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.

Competition: the consumer’s friend?

For a relatively small country with 60 million inhabitants, the UK has four (or six, depending on how you count shared networks) operators competing for subscribers.

Add MVNOs in equation and the contrast between the UK and others – like the US – become readily apparent.

The immediate impact of this is good news for consumers. The options on offer mean UK operators need to prioritise low prices to stand out; in fact average revenue per user in the UK can be as low as a third of that in the US.

However the long-term consequences of this could well be hindering the UK – something that is often forgotten about when discussing how the market will develop.

Low pricing for consumers results in lower profitability for operators, which in turn means a lack of investment in infrastructure. This is compounded by the fact that constructing multiple networks results in an inefficient duplication of resources, which could otherwise be used to increase network coverage, capacity and performance.

So whilst we are a small country with a high population density, coverage continues to be a real challenge. Despite being nearly 40 times the size of the UK, the United States generally enjoys far more complete coverage.

Whilst consumers therefore see low pricing as beneficial and advantageous, in the long run they ultimately receive less ‘bang for their buck’.

With profit margins shrinking in a pricing race-to-the-bottom, operators are facing hard times. It’s not hard to see these figures leading to internal pressure for consolidation – which would in turn have a negative impact on competition.

Innovation too is hampered. After all, with multiple competitors watching your every move in an attempt to capitalise on any mistakes, can we blame any operator that doesn’t want to experiment with a non-proven technology?

One would hope that this situation would ultimately self-regulate, with operators folding in times of excessive competition and springing up when potential revenue is attractive enough, but the high stakes that are currently involved in entering or leaving the market make this unlikely.

But recent EC merger decisions suggest that we are beginning to see proactive steps taken towards resolving this. Rather than obsessing over operator numbers, the focus has shifted towards policing their behaviour at the wholesale level. The thought process being that this will encourage MVNOs to compete more intensely in retailing mobile services, whilst increasing efficiency in the underlying networks and allowing network operators to reap the financial benefits from greater economies of scale.

What is implicit in this is an increased recognition of the benefits that resource sharing can bring. However, I would argue that the EC regulators will need to start thinking about more the sharing of more than just networks.

By encouraging spectrum sharing we can begin to enable access to the wide channel bandwidths, that are likely to be necessary to meet future demand for mobile broadband, and avoid exacerbating the issues surrounding spectrum scarcity we may encounter in the future – something that Sweden, France and Mexico have already begun considering.

Real Wireless joins UK Spectrum Policy Forum as funding partner

Wireless experts’ contribution reflects the importance of spectrum policy to the UK economy and telecoms industry 

Real Wireless has joined the UK Spectrum Policy Forum as a funding partner. Acting as a sounding board for the Government and Ofcom, The Forum is at the centre of UK Spectrum Policy and closely aligned with the work Real Wireless carries out for many of its clients.

Professor Simon Saunders, Real Wireless co-founder and Director of Technology, has been working with the Forum since its inception last year, where he examines spectrum applications and demand as chair of Cluster 1.

Launched in September 2013 by Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the UK Spectrum Policy Forum is chaired by Professor Jim Norton. With the involvement of a full range of spectrum-using companies and organisations, the UK Spectrum Policy Forum is the industry sounding board to the Government and Ofcom on future spectrum management and regulatory policy, with a view to maximising the benefits of spectrum in the UK.

“Spectrum is a scarce resource but it’s also one that is valued at £52 Billion per year to the UK economy. Therefore it’s an area that needs to be properly managed and supported,” said Prof. Saunders. “The work of the Spectrum Policy Forum is essential if the UK is to get the most of this valuable asset and it’s an initiative that Real Wireless is perfectly placed to support.”

“Simon’s work with us over the last nine months has been invaluable and we’re delighted that Real Wireless has now become a funding partner of the Forum through Steering Board membership,” said Professor Jim Norton, Chair of the UK Spectrum Policy Forum. “Real Wireless has an incredible wealth of expertise and experience in spectrum policy and management and this makes them an excellent partner.”

Boris and 5G – will London really have it by 2020?

Boris Johnson has recently announced that London would lead the world in having 5G by 2020.

It’s not where you’d expect such an announcement to come from, at least not compared to the 5G stories so far. Boris certainly doesn’t run a cellular network, he isn’t responsible for telecoms policy or spectrum and (quite probably) won’t still be Mayor then.

But will London actually have 5G by 2020?

Cellular standards do follow an interestingly regular ten-year ‘tick.’ The first 1G analogue standards (e.g. AMPS,NMT) were launched around 1981; GSM first launched in 1991; UMTS 3G launched in between 2001-2003 and LTE was 2010.

So simplistically, you could say 2021 for commercial launch was about right, making pre-release demonstration on 2020 viable.

In LTE all the key requirements were agreed, and the basic technology outline had been accepted by 2004. However there is still a lot of mileage in LTE-A and the interim releases so 5G could be much later.

The other issue is the uncertainty over what exactly 5G is. With a wide set of use cases, a huge variety of architectures and technologies and, as yet, little consensus, it is hard to believe 5G will be a quick development.

This all makes Boris’ 2020 deadline look unlikely.

What I do think will happen is a demonstration and claims of “5G” in July 2020, driven by the Tokyo Olympics and the Japanese commitment to show something working. But even this may need to be taken with a pinch of salt, given the history of FOMA – a slightly incompatible pre-standard version of UMTS that launched in Japan in 2001, two years ahead of the ‘proper’ Release 99.

So while Boris could have his wish and demo 5G in London in 2020, it’s likely to be an engineering demonstrator with an instruction set in kanji shipped over from the Tokyo Olympics, and it won’t be the real 5G. The rest of us will have to wait at least another two years before we’re using 5G services – whatever they turn out to be.