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Category Archives: LTE

OPINION: Private LTE; too Much Promise?

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Executive Editor and IEEE Senior Member

Private LTE has received a fair amount of interest of late, particularly in the citizens broadband radio service (CBRS) frequencies. Moreover, there is talk that private LTE being looked at as a replacement for public Wi-Fi, again, particularly in the CBRS spectrum. It is interesting what is being discussed around this.

In one of my feeds, there was a discussion about a company called Cradlepoint, a company that is championing the CBRS band as an opportunity to provide private LTE to enterprises. An excerpt from the company missive states its wireless routers can be used in conjunction with the CBRS spectrum to provide enterprises with a way to escape from Wi-Fi.

That is a slightly slanted perspective, IMHO. Wi-Fi has done a fairly decent job, in many cases. However, it was never intended as the be-all and end-all of public or private networks. However, upcoming Wi-Fi 6 is a “whole ‘nother animal” and is going to change the Wi-Fi landscape, as we know it.

There is no doubt that private LTE networks are a platform that has potential. There is also no doubt that there are applications, with a large number of devices that require ample bandwidth, where Wi-Fi struggles. However, it is unlikely that CBRS will replace public or private Wi-Fi, as some are suggesting.

Why? For a number of reasons. Building a core-based network is not practical for such contained applications (say, a warehouse with tons of production monitoring cameras), because the delay in and out of the core is too lengthy (there is also the economic issue). A multi-access edge computing network (MEC) is also too expensive, as is licensed LTE. Both are overkill for such applications.

Moreover, except for private LTE in the shared spectrum, other private LTE services are too expensive, as well. Finally, while some iterations of pre-Wi-Fi 6 have decent specifications, most are simply too bandwidth, and speed constrained, or too little flexibility and device counts, even with its updates.

However, with the emergence of Wi-Fi 6, this may all become a bit cloudier. How Wi-Fi 6 will challenge this will be discussed in an upcoming dialog.

LTE does have advantages over current Wi-Fi iterations. For one, there is better security and reliability and the choice among licensed, shared, and unlicensed spectrum. In addition, it is ubiquitous and well established. Therefore, private LTE has the potential to emerge as an economical, and technically capable, platform for applications such as warehouses or manufacturing facilities, as a primary vertical.

However, the CBRS band is filled with incumbents. CBRS-based private LTE has the potential for large, multi-device installations, but there a possibility that certain incumbent applications, both on land and on the sea, can become compromised by new CBRS players if the spectrum is not precisely managed.

With private LTE in shared spectrum, management is much more complex. It relies on a process called the spectrum allocation system (SAS). SAS is a complex, three-tier, spectrum authorization framework, designed to accommodate a variety of commercial uses, on a shared basis, with incumbent federal and non-federal users of the band.

Access and operations will be managed by a dynamic SAS, conceptually similar to the databases used to manage television white space (TVWS) devices. Essentially, it is a priority system that allows unused spectrum to be used by multiple players when available. Depending upon which type of license, users can have access to bands from 5 megahertz to, hopefully, 150 megahertz.

However, if TVWS history is any indication of how this kind of spectrum sharing is going to fare, we are in a bit of trouble. TVWS has not been successful. Why that is, is up for some debate, but essentially, it was positioned as an alternative to Wi-Fi and a panacea for rural connectivity – some similar use cases for private LTE.

Moreover, the FCC’s TVWS space policy, to date, has been a flop. There has just been no market adoption for several reasons. One example is that the maximum data rates for TVWS devices range from 3.25-16 Mbps, which is below the FCC’s new threshold for what constitutes broadband. Other challenges include a 4-watt power limit and the risk of interference from short-range devices.

It is unlikely that the CBRS shared private LTE project will have identical issues. The FCC is much wiser about CBRS, but still, it has some bandwidth constraints. Furthermore, it has a similar, complex spectrum management policy that has not been a success in TVWS.

All that aside, there is a lot of optimism for private LTE. Not just in the CBRS band, but overall in 5G. However, the money seems to be in CBRS, for the moment, for a couple of emerging applications.

That being said, however, there is one serious specter that looms over the CBRS band – bandwidth. There is only a 100- to 150-megahertz swath being made available. While that is much better than many bandwidth slices from, 450 MHz to, 2 GHz, even 5 GHz, it is not the “unlimited” chunks that are being anticipated at the higher mmWave frequencies. The FCC has indicated there may be some additional spectrum that can be made available here, but that is only speculation for the time being.

Bandwidths, of 500 megahertz to 2 gigahertz for 5G mmWave, are what the industry has been touting for that elusive 1 < and > 1 µs/Gbps goal. Therefore, one must not lose sight of that and promise beyond what the realities of CBRS are.

Another potential obstacle to CBRS is Wi-Fi 6. In addition, how well SAS will actually function among all the players has not been proven. From a pragmatic perspective, I am a bit concerned that the early excitement of CBRS-based private LTE may be premature.

However, if it turns out that all the challenges can be overcome, private LTE does have the potential to enable a number of different verticals, across a number of wireless segments. Let us hope it lives up to its potential.

WISP Picks Telrad Networks for LTE Network Upgrade in Iowa

Evertek, a WISP that serves rural Iowa, has selected the Telrad LTE solution to upgrade their wireless network. The LTE upgrade will providing existing subscribers with higher throughput packages, as well as improve coverage to reach more customers in rural areas.

Evertek is using the Telrad high-power BreezeCOMPACT 3000 base station in the 2.5 GHz BRS spectrum. Newly deployed sites are using the LTE solution while existing infrastructure is being upgraded. A majority of Evertek subscribers are residential, the company also serves many businesses and supports public safety, with connectivity to police cars, and precision farming, with equipment-monitoring and automation.

Dedicated Private LTE Network ‘Drives’ Autonomous Trucks

Komatsu America, a heavy equipment manufacturer, has qualified to operate an autonomous haulage system (AHS) using private LTE mobile broadband technology, a first for the mining industry.

Komatsu’s FrontRunner AHS allows unmanned operation of ultra-class mining trucks, which are designed improve mine-site safety, reduce costs, and increase productivity.

The company completed a year-long qualification program on Nokia’s Future X infrastructure. The industry is moving away from less predictable wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, and toward private LTE networks, that improve security, capacity, and overall performance within a multi-application environment, according to a Komatsu official.

In November of last year, Nokia unveiled “Future X for industries,” which is a strategy and architecture to increase productivity across industrial sectors. The strategy, which will span both advanced LTE and 5G will exploit multiple technologies including industrial internet of things (IIoT), distributed (edge) cloud, augmented intelligence, augmented and virtual reality.

Kathrin Buvac, president of Nokia Enterprise, said, “Private LTE is a key element in the Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture to help industries such as mining create an intelligent, dynamic, high-performance network that increases the safety, productivity and efficiency of their business.”

Globally, LTE Momentum Will Continue

By 5G Americas

While the attention shifts to 5G in the United States, Asia and Europe, elsewhere in the world, LTE is forecast to continue its momentum, reaching 6 billion connections in 2022 at which time LTE market share will stand at 61 percent.

Latin America and the Caribbean continues steady growth of LTE connections and is forecast to reach more than half a billion LTE subscriptions by 2022.  Meanwhile, North America’s strong leadership in LTE will be replaced with early 5G connections building in 2019 and is forecast to reach 186 million 5G connections by 2023 for a 32 percent share of market.

“Growth of LTE is unabated, as LTE added 239 million connections worldwide in the third quarter of 2018,” stated Kristin Paulin, Senior Analyst, Ovum. “Ovum forecasts that LTE will continue to grow well into 2022 and we will see a decline in subscriptions beginning around 2023 due to 5G growth. Regardless, GSM, HSPA and LTE will still be deployed worldwide in 2023.”

5G Americas, the industry trade association and voice of 5G and LTE for the Americas, today announced that global mobile connections will total 10 billion by 2023, according to forecasts provided by Ovum. Also, by the end of 2023, global 5G connections are expected to reach 1.3 billion.

New LTE deployments and upgrades continue and as of mid-December TeleGeography (GlobalComm) reported 624 LTE commercial networks worldwide, while 282 of those operators have evolved to LTE-Advanced.

3Q 2018 – North America

North America will take an early lead in 5G deployments with all four national service providers anticipating commercial launches in 2018 or 2019. Ovum forecasts 336 thousand 5G connections in North America by the end of 2019 representing 47 percent of total global 5G connections.

“5G is in the initial stages of commercial deployment in the U.S. with big plans by all four national service providers,” remarked Chris Pearson, President of 5G Americas. “5G technology deployments represent a transformational time for innovation as our industry enables new applications and services.”

North America’s 5G networks will be built upon the strong LTE foundation in the region. LTE achieved a penetration rate of 107 percent with 390 million LTE connections as of third quarter 2018, compared to the population of 365 million in North America. This penetration rate compares to the next two highest regions, Oceania, Eastern and Southeastern Asia at 87 percent and Western Europe at 71 percent.

In addition to having a significantly higher penetration rate, the U.S. and Canada also have the highest market share for LTE in comparison to all mobile wireless technologies with 78 percent versus Oceania, Eastern and Southeastern Asia at 65 percent and 50 percent in Western Europe. Market share represents the percentage of mobile wireless connections that are LTE technology versus all other mobile technologies.

  • 390 million LTE connections for net gain of 51 million new LTE customers year-over-year
  • LTE is forecast to peak at about 473 million connections at the end of 2020 (including M2M)
  • 32 million 5G connections forecast in 2021 – 6 percent of all North American connections — growing to 186 million 5G connections in 2023 and 32 percent of all North America connections

3Q 2018 – Latin America and the Caribbean

LTE continues to exhibit high growth rates in Latin America and will be a key component of 5G deployment and uptake in the region in the coming years. Total LTE subscriptions in the region reached over a quarter billion by the end of third quarter 2018.

“The first 5G trial in the region took place in 2016 and we are expecting the first 5G commercial network to start offering services during 2019. However, it will take at least 4 to 5 years before this new technology has a comprehensive footprint in the region, making LTE the most relevant mobile broadband technology during the short term,” noted Jose Otero, Director of Latin America and the Caribbean, 5G Americas.

LTE continued its healthy growth with market share increasing from 26 percent to 37 percent year-over-year at the end of September 2018.

  • 698 million total mobile wireless subscriptions including 257 million LTE connections
  • 78 million new LTE connections added year-over-year from 3Q 2017
  • 17.5 million new LTE connections in 3Q alone

By the end of 2022, LTE is forecast to reach 510 million connections (forecast includes M2M) and a 67 percent share of market with total number of connections reaching 767 million

3Q 2018 – Global

Forecasts for LTE continue to show very positive growth with milestones of nearly 4 billion at end of 2018; more than 5 billion by 2020; and about 6 billion in 2022 at which time LTE growth will decline due to the mass market growth of 5G.  In 2023, LTE connections will decline to 5.7 billion when nearly 1 billion GSM connections and 2 billion HSPA connections will remain.

5G will trend upwards beginning in 2019 with less than 1 million global connections; by 2020, this will grow to 37 million and then more than quadruple to 156 million in 2021; by 2022, 5G connections will exceed 500 million and the 2023 forecast puts 5G global connections at 1.3 billion.

  • 972 million new LTE subscriptions year-over-year from 3Q 2017; 35 percent growth
  • 3.7 billion LTE connections out of a total 8.45 billion cellular connections worldwide; worldwide market share for LTE is 44 percent
  • LTE connections forecast to reach 6 billion by year-end 2022 (forecast includes M2M)
  • LTE global market share forecast to reach 61percent by year end 2022
  • 5G is forecast to reach 1.3 billion connections by the end of 2023

For more information and to view a variety of statistical charts on the 3GPP family of technologies, visit www.5gamericas.org. Subscriber and forecast data are provided by Ovum.

MulteFire Alliance Completes Its IoT Optimized Specification

The MulteFire Alliance, an independent, diverse and international member-driven consortium that is defining and promoting MulteFire technology – LTE technology operating in unlicensed bands – today announced the completion of its Release 1.1 specification that is optimized for IoT. Adding support for eMTC-U and NB-IoT-U, as well as support for additional spectrum bands, the Release 1.1 specification delivers more robust wireless network capabilities for Industrial IoT and Enterprises to meet their specific requirements for performance, latency, security and mobility.

“MulteFire 1.0 is a novel technology that was designed to create new wireless networks by operating LTE-based technology standalone in unlicensed or shared spectrum bands”
“The Release 1.1 Technical Specification is a significant achievement offering an optimized specification for IoT and support for additional spectrum bands,” said Mazen Chmaytelli, president, MulteFire Alliance. “This milestone could not have been reached without the dedication and commitment of the Technical Specification Group members who have worked tirelessly to evolve MulteFire technology to meet the needs of industrial IoT and enterprise.”

“MulteFire 1.0 is a novel technology that was designed to create new wireless networks by operating LTE-based technology standalone in unlicensed or shared spectrum bands,” said Asimakis Kokkos, chair, Technical Specification Group, MulteFire Alliance and head of Industry Environment Strategy, Nokia. “MulteFire 1.1 takes the potential of this technology even further by improving on the performance of MulteFire 1.0 for the global 5 GHz unlicensed band, and by adding new capabilities and support for additional spectrum bands.”

Specification Highlights

The MulteFire Release 1.1 specification includes the following features:

  • Added Additional Spectrum Bands Focusing on IoT and Expanded IoT Services with Low Power Wide Area Support
  • Adds eMTC-U support for moderate data rate applications in the global 2.4 GHz unlicensed band
  • Adds NB-IoT-U support for narrowband applications in the regional 800/900 MHz unlicensed bands
  • Adds MulteFire 1.9 GHz support (for the unlicensed part in 3GPP defined Band 39), also known as sXGP in Japan, which is ready for commercial deployment in Japan with support from the XGP Forum and an ecosystem of TD-LTE devices in place that support Band 39 today
  • Enhanced MulteFire 1.0 Broadband Services in the Global 5 GHz Unlicensed Band
  • Delivers more robust mobility in up to 50 km/h speeds with the addition of Autonomous UE Mobility (AUM) which performs autonomous handover without explicit network command
  • Allows for faster uplink data transmissions with Grant-less Uplink (GUL), whereby the UE can start transmitting immediately
  • Supports improved downlink coverage with Wideband Coverage Enhancements (WCE)
  • Adds Self-Organizing Networks (SON) capabilities

A new white paper, Release 1.1 Technical Overview, provides more details and is available to download at www.MulteFire.org/white-papers.

The Release 1.1 specification will be published to MulteFire Alliance members in January 2019 and will be made available for download by anyone with an interest in MulteFire technology by mid-year. For information on joining the MulteFire Alliance, visit www.MulteFire.org/join.