Midterm Observations on the Telecom Industry.

Observations - Telecom IndustryThree events were held this past week that provided an opportunity to get a midterm pulse of the telecom industry: the MWC-Shanghai, 5G World and WBA Congress. Having attended the last two, I wanted to summarize a few observations:

* The vision for 5G is converging; industry is aligning along common themes.  A few leading operators are racing to claim 5G capability for different reasons and interests. The absence of standards coupled with vendors’ urgent need for 5G, will lead to market confusion which will climax in the next two years as the olympics in Japan and Korea approach and companies and countries race to claim firsts. Expect to be inundated with terms such as ‘5G-Lite’, ‘pre-5G’, ‘5G-Phase1’, ‘pre-certified 5G’, ‘5G-ready’, etc. Read more of this post

Does the Short Road to 4.5G Mean a Long Road to 5G?!

4.5G vs. 5GBrowse through industry literature or conference proceedings and trade shows, and you’ll be inundated with talk about 5G. On the other hand little is to be found on “4.5G”, or technically speaking, LTE Release 12 and 13 branded as LTE-Advanced Pro [which incidentally I find to be a bad choice of terms that I prefer to use 4.5G even as I don’t like the nomenclature!]. Why is there little to discuss on 4.5 G and much to talk about on 5G? What does this tells us about 4.5G and 5G? And, is there something between the lines that we can read? Read more of this post

MNOs Investments in LPWA: Strategic or Tactical Expediency?

Internet of Things LPWA IoTOver a year ago, SK Telecom invested in SigFox in a round that raised €100 m from a consortium of investors that included Telefonica and NTT Docomo. This week, SKT announces that it will build a LoRa network at a cost of more than $84 m over two years. In the meantime, SKT is working with Ericsson to evaluate the potential of LTE Cat-m2, the new designation for Narrowband-IoT (NB-Iot), which is the latest of a series of LTE-based standards for IoT connectivity. This is only one example among many of a mobile service provider taking a multi-pronged approach to address IoT connectivity. The moves by many MNOs in this space raise many questions, such as: Why are MNOs making multiple investments in IoT? What is the business opportunity? Are MNOs serious about LPWANs? Is this interest based on hype or is there a real business to be had?  Read more of this post

Is IoT at Risk of Stalling?

IoT internet things connectivityThe wide-area IoT connectivity battle which has been brewing for a couple of years is heating up. Early last month at CES, Ericsson announced the release of “the first complete cellular low-power wide-area (LPWA) solution” to AT&T. At the same time, the Wi-Fi Alliance branded 802.11ah as Wi-Fi HaLow targeting applications in smart home, connected car, digital healthcare, industrial, retail, agriculture, and smart cities. These are but two samples of the competition between a great variety of technologies that has left the market largely confused. This is dangerous as confused markets run the risk of stalling. The risks increases with increased ambiguity on the value proposition and use cases of the technology. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in IoT where there are many barriers to adoption ranging from financial and economical considerations to technical and regulatory. Read more of this post

Will Operators Deploy Phase 1 5G?

5G MobileStandardization of 5G is split into two phases. The first phase, which is scheduled for 2H2018, will focus on a subset of use cases and features. The second phase which is scheduled for December 2019, will meet ITU2020 requirements for 5G technology. Phase 1 will also focus on sub 6 GHz bands although carriers in Asia are pushing to include millimeter wave bands. The question is whether phase 1 will matter at all? Would operators bother with an intermediate step towards 5G, or opt to deploy the mature version when it becomes available? Read more of this post

Which IoT Technologies Will Die Out?

LPWA LTEIoT use case are fragmented with different requirements. To match these requirements, a number of IoT connectivity solutions are available including wide-area low-power (LPWA), cellular wireless technologies (EGPRS, UMTS, LTE of different varieties), and short range technologies adapted to cover wide areas through mesh networking (ZigBee, WirelessHART, etc.) or extension of point-to-multipoint technologies (e.g. 802.11ah/HaLow). Each of these technology spaces is crowded with options, so which will survive and which will die out? Read more of this post

5G: Revolution or Evolution?

5G VirtualizationIs 5G an evolution or a revolution? In an earlier article I said 5G is an evolutionary stage. Many disagreed: 5G is a revolutionary technology. But this is all a matter of perspective.  The evolution vs. revolution debate has largely focused on the air interface, or the ‘subscriber interface’: everyone wants to have fast wide-bandwidth connectivity. Naturally, it is the user experience that takes center attention. In my opinion, this is not a revolutionary aspect as 5G will package the same technologies with upgrades in implementation that reflects advancements in technology since LTE was first conceived in 2004 (yes, that’s 12 years ago!!). Instead, I think that the revolutionary aspect is related to the ‘backend’ or the ‘operator interface’: it is in virtualizing the network. Read more of this post