Friday, December 26, 2008

Upgrading TCP for the Heavy User

Bob Briscoe from BT wrote an article that appeared in the December 2008 IEEE Spectrum that discusses proposed changes to TCP that would help the Internet cope better with so-called bandwidth hogs. It basically does this by providing a mechanism that allows network routers to discard packets from the heavy users before discarding packets from casual users.

Heavy users will declare their packets to be eligible for discard and a feedback mechanism will be created that will inform core routers of congestion that is occurring in the network so that they can start discarding packets.

This approach should provide better performance to the casual user than they experience today without significantly degrading performance for the heavy user.

You can get more details from Briscoe's web site.

It looks to me that this is a much better approach than the limits being proposed by carriers today. It also seems to resolve the Net Neutrality argument by redefining what fairness means and equalizing the performance of the network to a broad set of users rather than equalizing access to bandwidth.

I question how much these techniques will help in an IP network dominated by TV traffic. TV traffic wants to use a lot of bandwidth and have a high QoS at the same time. An HDTV viewer will not like it if discarding packets from his or her video stream causes visual or audio defects.

Altair 4G OFDM Chips

I recently spoke with Altair, which is an Israeli company that is building OFDM chips to support both WiMAX and LTE. It is focusing on 4G technologies by building handset chips. The company currently has chips for WiMAX and for XGP, which is an OFDM technology deployed by Willcom in Japan.

Altair plans to introduce an LTE chip in the middle of 2009 and a multimode chip by the end of 2009 that will support WiMAX, XGP, and LTE. This will enable support of all three technologies in a single hand held device. The company is also working with a 2G/3G supplier to offer the ability to add WiMAX, XGP, or LTE to a 2G/3G device using the Altair chip as a coprocessor.

This is interesting because it shows that progress is being made on chips that will facilitate the integration of 2G, 3G, and 4G WiMAX and LTE networks. This will help with the evolution of existing networks to WiMAX or LTE. It may also facilitate roaming between WiMAX and GSM, WCDMA, and LTE networks, which may keep WiMAX from becoming the dead end that CDMA has become.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

FTTH Green Postitive in U.S. in Six Years

The FTTH Council has published a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers that shows that the environmental impact of the deployment of a typical FTTH network in the United States will be positive within less than 6 years in average considering only benefits associated to telecommuting.

FTTH is much greener than DSL or VDSL in the U.S. Both of these technologies require powered remotes, which significantly raises their energy requirements. This is a much more significant problem for VDSL than DSL.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Creating a Competitive Fiber Market

Last week I posted an article about how Swisscom will support competitors in its FTTH deployment. Swisscom will deploy four fibers to each home and reserve one for itself and make the other three available to competitors. It pointed out that the cost of providing four fibers is only slightly higher than providing a single fiber.

This significantly helps Swisscom's business case because it will generate revenue from every FTTH home that it deploys. This will provide it with a return on the investment that it is making on deploying these fibers. Swisscom will also accept investment or trade fiber connections with its competitors that deploy their own fiber networks.

A similar facility sharing approach has been adopted in France and is likely to be adopted broadly in Europe.

Japan is taking another approach. NTT is deploying all of the fiber; however NTT East and West (the two incumbents in Japan) can offer only the fiber connection. The subscriber gets the Internet service from an ISP. NTT operates two of these ISPs itself (OCN and Plala), but has to treat other ISPs on an equal basis. KDI and Softbank are major ISPs that use NTT fibers along with a number of smaller ISPs.

The U.S. FCC has given up on creating a competitive environment with FCC. It traded exclusive use of the fiber for the commitment to deploy fiber services. I think this was a bad bargain. Both Europe and Japan have shown that better approaches are available.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ATT's 2020 Strategies

AT&T gave a presentation this week where it made some interesting comments about how it plans to address important issues for getting ready for 2020.

The company talked about how network usage will change. It expects that 70 percent of its voice minutes will come from mobile services by 2013 and that data usage will grow by 50 percent per year between now and 2013. Its charts indicate that at least half of its voice traffic came from mobile services in 2007. It expects that voice will account for less than 5 percent of the traffic on its networks by 2013. Its charts indicate that it expects video to account for significantly more traffic than data. Over all its expects its backbone traffic to grow 50 percent annually and access traffic to grow 30 percent annually.

The company also discussed its consolidation into what it calls "one company". It expects to end up with one business services organization, one consumer services organization, and one network and services organization. It is doing this to increase its efficiency and to deliver new integrated/converged services. It stated that its U-verse IPTV service is the template for what it plans to achieve.

ATT plans to focus several areas for new services - femto cells, VoIP, VPNs, along with hosting and CDN services.

ATT is moving along the directions that we forecast in our report Telecom 2020: Transformation Strategies. Mobile is becoming the primary delivery vehicle for many services. This presentation confirms our predictions of the major effects that will occur in the organization of carriers.

Swisscom to Deploy FTTH

Swisscom is building a fiber network for residential customers and SMEs. Work has already started in Zurich, Basel and Geneva, with the aim of connecting 100,000 households with fiber optic by the end of 2009. The plan is then to further extend the network to include residential premises in the cities of St. Gallen, Berne, Fribourg and Lausanne.

The first offerings for residential customers and SMEs will be launched in the first half of 2009. Over the next six years Swisscom is planning to invest $US2.3 billion in its fiber expansion.

To enable other companies to expand their own fiber infrastructure after the construction work has started, Swisscom will be laying several fibers per household in all areas. One fiber will be used by Swisscom, while the others will be made available to other companies. The multi-fibre model will prevent the creation of a new network monopoly in Switzerland and also meet competitors' requirements for full access to the local loop (copper pairs) as stipulated by the Telecommunications Act.

Swisscom offers other companies interested in collaborating on the construction and operation of the fiber network four different cooperation models:

  • Construction partnership for other companies with their own ducts, such as electrical utilities or cable network providers. One of the partners takes on responsibility for building the fiber network in a region. Several fibres are laid, and when the network is completed each of the other partners is assigned one fibre. If all the partners network regions which are the same size and are to be shared, no compensatory payment is required.
  • Investment partnership for companies without their own cable ducts. Network expansion is jointly financed by all the partners. One partner builds the entire network and grants the investor usage rights to the fibers laid.
  • Rental of individual fibers for companies who do not wish to invest in network expansion but want to decide themselves on the preferred technical level for controlling the fiber network.
  • Leasing of transmission services similar to established practices.

Swisscom presented its reseller offerings to all Internet service providers at the beginning of November. In the initial phase these offerings will cover bandwidths of 30 to 50 Mbps for download and up to 10 Mbps for upload.

During the pilot phase, which starts at the beginning of March and will become a commercial service in autumn 2009, the offerings will focus on the areas in Zurich, Basel and Geneva which are already equipped with fiber cables. Internet service providers, including VTX, green, netstream and init7, are free to design their own end customer and reseller offerings.

This is an interesting model for handling competition over fiber. It will produce a lot more competition than the U.S. approach that gives the carriers exclusive use of their fiber plants.

More than 1,000 HSPA Devices Available

The Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) stated that there are now 1,095 HSPA devices available with 692 announced since October 2007. The following types of devices are available:
  • 451 mobile phones
  • 16 ultra mobile PCs
  • 218 notebooks
  • 154 USB modems
  • 143 PC data cards
  • 101 wireless routers/gateways
  • 8 Personal Media Players
  • 4 cameras
It is interesting that less than half of the HSPA devices are mobile phones. What is interesting is to see that a dozen consumer devices have become available. The number of HSPA (or 4G) enabled wireless devices will grow to become a significant segment if the operators create usage plans that are attractive for these devices.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Is Google Paying its Fair Share?

The blog Internet Evolution published and article discussing comments by an analyst who says that Google is not paying its fair share of the Internet infrastructure.

This is an interesting issue. The core Internet network has a robust business model. As the ISPs and ASPs generate more traffic, for example, by providing more video and TV traffic, they need to increase the bandwidth that connects to them to the Internet backbone. They pay for every additional bit of bandwidth that they use. This means that the carriers revenues increase as the traffic increases, which is and has been a sustainable business model.

I think that the question that is raised in this article is if Google is using more bandwidth per dollar spent on backbone capacity than other companies. This may be assuming that Google distributes more videos than others.

The more interesting question is in the access network. The broadband access providers are stuck in the conundrum that customers expect more bandwidth over time but do not expect to pay more for it. This is most clearly demonstrated in countries in such as Japan and France where the price of a 100 Mbps FTTH connection is the same as a 10 Mbps DSL connection. Carriers in these countries are making huge investments to deploy fiber and are not getting significant revenue increases to support it.

I have wondered if Google and the other ASPs and ISPs should pay more for their backbone connections to support the deployment of FTTH. After all, these companies get tremendous benefit from the deployment of higher speed access networks. It only seems fair.

However, there are significant problems with this approach. One is that the combined profits of Google and the other ASPs and ISPs are not nearly enough to cover the cost of deploying fiber at a reasonable rate.

The second problem is that paying additional amounts to the backbone provider will not necessarily lead to a fair distribution of these funds to the access network providers. For example, if Google pays the premium to ATT, how does Verizon get support in its territory. Well, Google will probably by backbone services from Verizon also, so that there will probably be a reasonable allocation. But then, what about Surewest and the thousand or so small U.S. telcos that do not offer backbone services?

This could be handled by an extension of the Universal Services Fund, but then what about the broadband operators in other countries? Do we need to add in a UN Universal Fund charge as well?

None of this seems practical, which leaves the broadband providers without any way to monetize their investments in fiber. This will certainly discourage investment and delay the availability of fiber services That is too bad.

Is Wireless Important to Cable Companies?

A Light Reading article discusses comments by a financial analyst who believes that wireless is not an important element to add to cable bundles. His point is that bundles require discounts, which reduces revenues.

I think he is probably right about adding wireless to cable bundles. Wireless probably will have less effect on consumer decisions than the other elements of these bundles.

However, in the long run as carriers offer wireless and broadband wireline services based on a single, integrated IMS infrastructure to deliver VoIP services there will be tremendous opportunities to integrate wireless and wireline services into a single offering. The cable companies will have to be in a position to offer similar integrated wireless and wireline services to stay in the game.

The moves that the cable companies are making with Clearwire today are a good step to prepare for that day.

ATT's Cuts

Light Reading published and article with various opinions on ATT's announcement that it would cut 12,000 people and reduce its CapEx budget. The gist of it is that ATT will not make cuts in wireless or broadband but will cut its wireline operation. The article ends with a quote from one analyst who believes that cutting spending on its POTS network will be a major mistake for ATT.

What ATT is reportedly doing is consistent with how networks will evolve during the next decade. Wireless and broadband will become more important and POTS services will fade away. Personally, I think ATT is making the correct choices.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Taking the Back Office to 2020

This week I posted an article about a survey that showed how far mobile operators and mobile ISPs have to go to realize the potential in their subscriber information data bases. This is only one aspect of what has to happen to move back office systems to be ready for 2020.

The major goal for all Telcos has to be to dramatically increase efficiency. This will require that Telcos move to self-service and mechanized, if not automated, service fulfillment. They have to get humans out of the loop with systems that permit customers to order services on line and then to have them automatically installed using web-based customer portals.

As operators start providing GigE fiber connections or LTE wireless services, they will be providing access capabilities with spare capacity. The user may order a 50 Mbps Internet data service over a GigE link or a 1 Mbps wireless service. A web-based portal should be available that permits the subscriber to upgrade the 50 Mbps FTTH service to 100 Mbps or the 1 Mbps wireless service to 2 Mbps. The back office system can accept the order and implement while the subscriber is at the web portal placing the order.

Another area where significant efficiencies can be realized is in service assurance. By 2020 there will have to be agents that permit the operator to monitor, trouble shoot, and modify the configuration of devices on home networks or wireless handsets. These systems should proactively search for problems and fix them even before the customer becomes aware of them. This should automated as much as possible and mechanized at a minimum.

These kind of tools will enable the Telcos to offer a much broader variety of complex services and keep them operating correctly with less resource than they put into it today. The goal will be to eliminate the use of call centers, except for quite exceptional cases.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

T-Mobile Sets Standards for LTE

Light Reading published an article that discusses statements from T-Mobile about what they are looking for in LTE. T-Mobile believes that the cost to deliver a Mbps must go down by a factor of 10 because data traffic is increasing at a higher rate than revenues. It also wants LTE networks to be self-organizing and to be software upgradeable.

T-Mobile also believes that femto cells will be important for extending coverage. It also is looking for the early availability of mass market LTE terminals.

T-Mobile plans to go to Ethernet backhaul either over high-speed wireless links or optical links to keep network costs down.

All of these are clear requirements for LTE. Without these, there will be no reason to upgrade from 3G.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Will Femto Cells Rule LTE?

A Light Reading article describes a picoChip presentation that femto cells will be used rather than macro cells for 4G LTE deployments. picoChip believes that the reduction in speeds that come at longer distances will require reducing cell radii in order to keep performance high. It states that its femto cell technology will solve this problem when used in place of macro cells.

This is an interesting minority position. The mobile operators seem to be adopting a macro cell LTE architecture. However, picoCell's point is a good one. The recent 3G iPhone experience is showing that there is low user tolerance for major variation in data performance across wireless networks.

China Mobile Poised to Jump to 4G LTE

A Light Reading article stated that China Mobile is poised to jump to 4G LTE before it has widely deployed its 3G TD-SCDMA network. It plans to launch LTE in 2010 and says that 60 percent of its TD-SCDMA investment will migrate to LTE. It plans to use TD-LTE, which uses spectrum in a similar manner as TD-SCDMA.

It will be interesting to watch how this situation progresses. I think the transition will be more problematical than this article indicates, but it show that China Mobile recognizes that 4G LTE is the right technology in the long run.

Microtune Introduces 120 Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 Upstream Amplifer

Microtune has introduced an RF gateway that permits DOCSIS 3.0 upstream speeds of 120 Mbps and downstream speeds of 160 to 320 Mbps. Its chips are available for less than $5.00 in volume quantities.

DOCSIS 3.0 is shaping up to be a formidable competitor to Telco fiber technologies. It will compete directly with Verizon's FiOS BPON and GPON services. It leaves ATT's VDSL service in the dust.

First 100 Gbps Network for ESnet

Light Reading has published and article describing the 100 Gbps network that ESnet and Internet2 plan to deploy by 2010. This network will use equipment from Infinera and Juniper Networks over Level3's network to combine ten 10 Gbps links into single 100 Mbps logical links. This is in advance of when 100 Gbps Ethernet will be broadly deployed.

ESnet has found that it is currently supporting single flows of 10 Gbps and needs the 100 Gbps links to be able to handle them along with other traffic.

The U.S. Department of Energy has long been a leader in super computing and high speed communications. This is an example of the kind of application that will drive the speeds of networks up to and beyond 100 Gbps during the next decade.

Gaining Subscriber Insights

Nokia Siemens published the results of a survey of mobile operators and mobile ISPs to determine their ability to use subscriber data for customer profiling. It shows that these operators have a long way to go and 53 percent of them say that their existing data does not allow for profiling and 46 percent say that the data they have is not analyzed quickly enough.

On interesting result was that the mobile operators are ahead of the mobile ISPs in real time analysis of user activity but that the ISP's have much more aggressive future plans. Today 16 percent of mobile operators perform real time analysis today compared to 10 percent of mobile ISPs. 47 percent of these operators plan real time analysis in the near term compared to 67 percent of the mobile ISPs.

The survey shows that the industry has a long way to go to make good use of the information that is available to them. They will have to make a lot of progress in this area in order to effectively sell and support the array of sophisticated services that they will be offering by 2020.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Telco IPTV Network Architecture

Both Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco have introduced edge routers that facilitate Telco IPTV networks by supporting fast channel change, packet retransmission, and ad insertion using a large flash memory in the router. Both companies are talking about having enough memory in these routers to support video on demand caching. That is, the most popular video on demand assets would be stored on the routers which would eliminate the network traffic required to provide them from a centralized server.

I think that these developments are a real step forward for IPTV networks. I think that their ability to support fast channel change and packet retransmission are fundamental improvements. The ad insertion and video on demand capabilities will provide significant improvements, up to a point.

The fundamental issue will be the amount of storage provided by the router. In a personalized ad insertion system, this will work fine as long as the number of personalized ads does not become too large. The issue with video on demand will be the hit rate, that is the number of video on demand requests that are served by the content on the router vs. the centralized router.

My own thinking on this issue has evolved. I did a report for MRG in the scaling of IPTV networks three years ago that identified that the amount of traffic required to support high levels of on demand traffic will be a major issue. At that time, I felt that the caching approach that Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco are talking about would be the answer.

I looked at this issue again last year in the report Networking Strategies for TelcoTV Services. With further analysis, I realized that the traffic to fill the distributed video on demand caches would be enough by itself to swam metro networks. My conclusion was that the IPTV traffic had to be removed from the IP/Ethernet networks and move down to the optical level.

My recent report Telecom 2020: Transformation Strategies looked at the issue again and took into account the consolidation of fiber access systems into large centers that would serve very large numbers of subscribers. This architecture would mean that there would be enough video on demand traffic to one of these major fiber access centers to fill a 10 Gbps or even a 100 Gbps optical link; therefor, there is no benefit for bringing this traffic up to the packet layer. It will be much more economical just to pass directly to the fiber access center over a direct optical link.

There are too philosophical points that drive my thinking. The first is that as IPTV moves from multicast to on demand and unicast, the TV traffic will dominate the network. It just makes sense to optimize the network for the dominant traffic type.

The second point is that it is very difficult to understand how a packet network can provide an acceptable SLA or QoS when 99 percent of the traffic on the network is deterministic TV traffic. On the other hand, it is easy to see how this will work over direct optical links.

There is a real question of timing here. For many carriers, the cached approach introduced by Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco will be a big help over the next three to five years. However, I do think that these carriers will be thinking seriously about a direct optical approach after that.

Spectrum Bridge's On Line Spectrum Auction

"eBay" is coming to the secondary market for spectrum in the U.S. A new company, Spectrum Bridge, has just started an on line spectrum auction system for the U.S. The company's auction web site provides spectrum owners the ability to list excess spectrum for sale and provides operators looking for spectrum to purchase or lease the spectrum. The web site supports the sale of any kind of spectrum resale permitted by the U.S. FCC.

Spectrum Bridge updates the web site daily with the most current information from the FCC. With this information the web site presents a potential seller with a list of their holdings and allows the user to select the specific pieces of spectrum that they would like to list.

The company's staff facilitates sales by helping buyers to identify available spectrum that meets their needs. The company also assists the buyers and sellers to make the deal happen with standard contracts and assistance during the negotiation process.

This is a significant development. With the move to 3G, operators are looking to refarm spectrum and add to existing holdings to increase the bandwidth of current 2G holdings so that they can use them for 3G services. This will be a continuing problem as these operators move to 4G and need even wider bands.
Spectrum Bridge can facilitate this process with its on line spectrum auction.

Spectrum Bridge plans to become a broker for white space spectrum as called for by the FCC's recent ruling. Coordinating the use of white space spectrum to minimize interference will be a natural evolution to its web site.

Its spectrum database intrigued me. This gives the company to do database sweeps and identify markets where one operator lacks spectrum and another has excess spectrum. With this kind of information, Spectrum Bridge could proactively bring potential buyers and sellers together, even before they have decided to buy or sell spectrum. I think this is only the beginning of the kind of services that the company could offer to its customers to facilitate the more efficient use of spectrum.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Qualcomm Backs LTE

Qualcomm will abandon its UMB 4G technology in favor of LTE. UMB was intended to be the 4G evolution for its CDMA and EV-DO customers.

LTE has been accepted by most of Qualcomm's CDMA and EV-DO customers as their 4G technology choice. UMB has received little or no support. By removing UMB from the table, it seems clear that LTE will dominate the 4G mobile networks. WiMAX has been adopted by some but is likely to be used more for wireline broadband replacement services in under served areas.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cisco Introduces 100 Gbps Ethernet Edge Router

Cisco introduced its Aggregation Services Router (ASR) 9000 that will provide significant increases in performance over its work horse 7600 routers with a total of 6.4 terabits per second of capacity. The ASR 9000 is designed around 100 Gbps Ethernet interfaces.

The ASR 9000 incorporates the Cisco Advanced Video Services Module (AVSM) with 4 terabyts of flash RAM storage that offers content caching, ad insertion, fast channel change and error correction of video streams. Fast channel change and onboard error correction for both unicast and multicast video traffic helps ensure that errors can be detected by any set-top box and retransmitted within milliseconds.

This is the kind of improvement in performance that will be required as we move through the next decade as 100 GBps Ethernet links become commonplace.

The AVSM capabilities of the AVSM provide similar capabilities to Alcatel-Lucent's TPSDA 2.0 approach that provides similar capabilities. Both approach will require support from the IPTV middleware to get their full effect.

The 4 TB of storage will be enough to store about 1,000 hours of HD content. This will be enough for the most popular video on demand assets but not for the long tail of for an extensive NPVR service. Cisco will have to add a lot more storage to really offload video traffic from the network as it is currently claiming. I will write a column that will discuss this issue in more detail in a couple of days. I just don't think that a distributed approach will hold up over the long term.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

DOCSIS 3.0 to Provide Fiber Push

An article on Light Reading cited a statement by Charter Communications that it will cost about $8 to $10 per subscriber to bring DOCSIS 3.0 services to a home, including the new cable modem termination system (CMTS) equipment and the routing systems. It does not include the cost of the new DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem or the cost of provisioning the service.

Verizon has said that it costs them $800 to $1,000 per home to make its FiOS fiber service available with a maximum 50 Mbps data service today. The cable companies can accomplish the same thing for one percent the cost.

DOCSIS 3.0 will provide the cable companies a strong defense against FiOS and be a very strong offensive weapon against ATT's VDSL U-verse service. Verizon will need to improve the performance and lower the price of its FiOS high speed data services. ATT will need to move from VDSL to GPON to be competitive.

White Space: Taking the Internet Back to the Future?

The FCC decision this week to open up the TV "white spaces" to unlicensed wireless services has great potential to break the hammer lock that the cable and Telcos have on the consumer Internet business today.

Ten years or so ago, before the advent of cable modem and DSL services, there where hundreds, if not thousands, of ISPs providing dial up consumer Internet access. There were a few large ones such as Prodigy and AOL along with many, many small providers. It was easy and inexpensive to set up a dial up ISP service. Get a T1 line and attach a dial up mux, and you were in business.

The advent of broadband services brought this to an end. The cable modem and DSL services had the ISP service bundled in with them. This gave the cable companies and the Telcos a strong strategic advantage. AOL continues to exist, but is a shadow of its former self. EarthLink provides Internet services on top of Telco DSL services, but has a very small share of the market. Almost all broadband Internet users subscribe to cable or Telco Broadband services.

The white spaces spectrum is the UHF TV spectrum that is not being used to broadcast TV content. There is generally 100 MHz of vacant spectrum that can be used for white spaces applications in the major metro areas. There is 200 MHz or more of vacant spectrum in more rural locations. This is enough to support several ISPs that want to offer services.

WiMAX and LTE 4G technologies can support wireless broadband data services that will provide a 1 to 5 Mbps. This will compete well with broadband cable and DSL services. These wireless services will share the conveniences of mobile voice service that have made them popular. These white spaces services have the potential to dominate the low end of the broadband data market. People will like their personal nature and their go anywhere convenience.

This will drive the cable companies to DOCSIS 3.o and the Telcos to fiber, which will give us all that still want them much higher performance on our home broadband services. Enabling start ups to compete will be a good thing for all of us consumers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

U.S. FCC Approves White Spaces Unlicensed Spectrum

The FCC adopted rules to allow wireless devices to operate in unused broadcast television spectrum, commonly referred to as television “white spaces”. These rules will allow for the use of unlicensed devices in the unused spectrum to provide broadband data and other services for consumers and businesses.

These rules represent a first step to and include safeguards to protect incumbent services against interference. Devices must include a geolocation capability and provisions to access over the Internet a data base of the incumbent services, such as full power and low power TV stations and cable system headends, in addition to spectrum sensing technology. The data base will tell the white space device what spectrum may be used at that location.

The locations where wireless microphones are used, such as sporting venues and event and production facilities, can be registered in the data base and will be protected in the same way as other services. The Commission also has required that devices include the ability to listen to the airwaves to sense wireless microphones as an additional measure of protection for these devices.

All white space devices are subject to equipment certification by the FCC Laboratory. The FCC will permit certification of devices that do not include the geolocation and data base access capabilities, and instead rely solely on spectrum sensing to avoid causing harmful interference, subject to a much more rigorous approval process.

The FCC will oversee and monitor the introduction of TV white space devices and will promptly remove any equipment found to be causing harmful interference. The FCC will explore whether higher powered unlicensed operations might be permitted in TV white spaces in rural areas.

This ruling potentially has major ramifications. It makes it much easier and much less expensive to set up a wireless service. It is not necessary to win spectrum in an expensive auction. A service provider only needs to purchase appropriate equipment.

There is a large amount of white spaces spectrum that is available. It is possible for multiple service providers to operate without interfering with each other, even in dense metropolitan areas. Spectrum sensing will prevent them from interfering with each other.

It is likely that these services will have a major effect on ADSL services. It is likely that a white spaces wireless data service will be very competitive with a 3 Mbps ADSL service. This will drive the wireline carriers to fiber technologies.

U.S. FCC Approves Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX Network

The U.S. FCC approved the transfer of control of licenses held by Sprint and the the existing Clearwire to the new Clearwire joint venture formed by the two companies. This action is expected to facilitate the build out of a nation wide WiMAX network by the new joint venture.

This action clears the way for Clearwire to deploy its WiMAX service in the U.S. in 2009. This will be the first major 4G network in the U.S. and is an important test case for WiMAX and for broadband wireless services.

T-Mobile to Adopt LTE

Light Reading has and article that describes T-Mobile's wireless network evolution plans. T-Mobile plans to continue to make software upgrades to its HSPA network to improve its performance; however, the company will not make hardware upgrades. Instead it will move to LTE at that point.

With software upgrades, T-Mobile can boost its current 7.2 Mbps HSDPA network up to 14.4 Mbps on the downlink. Beyond that, HSPA Evolution (or HSPA+) can boost 3G network speeds to 28.8 Mbps or more but requires MIMO antennas. That is where T-Mobile draws the line.

T-Mobile also stated that it is considering deploying TD LTE in currently unused TD spectrum that it owns in Europe.

T-Mobile's approach makes sense. It will put them onto the OFDM track earlier than later.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The 4G Conundrum

The announcement by Cox Cable this week that it is going to build two wireless networks as well as utilize Sprint's wireless network got me thinking again about what I call the 4G Conundrum. I just don't understand how 3G and 4G networks will coexist.

Both 3G and 4G networks will be targeted to the same set of users: laptops, smart phones, and the iPhone class of handsets. Sure, operators can deploy 4G in areas were there is a high level of 3G use as a more economical way to add capacity. But it they provide higher speeds on these 4G hot zones, people will see a significant decrease in speed when they move to a 3G zone. The recent problems with iPhones on the ATT network show that these uses see this kind of performance decrease as a network failure. I think that this kind of zone based 4G deployment will just not provide the level of service that the Internet heads that use iPhone like devices will want.

The other thing is that 3G HSP continues to be enhanced. Performance is getting better. These advanced 3G networks are adopting the same flat IP architectures that is part of 4G networks. The question here is if 4G is really enough better than these advanced 3G technologies to justify deploying it.

There is one situation where the the case for 4G seems clear. The CDMA operators are moving to 4G LTE technologies to enable international roaming. Today the lack of international roaming is a big disadvantage for CDMA operators compared to GSM/WCDMA 3G operators. Verizon is adopting 4G LTE as are many other CDMA operators.

I do think that nearly all carriers will migrate to 4G LTE by 2020. There will be a few such as Sprint and Korea Telecom that will operate WiMAX 4G networks. It is very likely that handsets will be able to support roaming between WiMAX and LTE by that time. Operators will bite the bullet as HSPA's WCDMA reaches its limits and is surpassted by 4G OFDM technologies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cox Clarifies Wireless Plans

Light Reading published an article that clarified Cox Cable's wireless plans a bit.
  • Cox will have autonomy on the Sprint network, controlling the backoffice, customer service, product integration, branding, supported devices, packaging, and product plans.
  • Cox will use its AWS spectrum that it acquired in 2006 to support a 3G network based on EV-DO Revision A.
  • It plans 700 MHz spectrum LTE field trials sometime in 2009.
This approach means that Cox's own AWS 3G service and its Sprint-based service will both be based on CDMA. It is likely that it will be able to offer handsets that can run on both networks. It is less clear how LTE will fit in, but Verizon's commitment to LTE is likely to produce handsets that support both CDMA and LTE. It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Cox historically has taken the leadership on new technologies such as cable telephony. It has taken a strong technical approach in the past that has led to the deployment of robust services. It looks like it is taking the same approach with wireless.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cox Cable to Offer Wireless Bundle in 2009

Cox announced that add a wireless component to its bundled offering that includes TV, high speed Internet, and telephone services today. Cox will utilize Sprint's wireless network to enter the market in 2009. At the same time, Cox is building its own 3G wireless network for additional market launches in 2009. Cox will also test 4G technology utilizing LTE. Cox acquired 700 MHz spectrum in about 10 areas in the U.S., including Los Angeles, Phoenix/Tucson, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

Cox partnering with Sprint is no surprise since it is one of the partners in the Clearwire deal. However, its strategy is not clear. It seems to have the following options:
  • Sprint's CDMA service on a national basis
  • 3G in the 10 areas where it has 700 MHz spectrum
  • LTE later in the 10 areas where it has 700 MHz spectrum
It will be interesting to see how Cox weaves all of this together in a way that makes sense to its cable customers. There is no compatibility between CDMA, WiMAX, and 3G. It does not seem likely to me that they will find any handsets that can support all of these serves.

Even with all of these problems, this is a key trend. The cable companies will have to develop strong wireless service offerings in order to be competitive in 2020.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How Much Will Network Traffic Grow?

Probably the biggest issue in planning for a network for 2020 will be the amount of trafficthat it will have to support. Network traffic has been growing by about 50 percent per year over the last 10 years. At this rate, the amount of traffic will be 100 times what it is today.

The question is how long will this party go on? It seems reasonable that this torrid rate of growth will have to moderate at some point of time. Any decrease in this rate of growth will certainly make life easier for the carriers. They would be able to reduce their investment in their networks.

It is clear that wireless networks are just now starting to see the impact of the growth of data services on their networks. The iPhone and similar devices are bringing a new set of Internet users to mobile networks. This is only the start. During the next decade most mobile users will be making extensive use of data services.

This means that the growth of data usage on mobile networks will probably grow faster than 50 percent per year over the next several years and grow at a rate similar to wireline networks after that.

It is hard to see what will continue drive growth on wireline networks at such high rates. I believe that it will be video and TV content. TV content will particularly important based on the increasing popularity of HD and 1080p.

Over the last 15 years there have been a steady stream of new applications that generate ever increasing amounts of traffic. I am not going to bet that this innovation has stopped. I think that anybody thinking about networks for 2020 must assume a factor 100 increase in traffic.

TelecomView Publishes Report on Telecom 2020

TelecomView has released its report Telecom 2020: Transformation Strategies. This report discusses the services and networks that will be available in 2020 after the adoption of IP and Ethernet technologies is complete. It discusses the impact on wireless and wireline networks as well as both consumer and business market segments.

This new report finds that this transformation will have major effects on the carriers and on the industry itself. It provides strategies that carriers and systems companies can use to be successful over this transition period.

You can get information on this report at our website. You can also order a free white paper that is based on this report.

Telecom 2020 Blog

TelecomView has launched this blog as a result of the work that we have done to produce our new report Telecom 2020: Transformation Strategies. This blog will include news items that are relevant to this transformation. We will also publish a weekly column that will give our opinion on an important issue that is relevant to this subject.

We encourage you to post your comments. Anything that is said about the state of telecom in 2020 is an opinion. Your opinions are at least as good as ours. We would love to hear them. The more diverse the opinions included in this blog, the better it will be.

Monday, October 20, 2008

BT Introduces Integrated Wireline/Wireless Data Service

BT introduced broadband packages for small businesses that include mobile broadband as part of a wireline/wireless offering. It provides a service that includes wireline broadband along with BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile networks (GPRS/3G/HSDPA/HSUPA). It now offers three usage plans:

BT Business Total Broadband Options

Broadband Option 1

Broadband Option 2

Broadband Option 3

Price Per Month (on a 24 month term)




Fixed line Download Limit




BT Business Mobile Broadband

Unlimited usage available for £17.50 per month

One Mobile Broadband USB stick per contract – 1GB usage

2,000 BT Openzone minutes

One Mobile Broadband USB stick per contract – 1GB usage

2,000 BT Openzone minutes

Wireless Router

£79 or £59 online exc. VAT




Anti Virus and Anti Spam

Anti Virus and Anti Spam

Internet Security Pack for 5 PCs


24/7 UK-based Freefone Support

24/7 UK-based Freefone Support

24/7 UK-based Freefone Support

IT Support Manager - allows our IT experts to help fix problems remotely, no need to call out an engineer

This is one of the first examples of what I expect will be a very important trend. I believe that similar integrated services will be offered to consumers and will become an important competitive advantage for Telcos over their cable competitors. However, this approach to offering services will have a significant effect on the organization of the Telcos as well as the structure of the industry itself. I will write more about this later.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tecordia to Address ROADM Security Holes

Light Reading has published and article that describes a technique that can be used for encrypting 100 Gbps optical streams. Telcordia is planning to bring optical layer security to market that uses optical phase shifts for its encryption keys and promises the possibility of 100-Gbps security. The technology, called Photonic Layer Security (PLS).

Telcordia stated that the rise of ROADMs has created a security hole in the network. It is possible to intercept traffic at that add/drop point. It's also possible to insert spoofed traffic there. PLS gets around this because the recipient must have the proper key, otherwise the optical signal cannot be unscrambled.

This is an example of the security problems that the new technologies will bring with them. Paying attention to these issues will an important part of deploying these new technologies.

Friday, October 17, 2008

FTTH Council Says 3.8M FTTH Subscribers in North America

The Fiber to the Home Council of North America published a presentation giving its latest FTTH statistics. It has found that there are currently 3.8 million FTTH subscribers and 2.2 million FTTH IPTV subscribers in North America. This is an increase of 848 thousand FTTH subscribers and 550 thousand FTTH IPTV subscribers over the last six month. The current take rate for FTTH services in North America is 30 percent.

Verizon is driving this growth, but there are a number of smaller deployments as well. It is well spending the time to review the entire presentation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maravedis Says 2.3M WiMAX Subscribers in 2Q08

Maravedis said that there were 265 WiMAX deployments at the end of 2Q08 with a total of 2.33 million subscribers. This was up from 264 deployments and 1.99 million subscribers at the end of 1Q08. Clearewire was the number one operator with 462 thousand subscribers and Korea telecom was number two with 202 thousand subscribers.

Maravedis said that 67 percent of subscribers were residential and 33 percent were business subscribers. The residential ARPU was $46.73 and the business ARPU was $135.08.

This is the start of the deployment of 4G services. The size of these deployments are still modest. Clearwire and KT are the two service providers to watch.

Femto Cell Interest in Spain and China

Telefonica's O2 mobile arm is planning a femto cell trial. It expects its femto cell commercial roll out to start ramping up in 2010.

picoChip Designs demonstrated its Chinese femtocell reference design in China today announced that femto startup Digimoc Telecom Technology (Shanghai) will use its chips and software designs to make femtocells based on the country's homegrown 3G standard, TD-SCDMA. The news is an indication that China Mobile is interested in the low-power home base stations, because it is the only Chinese operator that will deploy TD-SCDMA in the country.

This is the start of an important trend. Femto cells will off load mobile networks and blur the lines between wireless and wireline services. This will have a major effect on how services are offered in 2020.

XO Deploys Ciena Ethernet Switches

XO Communications, a provider of communications for businesses and carriers, has deployed Ciena’s Carrier Ethernet Service Delivery Switches throughout its metropolitan networks as part of its Ethernet Hub service, which provides a way for domestic and international carriers to expand the reach of their Ethernet services in the United States.

XO has approximately one million miles of metro fiber networks in major markets across the United States. XO’s Ethernet Hub service offers customers dedicated access to its Ethernet footprint via a single connection and supports a variety of Ethernet bandwidth options ranging from 5 Mbps to 10 Gbps and key Ethernet features including 802.1Q, VLAN stacking and jumbo frames.

Carrier Ethernet is a key 2020 technology. This is an example of how it is being enhanced to provide new services.

BT's 21CN to Switch VoIP Strategy

BT is switching its VoIP strategy to emphasize VoIP over broadband rather than using VoIP to replace PSTN services. It said that it is doing this to respond to customer demand.

Putting its emphasis on VoIP over broadband brings BT into line with the strategies of other major operators such as France Telecom and NTT in Japan. It makes more sense to focus on the growing broadband segment rather than the shrinking PSTN market. There will be plenty of time to replace POTS with VoIP later.

BT Working Toward 2010 VDSL Rollout

BT has announced that it will operate two VDSL trials of about 15,000 customers each starting in the summer of 2009. It plans to provide up to 40 Mbps as part of this service. BT expects to announce plans for the initial market VDSL deployment in early 2010.

It looks like BT is taking a very orderly process that will lead to a commercial VDSL roll out starting some time in 2010. BT will be experiencing serious bandwidth pressures from the demand for HD content well before this. I would not be surprised to see it accelerate this schedule due to significant competitive pressure. In the long run it will have to adopt a FTTH strategy.

Alcatel-Lucent TPSDA 2.0 Provides Better Video Support

Alcatel-Lucent has introduced IPTV application awareness into its Triple Play Services Delivery Architecture (TPSDA) 2.0. It will add flash storage to its edge routers, its switches, and its access nodes that will support fast channel change, packet retransmission, and targeted ad insertion.
  • For fast channel change the last few minutes of every multicast channel will be stored in the network and the new channel will be started immediately, eliminating the latency that typically occurs today. Alcatel-Lucent said that HD channel change time will be reduced from several seconds to well under a second.
  • For packet retransmission the network will store enough packets to immediately service the packet retransmission request.
  • For ad insertion targeted ads will be stored and inserted in the network.

If the service provider uses Alcatel-Lucent access nodes, these functions can be provided in the access network. These functions can also be provided in the Alcatel-Lucent switches or edge routers for service providers using Alcatel-Lucent's TPSDA 2.0 architecture.

Alcatel-Lucent has also discussed plans to increase the amount of storage in these network elements in order to support rewind TV and video on demand delivery.

TPSDA 2.0 can support these functions for service providers using access nodes from other manufacturers by implementing them in the switches and edge routers.

Microsoft has not announced any support for these network capabilities.

This approach will give service providers new flexibility in managing the bandwidth demands from an IPTV service, especially as more and more on demand and personalized services are provided. I think the flexibility that it gives in placing storage in the network will improve the ability of service providers to optimize their networks.

I think that this solution is a good one for the next several years. I believe over the long run that TelcoTV and other video traffic will need to be pushed down to the optical layer. There will be too much of it for packet switches to handle.

IPTV 3D To Push Bandwidth Requirements

Light Reading published a keynote interview at IBC given by Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg discussing the resurgence of 3D. He said that all of the major studios have 3D projects under way. He also said that the quality of the 3D is much higher than in the past. Digital 3D is expected to be widely rolled out in 2009, when an estimated 2,500 theatre screens will be equipped with the technology.

I saw a compelling 3D HDTV demonstration by NHK at NAB. They told me that this is already available in Japan over satellite. If 3D becomes an important part of IPTV service, it is likely that the bandwidth required to support it will be too much for VDSL. I believe that FTTH will be required to support 3D.