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Latest news and information on 3G, 4G, 5G wireless and technologies in general.
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    Here is a quick tutorial on mobile network sharing approaches, looking at site/mast sharing, MORAN, MOCN and GWCN. Slides with video embedded below. If for some reason you prefer direct link to video, its here.

    See also:

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    Dr.Mehdi Bennis from Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu, Finland recently did a keynote at The International Conference on Wireless Networks and Mobile Communications (WINCOM'17), November 01-04, 2017, Rabat, Morocco. He has shared his presentation with us. Its embedded below and available to download from Slideshare.

    Picture Source: Ericsson

    For those who may not be aware, there are 3 main use cases defined for 5G. As shown in the picture above, they are enhanced Mobile BroadBand (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) and massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC). You can read the requirements here.

    Next week I am attending URLLC 2017, looking forward to some more discussions on this topic

    Follow the 5G label to learn more about 5G on 3G4G blog.

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    I tried the Facebook Live feature yesterday at the URLLC 2017 conference and recorded a couple of quick interviews with Martin Geddes and Prof. Andy Sutton. Hope you find them useful.


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    Picture Source: Martin Geddes

    It was a pleasure to attend this conference this week. Not only was the topic of interest but I am always impressed by how well EIE organizes their events. Instead of writing my own summary, here is a story created from tweets, 'The Mobile Network' live blog and a summary write-up from Martin Geddes. I have my takeaways below.

    My takeaway from the conference is that:

    • URLLC is going to be challenging but its achievable.
    • Ultra-reliable (UR) may have different use cases then low latency communication (LLC). Lumping them together in URLLC is not helpful.
    • Extremely low latency may not be achievable in every scenario. In some cases it would make more sense to continue with existing or proprietary solutions.
    • URLLC may not happen when 5G is rolled out initially but will happen not long after that. 
    • There are many verticals who may be able to take advantage of both the higher data rates that would come as part of eMBB and the low latency and high reliability as part of URLLC. 
    • The operators would have to foot the bill for upgrading the networks as there is a relucatnce from the verticals to invest in something they cant see or play with
    • There are verticals who invest heavily in alternative solutions that 5G may be able to solve. Some operators believe that this will bring new revenue to the mobile operators
    • Slicing has a lot of open questions including Security and SLAs - nobody has a clear cut answer at the moment
    • The industry is in a learning phase, figuring things out as they go along. There should be much more clarity next year.
    • #URLLC2018 is on 13 & 14 Nov. 2018 in London. Plenty of time to find all the answers 😉

    Further reading:

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    Just came across this slide from recent DAS & Small Cells Congress where EE talked about their ESN network development. Found this particular example interesting as they talk about how the commercial user and ESN user would use the same RAN but a different core.

    This ties nicely with a recent tutorial that I did on Mobile Network Sharing options. If you would like to learn more, see here.

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    Osman Yilmaz, Team Leader & Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research in Finland gave a good summary of 5G NR at URLLC 2017 Conference (see summary here). His presentation is embedded below:

    Osman, along with Oumer Teyeb, Senior Researcher at Ericsson Research & member of the Ericsson 5G standardization delegation has also published a blog post LTE-NR tight-interworking on Ericsson Research blog.

    The post talks about how how signalling and data will work in LTE & New Radio (NR) dual connected devices. In control plane it looks at RRC signalling applicable for this DC devices whereas in user plane it looks at direct and split DRB options.

    Further details here.

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  • 11/27/17--02:15: 5G and CBRS Hype?
  • The dissenting voices on 5G and CBRS are getting louder. While there are many analysts & operators who have been cautioning against 5G, its still moving ahead with a rapid pace. In the recent Huawei Mobile Broadband forum for example, BT's boss admitted that making case for 5G is hard. Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom on the other hand is sitting on the fence. Dean Bubley's LinkedIn post is interesting too.

    Anyway, we have storified most of the tweets from Huawei Mobile Broadband Forum here.

    Signals Research Group recently published their Signals Flash report, which is different from the more detailed Signals Ahead reports looking at 5G and CBRS, in addition to other topics. I have embedded the report below (with permission - thanks Mike) but you can download your own copy from here.

    The summary from their website will give a good idea of what that is about:

    CBRS – Much Ado About Not Very Much.  The FCC is heading in the right direction with how it might regulate the spectrum. However, unless you are a WISP or a private entity looking to deploy a localized BWA service, we don’t see too many reasons to get excited.

    Handicapping the 5G Race.  Millimeter wave networks will be geographically challenged, 600 MHz won’t scale or differentiate from LTE, Band 41 may be the most promising, but this isn’t saying much. Can network virtualization make a winner?

    It makes no Cents! Contrary to widespread belief,  5G won’t be a new revenue opportunity for operators – at least in the near term. The vertical markets need to get on board while URLLC will lag eMBB and prove far more difficult to deploy.

    This Fierce Wireless article summarises the issues with CBRS well.

    “While (some) issues are being addressed, the FCC can’t solve how to carve up 150 MHz of spectrum between everyone that wants a piece of the pie, while also ensuring that everyone gets a sufficient amount of spectrum,” the market research firm said in a report. “The 150 MHz is already carved up into 7- MHz for PAL (Priority Access License) and 80 MHz for GAA (General Authorized Access). The pecking order for the spectrum is incumbents, followed by PAL, and then by GAA…. 40 MHz sounds like a lot of spectrum, but when it comes to 5G and eMBB, it is only somewhat interesting, in our opinion. Further, if there are multiple bidders going after the PAL licenses then even achieving 40 MHz could be challenging.”

    Signals said that device compatibility will also be a significant speed bump for those looking to leverage CBRS. Manufacturers won’t invest heavily to build CBRS-compatible phones until operators deploy infrastructure “in a meaningful way,” but those operators will need handsets that support the spectrum for those network investments to pay dividends. So while CBRS should prove valuable for network operators, it may not hold as much value for those who don’t own wireless infrastructure.

    “The device ecosystem will develop but it is likely the initial CBRS deployments will target the more mundane applications, like fixed wireless access and industrial IoT applications,” the firm said. “We believe infrastructure and devices will be able to span the entire range of frequencies—CBRS and C-Band—and the total amount of available spectrum, combined with the global interest in the C-Band for 5G services, will make CBRS more interesting and value to operators. Operators will just have to act now, and then wait patiently for everything to fall into place.”

    While many parts of the world are focusing on using frequencies around and above 3.5GHz for 5G, USA would be the only country using it for 4G. I suspect that many popular devices may not support CBRS but could be good for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). It remains to be seen if economy of scale would be achieved.

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    I blogged about it on the Small Cells blog but cross posting here, just in case you missed it. I am making some videos sharing basic information about mobile technology. Its on YouTube here.

    Recently I made some videos looking at all kinds of cellular infrastructure; playlist is embedded below. If you need slides, get it from 3G4G slideshare channel here.

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  • 12/03/17--14:07: SMS is 25 years old today
  • SMS is 25 years old. The first SMS, "Merry Christmas" was sent on 3rd December 1992 from PC to the Orbitel 901 handset (picture above), which was only able to receive SMS but not send it. Sky news has an interview with Neil Papworth - the man who sent the very first one back in 1992 here.

    While SMS use has been declining over some time, thanks to messaging apps on smartphones like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook messenger, etc., it is still thought to be used for sending 20 billion messages per day.

    While I dont have the latest figures, according to analyst Benedict Evans, WhatsApp and WeChat combined are now at over 100bn messages per day.

    According to Daily Mirror, by the end of 2017, researchers expect 32 trillion messages to be sent annually over apps compared to only 7.89 trillion text messages.

    Tomi Ahonen makes an interesting in the tweet above, all cellular phone users have SMS capability by default while only smartphone users who have downloaded the messaging apps can be reached by a particular messaging app. The reach of SMS will always be more than any competing apps.

    That is the reason why GSMA is still betting on RCS, an evolution of SMS to compete with the messaging apps. My old post on RCS will provide some basic info here. A very recent RCS case studies document from GSMA here also provides some good info.

    RCS will have a lot of hurdles and challenges to overcome to succeed. There is a small chance it can succeed but this will require change of mindset by operators, especially billing models for it to succeed.

    Dean Bubley from Disruptive Analysis is a far bigger skeptic of RCS and has written various posts on why it will fail. One such post that makes interesting reading is here.

    Anyway, love it or hate it, SMS is here to stay!

    See Also:

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    With all focus on 5G (Release-15), looks like Rel-14 has been feeling a bit neglected. There are some important updates though as it lays foundation for other services.

    3GPP used to maintain Release Descriptions here for all different releases but have stopped doing that since 2014. For Release-14, a new document "3GPP TR 21.914: Release 14 Description; Summary of Rel-14 Work Items" is now available here.

    An executive summary from the document:

    Release 14 focusses on the following items:

    • Improving the Mission Critical aspects, in particular with the introduction of Video and Data services
    • Introducing the Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) aspects, in particular the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2)
    • Improving the Cellular Internet of Things (CIoT) aspects, with 2G, 3G and 4G support of Machine-Type of Communications (MTC)
    • Improving the radio interface, in particular by enhancing the aspects related to coordination with WLAN and unlicensed spectrum
    • A set of uncorrelated improvements, e.g. on Voice over LTE (VoLTE), IMS, Location reporting.

    The continuation of this document provides an exhaustive view of all the items specified by 3GPP in Release 14.

    I have blogged about the Mission Critical Communications here. 3GPP has also done a webinar on this topic which can be viewed here. I like this slide below that summarizes features in different releases.

    Then there are quite a few new features and enhancements for V2X. I have blogged about sidelink and its proposed extensions here.

    From the document:

    The Work Item on “Architecture enhancements for LTE support of V2X services (V2XARC)”, driven by SA WG2, specifies the V2X architectures, functional entities involved for V2X communication, interfaces, provisioned parameters and procedures in TS 23.285.
    Figure above depicts an overall architecture for V2X communication. V2X Control Function is the logical function defined for network related actions required for V2X and performs authorization and provisioning of necessary parameters for V2X communication to the UE via V3 interface.

    A UE can send V2X messages over PC5 interface by using network scheduled operation mode (i.e. centralized scheduling) and UE autonomous resources selection mode (i.e. distributed scheduling) when the UE is "served by E-UTRAN" while a UE can send V2X messages over PC5 interface only by using UE autonomous resources selection mode when the UE is "not served by E-UTRAN". 

    Both IP based and non-IP based V2X messages over PC5 are supported. For IP based V2X messages over PC5, only IPv6 is used. PPPP (ProSe Per-Packet Priority) reflecting priority and latency for V2X message is applied to schedule the transmission of V2X message over PC5.

    A UE can send V2X messages over LTE-Uu interface destined to a locally relevant V2X Application Server, and the V2X Application Server delivers the V2X messages to the UE(s) in a target area using unicast delivery and/or MBMS (Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Service) delivery.

    Both IP based and non-IP based V2X messages are supported for V2X communication over LTE-Uu. In order to transmit non-IP based V2X messages over LTE-Uu, the UE encapsulates the V2X messages in IP packets.

    For latency improvements for MBMS, localized MBMS can be considered for localized routing of V2X messages destined to UEs.

    For V2X communication over LTE-Uu interface, the V2X messages can be delivered via Non-GBR bearer (i.e. an IP transmission path with no reserved bitrate resources) as well as GBR bearer (i.e. an IP transmission path with reserved (guaranteed) bitrate resources). In order to meet the latency requirement for V2X message delivery, the following standardized QCI (QoS Class Identifier) values defined in TS 23.203 can be used:

    • QCI 3 (GBR bearer) and QCI 79 (Non-GBR bearer) can be used for the unicast delivery of V2X messages.
    • QCI 75 (GBR bearer) is only used for the delivery of V2X messages over MBMS bearers. 

    There are updates to cellular IoT (CIot) which I have blogged about here.

    There are some other interesting topic that are enhanced as part of Release14. Here are some of them:
  • S8 Home Routing Architecture for VoLTE
    • Robust Call Setup for VoLTE subscriber in LTE
    • Enhancements to Domain Selection between VoLTE and CDMA CS
    • MBMS improvements
    • eMBMS enhancements for LTE
    • IMS related items
    • Evolution to and Interworking with eCall in IMS
    • Password-based service activation for IMS Multimedia Telephony service
    • Multimedia Priority Service Modifications
    • Enhancements to Multi-stream Multiparty Conferencing Media Handling
    • Enhancement for TV service
    • Improved Streaming QoE Reporting in 3GPP (IQoE)
    • Quality of Experience (QoE) Measurement Collection for streaming services in UTRAN
    • Development of super-wideband and fullband P.835
    • Enhancements to User Location Reporting Support
    • Enhancing Location Capabilities for Indoor and Outdoor Emergency Communications
    • Further Indoor Positioning Enhancements for UTRA and LTE
    • Improvements of awareness of user location change
    • Terminating Access Domain Selection (T-ADS) supporting WLAN Access
    • Enhanced LTE-WLAN Aggregation (LWA)
    • Enhanced LTE WLAN Radio Level Integration with IPsec Tunnel (eLWIP)
    • Positioning Enhancements for GERAN
    • New GPRS algorithms for EASE
    • RRC optimization for UMTS
    • Multi-Carrier Enhancements for UMTS
    • DTX/DRX enhancements in CELL_FACH
    • LTE radio improvements
    • Enhancements on Full-Dimension (FD) MIMO for LTE
    • Downlink Multiuser Superposition Transmission for LTE
    • Performance enhancements for high speed scenario in LTE
    • Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) of EPC nodes
    • Paging Policy Enhancements and Procedure
    • Shared Subscription Data Update
    • Service Domain Centralization
    • Control of Applications when Third party Servers encounter difficulties
    • PS Data Off Services
    • Enhancement to Flexible Mobile Service Steering 
    • Sponsored data connectivity improvements
    • Group based enhancements in the network capability exposure functions
    • Improved operator control using new UE configuration parameters
    • Charging and OAM stand alone improvements
    • Rel-14 Charging
    • ...

    Further Reading:

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  • 12/08/17--00:05: Connectivity on Planes

  • I recently made a video explaining how connectivity works on planes and how its about to change. The slides are embedded below and they contain the video. If you prefer, direct link to video is this.

    Related posts:

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  • 12/12/17--01:23: 5G Patents Progress
  • More than 23,500 patents have been declared essential to the GSM & 3G as shown in the picture above. I am assuming this includes 4G as well. Anyway, its been a while I looked into this subject. The last time I was looking, 4G patent pools were beginning to form.

    For LTE, indeed there is no one-stop shop for licensing. The only company that is close is VIA Licensing, with their patent pool, but they don’t have licenses to the big companies like Ericsson, Qualcomm, Huawei, ZTE, Samsung, etc. The same will probably go for 5G.

    This old picture and article from Telecom TV (link) is an interesting read on this topic.

    This official WIPO list shows ZTE, Huawei, and Qualcomm at the top of the list for international patent filers worldwide in 2016 [PDF].

    Back in 2015, NGMN alliance was also looking for creation of some kind of patent pool but it probably didn't go anywhere (link)

    (Can't recall the source for this one) In March, Ericsson announced plans to license 5G for $5 per device and possibly as low as $2.50 in emerging markets. In November, Qualcomm announced plans to license 5G IP at the same rates established by the NDRC for 4G/LTE phones sold into China: 2.275% for single mode essential patents / 4.0% for the entire portfolio or 3.25% for multimode essential patents / 5.0% for the entire portfolio. All rates are based on the wholesale price of the phone.

    Qualcomm also announced that the previously undisclosed $500 price cap will apply to all phones. Qualcomm also announce a rate of less than $5 for 5G for automotive applications and $0.50 for NB-IoT based IoT applications.

    Ericsson has filed patent application for its end-to- end 5G technology. Ericsson has incorporated its numerous 5G and related inventions into a complete architecture for the 5G network standard. The patent application filed by the leading telecom vendor combines the work of 130 Ericsson inventors.

    Dr. Stefan Parkvall, Principal Researcher at Ericsson, said, “The patent application contains Ericsson’s complementary suite of 5G inventions.” Stefan added, “It contains everything you need to build a complete 5G network. From devices, the overall network architecture, the nodes in the network, methods and algorithms, but also shows how to connect all this together into one fully functioning network. The inventions in this application will have a huge impact on industry and society: they will provide low latency with high performance and capacity.

    This will enable new use cases like the Internet of Things, connected factories and self-driving cars.” Ericsson is involved with leading mobile operators across the world for 5G and Pre-5G research and trials. The patent application is likely to further strengthen its position in the 5G race.

    More details on E/// 5G patents on their official website here.

    Mobile world live has some good details on Qualcomm 5G NR royalty terms.

    Smartphone vendors will have to pay as much as $16.25 per device to use Qualcomm’s 5G New Radio (NR) technology under new royalty guidelines released by the company.

    Qualcomm said it will implement a royalty rate of 2.275 per cent of the selling price for single-mode 5G handsets and a higher rate of 3.25 per cent for multi-mode smartphones with 3G, 4G and 5G capabilities.

    So for a $200 multi-mode device, for instance, Qualcomm noted a vendor would have to pay $6.50 in royalties per device. Royalties are capped at a $500 device value, meaning the maximum amount a smartphone vendor would have to pay would be $16.25 per handset.

    The company added it will also offer access to its portfolio of both cellular standard essential patents and non-essential patents at a rate of 4 per cent of the selling price for single-mode devices and 5 per cent for multi-mode devices.

    Qualcomm’s rates are notably higher than those announced by Ericsson in March. The Swedish company said it would charge a flat royalty fee of $5 per 5G NR multimode handset, but noted its fee could go as low as $2.50 per device for handsets with low average selling prices.

    The official Qualcomm 5G royalty terms [PDF] are available here.

    Further reading:

    Thanks to Mike Saji for providing inputs on 4G patent landscape. Thanks to Keith Dyer for interesting tweets on this topic.

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    One of the items in 3GPP Rel-14 is Control and User Plane Separation of EPC nodes (CUPS). I have made a video explaining this concept that is embedded below.

    In 3G networks (just considering PS domain), the SGSN and GGSN handles the control plane that is responsible for signalling as well as the user plane which is responsible for the user data. This is not a very efficient approach for deployment.

    You can have networks that have a lot of signalling (remember signaling storm?) due to a lot of smartphone users but not necessarily consuming a lot of data (mainly due to price reasons). On the other hand you can have networks where there is not a lot of signalling but lot of data consumption. An example of this would be lots of data dongles or MiFi devices where users are also consuming a lot of data, because it’s cheap.

    To cater for these different scenarios, the control plane and user plane was separated to an extent in the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). MME handles the control plane signalling while S-GW & P-GW handles the user plane

    CUPS goes one step further by separating control & user plane from S-GW, P-GW & TDF. TDF is Traffic Detection Function which was introduced together with Sd reference point as means for traffic management in the Release 11. The Sd reference point is used for Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) purposes. TDF also provides the operators with the opportunity to capitalize on analytics for traffic optimization, charging and content manipulation and it works very closely with Policy and charging rules function, PCRF.

    As mentioned, CUPS provides the architecture enhancements for the separation of S-GW, P-GW & TDF functionality in the EPC. This enables flexible network deployment and operation, by using either distributed or centralized deployment. It also allows independent scaling between control plane and user plane functions - while not affecting the functionality of the existing nodes subject to this split.

    As the 3GPP article mentions, CUPS allows for:
    • Reducing Latency on application service, e.g. by selecting User plane nodes which are closer to the RAN or more appropriate for the intended UE usage type without increasing the number of control plane nodes.
    • Supporting Increase of Data Traffic, by enabling to add user plane nodes without changing the number of SGW-C, PGW-C and TDF-C in the network.
    • Locating and Scaling the CP and UP resources of the EPC nodes independently.
    • Independent evolution of the CP and UP functions.
    • Enabling Software Defined Networking to deliver user plane data more efficiently.

    The following high-level principles were also adopted for the CUPS:
    • The CP function terminates the Control Plane protocols: GTP-C, Diameter (Gx, Gy, Gz).
    • A CP function can interface multiple UP functions, and a UP function can be shared by multiple CP functions.
    • An UE is served by a single SGW-CP but multiple SGW-UPs can be selected for different PDN connections. A user plane data packet may traverse multiple UP functions.
    • The CP function controls the processing of the packets in the UP function by provisioning a set of rules in Sx sessions, i.e. Packet Detection Rules for packets inspection, Forwarding Action Rules for packets handling (e.g. forward, duplicate, buffer, drop), Qos Enforcement Rules to enforce QoS policing on the packets, Usage Reporting Rules for measuring the traffic usage.
    • All the 3GPP features impacting the UP function (PCC, Charging, Lawful Interception, etc) are supported, while the UP function is designed as much as possible 3GPP agnostic. For example, the UPF is not aware of bearer concept.
    • Charging and Usage Monitoring are supported by instructing the UP function to measure and report traffic usage, using Usage Reporting Rule(s). No impact is expected to OFCS, OCS and the PCRF.
    • The CP or UP function is responsible for GTP-u F-TEID allocation.
    • A legacy SGW, PGW and TDF can be replaced by a split node without effecting connected legacy nodes.
    CUPS forms the basis of EPC architecture evolution for Service-Based Architecture for 5G Core Networks. More in another post soon.

    A short video on CUPS below, slides available here.

    Further reading:

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    While going through the latest issue of CW Journal, I came across this article from Moray Rumney, Lead Technologist, Keysight. It highlights an interesting point that I missed out earlier that 5G also includes all LTE specifications from Release 15 onwards.

    I reached out to our CW resident 3GPP standards expert Sylvia Lu to clarify and received more details.
    There is a whole lot of detail available in Here RIT stands for Radio Interface Technology and SRIT for Set of RIT.

    In fact at Sylvia clarified, NB-IoT and Cat-M will also be part of the initial IMT-2020 submissions early next year. Thanks Sylvia.

    There is also this nice presentation by Huawei in ITU (here) that describes Requirements, Evaluation Criteria and Submission Templates for the development of IMT-2020. It is very helpful in understanding the process.

    Coming back to the question I have often asked (see here for example),
    1. What features are needed for operator to say they have deployed 5G, and
    2. How many sites / coverage area needed to claim 5G rollout

    With LTE Release-15 being part of 5G, I think it has just become easy for operators to claim they have 5G.

    What do you think?

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    Here are the top 10 3G4G blog posts (in descending order of popularity) for 2017:

    1. 5G Network Architecture and Design Update - Jan 2017
    2. 5G: Architecture, QoS, gNB, Specifications - April 2017 Update
    3. Self-backhauling: Integrated access and backhaul links for 5G
    4. 5G Core Network, System Architecture & Registration Procedure
    5. High Power / Performance User Equipment (#HPUE)
    6. IMT-2020 (5G) Requirements
    7. 5G – Beyond the Hype
    8. Variety of 3GPP IoT technologies and Market Status - May 2017
    9. 2G / 3G Switch Off: A Tale of Two Worlds
    10. 5G Research Presentation on URLLC
    As you can see, 7/10 were on 5G which is probably not a surprise 😉.

    In other news, this year I have done a lot more activities on 3G4G sites (thanks to support and encouragement from my current employer, Parallel Wireless). You can see links to all different 3G4G channels on top of the blog. I was also interviewed by TechPlayon and TechTrained (the similarity of name is just a coincidence). I was also named a key 5G influencer for 2017.

    Back in 2011, I wrote the 1000th post and asked for your feedback. Here again, I would like to ask for your feedback, either on this post or on any posts. There are check-boxes for you to give instant feedback or you can add your comments in any of the posts.

    I also mentioned in 2011 that the 3G4G blog will be touching 1.5 million page view mark, now in 2017 (10 years after the start of this blog), we have crossed over 9.5 million official page views (page views for first 3 years were not counted). Here is a snapshot of the stats for this and the small cells blog.

    This has all been possible because of contributions from many individuals who share their presentations, knowledge and support my activities in many different ways. Thank you!

    Finally, I can make mistakes too so please feel free to correct me anytime you spot me saying something wrong. I don't mind 😊

    Related posts:

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    I recently did a small presentation on 3GPP Security, looking at the how the security mechanism works in mobile cellular networks; focusing mainly on signaling associated with authentication, integrity protection and ciphering / confidentiality. Its targeted towards people with basic understanding of mobile networks. Slides with embedded video below.

    You can also check-out all such videos / presentations at the 3G4G training section.

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    Satellites has been an area of interest of mine for a while as some of you know that I used to work as Satellite Applications & Services Programme manager at techUK. I have written about how I see satellites complementing the mobile networks here and here.

    Its good to see that there is some activity in 3GPP going on about satellites & Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) in 5G. While there are some obvious roles that satellites can play (see pic above), the 5G work is looking to cover a lot more topics in details.

    3GPP TR 38.913: Study on scenarios and requirements for next generation access technologies looks at 12 different scenarios, the ones relevant to this topic ate Air to ground, Light aircraft and Satellite to terrestrial.
    3GPP TR 38.811: Study on New Radio (NR) to support non terrestrial networks (Release 15) covers this topic a bit more in detail. From looking at how satellites and other aerial networks work in general, it looks at the different NTN architecture options as can be seen above.
    People looking to study this area in detail should probably start looking at this TR first.

    3GPP also released a news item on this topic last week. It also refers to the above TR and a new one for Release 16. The following from 3GPP news:

    The roles and benefits of satellites in 5G have been studied in 3GPP Release 14, leading to the specific requirement to support satellite access being captured in TS 22.261 - “Service requirements for next generation new services and markets; Stage 1”, recognizing the added value that satellite coverage brings, as part of the mix of access technologies for 5G, especially for mission critical and industrial applications where ubiquitous coverage is crucial.

    Satellites refer to Spaceborne vehicles in Low Earth Orbits (LEO), Medium Earth Orbits (MEO), Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) or in Highly Elliptical Orbits (HEO).

    Beyond satellites, Non-terrestrial networks (NTN) refer to networks, or segments of networks, using an airborne or spaceborne vehicle for transmission. Airborne vehicles refer to High Altitude Platforms (HAPs) encompassing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - including tethered UAS, Lighter than Air UAS and Heavier than Air UAS - all operating at altitude; typically between 8 and 50 km, quasi-stationary.

    These Non-terrestrial networks feature in TSG RAN’s TR 38.811“Study on NR to support non-terrestrial networks”. They will:
    • Help foster the 5G service roll out in un-served or underserved areas to upgrade the performance of terrestrial networks
    • Reinforce service reliability by providing service continuity for user equipment or for moving platforms (e.g. passenger vehicles-aircraft, ships, high speed trains, buses)
    • Increase service availability everywhere; especially for critical communications, future railway/maritime/aeronautical communications
    • Enable 5G network scalability through the provision of efficient multicast/broadcast resources for data delivery towards the network edges or even directly to the user equipment

    The objective of TR 38.811 is to study channel models, to define the deployment scenarios as well as the related system parameters and to identify and assess potential key impact areas on the NR. In a second phase, solutions for the identified key impacts on RAN protocols/architecture will be evaluated and defined.

    A second study item, the “Study on using Satellite Access in 5G” is being addressed in Working Group SA1.  It shall lead to the delivery of the corresponding Technical Report TR 22.822 as part of Release 16.

    This study will identify use cases for the provision of services when considering the integration of 5G satellite-based access components in the 5G system. When addressing the integration of (a) satellite component(s), use cases will identify new potential requirements for 5G systems addressing:
    • The associated identification of existing / planned services and the corresponding modified or new requirements
    • The associated identification of new services and the corresponding requirements
    • The requirements on set-up / configuration / maintenance of the features of UE’s when using satellite components related features as well for other components from the 5G system
    • Regulatory requirements when moving to (or from) satellite from (or to) terrestrial networks

    You may also like my presentation / video on 'Connectivity on Planes'.

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    Its been a year since I last posted about Augmented / Virtual Reality Requirements for 5G. The topic of Virtual Reality has since made good progress for 5G. There are 2 technical reports that is looking at VR specifically. They are:

    The second one is work in progress though. 

    Anyway, back in Dec. 3GPP and Virtual Reality Industry Forum (VRIF) held a workshop on VR Ecosystem & Standards. All the materials, including agenda is available here. The final report is not there yet but I assume that there will be a press release when the report is published.

    While there are some interesting presentations, here is what I found interesting:

    From presentation by Gordon Castle, Head of Strategy Development, Ericsson

    From presentation by Martin Renschler, Senior Director Technology, Qualcomm

    For anyone wanting to learn more about 6 degrees of freedom (6- DoF), see this Wikipedia entry. According to the Nokia presentation, Facebook’s marketing people call this “6DOF;” the engineers at MPEG call it “3DOF+.”
    XR is 'cross reality', which is any hardware that combines aspects of AR, MR and VR; such as Google Tango.

    From presentation by Devon Copley, Former Head of Product, Nokia Ozo VR Platform
    Some good stuff in the pres.

    From presentation by Youngkwon Lim, Samsung Research America; the presentation provided a link to a recent YouTube video on this presentation. I really liked it so I am embedding that here:

    Finally, from presentation by Gilles Teniou, SA4 Vice chairman - Video SWG chairman, 3GPP

    You can check and download all the presentations here.

    Further Reading:

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  • 01/24/18--13:29: Inside AT&T Towers

  • A really good video from Mr. Mobile on YouTube on how the cell towers look from inside. Worth your 9:27 mins.

    If you found this interesting then you will also like:

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    Prof. Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architect, Architecture & Strategy, TSO, BT, provided an update on 5G Network Architecture & Design last year which was also the most popular post of 2017 on 3G4G blog. This year again, he has delivered an update on the same topic at IET '5G - State of Play' conference. He has kindly shared the slides (embedded below) that are available to download from Slideshare.

    The video of this talk as follows:

    There are many valuable insights in this talk and the other talks from this conference. All the videos from the IET conference are available here and they are worth your time.

    Related Links:

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    Over the last year or so, I have heard quite a few discussions and read many articles around why QUIC is so good and why we will replace TCP with QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connection). One such article talking about QUIC benefits says:

    QUIC was initially developed by Google as an alternative transport protocol to shorten the time it takes to set up a connection. Google wanted to take benefits of the work done with SPDY, another protocol developed by Google that became the basis for the HTTP/2 standard, into a transport protocol with faster connection setup time and built-in security. HTTP/2 over TCP multiplexes and pipelines requests over one connection but a single packet loss and retransmission packet causes Head-of-Line Blocking (HOLB) for the resources that were being downloaded in parallel. QUIC overcomes the shortcomings of multiplexed streams by removing HOLB. QUIC was created with HTTP/2 as the primary application protocol and optimizes HTTP/2 semantics.

    What makes QUIC interesting is that it is built on top of UDP rather than TCP. As such, the time to get a secure connection running is shorter using QUIC because packet loss in a particular stream does not affect the other streams on the connection. This results in successfully retrieving multiple objects in parallel, even when some packets are lost on a different stream. Since QUIC is implemented in the userspace compared to TCP, which is implemented in the kernel, QUIC allows developers the flexibility of improving congestion control over time, since it can be optimized and better replaced compared to kernel upgrades (for example, apps and browsers update more often than OS updates).

    Georg Mayer mentioned about QUIC in a recent discussion with Telecom TV. His interview is embedded below. Jump to 5:25 for QUIC part only

    Georg Mayer, 3GPP CT work on 5G from 3GPPlive on Vimeo.

    Below are some good references about QUIC in case you want to study further.

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    As a continuation of 'Control and User Plane Separation of EPC nodes (CUPS) in 3GPP Release-14', here is another tutorial on Service Base Architecture (SBA) for the 5G Core.

    The slides (with video) is embedded below but there are quite a few tutorials on 5G available on 3G4G page here.

    Further Reading:

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    What is the next step in evolution of SON? Artificial Intelligence obviously. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques in the network supervisory system could help solve some of the problems of future network deployment and operation. ETSI has therefore set up a new 'Industry Specification Group' on 'Experiential Networked Intelligence' (ISG ENI) to develop standards for a Network Supervisory assistant system.

    The ISG ENI focuses on improving the operator experience, adding closed-loop artificial intelligence mechanisms based on context-aware, metadata-driven policies to more quickly recognize and incorporate new and changed knowledge, and hence, make actionable decisions. ENI will specify a set of use cases, and the generic technology independent architecture, for a network supervisory assistant system based on the ‘observe-orient-decide-act’ control loop model. This model can assist decision-making systems, such as network control and management systems, to adjust services and resources offered based on changes in user needs, environmental conditions and business goals.

    The introduction of technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and network slicing means that networks are becoming more flexible and powerful. These technologies transfer much of the complexity in a network from hardware to software, from the network itself to its management and operation. ENI will make the deployment of SDN and NFV more intelligent and efficient and will assist the management and orchestration of the network.

    We expect to complete the first phase of ENI work in 2019. It will include a description of use cases and requirements and terminology, including a definition of features, capabilities and policies, which we will publish in a series of informative best practice documents (Group Reports (GRs)).
    This will of course require co-operation from many different industry bodies including GSMA, ITU-T, MEF, IETF, etc.

    Will see how this goes.

    Further reading:

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    This year at MWC, I took the time out to go and see as many companies as I can. My main focus was looking at connectivity solutions, infrastructure, devices, gadgets and anything else cool. I have to say that I wasn't too impressed. I found some of the things later on Twitter or YouTube but as it happens, one cannot see everything.

    I will be writing a blog on Small Cells, Infrastructure, etc. later on but here are some cool videos that I have found. As its a playlist, if I find any more, it will be added to the same playlist below.

    The big vendors did not open up their stands for everyone (even I couldn't get in 😉) but the good news is that most of their demos is available online. Below are the name of the companies that had official MWC 2018 websites. Will add more when I find them.


    Network Equipment Vendors

    Handset Manufacturers

    Chipset Manufacturers

    Did I miss anyone? Feel free to suggest links in comments.

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    During the mobile world congress, I was pleasantly surprised to see how LoRa ecosystem keeps getting larger. There was also an upbeat mood within the LoRa vendor community as it keeps winning one battle after another. Here is my short take on the technology with an unbiased lens.

    To start with, lets look at this short report by Tom Rebbeck from Analysys Mason. The PDF can be downloaded after registering from here.

    As can be seen, all major IoT technologies (LoRa, NB-IoT, Sigfox & LTE-M) gained ground in 2017. Most of the LoRa and all of Sigfox networks are actually not deployed by the mobile operators. From the article:

    These points lead to a final observation about network deployments – many operators are launching multiple technologies. Of the 26 operators with publicly-announced interest in LTE-M networks, 20 also have plans for other networks;
    • 14 will combine it with NB-IoT
    • four will offer LTE-M and LoRa and
    • two, Softbank and Swisscom, are working with LoRa, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

    We are not aware of operators also owning Sigfox networks, though some, such as Telefónica, are selling connectivity provided by a Sigfox network operator.

    The incremental cost of upgrading from NB-IoT or LTE-M to both technologies is relatively small. Most estimates put the additional cost at less than an additional 20% – and sometimes considerably less. For many operators, the question will be which technology to prioritise, and when to launch, rather than which to choose.

    The reasons for launching multiple networks appear to be tactical as much as strategic. Some operators firmly believe that the different technologies will match different use cases – for example, LoRa may be better suited to stationary, low bandwidth devices like smart meters, while LTE-M, could meet the needs of devices that need mobility, higher bandwidth and support for voice, for example a personal health monitor with an emergency call button.

    But, a fundamental motive for offering multiple networks is to hedge investments. While they may not admit it publicly, operators do not know which technology will gain the most traction. They do not want to lose significant, lucrative contracts because they have backed the wrong technology. Deploying both LTE-M and NB-IoT – or LoRa – adds little cost and yet provides a hedge against this risk. For operators launching LoRa, there has been the added benefit of being early to market and gaining experience of what developers want and need from LPWA networks. This experience should help them when other technologies are deployed at scale.

    The following is from MWC 2018 summary by ABI Research:

    LPWA network technologies continue to gather momentum with adoption from a growing ecosystem of communications service providers (CSPs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and IoT solution providers. LPWA networks are central to the connectivity offerings from telcos with support for NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRaWAN, and SIGFOX. Telefonica highlighted SIGFOX as an important network technology along with NB-IoT and Cat M in its IoT connectivity platform. Similarly, Orange and SK Telecom emphasized on their continued support for LoRaWAN along with Cat M in France and South Korea. On the other hand, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, while aggressively pursuing deployment of NB-IoT networks, currently have mostly large scale POCs on their networks. 

    Smart meters — Utilities are demanding that meter OEMs and technology solution providers deliver product design life of at least 15 years for battery operated smart water and gas meters. LPWA technologies, such as NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, SIGFOX and wireless M-bus, that are optimized for very low-power consumption and available at low cost are clearly emerging as the most favored LPWA solutions.

    The following picture is from Ovum post MWC-2018 Webinar:

    Here is a short video from MWC by yours truly looking at LoRa Gateways

    There are also few announcements / news from LoRa world just to highlight how the ecosystem is thriving:

    Source: SenRa

    So someone recently asked me is LoRa is the new WiMax? The answer is obviously a big NO. Just look at the LoRa alliance members in the picture above. Its a whole ecosystem with different players having different interests, working on a different part of the ecosystem.

    NB-IoT & LTE-M will gain ground in the coming years but there will always be a place for other LPWA technologies like LoRa.

    Finally, here is a slide deck (embedded below) that I really like. The picture above very nicely illustrates that LoRaWAN and Cellular complement each other well. Maybe that is the reason that Orange is a big supporter of LoRa.

    So for operators who are just starting their IoT journey or smaller operators who are unsure of the IoT potential, may want to start their journey with LoRa to play around and understand the business cases, etc. In the meantime LTE-M and NB-IoT ecosystem will mature with prices coming down further and battery time improving. That may be the right time to decide on the way forward.

    Further Reading: