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Happy New Year 2014There’s so much going on in the industry now. Firstly we have the New Year. Happy New Year. I will continue my analysis from before, however things got interesting when the data showed something about specific vendor performance.

Last year LTE became mainstream for most technology reporters and we saw lots of drivel published. News wise, I think the key events from 2013 were : (1) the availability of LTE globally, (2) the start of roaming with AT&T’s announcement (with Rogers in Canada), (3) the Rockstar group Apple, BlackBerry, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Sony- formed around Nortel’s LTE IPRs. (4) AT&T’s change of position on lower 700MHz spectrum (Specifically 3GPP Band 12) (5) Verizon’s  Carrier Aggregation (CA) and VoLTE trials.fig3_649x342 Most everything else was what I would call typical business activity.


 There’s the CES show in Las Vegas, NV. going on now. So far there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of innovation, save for some of Intel’s little toys like a tiny computer the size of a golf ball and a ‘bowl’ that supports wireless charging. Most announcements are for smaller, thinner devices with more pixels,  wearable fitness trackers. There is a cool FLIR camera jacket for an iPhone but that’s not really what I would consider as innovative.  

I will keep my eyes open and we will take a look at whatever interesting pops up. Stay tuned!


Groovy Pic from VentureBeat at CES 2014.

Groovy Pic from VentureBeat at CES 2014.

the-secret-to-happiness Update: Serendipitously, Kevin Pritchard at GigOM just published an article on Verizon’s New network. I added some thinking about this below…

There’s disappointingly little to report from the Small Cell Forum meetings in Dallas, TX this week, was hoping for someone to make bold moves. Anyhow, ever notice that most LTE macro network operators are very hesitant to push the envelope as far as performance is concerned. It’s really surprising given that EVERYONE is deploying LTE, devices are more or less ubiquitous and so that really leaves performance and price as the key mobile data service differentiators. 

So that brings me to some recent press release I read about Root Metrics performance comparison of the US operators. Here is a sample of their data:

Average download and upload speeds by carrier 

AT&T: 17.0 Mbps download/7.6 Mbps upload
Verizon: 11.9 Mbps download/5.0 Mbps upload
T-Mobile: 10.9 Mbps download/4.9 Mbps upload
Sprint: 5.7 Mbps download/2.5 Mbps upload
Cricket: 0.6 Mbps download/0.4 Mbps upload

Let’s re-frame this data a little bit. Here is a comparison of Now to Then…


So what gives???

Verizon admits it can’t handle LTE demand in major cities (Nov-2013)

AT&T Is Deploying Intucell’s SON Technology as Part of Latest Wireless Network Upgrades (Feb-2012)

SON eh? There are other things they are doing but there are lots of things they are NOT doing either….


To be fair, there’s a little uneven playing field here- Verizon has more extensive LTE coverage and more users, therefore you could argue the loading was not identical but on the other hand, with SON on your side, that’s is always true. 


As I mentioned above, Kevin Pritchard at GigaOM published an article titled “Verizon quietly unleashes its LTE monster, tripling 4G capacity in major cities”  BTW there is a similar article written 15 October 13 By Andrew Martonik in Android Central…Verizon deploying LTE on AWS spectrum in major markets

Here is the summary:

On the third anniversary of its LTE launch, Verizon is delivering a new 4G network. Over the last few months, it’s been quietly deploying the fastest, highest capacity LTE network in the country.

The GigaOM article touts the NEW Verizon network. Hmmm. So let’s look at this 2 ways. Firstly, for existing UEs, The current crop of RF baseband processors in devices like the Qualcomm 9615/Snapdragon 600/800 etc… support up to 3GPP Release 9, therefore most of the devices will only support 1 frequency at a time. I’ll explain why I said that in a bit. This means that old devices will remain on Verizon’s Band 13 (Upper 700MHz) AND only new devices (example: Nexus 5, Samsung S4 USA Version, iPhone 5S/c) will support their new AWS Band. So the capacity crunch won’t immediately feel much better. Next, the best that a user in each band can hope for from the network is 84Mbps peak or somewhere around 11-17Mbps per the tested results above. 

The reason I said 1 frequency at a time is that 3GPP Release 10 introduces a new feature called carrier aggregation. This allows the network and device to bundle multiple spectrums into a logical channel. In Verizon’s case this could be AWS and 700MHz channels sooner and PCS and 800 as time moves forward (and they refarm their existing spectrum.) So the good news is these users will see peaks closer to 150Mbps. I would call that the NEW Verizon network for sure. The bad news is the only device that currently supports that is a Korean market Samsung S4.

Qualcomm has added support for Carrier Aggregation in MDM9225 and MDM9625, so eagerly anticipate a faster Samsung S5 or Apple iPhone 6. So in summary, it’s a bit early to tout that Verizon has a NEW network. Back to my original point, until they get Carrier Aggregation, their spectrum efficiency of 1.19 vs AT&T’s of 1.7 won’t change much!

To the average consumer this means generally, slightly, slower throughput if a Verizon subscriber and Verizon is paying about a 30% premium over the air to provide the bits to you versus AT&T.

So it looks from afar that AT&T’s investment in SON is saving them at least 30% compared to their biggest competitor with identical spectrum. What’s holding everyone back from massive SON implementation again??

Lastly, the GigaOM article mentions that AT&T cannot do the same. Well, they could have if they converted their network to TDD, then they would have an even faster (peaks) network with 20MHz aggregated from existing then they could throw their MediaFlo spectrum (lower 700MHz unpaired block) at it. Instead they will go shopping. They tried to pick up TMO and use that AWS but it looks like the Band 12 guys just cashed in their golden tickets…

Stay thirsty my friends…most-interesting-man-in-the-world


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The future billboard Working on many things at the same time, the tunnel vision sets in, so every once in a while, I try to take a I step back and reflect on where we are in LTE land.

What I see is a early market that has yet to find it’s purpose in life. Yeah yeah, consumers are buying devices like Samsung Galaxy III/IV and Apple iPhones that are LTE enabled at a rapid clip in the US, but at this point the device is driving the sale not the LTE itself.  

There have been a couple of interesting developments, such as Audi and GM deciding to leverage LTE for in car data links and even going as far as choosing to use VoLTE for voice. That’s a major step towards finding the killer app for LTE.AudiLTE_connect

However, those developments are in progress and have not actually resulted in any traffic yet, both are expected in 2014.

Consumers are driving traffic today. Looking through some public data, like Root Metrics reports on average data speeds, I am reminded by how inefficient the networks are.

Verizon vs AT&T LTE

Here are some results from that more or less concur the performance observed by Root Metrics.
iPhone 5 Verizon 4G LTE Speed Test Results
  • 8.52 Mbps download, 13.87 Mbps upload, 39 ms ping
  • 7.47 Mbps download, 13.70 Mbps upload, 38 ms ping
  • 10.21 Mbps download, 13.81 Mbps upload, 38 ms ping

iPhone 5 on AT&T 4G LTE Speed Test Results

  • 9.32 Mbps download, 13.69 Mbps upload, 47 ms ping
  • 9.11 Mbps download, 13.88 Mbps upload, 47 ms ping
  • 9.69 Mbps download, 16.20 Mbps upload, 48 ms ping
  • 8.96 Mbps download, 15.83 Mbps upload, 40 ms ping
iPhone 5 over Wi-Fi (Comcast Blast 50 Mbps) Speed Test Results
  • 8.52 Mbps download, 13.87 Mbps upload, 39 ms ping

So it’s hard for me not to notice a couple of elements to this story. Firstly, the mad rush to provide LTE coverage (schedule driven) has been, understandably, at the expense of quality. Here’s the difference:



The peak throughout of a 10MHz 2×2 MIMO with 3 PDCCH symbols, 5% extra overhead and 10% retransmissions channel is 58Mbps, with SIMO at 35MBps. So practical rates in the field are 26.4% of the peak rates with retransmissions. 

It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that 26.4% efficiency is an ROI buster.

So with 50,000 eNBs they currently carry maximally 750GBs over their RAN instead of the 2.9TBs they have already paid for. Simply extrapolating from Cisco’s 2013 VNI report, I get a projected data explosion like this:


Uhhh, isn’t the datapcolypse supposed to need about 800GBps  per operator in 2017? They’re blowing 2x that amount with poor efficiency!


 Making matters worse, ATT and VZW are starting to throw some additional spectrum into the markets. VZW recently announced they are adding 5000 eNBs with AWS spectrum, most likely ‘hotspots’ costing them $3.9B in a one time AWS spectrum buy plus ~$15K/eNB = $75M annually for the additional carrier. ATT has done a series of multibillion dollar deals to add in more 700MHz spectrum. 

ATT has been spending something on the order of $22B to build out and maintain an extensive WiFi network they claim offloads their LTE networks.

Here’s the rub, improving the efficiency to move their average is not as expensive as the offloading or spectrum additions they are doing. One more thing, SON should be doing some of the work for them in a very OPEX friendly manner. 

By cleaning up the network, making it more efficient, there is going to be an induced demand, yes, however having users use your product is not necessarily a bad thing. (I’ve already complained about pricing.)

Let me just say this is crazy. Reducing the network efficiency effectively increases your cost to provide service thus degrading margins. There are tons of levers to pull in the protocol as it is written, with improvements on the horizon. Wake up!

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has illuminated the fasten seatbelts sign as some turbulence and or distruption is expected in this market.. 

PS: Verizon and ATT, I will make myself available to send you an invoice for, say, $1-2B and will turnkey a project to give you another 800GBps. You can sell your recent investments and return the money to working capital or the investors, or hold them for getting to 1GBps over the air with carrier aggregation in the future… (ok time for me to get back to work…)



VZW Rule The Air Logo Couldn’t help but notice that Verizon completed the transaction of selling off it’s Lower 700MHz spectrum today. Key point is, as long as it doesn’t go to AT&T consumers are better off. OK that had to be said.

The markets and spectrum from their PR is:

Nortex Communications, based in Muenster, Texas, acquired the Texas RSA 6-Jack 700 MHz lower B-block license, which covers a four-county area northwest of Dallas. Panhandle Telecommunication Systems, Inc., based in Guymon, Okla., acquired the Texas RSA 2-Hansford 700 MHz lower B-block license, which covers 12 counties in the northwest part of Texas. Colorado Valley Communications purchased a partitioned A-Block license covering a five-county area in the Houston market.

The next bottleneck, once the spectrum gets diffused into the market, is the availability of chipsets that support this spectrum, Band 12. See the diagram below for a quick refresher.

700MHz spectrum chart

I am planning to do an overview of this situation next so stay tuned. Yea for us. We got a little more market freedom today. Hopefully this will encourage some of the smaller operators to deploy LTE and compete with the big guys.

Fist Bump



BTW, When’s the last time we saw Munster, TX or Guymon, OK in a tech industry press release? Shout out to you peeps. 




Below is excerpted from their site.

Verizon Wireless Completes Spectrum Sales to Three Rural Companies

Verizon Wireless has completed three spectrum license sale transactions following agreements reached late last year as part of the open sale process for its 700 MHz A and B Block licenses. Nortex Communications and Panhandle Telecommunication Systems, Inc. closed on their respective purchases this week. Colorado Valley Communications completed its purchase on January 16, 2013.

Nortex Communications, based in Muenster, Texas, acquired the Texas RSA 6-Jack 700 MHz lower B-block license, which covers a four-county area northwest of Dallas. Panhandle Telecommunication Systems, Inc., based in Guymon, Okla., acquired the Texas RSA 2-Hansford 700 MHz lower B-block license, which covers 12 counties in the northwest part of Texas. purchased a partitioned A-Block license covering a five-county area in the Houston market.

Verizon Wireless offered its lower 700 MHz spectrum licenses for sale to rationalize its spectrum holdings and enable more spectrum to reach the marketplace where it can be used for the benefit of customers. As a result of the sale process, Verizon Wireless signed agreements with seven companies, including one national carrier, five rural or regional carriers and one minority-owned firm. To date, three purchases have been completed and four remain pending. Verizon Wireless is also getting 700 MHz C block spectrum into the hands of 20 rural operators through its LTE in Rural America leasing program.

Real quick, AT&T execs are supposedly working to launch LTE Advanced next year!  I first saw this on TechSpot. Their Article is here:

AT&T executives confirm 4G LTE Advanced rollout will start next year

I think this is very plausible considering the standards will be in place at that time and they have this other spectrum that gives them some lower700MHz frequency space for one of the key features, Carrier Aggregation. Right now that spectrum is unpaired and unused and they paid billions for it so it makes sense to me.

  Oh yeah, 


Qualcomm is sampling their LTE-Advanced MODEM chipset the Qualcomm Gobi MDM9625/9225, now too. Hmmm...



Update: I was correct, they are leasing Lower 700MHz A/B spectrum in a few markets, BRS (2.4GHz) in 1 market, Lower 700MHz C/D in a few markets. So this is not being deployed in the Public Safety Upper 700MHz band. On the other hand, I was incorrect in inferring this was for public safety, this is for a new targeted market, what they call ‘critical’ infrastructure ex:gas/oil facilities. I suspect there will be lots of m2m like telemetry riding the waves too. This is a very interesting development! Go LTE ecosystem! 

Just keep that info up top in mind…

 Interesting announcement from Infrastructure Networks is intriguing in two dimensions for me. Firstly, the ecosystem for LTE is growing with this company focusing on an LTE for Public Safety deployment and secondly Infrastructure Networks deploys a large area of LTE for Public Safety in West Texas. This means the folks in West Texas got motivated and made things happen with respect to LTE whereas many others are just on the sidelines. Interesting. The Public Safety band in upper 700MHz is a great choice for rural areas based on the propagation characteristics, however from reading this: 

 Founded in March of 2011, Infrastructure Networks has been expanding network coverage under licensed spectrum holdings that cover more than 150,000 square miles of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin in Texas and large parts of West Texas, the Texas panhandle, Eastern New Mexico and Kern County, California.

Sounds like they have some lower 700MHz, huh?

 Spectrum holdings of Infrastructure Networks:






 Their coverage area for this West Texas deployment:


Full PR:

PR Text:

Infrastructure Networks Rolls Out The First LTE Network For

Critical Infrastructure In The Heart of The Permian Basin

Houston, Texas, United States, July 25, 2012

Infrastructure Networks, a Houston, Texas-based provider of broadband wireless networks to Critical Infrastructure

Industries, has announced that it recently deployed 5 LTE (Long-Term Evolution) wireless broadband coverage sites in

the Permian Basin area of West Texas. These are the first LTE sites to be exclusively dedicated to the needs of Critical

Infrastructure entities, and their launch makes Infrastructure Networks one of only a handful of companies, including

Verizon, AT&T and Metro PCS, to operate an LTE network in North America.

Traditionally, retail and consumer based providers such as Verizon have not focused their coverage on less populated

rural areas. However, those remote areas, such as the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale in Texas and the Bakken

Shale in North Dakota, are often home to a heavy concentration of Critical Infrastructure operations. This lack of adequate

coverage has created a window of opportunity which has motivated Infrastructure Networks’ initial efforts.

Phillip Liddell, Infrastructure Networks’ Vice President of Engineering, personally oversaw the implementation of the

network. “We are very pleased with the network test results to date.” stated Liddell. “The propagation characteristics of

the 700MHz spectrum are outstanding and support our ability to rapidly deploy a high quality LTE network in West Texas,

as well as other areas of Texas and North Dakota where we have 700MHz spectrum holdings.”

“We are extremely proud to be rolling out this network, which will be the foundation of a first of its kind service anywhere.”

added Infrastructure Networks CEO Stan Hughey. ”We formed this company specifically to service the needs of Critical

Infrastructure entities, and are excited to be at the very forefront of providing high bandwidth, low latency, secure solutions

that can be rapidly integrated into our customers existing communications infrastructure.”

Infrastructure Networks Executive Vice-President Kori Kalich-Ugalde is coordinating testing and demonstrations with

several company partners over the next month, and expects full scale provisioning of services to begin shortly thereafter.

“While we continue to demonstrate our new capabilities in the Permian Basin, we are also accelerating the expansion

and upgrade of our existing network coverage in the Texas panhandle.” she stated.

Founded in March of 2011, Infrastructure Networks has been expanding network coverage under licensed spectrum

holdings that cover more than 150,000 square miles of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Eagle Ford Shale and

Permian Basin in Texas and large parts of West Texas, the Texas panhandle, Eastern New Mexico and Kern County,




OK there have been multiple white space/802.22 product announcements recently and I wanted to discuss this market a little.

Whitespace radio gathered a little more momentum recently with Carlson and Neul’s launch of their outdoor whitespace radio. There are now a handful of OEMs with shipping products. Carlson and Neul have what I would call a 2nd Generation whitespace radio announcement.

 Their 802.22 radio is called the Rural Connect and is being marketed as a solution for rural wireless service. The spec sheet is available from their site. The outdoor unit is compact and looks like so. 


In their marketing, they are pitching it as an end user rural wireless solution.

Here is their comparison chart they are showing the public pitting Wifi 802.11 (5GHz) vs 802.22 (470MHz.) 

I think white space use is an excellent idea that needs to be taken to a bigger scale. Unfortunately I think these OEMs are focused on smaller markets than is available to them. They are marketing to end users and mentioning sensor/monitoring apps, public safety and so on. I think for SCADA and to some extent public safety there are really good merits to these types of systems. On the other hand, to me, 700MHz LTE makes a lot of sense in rural areas for consumers because if device availability (ok in the future) and the mobility aspect is very convenient. The usefulness is being demonstrated in the urban areas as LTE uptake is accelerating. Compare to the long uptake of WiMAX.

802.22 for consumers seems disadvantaged to LTE as: 

  • 802.22 availability is spectrum limited. Here is a real time tool if you want to look it up? 
  • The FCC licenses are experimental, so there is some risk of near future rule changes that impact compliance of deployed devices.
  • Limited link budget due to interference constraints.
  • LTE device volumes are scaling up dramatically and therefore will be more advantaged than 802.22 end user devices
  • Unknowns in field as structures may require external antennae or conversion to WiFi just based on propagation issues will be more pronounced as the few to few relationship will likely cause consumers to be more active in voicing their opinions of the quality of services.
On the other hand LTE:
  • going to be late to rural areas based on cost of deployment
  • Low (for rural) on focus/priorities of operators rushing to cover the mass population now. 
  • Needs 700MHz interference mitigations for Channel 51 areas, which increases cost/complexity.
I don’t get why don’t these 802.22 OEMs market this solution as a backhaul solution for LTE base stations? The rates are variable and on the low side compared to microwave but the cost advantages are significant enough that rural areas could be more rapidly covered than with wired backhaul or microwave solutions. 
I’m unsure of how big the rural market is but it will be interesting to see how well whitespace radio fills the need…at least until LTE gets rural deployments.
Video explanation of white spaces…

 Sandy Motley, Alcatel-Lucent’s vice president of sales for U.S. wireless accounts told RCA conference attendees in her keynote titled “Destination 4G” that Dickens was correct, “It’s the Best of Times and Worst of Times.” Note, she begins at the 24.21 mark in the video.

Basically she talks positively about the connectivity aspect in society. For the worst of times she talks about limited resources such as spectrum scarcity, limitations on CAPEX!, data growth based on 70% of traffic is projected to be video, thus there will need to be a 70x capacity gain to facilitate this.

LTE in rural areas was difficult. So I’m thinking that sounds like some new and different thinking… anyway she continues… networking, hosting/sharing is a key, then small cells to offload the network. Then I woke up, wha?

If they have deployed 3G then the wireless piece is not more difficult. If it’s the limited spectrum resources then don’t forget many of them purchased 700MHz spectrum with the added benefits of awesome propagation characteristics vs the PCS/AWS deployments. It’s not the radio piece Ms.Motley. It’s the backhaul that makes it difficult. LightRadio won’t help unless it can be utilized to mesh relay nodes more effectively than other solutions. The rural carriers have deployed 3G (EVDO/HSPA etc…) and know the signal issues.

So in summary repeat after me, small cells, helps a little, 700MHz helps a lot. LightRadio is a great solution looking for a problem in rural markets. Wait, let’s use it for lower 700MHz and now we’re talking!

OK a little cranky but am I wrong?

Links: 2012-spring-reg3.pdf (Conference Hand out)

 Verizon must of had some test routes in or something…As of today their latency is much more reasonable. (30ms average reduction) The end user experience improvement is pretty good when testing with Skype. Their LTE service is getting to be pretty good now. I reside at the cell edge and 700MHz delivers where 1900MHz does not (where they have EVDO A.) I am getting 8-17Mbps down and 0.15-3Mbps at this location. It’s a good testament to the 700MHz spectrum and OFDMA approach f LTE in general. Well done!

 Yesterday Super WiFi launched in New Hanover County, North Carolina! If you’re not familiar with Super Wifi, it’s essentially WiFi re-using the in-between spaces of TV channels below 700MHz and above 50MHz.  This is the first outdoor non trial deployment that I am aware of. This was the result of the FCC, feeling a little silly regarding Light Squared (ok, I made that part up), Spectrum Bridge a venture funded start up (2007), and the county of New Hanover County in North Carolina getting off their duff and deploying on white space capable radio channels using 802.11 Wifi as the Physical Layer protocol .  It looks like Spectrum Bridge provided the channel list and other services while it’s unclear where the county got the radios from, the usual suspects range from Google, Microsoft and Cisco to Neul and Carlson to KTS Wireless. My bet is that since KTS Wireless had the first FCC approved radio, it’s likely to be theirs. New Hanover County is using their WiFi network to surveil on a subdivision and collect telemetry from their water infrastructure although it appears they will provide citizen WiFi at outdoor locations such as Hugh MacRae Park. They seem to be happy with the performance.

In testing white space, Chaney says “We see ranges of up to 1.5 miles on a point-to-point application of the spectrum including signal propagation through vegetation and buildings.  Installing these newly approved radios and appropriate antennas could allow wireless service far beyond traditional boundaries.”

I’m yet unclear if the ranges mean the 2.4GHz WiFi or the <700MHz ‘SuperWiFi’ backhaul. The IEEE standardization effort is known as 802.11af and the timeline, looks to be around 2013 when fully standardized is here. Note, in the past you may have heard that Super WiFi was 802.22 and was touted to have 100KM/62Mi ranges. 802.22 is a cognitive radio effort, a good element of practical deployment for whitespaces, a different animal than 802.11 and WiMAX 802.16, so it looks like logic prevailed and the more practical use of effort was to take a working standard, 802.11 (WiFi) and update it. A good backstory primer is in the Spectrum Broker blog here.

Lastly, the trouble with whitespace radio as the FCC has it today is that there are many places, mainly populated, where there are 0 or 1 channels available. Unless and until there is some relaxation from the FCC this is going to be very limited. I think the obvious connection to LTE and 4G is complimentary when used as backhaul and competitive when offered directly to end users. I suspect that the battleground would be mainly rural stationary users as it’s not a good mobile technology. Progress nonetheless…

Links: FCC, New Hanover County, Spectrum Bridge, MIT Technology Review, Spectrum Broker, KTS Wireless

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