Cellular IoT: Understanding the “Value” of NB-IoT or LTE-M Key to Operator Success?

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• NB-IoT and LTE-M deployments are proliferating. Proofs of concept abound, but neither technology appears to be generating significant momentum yet.

• Regardless of the technology, moving beyond connectivity is vital to mobile operator success in IoT.

In the past six months, cellular operators worldwide have been rapidly deploying narrowband (NB)-IoT and LTE-M. In June, the GSMA announced the success of its Mobile IoT Initiative, claiming nearly 75 operators deploying NB-IoT or Cat-M and 500 members in its Mobile IoT Innovators initiative designed to help operators add IoT value. The bulk of this focus has been on NB-IoT, which cellular operators are using to establish new use cases, including smart agriculture and a variety of smart cities applications involving lighting, parking meters, smart buildings and the like. For example, T-Mobile USA completed live NB-IoT smart city trials in July 2017 in advance of a planned national launch.

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AT&T Aims to SHAPE the Future of Entertainment with Time Warner Acquisition

Erik Keith – Principal Analyst, Fixed Access Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • The AT&T SHAPE event, held in Burbank, California last week at the massive Warner Brothers studio lot, highlighted the impressive variety of media and entertainment assets that AT&T will gain with its pending $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.
  • The AT&T SHAPE event showcased the company’s clear intent to transform AT&T from ‘the Phone Company’ into a 21st century media and entertainment juggernaut, which also just happens to have a very strong legacy in networking.

The AT&T SHAPE Technology and Entertainment Expo was held at the Warner Brothers studios July 14-15 in Burbank, California. The SHAPE event was quite different from previous AT&T events, primarily because of the strong focus on Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Actually being ‘on location’ on the Warner Brothers lot drove this point home very effectively. However, the format for the event was familiar, in that it consisted of roughly one-hour sessions which were delivered in one of the Warner Brothers screening theaters. Approximately 10,000 people attended the event. The main theater where the sessions were hosted had more than 500 seats, with an overflow theater and live streaming of the main stage displayed on TV monitors in other locations throughout the Warner Brothers studio lot. Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Leveraging IoT to Create Digital Industries

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

  • While the core use cases for 5G are well understood (enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT, mission critical communications), it’s important to remember that a core objective of those use cases is enabling digital industries – helping service providers target vertical markets and not just broad swaths of consumers and enterprises.
  • Initial 5G specifications may be focused on enabling enhanced mobile broadband, but we’re already seeing how digital transformation will unfold thanks to LTE technologies like Cat-M and NB-IoT.

Today’s discussions of 5G, more often than not, focus on the core use cases promised by the technology and the new services they will enable.  Where early messaging scrambled to define 5G objectives broadly, narrowing them down is a welcome development, if only to ensure a common understanding of what 5G will focus on: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive IoT (massive machine type communications – MTC), mission-critical communications (ultra-reliable low-latency communications, URLLC). Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Unleashing New Spectrum via Sharing

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:                 

  • In the run-up to 5G launches, new shared and unlicensed spectrum usage is helping to open up new business models for mobile operators.
  • Beyond the development of technologies like LTE-U, LAA, CBRS and MulteFire, development of the ecosystems around those technologies and examples of how they can be commercially put to use will drive their success.

To date, most commercial, mobile wireless services have been built on a foundation of licensed spectrum.  Going forward, 5G won’t change that.

Where the next generation of wireless technology requires a massive technology investment, mobile operators will want the network quality and availability assurances (not to mention competitive advantages) that licensed spectrum delivers.  5G will, however, bring an understanding that new spectrum access regimes are required that are tailored to the availability of spectrum, tailored to the requirements of the digital industries being targeted, and tailored to the opportunity to improve the efficiency of spectrum usage in unlicensed and shared spectrum bands.  Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Taking Gigabit LTE to the Masses

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Gigabit LTE (LTE networks, services and devices supporting theoretical peak speeds of a Gigabit or more) has been a big part of 5G discussions in 2017.  But it’s also – as the name implies – an evolution of LTE.  3GPP R13 LTE-Advanced Pro, to be specific.

It’s fair to ask, then, what’s the link to 5G?

While it would be technically inaccurate to position Gigabit LTE as a 5G technology, there’s no denying that it will support 5G rollouts and services.  As 5G rolls out in targeted pockets, Gigabit LTE will ensure consistent network-wide user experiences.  Likewise, as service providers investigate the specific IoT and broadband use cases 5G will support, Gigabit LTE will help them understand the options and opportunities ahead of them not to mention fundamental 5G technologies that start getting introduced into the network with Gigabit LTE.    Read more of this post

Accelerating 5G: Bringing NR to Reality

Peter Jarich

Peter Jarich – VP, Consumer Services and Service Provider Infrastructure

Every new generation of cellular technology has come with its own, new, air interface.  5G is no different, introducing 5G New Radio (NR). And, as with so much of 5G, 2017 promises to be a big year for 5G NR.

Long before AT&T announced 5G Evolution services based on LTE technologies last week, it was clear that service provider strategies and vendor positioning, alike, include LTE technologies as new air interfaces in their 5G service and marketing plans.  With LTE continuing to evolve, its inclusion in 5G discussions makes sense (a topic we’ll come back to).  But it also begs the question of why a new air interface for 5G is necessary.  Beyond any interest in delineating a new technology with a new air interface, 5G NR promises a number of important features and functionalities: support for diverse spectrum, including low-band (sub-1 GHz), mid-band (1 to 6 GHz) and high-band, mmWave (24 GHz and up) assets; lower latency; added network capacity; improved spectral efficiency (lower cost-per-bit); improved service uniformity (EG, at cell edge); and the flexibility to support 5G’s diverse use cases (massive IoT, critical communications, and enhanced mobile broadband) with one unified design.

The 2017 Story

Against this backdrop – and a general interest in moving 5G forward – it’s not surprising that operators including AT&T, Verizon, and SKT have committed to commercial and pre-commercial 5G deployments this year incorporating mmWave spectrum and an air interface beyond LTE.  It would be wrong to call the technology used in these launches “5G NR” since these operators aren’t waiting for the 5G NR specifications to be complete.  Regardless, these launches are important, if only because they point to three key realities: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) as the first 5G use case focus; demand for moving quickly on implementing new 5G air interfaces; the progress made to date in bringing that new air interface to life. Read more of this post

AT&T Introduces “5G Evolution”: Is This the Moment When 5G Became a Marketing Term?

John Byrne

John Byrne – Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:

• AT&T launched the first of what it calls “5G Evolution” upgrades slated for 20 major metros in the U.S. in 2017.

• As with the introduction of 4G/LTE, operators are likely to begin treating “5G” as more of a marketing tool than a specific set of performance specs.

The history of mobile network evolution used to be pretty clear. First there was analog (which, by the way, no one referred to as “1G”), which was the service customers had in the 1980s – simple voice over inefficient networks, but that was OK because most people couldn’t afford cellphones (which were at that time “carphones”). Read more of this post