Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

SKT in good voice as it shows operators the way to go

SKtAt the second day of yesterday’s LTE Voice conference, which took place in London, the presentation by Changsoon Choi of SK Telecom attracted a positive responses from the audience, and really brought home how ahead of the game the South Koreans are in LTE and with particular relevance to the conference, in terms of VoLTE.

Choi started with a simple list of SKT’s achievements in LTE so far. As of 2012 it had 99 per cent population coverage based on a dual layer 850MHz and 1800MHz multi-band network and currently has 89 cities running dual-carrier LTE Advanced, all of which means it’s no surprise is enjoys 48 per cent market share for LTE in the country.

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Apple iPhone 5s launch underwhelming, but rounds off global LTE support nicely

colourfulAs the furore settles down over yesterday’s Apple iPhone 5s/iPhone 5c update we can take a quick look at the news and specifically what it means from an LTE perspective.

Two new phones were launched and while are clearly very solid offerings, no wheels were reinvented, and as such, it was a little underwhelming, at least from an iPhone 5 owner’s perspective.

The iPhone 5C is essentially an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell, available in more colours and the 5S is essentially a faster version of the iPhone 5, thanks to a new 64-bit chip capable of taking advantage of the 64-bit iOS7.

The ‘budget’ iPhone angle that analysts were predicting also failed to come true. The 5c is still a £469 phone SIM free – which hardly makes it likely to appeal to developing markets.

The good news though is that both phones though are capable of taking advantage of more LTE bands that any other smartphone in the world right now. There are five models of each to choose from depending on region.

This is essentially as Apple has to make a choice as to which LTE frequencies to support, as with 40 LTE bands currently employed round the world supporting them all at once would mean a battery life of around five minutes.

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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.

iPhone 5 expands LTE support but European/US roaming headaches remain

As the dust finally settles post iPhone, the tech blogs and comments sections the internet over are overflowing as Apple vs Android owners get embroiled in largely pointless arguments over the various merits of their preferred platform. As far as my own predictions based on rumours go, the only significant things I got wrong were the name (iPhone 5, not the new iPhone-phew) – and the lack of 800MHz LTE support, which I’ll get onto shortly. (It all mounted to a rather anti-climatic reveal, which made me long for the days when Apple announcement leaks were rare).

As far as we’re concerned though the major news of course was that, as was entirely expected, the iPhone 5 now offers LTE support. Crucially, for European and Asian operators and their customers, the iPhone 5 now supports their networks too, thus avoiding the disappointment that many faced when they realised that the iPad 3, which was touted as 4G capable, in fact only operated on US, Canadian and Japanese LTE networks.

This time, Apple has laid out the exact specs of what countries that will get LTE support, but there are still a couple of major LTE limitations that some may not realise.

The Verizon iPhone 5 can roam between the the US and Europe on LTE- but the other two iPhone variants can’t

There are three SKU’s of iPhone 5 with different LTE chips– (the A1428) a GSM model supporting AT&T in the US and Canadian networks, and the A1429 CDMA model for Verizon, Sprint and KDDI in Japan and the A1429 GSM model for the rest of the world.

This means that if you buy an iPhone 5 in Europe, you won’t be able to roam in the US on LTE, at all. However, the CDMA A1429 supports 1800MHz, so if you buy that one in the US, you should then be able to use in on 1800MHz LTE networks in the UK such as EE.

Secondly, there is no support for 800MHZ and 2.6GHz frequencies at all, which many operators, such as O2 and Vodafone in the UK, will be using for LTE once the auctions are complete and they get their networks up and running. Therefore their customers are going to have to wait for the iPhone 6 to get LTE support.

This is a double whammy blow for O2 and Vodafone in the UK, as on top of losing customers defecting to EE to get LTE now, they also have to contend with the fact that some customer’s may not be willing to commit to a two-year contract on the iPhone 5.

The LTE chip inside the iPhone 5 is Qualcomm’s MDM9615M. It’s a very impressive chip, built on a 28nm manufacturing process which makes for low power consumption yet still supports LTE in both FDD and TDD flavours and 3G in DC-HSPA+, EV-DO Rev-B and TD-SCDMA guise – the latter making it well suited for China.

However, the multiple frequencies required for LTE clearly make it impractical to offer a single chip version and maintain performance and power. It looks as though we’ll have to wait at least a year for Europe/Asia and US support in a single device, Apple or otherwise, while the ‘world-phone’ status that the iPhone 4S offered to become a reality in a highly fragmented LTE world.

LTE roaming is one of the many topics on the agenda at the LTE Asia conference, coming up NEXT WEEK at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. If you’re interesting in attending, there’s still time to register here.

The iPhone 5: when it’s coming and what to expect

As a known gadget enthusiast, quite a few people have been asking me about the new iPhone – namely when’s it coming out and what new features will it offer.


Is this the new iPhone? We’ll find out on Wednesday.

If you somehow have managed to avoid the millions of articles stating these things – possibly because you have a life, here a quick guide to what to what to expect.

Apple has been known for keeping information regarding its new announcements very secret and certainly no official information has been released, but in terms of spy shots this time round it’s been leakier than a leaky sieve full of holes on a rainy day. As such we’ve pretty much seen it all. So sifting through the rumour mill so you don’t have to, here’s what I think we’ll see.

When: Announced September 12th. Release date: Likely to be three weeks afterwards. Early October likely.
Name: The new iPhone – Apple is expected to maintain consistency with the last iPad – ditching the number afterwards. Anyway calling it the iPhone 5 would be inaccurate as it will actually be the sixth one.
What’s new: Larger, thinner, faster.
Display size:in – up from 3.5in on the 4S. Apple has to do something to keep up with the plethora of large-screened Android devices. The resolution is rumoured to be 1136 x 640, enabling it to keep its ‘Retina’ status and enable developers to easily scale apps.
Appearance: A new two-tone back reminiscent of the original iPhone.
Size: Taller to accommodate the new screen, but reportedly thinner at 7.6mm.
Connectors: The standard iPhone 30-pin connector is rumoured to be ditched to make way for an all new smaller connector, enabling Apple to make the most of the limited space inside. The eco-system of accessories will be supported via an adaptor. Apple is not expected to move to the industry standard micro USB as it wants to keep its eco-system proprietary.
Nano SIM card: The iPhone 4 moved to a macro SIM and the 5 is expected to shrink this down even further to make more room inside the case.
Features:Camera: 1080p rear/720p front. The iPhone 4S rear camera is expected to make another appearance with an upgrade to a higher-res front camera for better quality video calls.
Faster: Processor and memory: Possibly a new quad-core A6 processor, which is would need to push the new pixels around 1GB RAM.


Connectivity:
LTE!
Following on from the last iPad we’re expecting the new iPhone to introduce LTE connectivity. In addition to 700 and 2100MHz we expect 800 and 1800MHz frequencies to be added for support in Europe and Asia markets. This would tie in very nicely for UK carrier Everything Everywhere, which is making an announcement, expected to be regarding its LTE plans, the day before Apple on 11 September.
OS: iOS6 – Apple’s own 3D maps with turn-by-turn directions:
The latest version of iOS is expected to keep pace and possibly overtake Android for features. The most obvious changes will be the ditching of Google Maps and the YouTube apps as it looks to distance itself from Google.

Highlights:-

  • Facebook integration
  • Passbook: Keep eTickets and coupons in one handy place.
  • FaceTime oner cellular: video calls over the phone network
  • Answer phone calls with messages

Price: It’s likely to follow previous patterns so in the UK that would be £499/£599 and £699 for 16MB/32MB and 64MB.

Possible
Wifi: 802.11ac. Apple has often adopted wifi standards quickly and this evolution of wifi takes speeds to around 800Mbs which would play very well for its media empire.
NFC: This technology is what powers contact(less) payment apps as already used in several Android devices such as the Nexus. In terms of the rumour mill, it’s 50/50 whether this will be in the new iPhone.

Not this time:
Liquid metal: Apple has bought a company making material that would make phones thinner, lighter and stronger. Not likely to be ready for this handset though.
Wireless charging:
The new Nokia Lumia 920 features funky wireless charging tech. Not heading the iPhone’s way.

One more thing:
What we don’t know is what Apple is going to pull out the bag as an extra. The comapny likes to offer up an additional service that sets it apart from the competition and keep users wanting to stay within its ecosystem beyond the hardware. Could it be a music streaming service – ala Spotify?

The big question is whether it will all add up to be enough to keep Apple ahead of the game or seen be being playing catch up to an ever advancing Android market and a revitalised Windows collection of devices. We’ll have to wait and see.

New iPad no longer called iPad + 4G in the UK

After a long, drawn out saga, Apple has finally been made to change how it promotes the new iPad on its UK web store. After complaints to the UK advertising authority, ASA, from this week, the word 4G does not appear on its UK web site. Instead, the SIM equipped device is now just referred to as ‘Wi-Fi + Cellular’. No more confused UK punters.

To be honest, I’m not particularly keen on the term ‘Cellular’ as iIt has a distinctly US flavour to it. We don’t call our networks ‘Cellular’ any more than we spell flavour without the letter ‘u’.  But it is a more realistic description of the devices capabilities in this country and as such a reasonable conclusion. Can we move on now?

Apple explained the move in a statement that said “Carriers do not all refer to their high speed networks with the same terminology, therefore we’ve decided to use “Wi-Fi + Cellular” as a simple term which describes all the high speed networks supported by the new iPad.  The advanced wireless features of the new iPad have not changed.”

It got into this mess though because it was happy to label its device as 4G, even though it’s only works as 4G in the US and Canada. While LTE/4G is edging ever closer in the UK, this new iPad won’t do the 4G thing – its frequencies are just not compatible. One would hope and suspect, that next year’s model will offer an integrated LTE chipset that is friendlier to European frequencies, but that is of course dependant on the progress made by the chipset providers, which in all likelihood means Qualcomm. By the time the next iPad comes out there should be a large addressable market across Europe for a multi frequency chipset to be produced in enough numbers to ensure economies of scale kick in. Bring it on.

iPad 3 still not 4G UK punters discover

Why does everything in the UK take so long? We have the worst trains, the slowest 3G and as we should know by now, no ‘4G’ of any kind at all – at the moment. We even take longer than everyone to complain. Yet, isn’t that what we’re good at? Let me explain.

Soon after the new iPad was released I pointed out that though it was heavily pushed by Apple as ‘4G’, the LTE frequencies supported meant that it would only work on ‘4G’ networks in the US and Canada.

A few days, and a lot of iPad sales later, some Australian purchasers of said new iPad realised this and when they realised they’d been sold a 4G pup got rather irate. (Australia does have a ‘4G’ LTE network with Telstra, but it operates at 1800MHz – the iPad + 4G does not). Cue throwing of iPad’s on barbies and hurling abuse via the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), actions that have led to refunds.

It’s taken quite a while, but the UK has finally woken up to the same fact, and as Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC Technology journalist explains, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has also received some complaints. Only 40 of them though, which considering it sold three million in three days, doesn’t seem that many.

Of course, as the UK doesn’t have any live LTE ‘4G’ networks the issue isn’t as acute as in Australia, though in fact, as you can tell from this Which? conversation page, I was asked to contribute to, many UK punters thought that if Apple was selling a 4G iPad, there must be a 4G network.

At first I thought that this was as silly as the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, who famously thought that if you can’t see it, it couldn’t see you.

Then again, that’s probably a bit harsh. For punters who don’t want, or don’t care to pay attention to the finer details of mobile broadband technology, it’s not an totally unreasonable assumption to make. (Clearly, Joe Bloggs should be paying more attention to the finer details of mobile broadband technology).

Even for those that do know that the UK doesn’t have LTE now, the information that it won’t support the UK’s LTE  when it comes online next year, comes very much as news to them.

It’s a problem.

As such, it seems that Apple has promised to remove all references to 4G from the UK website – though as it stands, they are still there.

It’s a 4G quagmire out there.

On the upside, it’s stopped raining here in London. It’s not all bad.

What’s the LTE frequency Mavis?

So the Apple hoopla is now over and, well, OK, it’s not over at all, but now that the new iPad has finally been unveiled the agonising pent up expectation has been dealt with and we can start to get on with our lives.

Looking at the specs, a few things of note occur. The HD display was, of course what this release was all about in the main, and it does sound like an amazing achievement. More resolution than a Full HD TV in a small 9.7in space will make for incredibly sharp, vibrant and clear images. Eventually it will Make Things Better, as web site designers, photographers and app designers realise they need to improve the visual quality of everything they do for fear of the new iPad display laying bare their flaws.

The next issue is the name. It appears to be officially called, ‘the new iPad’. Really? Facepalm.

The first iPad was called the iPad. The second iPad was called the iPad 2. So naturally the third is called… the new iPad. This sort of thing makes me a bit cross. Could we not just avoid confusion and called it the iPad 3? Would iPad HD have been too terrible? (Update: @ianbetteridge points out that it’s actually just called: iPad. Still, point stands.)

One tech journo wag on Twitter wrote, “I’ve given it some thought and I refuse to call it “New iPad”. No. I’d rather call it Glen, Tina or Gregg Jevins.” I’d be included to agree, though I’m leaning towards Mavis. Mavis it is then.

Another thing Mavis doesn’t have is the Senseg textured feel tech that some tech journos were getting very lathered up about yesterday. And because it’s not there we shall not speak of it again.

We also get a much improved 5-megapixel camera with 1080p recording, which is nice. This no doubt – will be putting further strain on network if pictures and videos are sent uncompressed.

Which brings us to LTE. Yesterday I said that the iPad, sorry, Mavis, might come out in two flavours – one regular 3G and one LTE enabled one for North America. I was wrong, amazingly. In fact, there’s one world LTE enabled Mavis, though outside of the US in terms of LTE, it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot.

This is because it’s only compatible with both the 700MHz bands used in the US by AT&T and Verizon. It also has LTE 2100, which is Big in Japan, and Nigeria. Great.

This means that when LTE networks become widespread in Europe, this iPad will simply not work with them. Europe is in the main going to use three main frequencies for LTE: – 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz, so it will require a new chipset that supports those for European users to get LTE Mavis joy. It works the other way too – US users coming here will have to drop down to 3G. In the promotional video for Mavis, Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of hardware engineering says that it “works with more mobile bands than every mobile device ever.” Assuming this is true, it’s impressive but Apple needs to up the count even further for the next one. Not that it will be so terrible having to drop down to 3G, as the Mavis now supports HSPA+ and DC-HSPA (21Mbps and 42Mbps respectively and these are theoretical maximums; also known as ‘in your dreams’.

On an iPad, sorry Mavis, it’s less of an issue as wi-fi only tablets version tend to be popular, and that might be the safest route for now, and you can always tether to a mifi or smartphone.

The question then is if a newer LTE chipset will be ready by the time the iPhone 5 launches. If not, it will be more of an issue, as then Europe would effectively be stuck without LTE until the iPhone 6! I know, it barely bares thinking about.

(Picture is ‘borrowed’ from Nate Lanxon’s spiffing hands-on preview at Wired.co.uk.

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For more LTE terminal device discussions be sure to book your place at the LTE World Summit taking place on the 23-24 May 2012 CCIB, Barcelona, Spain. 

LTE iPad a ‘touchy’ subject

It’s a common bugbear for some tech journalist  that in the lead up to an Apple product launch, other tech titles do almost nothing other than feed the Apple trolls. That being said I thought I’d allow myself one single Apple post just in case you’re not aware what’s happening tonight . (If that’s you – how is that rock you’ve been living under?)

Tonight will see Apple launch the third iteration of its iPad tablet computer. First announced in January 2010 the iPad is now Apple’s second largest generator of income, second only to the iPhone and ahead of the Mac. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple sold 40.5 million iPads in the calendar year 2011, driving revenue of nearly $25 billion. For a device that many analysts feared would flop, these figures are astounding.

As ever, the techosphere has been buzzing with guesses of what upgrades Apple will be including in the new machine, and trying to glean hints from the image in the invite that Apple sent round to those attending. The main new feature will undoubtedly be an upgrading high resolution display. The expectation is that it will offer double the resolution of the first two iPads, taking it from 1,024 x 768 to 2048 x 1536. This is much greater than almost all standard computer displays, which is remarkable for a 9.7in screen. This means that text, web sites and images will look even more crisp and clearer than ever before . The downside is that all iPad apps will have to be rewritten for the new high res display, or just run in double-up x2 mode, as standard iPhone apps can do when they run on the iPad. Unfortunately, this is a rather ugly mode, but a period of pain as Apps are gradually upgraded will be worth enduring to enjoy the quality on offer.

"And touch", eh. Is that a clue?

All this means that the name  is up for debate? Will it be iPad 3, iPad HD, or even, as would be quite apt, iPad touch – mirroring the iPod touch that it already offers. I kind of like the symmetry.

To power the demands of the new display the new iPad will need a faster processor, and there’s debate as to whether this will be new quad-core A6, and updated dual-core A5X, or lots of fast pedalling tiny squirrels. We’re hoping for the latter.

The second rumoured change is the introduction of real ‘touch’ feedback. The clue is in the ‘And touch’ part of the invite. Apple chooses its words carefully, and likes to hint at its launch news in the invites. The rumour is that it will use a technology called ‘Senseg, that will bring real-feel textures to the iPad (as the Guardian explains here) – so an image of say a corrugated surface will feel rough, and a soft surface will feel soft. The tech sounds pretty sci-fi, but it would be very Apple to pull it off. Senseg was showing off its tech as Mobile World Congress but after announcing in January that it was working with ‘a Californian tablet maker’, it’s gone all shy and won’t confirm anything.

The third rumour is that the iPad will introduce an integrated LTE chipset for the first time in its connected version. If it does this it will be forced to move away from the single worlds chipset it currently offers on the iPhone 4S, as the 700MHz LTE on AT&T and Verizon are not compatible. What’s more, when LTE arrives in Europe it will have to support 800, 2.6GHz and probably 1800MHz too. What Apple need is once LTE chipset to rule them all.

What’s clear is that LTE is third fiddle on the rumour mill, possibly even behind the hope that Apple might offer the fondleslab in colours other than black and white. For the UK and LTE in the iPad is naturally something of an irrelevance, (unless you live in Southwark), but for those in the rest of the world outside of the US that does have LTE it could be frustrating not to have access to a feature that those in the US do. That said, this is what mifi devices were made for – and you get to buy the cheaper wifi only iPad at the same time. Job done.

Why LTE would have made the iPhone 4S worse

LTE will come to the iPhone - let's hang in there

While a lot of people were aggrieved that LTE did not make it into the iPhone 4S when it was released last October, the tech site Ars Technica has done a good job making it clear that not only did Apple not need to have LTE in the 4S it actually would have been detrimental.

The clue is in Apple’s just released quarterly results, which show that, unsurprisingly, the iPhone has accounted for a sizable chunk of Apple’s revenue over the past two years. Of the 37 million iPhones sold in the last quarter, only an estimated 10m or so were sold in the US. And outside of the US, while certainly growing apace, LTE is still an emerging technology.

Even within the US, the number of iPhone owners who could actively make use of LTE, is not huge. Verizon has reasonable coverage, but AT&T is still getting going and Sprint has yet to start its LTE roll-out. Apple would have increased the cost of its BOM on integrated technology that most of its customers could not use.

What’s more, considering the battery drain that current LTE chipsets impose on the iPhone’s Android rivals, it’s little wonder that LTE was omitted. The initial release of iOS5 caused users enough battery problems as it was, and having to weather the storm of the inevitable user dissatisfaction that a battery draining LTE chipset would have brought is a sea of hurt that Apple did well to avoid.

It’s also not the first time that Apple has approached network technology in this way. The original iPhone released in 2007 was much derided by commentators for its lack of 3G – but Apple was happy to wait for greater 3G rollout and better 3G chipsets for the follow up a year later. It proved to be the right move.

As I covered a while back, the chipset that Apple is waiting for is that Qualcomm MDM9600, which should enable Apple to get LTE into a form factor it wants with, hopefully, not much power drain.

One area though that does have pockets of LTE is the Middle-East, on networks such as Etisalat, in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Devices are sure to be a major point of conversation at the LTE MENA conference, taking place on 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE, and I for one will be keen to hear the operator’s take for the need for LTE handsets, from either Apple or its competitors.

On a selfish note, if LTE didn’t make it into the next iPhone I wouldn’t be too bothered. It would save me the frustration of seeing others round the world using it, while here in the UK we’ll be stuck with a cutting edge iPhone on a second class 3G network. The chances are though that LTE will be here for the next iPhone, possibly available in the summer. It will be interesting to see if Apple produces a separate version for markets without LTE, or goes for a single phone, containing a chipset that many will have to wait to make use of.

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