Archive for December, 2012

LTE in 2013: The Top 5 predictions

global_lte

While it first appeared as a live commercial network technology at the tail end of 2009, it really wasn’t until 2011 that LTE could really be called a mainstream technology. It really hit the ground in 2012 but as it stands it is only really widely deployed in North America, South Korea and Japan. In 2013 however, we expect it to truly become mainstream proposition in many countries around the world, particularly in Europe.

Here then are our Top 5 predictions for LTE in 2013.

1. LTE handsets:

With more LTE networks will inevitably come more LTE handsets. It’s fairly sound logic, but the analyst figures are there to back that up. According to Boston’s Strategy Analytics global sales of LTE smartphones will triple to 275 million handsets in 2013, up from 90 million sold in 2012. It might just be numbers but in many ways it’s quite exciting. With LTE networks and LTE handsets in people’s hands the rise of cloud services can really start to accelerate and encourage innovation as companies begin to compete for dominance in this rising space.

2.  Emergence of LTE in Africa:

One of most interesting areas for LTE in 2013 will be the emergence of the standard in Africa. That’s not to say it will hit the mainstream – anything but, but the technology will start to impact the continent. Vodacom is currently the only live service has launched in South Africa, with 70 active base stations at launch, while MTN is readying a limited launch service in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, while Cell C has been making plans to. There are concerns such as high CAPEX costs, a lack of devices and a lack of spectrum to contend with. Nevertheless Informa Telecoms & Media is predicting 350,000 LTE subscriptions in Africa by the end of 2012. These issues and more, will be address at the LTE Africa conference, taking place on the 16th-17th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the flyer for the event.

3.  TD-LTE: Big in China

China was well known for furrowing its own path for 3G, using the TD-SCDMA standard so it would not have to be beholden to western technology standards. It’s sticking with TD for 4G, but crucially it looks as though this Time Division thing is going to be pretty popular worldwide. Sprint in the US is using it, as it P1 is Malaysia and of course as the world’s largest operator in terms of subscribers, anything the China Mobile uses it going to have a huge impact of economies of scale. With well over a 100 TD-LTE at the moment 2013 could be a breakthrough year for TD-LTE.

The LTE Asia conference is taking place on the 18th-19th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

 4.   VoLTE: Only fools rush in

Using Circuit switched Fallback for voice calls when you have an LTE network is horrible from a technical purist viewpoint, but with no negative customer feedback operators are not going to hurry to introduce new technology. Just ask Verizon Wireless and EE, who have already announced that they are pushing out their timelines for the commercial deployment of VoLTE. SK Telecom and Metro PCS may have deployed but we don’t see many joining them in 2013. To quote Mark Newman, Chief Research Officer at Informa Telecoms & Media, “A business case that looks to be based solely on spectrum efficiency will struggle to gain enough executive support to justify a rushed investment plan”.

Put the date in your diary now for the inaugural LTE Voice Summit, taking place in London on the 23rd-24th October 2013. Click here NOW to download a flyer.

5.   LTE Small-Cell Backhaul:

Some comment from wireless infrastructure vendor Ruckus Wireless summed this up well with the following comment:

The launch of commercial 4G services from EE in October saw the UK join the LTE race. In order to achieve the network capacity required by increasing mobile data traffic, it will be necessary to augment these LTE macrocell build-outs with an underlay of small cells. This represents a new, and very significant, backhaul challenge because the mounting locations for these small cells (typically street lamps and traffic signals) are not a natural fit for fibre or microwave backhaul solutions. The optimum solution to this challenge is to use Wi-Fi in the 5GHz band to backhaul this traffic to a place where Ethernet is available. We will see lots of activity here as small cells are integrated in Wi-Fi APs, so that one unit can provide both small cells access and Wi-Fi backhaul.

 The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a flyer for the event.

A year in LTE – the top 10 news stories of the year

lte_pic

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

As the year draws to a close its natural that we take stock and look back at what has happened in the LTE industry over the past year.

The US market took off in a big way as AT&T and Verizon competed to beef up their LTE networks, while South Korea and Japan saw a large influx of LTE subscribers boosting numbers worldwide.

VoLTE services also became a reality as MetroPCS and SKT launched the technology. As LTE networks began to spring up across Europe even the UK got its LTE act together and launched a live service towards the end of the year.

TD-LTE is also expanding its reach, with networks staring to deploy in China and areas such as Malaysia. This will be looked at in more depth at the brand new TD-LTE Summit, taking place on the 23rd-24th April 2013 at the Fairmont Singapore Hotel, Singapore.

A great way of gauging the events of the last year is to take a look at the top ten news articles that have appeared on our sister publication Telecoms.com.

It’s exclusive revelation that Apple vets LTE networks was not only the top LTE story of the year, it was the most read Telecoms.com news story ever, despite only going up two weeks ago!

While 2012 was big for LTE, 2013 is set to be even bigger as the technology consolidates itself in Europe and begins to spread to new markets such as Africa, and we’ll be celebrating this at the LTE Africa conference, taking place on the 16th-17th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.

We look forward to continuing to bring you all the latest exciting LTE developments in 2013 and all of these hot topics will be covered in depth across our LTE events series in 2013.

Happy holidays and see you all next year!

1. Apple vetting operators on LTE network performance –  November 30, 2012:

A little snippet in a Swisscom press release and an unwitting confirmation from said company was all it took to reveal that Apple calls the shots when it comes to which LTE networks the iPhone 5 can run on. One leading industry consultant was “shocked” by the revelations but really we all already knew where the power now lies in the industry. World’s Most Valuable Company 1 – Telecoms Industry 0.

2. Samsung deploys Three UK’s LTE network – August 24, 2012:

Samsung has already become a major force in handsets, so it makes sense that the Korean firm wants to do the same as a network equipment vendor. It has already done deals in the US, Japan and Middle-East and a deal with 3UK to supply it with LTE RAN equipment gives it an important foothold in Europe too.

3. Middle East operators facing problems over LTE spectrum, devices and pricing – May 1 2012:

Devices and prices. These are two core elements that hold back the take up of any new network and this post LTE MENA conference analysis from Informa principal analyst Matthew Reed showed that it was proving no different for LTE in the Middle-East.

4. New LTE devices to shake up smartphone market – January 10, 2012:

Speaking of devices, the LTE market got a shot in the arm right at the beginning of the year when Sony, Nokia and Huawei all announced LTE handsets: the Xperia S, the Lumia 900 and Ascend P1 S respectively. A handset released at the other end of the year had greater impact, but these got there first

5. Vodafone seethes as Ofcom clears UK LTE1800 launch – August 21, 2012:

The backwards and forwards appeal process between the four big UK networks related to the 4G spectrum auction was getting so farcical it could well have been set to a Benny Hill soundtrack. UK regulator Ofcom clearly felt it had had enough of all this silliness and decided to let EE refarm its 1800 spectrum and launch LTE. Vodafone was not pleased. Cue Benny Hill music.

6. First LTE phone coming to Vodafone Germany – February 9, 2012:

It’s all very well having an LTE network, but to go mainstream you need phones. Lots of phones. Cue much excitement then in February when the first LTE handset for the European market turned up on Vodafone D2 in Germany. It might actually have been a Samsung Galaxy S2 on Tele2 that beat it to the punch, but either way the LTE ball had started rolling.

7. Brazilian operators select LTE provider – October 11, 2012:

As a worldwide technology, LTE benefits from an expansive eco-system and the resultant economies of scale. Telefonica Brazil and local incumbent Oi both announced their LTE plays in Brazil in October, with Ericsson the main beneficiary on the vendor side

8. UK welcomes new LTE brand; now rivals must step up – September 11, 2012:

Once Ofcom got the aforementioned Benny Hill music to finally stop, EE, the new 4G brand from France Telecom and Deutsche Telecom’s joint UK play Everything Everywhere, was finally able to launch its LTE network in the UK. As the dust settled Telecoms.com’s managing editor James Middleton analysed the fallout from EE’s disruptive move.

9. LTE and the backhaul challenge – January 12, 2012:

With so much attention placed in the RAN, it’s important to remember the importance of backhaul in ensuring the performance of the network remains strong. Back in January Dawinderpal Sahota took a closer look at the various technologies involved.

10. Rogers lights up Canadian LTE network – July 8, 2012:

Not wanting to let the US have all the fun, Canadian operator Rogers lit up its LTE network in July. We were amused that as it had already dubbed its HSPA+ services as 4G, it was forced to market its LTE network as “Beyond 4G”. Blame Canada.

Who’s in? Deadline for applications for UK 4G spectrum auction closes

Thomas-Wehmeier_web

This post is by Thomas Wehmeier, Principal Analyst, Operator Strategies, Informa Telecoms & Media

Following swiftly on from EE’s launch of the UK’s first live 4G network just a few weeks ago, today marks the next important milestone in the establishment of a genuinely competitive market for 4G services in the UK.

The passing of today’s deadline for prospective bidders to submit applications takes us one step closer to the completion of the highly controversial, long-awaited and largest ever auction of spectrum in the UK. Bidding itself won’t actually start for real until January and we’re likely to see weeks of intensive bid rounds until the results proper are finalised by February or March next year.

As far as the UK’s mobile operators are concerned, this can’t happen soon enough. Despite the encouraging signs we’ve seen since EE went live, the UK is still lagging far and away behind the world’s most advanced 4G market(s). To put it context, by the time the remaining 4G networks are switched on at some point in the middle of next year, more than one-third of Korean and about 20% of Japanese consumers will already be actively using 4G services in their respective countries.

But that’s not to say that we don’t expect to see a marked acceleration in the pace of 4G adoption in the UK next year. By that point, most of the high-end flagship phones on sale in the UK will support 4G technology, we can expect to see some pretty competitive pricing as the markets kicks into life and the inevitable blanket market campaigns are sure to lift interest in and adoption of 4G amongst UK consumers.

How much is the auction expected to raise and who will bid?

It’s fair to say we’re expecting the amount raised to represent just a fraction of the record £22.5 billion spent during the 3G licensing round in April 2000. We have to remember that those were exceptional times, before the dotcom bubble burst and at the height of hype around mobile, and the industry will be much more cautious this time around, not least because of the weak economy and the declining revenues that many operators are suffering in the UK and across Europe.

In his recent Autumn Statement, the UK Chancellor George Osborne pegged the amount the UK Treasury is hoping to raise at £3.5 billion, which puts the official view slightly above industry expectations, but broadly on par with the amounts raised in similar auctions in other European markets such as Germany.

We’re expecting the auction to attract all the usual suspects , meaning the UK’s existing mobile operators Vodafone, Telefonica O2, 3 UK and, of course, EE, who’ll be looking to bolster their existing 4G spectrum position.

What we don’t know and can’t predict is whether we’ll see any wildcard bids. There’s been plenty of industry speculation about the possibility of some of the UK’s other telecoms and media powerhouses, the likes of Virgin Media, Sky or BT, entering the fray, but the experience of looking to other markets that have held similar auctions means we should be surprised if there is a genuinely disruptive and large-scale bid from one of the players. It can’t be ruled out, but it would certainly be unexpected.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a flyer for the event.

Inverting the Pyramid

InvertedPyramidSo now it’s official. It seems that we now have conclusive proof that when it comes to LTE and the iPhone 5, Apple is the one calling the shots – not the carriers.

A report on our sister publication Telecoms.com has confirmed as much after a Swisscom spokesperson inadvertently confirmed it in a report on its LTE network going live.

While full credit goes to Telecoms.com for breaking the story, it was some digging by yours truly that led to confirmation of the news.

While researching the Swisscom story, in its press release Swisscom said that its LTE network would be going live on a triumvirate of frequencies, 800, 1800 and 2600MHz. However, in the release Swisscom said that, “Apple will provide a software update in due course for customers with an iPhone 5 or one of the new iPads.” This piqued my interest, as the iPhone 5 supports 1800MHz LTE, so surely is would simply be a case if putting in a compatible SIM and letting it do its thing.

It seems not. After I enquired further about this Swisscom got back to me to say that, “The iPhone 5 requires a software update since Apple only enables 4G access after having successfully tested their device on an operators live network.”

Wow.

What’s interesting about this is now it demonstrates that the pyramid has been inverted. Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream said he was ‘shocked’ by the news and that it proved that Apple is, “running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”

Operators used to be the ones who gave the go ahead on whether a device was good enough for its network – not the other way round. Carriers used to have the power to make or break a network. There are some who think that this has contributed to HTC’s decline over the last couple of years – with Samsung’s Android device getting most of the subsidy love in the US over HTC.

But as the most valuable company in the world Apple has a power that no one else has. It evidently conducts its own tests to determine whether the network is good enough, and only then will enable its phone to operate on that network via a software update.

It does have strong reasons for doing this. After the release of the original iPhone in 2007 exclusively on AT&T, Apple took a lot of flak after poor reports of performance on that network, and there was nothing it could do to correct that impression.

Now it can ensure that the network experience is as positive as possible, and after the Maps debacle and various other issues it needs to ensure it can do what it can to bolster its reputation.

From an industry perspective, the carriers are unlikely to be happy with this change in the power swing but the success of the iPhone means that the power is now in Apple’s hands and that is showing no sign of waning – just recently Sprint spent heavily (US$15billion over four years) to get the iPhone on its roster.

If you are to judge from the comments left on this story on the various sites around the web, (that is after all how we get a sense of these things these days) there are many punters that seem pleased that Apple is now running that show and dictating things to the carriers. Despite Apple being the one making the huge profits, many view the carriers as the ones restricting customers choice and squeezing the dollars from them anyway they can. While the network is central to what consumers want to do, what the carriers offer is invisible to most of them.

All that implies that when it comes to persuading consumers that the networks have the services that they want and should be paying for, such as Joyn, the operators are going to have their work cut out for them.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: