Posts tagged ‘roundup’

LTE North America Conference Day Two: Why spectrum is the new black

Sometimes a simple number is just what you need to gain a snapshot of how something has changed, evolved or moved on. Krish Prabhu, CTO of AT&T started proceedings of Day Two of the LTE North America conference in Dallas by telling the packed audience that since the launch of the iPhone in 2007 data traffic on networks has increased by no less than 20,000 per cent. As he phrased it, “it’s hard to comprehend whatever that means.”

What it indicates to me is that today data is the new oil, the fuel that powers economies worldwide as much, or even more so, than the viscous black liquid that J.R Ewing, (and now his sons) obsesses over. Spectrum is the new black. Dallas, is the perfect location then, for the LTE North America conference, where over the past few days a fine succession of speakers, panellists  and analysts have informed, educated and even at times entertained – though admittedly not usually deliberately for the latter.

Over 1,00 attendees have filled the halls and the tracks (66% up from 2011), and walking around I’ve heard from many people how impressed they have been with the quality of the show, in terms of content and of networking opportunities. Speed networking proved to be a particular favourite!

Back to the opening keynote of Day Two and AT&T’s Krish Prabhu, Prabhu, in perhaps a slightly self-congratulatory tone, said that the industry, or perhaps he meant just AT&T, had done a good job of going from that standing start of carrying virtually no data traffic, to meeting the demands of the myriad American football fans who wants to upload picture from the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium during a game.  This was made possible through AT&T’s investments such as portable antennas that could be moved into areas such as stadiums as required. Prabhu said that only recently these were used during the Democratic convention in North Carolina and with tongue firmly in cheek, he said that AT&T liked to think that this was one of the reasons why the Democrats won.

Prabhu revealed that over that last five years, AT&T had spent over $90billion on wireless and spectrum to improve the quality of the network. (A tremendous amount – those Dallas Cowboys pictures had better be good) and that with its well publicised Velocity IP investments, AT&T would complete its LTE coverage by the end of 2014 covering some 300m of the population.

Krish Prabhu, CTO, AT&T

Small cells would increase in number through 2013 and 2014 but would be tricky to deploy. SON had been a success for the network so far, and he claimed that it has resulted in a significant improvement in the network. AT&T had measured a reduction in dropped calls by 10 per cent, retention of 3G traffic by the same amount and 15 per cent fewer loaded cells. Asking the audience if they had noticed this improvement amusingly failed to be matched by a show of hands, leading Prabhu to suggest, again tongue-in-cheek, that perhaps AT&T’s  measurements could be wrong.

Following the keynote Prabhu joined a panel session with representatives from Google, MetroPCS and Sony Mobile that raised some interesting discussions around the challenges of harmonising the highly fragmenting ecosystem of LTE. But Prabhu once again had a comment that raised a laugh from the audience when he answered the question of whether carriers had a role to play in the face of OTT dominance and whether their investments in IMS and RCS would pay off. “It’s certainly beyond pipes – we don’t invest billions to get $70 a month just so everyone’s Google experience is better – if we do that we’re not smart businessmen!”

The panel also felt that RCS had a good chance to succeed – and could become Telecoms 2.0. It was agreed that the convenience that you don’t need to download an app or a client could help it succeed, as long as it was backed with a decent UI and that it always works.

The positivity on the panel towards the potential for future success was epitomised most definitively by Prabhu who when asked to respond with a positive or negative to the question, “Will customers still pay for voice and SMS in five years”, responded, “Hope so!” Now there’s optimism.

So as the curtain falls on a highly successful LTE North America we can look forward to the next event in the busy LTE calendar, LTE Latin America, on 16th-17th April 2013, in what is again a fast growing market and we’ll see you all back here again next year for LTE North America in Dallas.

LTE North America: Day One Round-up: Standing room only

As some may know, next year the LTE North America will be moving to a new home in Dallas. Judging from the size of the crowd at the opening keynote of the LTE north America conference that’s going to be a necessary. It was standing-room only by the time Informa’s principal analyst Mike Roberts opening proceedings and things were busy throughout the day. There was a record 800+ delegates at the show, with 60 unique carriers in attendance from across the US representing   some 40 per cent of the US carrier market, from small local rural players such as the Texas-based ZIPnet US, to regional’s such as MetroPCS, and of course, AT&T and Verizon.

The show was very busy this year with 1,000+ attendees

Mike Roberts got things going by giving a snapshot of LTE’s growth, with just a few subscriptions in 2010, reaching 5 million in 2011 and currently standing at 40 million worldwide, making it the fastest growing telecoms technology ever. Roberts had praise for vendors who he said had learned from the mistakes made over 3G. In particular the networks had shown they were good at delivering speed, but that there was room for improvement when it comes to pricing, with a need to show more sophistication.

The first of two keynotes were delivered by John Saw, CTO of Clearwire, who detailed how the network operator had 16,000 cell sites to support 11million users, most of which are for Sprint. Saw explained that Clearwire was very pleased with its use of TDD technology and that the eco-system had received a huge boost when China Mobile, the largest operator in the world, recently announced that it would, like Clearwire, use Band 41 as its preferred band.

[N.B. Representatives of John Saw would like me to add that Band-41 for TDD-LTE will be used by almost all the Chinese wireless industry].

Saw also said that video was pretty much the biggest game in town as far as killer apps for 4G was concerned, with its taking up 60 per cent of Clearwire’s capacity, up from 50 per cent the year before.  In fact, mobile video was where it felt it could differentiate itself – by providing a better mobile video experience than other networks. Video is very bandwidth intensive and that can only be made possible if you’ve got plenty of spectrum to play with – as Clearwire does.

That could be why Saw was so excited about carrier aggregation, which is essentially LTE Advanced by another name. Hooking up carriers bands together will give it 40 or even 60MHz of bandwidth providing speeds for what even Saw wasn’t sure what for. But as he said, “I’m sure someone will release an app that will use all of it.”

Tom Sawanbori, vp of Network planning at Verizon was next up and he was equally bullish about how the company had done for LTE – which is fair enough as it is flying the flag for LTE worldwide. That’s because it started earliest in the US, rolling out LTE to 100m population coverage in 2010. Sawanbori revealed that 35 per cent of its total usage was LTE already. It plans to complete its LTE rollout by the end of 2013 by which time it will have covered 245m population. It’s working hard on VoLTE and RCS services Sawanbori said, but he wouldn’t be drawn on timescales for its introduction.

Sawanbori took a moment away from technology to mention that Verizon had done well during the hurricane Sandy disaster by having an effective backup strategy so that its network did not go down to any major degree.

Verizon is also a partner with many rural carriers as part of its LTE Rural America programme. While the program has brought LTE to many rural areas, during a track on the issues later in the say, some smaller carriers expressed frustration that there was not enough access to spectrum. However, it’s not just access to spectrum but usable spectrum that’s the issue. It seems that all 700Mhz is not the same, and if the band plan doesn’t match that of the national networks there’s no possibility of roaming, which can seriously dent a small carrier’s 4G plans. And with no economy of scale to help get supporting devices on the table, duff spectrum can arguably be as bad as no spectrum.

We also heard an interesting presentation from Marc Scala, Executive Director of Simplynew describing an innovative use of second screen functions and audience participation of an exclusive Verizon tablet app for the X-Factor, that displayed video during the add breaks and enabling Verizon customers to send messages to the that would then be integrated into the show. This is a taster of the sort of innovative services that LTE can bring.

There were also interesting discussion around mobile video in a panel session where Marc Zionts, vp of strategic mobile service providers for Allot Communications suggested that data plans need to become more innovative – so instead of just a 2GB data cap, you say, get 2GB as standard but 5GB if you don’t use video at peak hours – a way of avoiding the stop start nature of suing data plans at the beginning of the month till they run out, and then starting the process all over again, the next month.

These were just taster of the many tracks and discussions that were going on all over the conference, and Day Two should promise to be just as informative.

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