiative in this way”.

Real Wireless is Europe’s leading specialist independent wireless advisory firm.  Real Wireless delivers independent, informed and innovative consultancy based on a deep understanding of the physics and engineering implications associated with wireless technologies, coupled with real-world planning and deployment experience.

Real wireless has published a number of detailed reports on spectrum and policy, including work on White Space  and “Techniques for increasing the capacity of wireless broadband networks: UK, 2012-2030″, March 2012, a major study on the relative impacts of spectrum, technology and small cells on future mobile capacity.  The company also performed the analysis of the 800MHz “digital dividend” LTE band to advise OFCOM on the cost of extending an 800 MHz mobile broadband coverage obligation for the United Kingdom.

(1)   https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-spectrum-use-worth-52-billion-a-year

(2)   http://www.realwireless.biz/2013/09/25/how-much-mobile-spectrum-will-the-uk-need-by-2030/

Twitter:  #spectrumfuture    @real_wireless

For more details:

Rupert Baines
CMO Real Wireless
+44 7968 481 831