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Tag Archives: Ernest Worthman

5G at 600 MHz? It Could Happen!

By Ernest Worthman, IEEE Senior Member

T-Mobile may have something worth watching with its proposed 5G-like services in the 600 MHz band.

While much of the hubbub around 5G uses ultra-wideband channels, which is readily available in the mmWave bands, the sub-1 GHz bands have something to offer as well. It seems that T-Mobile is doing some serious thinking around that.

One of the challenges of mmWave is propagation. To have a ubiquitous wireless network in the ten’s of GHz bands will be a challenge, especially for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). As one drops below 1 GHz, coverage improves significantly. At 600 MHz, propagation has a well-understood model and offers orders of magnitude of better coverage than mmWave for large areas or locations with lots of interferes.

600 MHz will not achieve the densification envisioned for mmWave. But it can offer enhanced mobile coverage with some of the features of 5G, particularly latency and spectral efficiency where a lot of work is going on.  It should be noted that the IMS 2020 specification is not just about gigabit speeds, but also addresses network architectures that enhance spectral efficiency in a variety of ways.

Therefore, with 5G air interface improvements integrated into 600 MHz platforms, this may be one of the surprises that comes out of the 5G tussle.

Another vector in this low-band discussion is using it for an initial jumping off point for 5G then migrating the service to mmWave once some metric becomes available and a knowledge base develops on mobile in mmWave. It should be a lot easier to either scale or translate the technology to mmWave, theoretically.

As Nokia said in its press release about working with T-Mobile, it wants to help T-Mobile “provide a multi-layer, cross-spectrum blueprint for how the networks of the future will come into existence.”

Well, there will be a lot of eyeballs on this approach. Could it be the sleeping giant that makes a significant impact on what these future networks look like? Or will is just be another dead end that seemed like a good idea at first. We will just have to wait and see.

Ernest Worthman is the Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology and a Senior Member of IEEE. 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].

Google Shoots for Moon with Balloons Hovering Earth

March 9, 2017

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

Courtesy Google

Courtesy Google

Google’s Project Loon (floating wireless transmitters on balloons) is back in the news. Alphabet, Google’s holding company, is really a bit of a Disneyland for inventors. For example, it’s latest propaganda move is to talk about “moonshots” – various schemes that may seem a bit, well, loony, like their balloon ideas. Some are doomed to failure from the get-go, but if you have as much money as Google, you can afford to be a bit eclectic.

In fact, there is a bit of humor in this. the person in charge has the title of “Captain of Moonshots” and his name is Astro Teller – for real! And he has an interesting philosophy; failure is a necessary condition of moonshot-taking, ergo the more speculative a venture the greater the risk of failure.

Interesting position. Now the concept of failure becomes a key component of success. That may be why Teller is trying float the notion that using balloons to deliver wireless connectivity is going really well.

project-loonI haven’t seen any Google balloons yet, but Teller says that it all comes down to clever algorithms, in this case ones that can control these balloons such that they form geostationary clusters rather than just floating around at the mercy of air currents. This kind of model is much closer to being a viable commercial service and there are a few up in the air, so to speak, over Peru. Perhaps this is their beta test.

Google has more than its share of off-the-wall ideas. So far, none of them have hit it big so it’s hard to draw any conclusions about Project Loon, or any of the other variants, being anything other than just another moonshot. But it must be a blast working for that company.

Cloud Services Getting More User Friendly

March 7, 2017

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

    One of the hot topics today is the cloud. And there is a fair amount of misperception about exactly what the cloud is and can or will be.

Often, other countries are a bit ahead of the curve than we are here in the states. For example, the United Kingdom has just told three of the biggest cloud services providers there, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, to straighten up and fly right when it comes to consumer cloud service offering. It seems the contracts were a bit tipped to the provider’s favor. It had done the same with Google, Dropbox and five other cloud storage providers last year.

All in all, these cloud service providers have had to get a bit more user friendly of late. But with a little history, one could say it is a work in progress. Similar situations exist in other European Union nations as well as in the United States.

One issue deals with any changes to, or ending of, the provision of the cloud service. Up to now, there were no provisions to advise the consumer if things were about to go south with the cloud provider. Kind of like showing up at your cleaners to find a IRS notice on the door and all the equipment and clothes confiscated. With the cloud, there were no provisions to notify the customer of any change in terms, suspension of service or eliminating services. Data was at risk.

On the brighter side, there is a lot of optimism in cloud services. According to IDC, as enterprises across the world increased investment, overall public spending is expected to surge 21.5 percent by 2020, to $203.4 billion worldwide, which is nearly seven times the rate of overall IT spending growth.

Much of this investment will be in software as a service (SaaS), which is expected to remain the dominant cloud computing type, capturing nearly two-thirds of all public cloud spending in 2017 and roughly 60 percent in 2020.

Unlimited Data: A Carrier Conundrum

February 23, 2017

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

There is a song from a famous 70’s pop singer named Donovan, which has a line in the chorus that goes like this: First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…

Strangely, all the ruckus over unlimited data brings that to mind… first there is unlimited data then there is no unlimited data then there is [unlimited data]. Geeze. One would think that the unlimited data is unlimited data – not unlimited for a few gigs, then semi-limited for a few more gigs and all but dead for any gigs after that. And it doesn’t matter what data – TV, video, social media, audio…whatever.

This has been an ongoing issue for a long time and the four 800-pound gorillas have come up with every conceivable scheme to figure out how to limit data and still promoted it as “unlimited data.” It is getting old. Even the regulatory agencies are getting weary of it and telling these carriers to get their unlimited data act together.

It has been a while since I did a Dennis Miller-type rant. But I am over these carriers and their double-speak and how they come up with every ridiculous, often borderline illegal, lying scheme to get more money out of their customers. How often have they already been dinged for bogus charges and the like? And they must be a bit insane, because we all know the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over yet expect a different result.

And it shows no signs of slowing. Just a few days ago Sprint fired another salvo in this ravaged landscape of unlimited data. They just knocked another ten bucks a month from the rack price of its unlimited plan. But wait…that is only for customers who switch from other carriers. They are now offering a single line for $50 a month with a second line still offered for an additional $40 a month. Users can add up to two more lines for the same price, so new accounts with four lines can pay $22.50 for each line.

And to sweeten the deal, they also added HD video and 10 GB of mobile tethering per line, following T-Mobile’s move a few days earlier, which came on the heels of Verizon’s unlimited plan. Surprisingly, that is a notable reversal of the Verizon’s long-held policy of declining to offer unlimited service.

There are other minor details of each carrier’s plan but that is just minutia. Conditions on the mobile 10 Gig and video quality and such. Man, this has got to be a bloody battlefield.

Then comes the chest thumping. Sprints press release claims they are the only ones with the bandwidth and a capable network to offer unlimited whatever.

But there are bumps in the road. There is some concern by analysts that, all of this unlimited talk can’t be backed up by capacity. And unlimited isn’t really going to be unlimited, yet the apps just keep gobbling up bandwidth. And, there have been reports that HD video over carrier networks may not be as big a deal as was first thought, especially by millennials, who they were banking on using up this bandwidth.

It will be interesting to see where all this goes. The imminence of 5G and the IoX are a couple of variables that have yet to fully weigh in. And the rapid emergence of edge computing is yet one more vector. And while there is a lot of noise going on about “media-ers” (the consolidation of media players and carriers) the bottom line is still spectrum.

It will be an interesting rest of 2017.

Connected Cars? Yes. Autonomous? Not by a Long Shot!

By Ernest Worthman

Executive Editor, Applied Wireless Technology

    By now it’s old news that connected cars were this years’ golden child at CES. Without a doubt, connected, smart, autonomous, whatever one wants to call them vehicles are going to be one of the biggest and most active arenas of the next few years.

So far, much of the “driverless” vector of this segment is “forward thinking” with a lot of cool little accessories and functionality that creates the “wow” factor. I think the industry wants one to think it is a bit further ahead than it really is. Yes, there is some really cool driver support and other neat apps, like the one I talked about a newsletter or two ago where the vehicle can tell you how long you are going to have to wait for your green light. And some limited input capabilities like self-parking and self-backing are fairly easy to do with only the vehicle having intelligence.

But without the co-evolution of parallel platforms (smart infrastructures) autonomous cars are going to have some level of driver assist or at the least, monitoring, for a long time to come. There are demos, trials and basic applications that have vehicles doing it all but they are very primitive and not quite ready for prime time. (Remember the Tesla case?)

I recently had a conversation with an old contemporary, Steven Shladover, professor and the former deputy director and current program manager for mobility at California PATH. His take on a fully integrated, autonomous vehicular infrastructure, where one simply gets into it at point A, gets out at point B and never even looks at the vehicle’s operation, is that it is 30 to 50 years out. And the major reason is that it takes both platforms (the vehicle and the infrastructure) to make it fully autonomous.

Most of what was shown at CES is still very basic in the evolution of autonomous vehicles. This tells me that the players are looking for exposure. It is early enough in the game that first and second generation accessories and technologies are being sold as autonomous, when they are really just various renditions of driver assist. When the steering wheel, pedals, and controls are gone, then we will have arrived. That wasn’t at CES.