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Chairman Pai Quotes Talladega Nights to Describe 5G Reg Strategy; Panels Highlight Dense Networks, Autonomous Vehicles and other Connect (x) Sightings

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Exec. Editor, IEEE Sr. Member

While I, generally leave discussions on keynotes to my contemporaries, the data presented by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai this morning talked to a bit of the technical aspect of the industry as well as the regulatory. Therefore, I thought it might warrant a bit of discussion.

Pai discussed two topics of particular interest; regulation and spectrum. Of course, those are topics constant, general discussion but his presentation was a bit more on the cutting edge. For example, Pai reiterated what seems to be a concern of late, which is that it is important our industry be at the forefront of the 5G movement. That seemed to be what much of the trade press glommed onto, the extreme “if you ain’t first, you’re last” to quote Pai, (taken from the Will Farrell movie, Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby).

While he stopped short of rabidly championing that we need to be first, he did allude to the fact that the FCC plays a big part in enabling the United States to be at the front of the pack, which, of course, is where we need to be.

A short time ago I penned a missive that I thought the race to worldwide 5G was not as much of a race as it was a march – a cooperative, as opposed to a competitive, movement, IMHO. What I heard was that the FCC recognizes that 5G is a worldwide movement. But he also expressed confidence in the United States, as a highly innovative and competitive player, will have no problem running with the leaders.

In that vein, he noted that being aggressive, in FCC policy decisions, would be one of his priorities to keep us competitive. For that, action not lip service, is the message the FCC is trying to disseminate.

This is good news, since the FCC, in the past has not been known for moving quickly. According to Pai, the FCC’s primary role in the development of next-generation networks is one of enabling vendors to maximize (and capitalize) on their role in the development of these networks to make it easier for vendors to deploy this next-generation infrastructure. And, to make available spectrum to so these networks can be deployed easily and quickly – three key concepts. To that end, Pai was bullish on modernizing and updating the FCC’s rather antiquated infrastructure regulatory environment – from the age of 200-foot towers to an environment that understands and favors the densification that will be a 5G world.

There was more, but to this editor, the modernization of FCC policies and procedures, to support the next generation of wireless networks is paramount, above all else. Kudos to Chairman Pai for his understanding and willingness to support and take on this brave, new world.

Dense Networks – Coming to a Location Near you, but When?

The terms used to define dense networks vary. Some call them ultra-dense networks, others call them hyper-dense networks, even hybrid-dense networks. But regardless of what they are called, they promise to offer ubiquitous wireless coverage, wherever you are.

While there is a lot of chatter about dense networks and they are well covered at Connect (x), the bottom line is that they are still in the petri dish stage. There are some test beds and areas such as sports stadiums that come under the dense coverage umbrella, but they have yet to scale to areas much larger than such venues, with next-generation technology. In fact, according to Greg Najjar, director, business development, Advanced RF Technologies, during the 5G Ultra Dense Networks pane session, “There are innovations, and apps, yet to be developed that are not even on the radar screen yet.” These will be what puts the pedal to the metal in the development and deployment of dense networks.

While the technologies for densification are rapidly reaching the viability stage, technologies are not the real challenge, according to the panel discussion. The real challenge is esthetics. That makes so much sense. While we rush to make it possible, technologically, putting that technology into hardware and deploying it poses a significant challenge. This because hardware is ugly and we just don’t want to see it. And, the hardware cannot be just dropped anywhere. There are many issues with who owns what and if they are willing to be part of this solution.

But that is not all. Even if we overcome the visibility factor, and have the technology, applying it transparently and reliably is also challenging. By that, I mean finding ways to scale network density.

The panel discussed that while it is pretty easy to cover an area, even a large one, with dense coverage. The dynamics of the space are often fluid. For example, take a sports venue. Typically, such a venue sees high traffic only periodically and then it is swamped. And that traffic may be dynamic within the venue as well. It may not be a particularly critical problem with a stadium, but scale that to the enterprise, city centers, or other large development s and it becomes problematic.

The panel addressed that by talking about new technologies such as AI, virtualization and self-optimizing networks. That is likely to resolve many of the issues, but realize that these technologies are in various stages of evolution and not necessarily ready for prime time, today.

And, of course, there is the RoI, which has yet to be proven. The pressure is always on cost containment, but in many cases, the cheapest solution may work under some conditions, and not under others in the same environment.

And finally, there is the issue of integrating all of the technologies currently in existence with new ones on the horizon. The last thing that the industry wants to do, with densification, is reinvent the wheel.

But it ended on an optimistic note. Once all the issues are resolved and densification begins, in earnest, the benefit will be tremendous.  You will be able to find a parking space without driving around. You can find out how long your favorited restaurant wait is, even reserving a special table. People management will become possible, such as directing individuals to less crowded exit and entry points at various venues and showing crowd dynamics. And, not to mention autonomous vehicles and smart “x.”

Densification promises a lot. But it will take some time to deploy it, ubiquitously. And don’t forget, it will stratify across not only places but people and things as well. The vision is to up the level of the transparent user experience, across everything.

Autonomous Vehicles are Here – Not!

If one really wants to know where technology sits, ask an engineer. Kudos for Connect X having an autonomous vehicle panel. After all, autonomous vehicles will be a critical component of the future wireless ecosystem.

The panel led off with Kevin Lacy, state traffic engineer, North Carolina Department of Transportation. While this may intimate is has do with the state of North Carolina, the fact is that what is an issue here is an issue everywhere and the solution for one place is the solution for every other place (modified for environmental conditions, of course, but the core solution is the same).

Lacy did an excellent job of pointing out the current state of autonomous vehicles, what exists now, and what it will take to develop an autonomous vehicle infrastructure.

A couple of the platforms that get a lot of attention in this space is sensors and navigation technology. Both of which are in various states of advancements. According to Lacy, the following elements are what will make fully autonomous vehicles possible:

  • High-resolution mapping
  • Machine vision: LIDAR, cameras, sensors, etc.
  • GPS and other signals
  • Road fingerprinting
  • Crowd sourcing
  • Connected AV Infrastructure

I write a lot about this topic, and much of the above is in various stages of existence and development. However, the last item, the connect AV infrastructure, specifically vehicle to infrastructure (V2X) and its next iteration, vehicle to everything (V2X) is what will put the vehicles in full autonomy. However, much of it is still on the drawing board. The following figure shows where we are presently (courtesy Kevin Lacy).

 

 

 

 


Still, there is talk that some vehicles are at level 5 (or at least very close), if one listens to those with an agenda. But Lacy’s chart shows that a bit differently. It shows we are now developing level 3 and some level 4. Fully autonomous vehicles, level 5, will not be here until after 2025 or later.

In this editor’s opinion, this is a much more credible scenario. I have said it before and I will say it again –without some sort of two-way smart road infrastructure, I believe fully driver driverless vehicles without driver-accessible control are, likely even further out than 2025.

OK, let us assume, by whatever plausibility theory one wants to assume, that we do develop the necessary V2X, and back, infrastructure. Technology has reached level 5. Now the ecosystem has to deal with the intangibles. Things like cost. Who will pay for both the technology and the ongoing costs of all of the components involved? Not only the vehicle with its complex technology, but building intelligence into the roads and the other objects. Then there is the central and edge management platforms.
And there is more, like the number of lines of code it will take to handle all of this (processing complexity) and the latency from the various elements. According to Lacy, autonomous vehicles may have 300, 400 million, maybe more, lines of code. At present this is a very complex and expensive platform and even as costs scale downward, putting all of this together will be a monumental undertaking.

Next, come legal and liability issues. We all know how long things can take in the judicial and regulatory systems. It will be years before the present lawsuits, and suits yet to be filed, are resolved. There is little in the wheelhouse about liability and responsibility so far.

On the regulatory side, the ecosystem is barely seeing the tip of the iceberg. Autonomous vehicles span all types of governmental agencies, from federal to local. And they vary from municipality to municipality. Need I say more?

Lastly, but not finally, just for this discussion, there is the human factor. We are not all going to wake up the day after full autonomy is reached and give up our vehicles. While there will be an evolutionary process here, some individuals, (like me) enjoy driving. There is something exhilarating about going from zero to sixty in three second. At this point, the last thing I want to do is turn my vehicle into an office, or spend all of my travel time ride sharing (I dig rock and roll music). Other issues include ownership models, transport, vehicle powering options, and the rate of adoption.

To be fair, things are moving at all levels of technology and regulation so all of these will, eventually, be resolved. But the challenges are many and complex. We have some ideas but are far from having our arms around all of the issues within this platform.

This session painted a very realistic picture of the state of, and the issues that face the evolving autonomous vehicle platform. It was good to see cooler heads stepping up.


Ernest Worthman
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: [email protected]

Cheytec, Squan Team to Help Building Owners, Enterprises with IBW

By Don Bishop, Exec. Editor, Assoc. Publisher, AGL Magazine

At the Connectivity Expo, Connect (x) conducted by the Wireless Industry Association, executives of Cheytec and Squan spoke of the added value that their partnership provides building owners and enterprises seeking to invest in in-building wireless communications systems.

Cheytec has an extensive real estate portfolio and an ability to procure and license wireless carrier-certified RF signal source and base station equipment required to power in-building systems. Squan makes use of its network engineering and fiber construction know-how to solve complex and evolving telecommunications problems found in macro networks, small cells, distributed antenna systems, 5G wireless technology, the Internet of Things and smart cities for wireless, wireline and enterprise customers.

Ed Myers, regional vice president of sales and marketing at Cheytec, spoke about the future the company sees for in-building wireless systems. He said the company has seen a call for its services in all types of venues, from a single 30,000-square-foot office floor in Manhattan to large hotels with mixed-use retail space to new construction hospitals and apartment complexes to entertainment and theater venues.

“We remain focused on serving the enterprise customer,” Myers said. “We do this through multiple channels, but remain true to our value proposition of leveraging our unique OEM equipment distribution capabilities with Nokia and Ericsson and tight carrier programs to provide approved signal sources and wireless operator licensing to all of the projects we work on.”

Some say that building owners are receptive to paying for in-building wireless systems to attract and retain tenants, and some say the opposite: that the owners are not receptive because they view ownership turnover and tenant turnover as too short to warrant the expense. Myers explained Cheytec’s view.

“Building owners are coming around to the reality that they don’t have much of a choice when it comes to funding an in-building wireless system for increased coverage and capacity,” Myers said. “Not only is ubiquitous, high-quality wireless coverage a customer and tenant expectation — or in the case of public safety a legal requirement — but given the scope, scale and capital requirements of providing in-building coverage, wireless operators cannot do it alone. In the case of Cheytec, we work with the building owner to understand that there is both an acceptable return on investment analysis and an increase in overall building revenue and valuation associated with an in-building system deployment. We then engage our channels to design, build, and commission an indoor solution. Our programs for signal source and wireless operator participation allow owner-funded projects to retain more control over the timelines of the build and ensure carrier signal and service within a property.

The Cheytec program that Squan is joining is called Accelerate. In the program, Cheytec licenses small cell radio and signal source equipment to end-users for use in distributed antenna systems and other in-building cellular solutions. Myers said that during the past year, Cheytec has carefully selected the partners that are now part of its channel.

“We have several distributed antenna system vendors, national and regional systems integrators, and even a few smaller boutique shops that specialize in one or two verticals,” Myers said. “We will add a few more companies to the program this year. Bringing on a new partner is a bilateral commitment. The Accelerateprogram is bringing something to market that previously has not been available — owner-funded baseband units and carrier signal — in one package. There is extensive technical training, sales, operations and logistics, marketing and even legal support that goes along with program participation. As such, we are fairly selective about expanding the program too fast.

Keith Pennachio, executive vice president of Squan, said that the end users of in-building systems are the tenants, visitors, owners and maintenance workers, and the network operators provide the infrastructure. He said Crown Castle, American Tower and some emerging players are a surrogate for the network operator as it specifically relates to the fiber, conduit and ancillary support infrastructure
“Traditionally, network operators like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon would fund the infrastructure design and construction,” Pennachio said. “Historically, the model would vary between neutral host (where others could join the infrastructure as a tenant) or dedicated network (where the design was exclusive to one network operator). The former would often seek capital contribution from the other carriers to offset costs of the design and construction, where the latter was often a strategic play to support a specific client under specific conditions.  An example of specific conditions may be a scenario where a network operator sells 500 devices to company and commits to improving services in the form of a distributed antenna system.”

Pennachio said that in 2018, fewer carrier operators are willing to wholly support the design and construction of distributed antenna systems unless the economics make sense. He said this typically means that large venues like stadiums, airports, shopping malls and other large-scale, publicly accessible environments receive the attention in the form of budgetary dollars from the carriers. The network operators in these cases may look to companies such as Crown Castle or American Tower to build, own and operate the systems, although that may not always be ideal.

“With those design and construction dollars directed to these larger venues, it leaves a huge area of unsupported facilities, including office buildings; condominium, apartment and high-rise buildings; mixed use developments; and other environments whose occupants are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to wireless telecommunications as an amenity,” Pennachio said. “In turn, this has given rise to a mix of parties who are tired of waiting for the carriers to fund these types of projects.”

The Squan executive explained the nature of end-to-end wireless coverage solutions for enterprise clients. He said end-to-end wireless coverage starts from the fiber demarcation point in an enterprise facility, which feeds the signal source and head-end, which feeds strategically placed wireless componentry. This blankets a facility with wireless network coverage that is limited only to the quality of the design and the execution of the installation. Pennachio said that, at the end of the day, wireless coverage is wireless coverage. He said it is really more a matter of funding, design, installation and long-term operation of a system, which has become more of a fourth utility, along with water, electricity and natural gas as the other three.

“The user is defined as anyone who visits, lives, works, owns and maintains a building or facility,” Pennachio said. “If you consider that wireless coverage is an amenity akin to climate control, let’s say HVAC, the perception is more clearly aligned with a hierarchy of needs that is hyper-sensitive to the user experience.  The moment some individual walks onto the premises of a facility, there is a minimum basic expectation that they will be able to use their mobile device with unimpeded access to their network provider.”

Pennachio gave what he said is an example of a defining scenario: “A new class A building is soliciting tenants in a vibrant part of town,” he said. “The lead partner in one of the biggest law firms in town views the top floor with her Realtor and realizes immediately that there is no reliable mobile coverage in the building. The owner of the building is now in jeopardy of losing that high-profile tenant to the nearly identical new building across the street, which will be completed in 30 days, and which has installed their own DAS that hosts all major carriers.”

Along with its other services, Cheytec also provides real estate and lease management services for wireless operators. Squan focuses on the evolution of communications networks for wireless and wireline communications and the componentry involved. Its services include backhaul, small cells, C-RAN, fiber, right of way, and the design, construction and technical installation services that support them.

Connect (x) 2018 – Technology at the Edge

By Ernest Worthman, AWT Exec. Editor, IEEE Sr. Member

This year’s Connectivity Expo, Connect (x), broadened the traditional infrastructure with a wider reach. One of those areas was a number of discussions around Edge networks. Below are some of what was presented in these cutting-edge sessions.

LTE on The Edge
One of the more interesting issues with upcoming 5G is the role 4G, specifically LTE, will play in it. Of late, there has been an uptick in the noise of this and there were some very interesting discussions about it here at Connect (x).

Many say that 4G will be the initial enabler of 5G, with its expanded capability to handle the demands of next-generation networks. It appears, at least from the data presented here, that this definitely has legs. While it is some fog as to all the possibilities of how this will shake out, there is one area where interest is keen – the CBRS band.

One of the promising enablers of licensed LTE, which is attractive to a lot of players, from carriers to web engines such as Amazon and Google, is the CBRS band. There is a lot of excitement here. For one, the barriers to entry are, relatively, low. Another enabling factor is the push for spectrum sharing.
This is extremely important since the CBRS band is being eyed by many factions for many use cases. And, there is broad support, from a technological perspective, from vendors to support the interested stakeholders.

In fact, one of the speakers in the session I attended around this, believes that CBRS deployments, at least in the early stages, will occur by the end of this year. To quote Mike Hart, CTO, Vivint Internet “CBRS is inevitable, now. It is not if, but when, and the when is down to months. This isn’t the end of CBRS, it is only the beginning.”

There also seems to be agreement about that from the FCC. In fact, Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, in his keynote earlier today was confident that progress in the CBRS band, as far as regulations go, will go quickly. As well, there is confidence that other spectrum regulatory agencies, around the world, are on board with making the 3.5 GHz band a common global platform.

It is, actually, quite amazing how fast progress in the band has occurred. This band has the potential to become a model scenario for deployments of next-generation technologies and platforms, while working with incumbents, as well as, employing edge-of-the-envelope spectrum-sharing metrics.
In closing, Hart noted that, “the CBRS band offers a great opportunity for disrupting the traditional models. Over time, we are very bullish about the neutral-host model as well, for a host of platforms, such as in-building.”

There is lot of investment beginning to go into CBRS. It will, definitely, be one of the more exciting spaces to watch.

Collocation on The Edge
Edge computing is definitely a hot topic here at Connect X. One message that came from the sessions is that The Edge is presently a confusing space. Some say it is here, others say not yet.  Connect (x) sessions had extensive discussions on connectivity on The Edge and brought some interesting opinions and perspectives on what is going on at The Edge.

The most interesting session was the discussion on the next wave in digital collocation, and it talked about the issues around the convergence at The Edge of the network. Panelists included, Zachary Smith CEO, Packet, Cole Crawford, CEO, Vapor.IO,  Josh Wolff Senior Vice President Lumos Networks and Josh Snowhorn, founder and chief strategy officer, EdgeMicro.

It was an interesting discussion because the panelists came from four very distinct and different perspectives, which made sense considering the diversity of the group. They covered just about all the angles. It was a group of very knowledgeable individuals with a pulse on the industry.

One of the more revealing statements came from Crawford when the moderator presented the question about when The Edge will arrive. According to Snowhorn, we are already too late. He wasn’t the only one. There was agreement among the panelists, in general, that The Edge cannot come too soon.
The reasoning for that is because the amount of data being consumed is already nearing capacity in the more congested locations. Without deploying Edge technology, bottlenecks are just waiting to happen. The biggest problem is latency. Typically, networks run around 10 to 20 milliseconds, which is just about the same time the various pathways around the human sensory information highway takes. That metric must be matched by networks otherwise our sensory capabilities are waiting for more input.

That is an interesting angle, yet very on target. Future networks must become transparent and lag times are a primary metric in this. This is of tantamount concern and a primary driver for deploying Edge data center networks as soon as possible.

Another interesting angle is the definition of exactly what constitutes The Edge. This is not a redundant question. The Edge is defined by applications such as autonomous vehicles, drone applications, and medical apps, which are much more sensitive to speed than apps such as video games, enterprise data movement and, in many cases the Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX).

The Edge is really the place where collocated infrastructures exist. The driving metric for these is performance and cost. Therefore, The Edge can really be towers, DAS deployments, small cells and other nodes on the networks, defined by application and data load requirements.

As well, The Edge must be a neutral host to be effective. It doesn’t matter if it manages carrier data, if it is a tower, or a hyperscale company installation. As Crawford puts it, “it is simply a meeting room at The Edge and QoS is the driving metric.

Overall, the message about The Edge, in general, is that we are still in the petri dish stage and we need to grow some results quickly so the industry can begin to get some clarity and begin to deploy it.


Ernest Worthman
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses.  His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: [email protected]