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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.

CES2014

 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.

PrintRecently Verizon made some waves by announcing their intention to deploy LTE Release 10, specifically the Carrier Aggregation (CA) feature. Naturally I have lots to say on this topic so I thought I would forget what I wanted to say and just hypothesize and prove if true or not. So today is the hypothesis.

Verizon’s over the air (OTA) efficiency is very low with their existing 700MHz deployed channel, and this will not significantly improve without any changes. Therefore, my hypothesis is that when they flip the switch nationwide (depends on device/UE availability of course)  that only people living in deep fades will realize a significant gain… and furthermore, AT&T’s OTA speeds won’t seem that far behind with their 10MHz vs Verizon’s 20MHz. That’s pretty bold but I have my reasons. I will close today with a very typical observation… a clue, from Verizon’s network. Screenshot_2013-12-12-17-44-24 Thanks to my handy WINd tool- I can make these measurements 24×7 with no hands ma…:)

I’ll try to be wrong or right tomorrow!

 

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…

comparison_LTE_may12-June13

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….

comparison_LTE_may12-June13_eff

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. 

Update!

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

 

Read Full Article →

 

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 gottabemobile.com 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:

LTESNR_chart

Important

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:

CiscoVNI_extrap

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…)

Oscar

 

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.

ATT deathstar

 Updated: Added mention of the recent Alltel deal.

The rich are hiding the opportunities from the not so rich.

Oh I mean spectrum ownership. 

So Verizon Wireless agreed to sell their 700MHz B spectrum to ATT.

If you are just looking for parrot/me too/copy+paste blogging, you should leave now.

This is bad for everyone else.

The primary reason goes like this.

ATT pushed through the Band 17 change (Lower 700MHz B+C) which essentially cuts the Band 12 to A channel widely held by multiple firms, B+C channel with different filtering requirements, thus forcing the component manufacturers to create special filters to comply/handle Band 17. Today, Band 12 is being EXCLUDED from chipset support at the expense of Band 17 (ATT) and Band 13 (Verizon.) 

So, Verizon sells the spectrum to ATT, the spectrum doesn’t diffuse, there is no compelling reason for hardware designers to facilitate Band 12 now because the spectrum ownership is fragmented and they can’t place a big order for devices like ATT can.

 leaving us out to dry I’m a free enterprise type of guy but this situation shameful and I think anti competitive to a great degree. The FCC should be ashamed at what they’ve done here. More competition is good for a developing (LTE) market, however the Big 2 and smaller 2 dominate, thus everything is sort of stagnant on pricing, innovation and other fronts as compared to more competitive markets like Asia and Europe.

Updated: I forgot to mention that the Alltel purchase by ATT is good for the Alltel ownership but again hoards more 700MHz spectrum.  From the ATT press release:

ATT and Alltel coverageATNI operates under the Alltel name in the U.S., and its network covers approximately 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states — Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. The acquisition includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands and is largely complementary to AT&T’s existing network.

Is a market in which there can only be a limited number of players due to the lack of resources (spectrum), where I wouldn’t be able to purchase any spectrum and create a lower 700MHz operator if I wanted to, a free and open market?

This spectrum should go back for rebid instead since the original terms and conditions from FCC auction weren’t met by original bidder (Verizon.) or FCC should make things right and sell off the upper 24MHz of the 600MHz band (further clearing down DTV) and rebid, with a 30-40% tax on bidders connected to Band 13 or Band 17 operators.

Can’t see the data pricing from ATT or VZW LTE going down anytime soon. They’re the only ones with more than 10MHz for LTE everywhere. No need to compete for LTE customers!

Horrible!

ATT Verizon Spectrum purchase Press release below. The ATT Alltel purchase PR is further below…

AT&T Agrees to Acquire 700 MHz Spectrum from Verizon Wireless

DallasTexasJanuary 25, 2013

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AT&T* announced in an 8-K filing today that it has agreed to acquire spectrum in the 700 MHz B band from Verizon Wireless for $1.9 billion in cash and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses in several markets, including Phoenix, Ariz., Los Angeles and Fresno, Calif. and Portland, Ore.

The 700 MHz licenses to be acquired by AT&T cover 42 million people in 18 states — California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

This acquisition complements AT&T’s existing holdings in the 700 MHz B band and will allow AT&T to continue to quickly deploy 4G LTE services to meet demand for mobile Internet services on a wide array of smartphones, tablets and other devices. The company announced in November 2012 that it plans to reach 300 million people in the U.S. with its 4G LTE network by the end of 2014.

In conjunction with this transaction, AT&T will sell to Grain Management a single AWS license and will lease 700 MHz spectrum from Grain Management in three markets.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. AT&T anticipates closing the transaction in the second half of 2013.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s largest 4G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T |DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com/aboutus or follow our news on @ATT, on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/att and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/att.

© 2013 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. 4G not available everywhere. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

Cautionary Language Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
Information set forth in this press release contains financial estimates and other forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results might differ materially. A discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in AT&T’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AT&T disclaims any obligation to update and revise statements contained in this news release based on new information or otherwise.

ATNI operates under the Alltel name in the U.S., and its network covers approximately 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states — Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. The acquisition includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands and is largely complementary to AT&T’s existing network.

AT&T to Acquire Wireless Spectrum and Assets from Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc., Enhance Wireless Coverage in Rural Areas

DallasTexasJanuary 22, 2013

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AT&T* today announced that it has signed an agreement with Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc. (ATNI) to acquire the company’s U.S. retail wireless operations, operated under the Alltel brand, for $780 million in cash. Under terms of the agreement, AT&T will acquire wireless properties, including licenses, network assets, retail stores and approximately 585,000 subscribers.

ATNI operates under the Alltel name in the U.S., and its network covers approximately 4.6 million people in primarily rural areas across six states — Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. The acquisition includes spectrum in the 700 MHz, 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands and is largely complementary to AT&T’s existing network. ATNI currently operates a retail CDMA network for its subscribers in these areas. AT&T expects that as it upgrades the network, ATNI customers and existing AT&T customers who roam in these areas will enjoy an enhanced mobile Internet experience.

AT&T expects integration costs for network conversion from CDMA will not result in significant dilution to EPS or impact to cash flow. The transaction is subject to review by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice and to other customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the second half of 2013.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates – AT&T operating companies – are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation’s largest 4G network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile Internet, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T |DIRECTV brands. The company’s suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at http://www.att.com/aboutus or follow our news on @ATT, on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/att and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/att.

© 2013 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. 4G not available everywhere. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

Cautionary Language Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
Information set forth in this press release contains financial estimates and other forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results might differ materially. A discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in AT&T’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AT&T disclaims any obligation to update and revise statements contained in this news release based on new information or otherwise.

iPad LTE pic I have written about my ire with Apple regarding their design decisionsThe basic complaint I have with the OEMs (Apple, Samsung, etc…) is that their LTE product design forces the end user to purchase a network specific mobile device. For example, I purchase a Band 13 device (VZW), I cannot then change my mind and go to ATT (Band 17) etc… Of course network operators don’t prefer this capability but let’s ignore that for the moment. Technologically, the ability to do this was limited by (A) the requirements of the devices and (B) the capability of the components in the devices.

Requirements as drivers to network locked devices.

Today’s mobile networks topologically, in the US from a data perspective,  are LTE overlays on existing 2G and 3G network coverage. This is a deployment scenario caused by the reality of the economy, risk aversion of operators etc and whatever. The requirement/expectation is end user  device is usable throughout the entire network coverage area of the network’s operator. Thus, if the LTE coverage ends, the device must gracefully hand down/over to 3G and resume data communications. This means a 3G radio and 4G radio is required to interact with the 2 networks (3G/4G.) 

Currently voice is carried over 3G and not VoLTE yet so this sets up more of the same 3G/4G multi-radio requirements.

Summary: Pure LTE device like a smartphone that uses something like VoLTE  for voice requires one radio and path at a time, today’s voice enabled devices require 2 radio paths. Data only devices can utilize a single radio path but are still hamstrung by the spectrum used for EVDO/HSPA as a fallback to LTE coverage holes ultimately requiring dual radio performance for smooth transitions. Oh yeah, CDMA EVDO handovers are better with eHRPD blah blah but I’m assuming a perfectly state of the art, fully capable device and network.

Capability of components

ipad3 teardown picI have written about the iPad radio design, and the key take aways were the RF chain required Apple to include band specific components to facilitate the multiple radio and/or paths required. There have been some improvements since I’ve moaned and I will go through some of those.

 

Firstly, let’s look at the antenna. If your load (includes antenna) is RF mismatched in the circuit with the amplifiers, duplexers, filters etc…the efficiency of the radio transmission/reception could suffer a great deal. This means more energy required to transmit/receive, possible harmful interference control measures required and end users end up paying more for poor performance in the end. I mention this because the previous crop of device antennae were not well suited for wide band use, like 700MHz through AWS 2100MHz in the same elements. 

Skycross,Skycross Logo a Fremont, CA company has recently announced some technology that can be helpful here. Here is information from their site:

SkyCross’ three core technologies contribute to addressing the growing number of frequency bands required for LTE and carrier aggregation.

  • iMAT allows a single antenna to act like multiple antennas through the use of multiple feedpoints. Each feedpoint accesses the single antenna as if it were two or more independent antennas, highly isolated from each other. This enables very efficient and compact antenna designs. Developers can combine the iMAT design with other antenna requirements to form a multi-band, multi-protocol antenna module.
  • VersiTune provides an advanced tunable antenna solution for multi-band 4G LTE devices in a single antenna structure. SkyCross can therefore actively tune an antenna from frequency band to frequency band accurately so that the antenna meets the many needs of a single operator or the frequency band requirements of multiple operators simultaneously.
  • MatchTune enables a single antenna structure to uniquely fine tune within a given LTE frequency band, which both enhances performance for a given frequency or for multiple simultaneous frequencies when employing carrier aggregation.

These technologies also enable ODMs and OEMs to improve the performance of their mobile devices, while concurrently reducing costs and shrinking the form factor of their products.

Here’s a good paper about their Isolated Mode Antennas (iMat).

So, yesterday’s devices required either poor efficiency or multiple antennas to support multiple air technologies and bands and now there is Skycross technologies that address these issues. OEMs can design true MIMO devices with good efficiency, in a reasonably small package. I think Apple at some point mentioned this problem with respect to their support for SVLTE in the Verizon version of their devices. Check this off the list of problems.

The next item on the list is the transceiver. I have mentioned Qualcomm’s WTR1605 previously, and this part essentially offers an expansion of bands and radio technologies over previous generations such that a typical 3G/4G band scenario that requires support for Bands 1,4, 12,13, 17 and 25 for LTE and PCS/AWS/800MHz cellular for CDMA. Furthermore, simultaneous support for 11 RX ports and 9 TX ports allow simultaneous multiple radio paths with dedicated PA/LNAs.

AnandTech went into some detail on the WTR1605L for your purchasing or RF hardware engineering pleasure in their blog: The State of Qualcomm’s Modems – WTR1605 and MDM9x25 (Actually, I liked the detail since Qualcomm didn’t publish any.)

WTR1605L RFIC by QualcommQualcomm says:

The WTR1605 will be Qualcomm’s first Radio Transceiver in Wafer Level Package and will be a highly integrated radio transceiver with multi-mode (LTE FDD, LTE TDD, CDMA, WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, GSM) and multi-band support. The WTR1605 will be optimized for low power consumption and small footprint and will integrate a high performance GPS core with GLONASS support. Samples of the MDM9615, MDM8215, WTR1605 and PM8018 are anticipated to be available in late 2011.

Lastly, the 3G/4G MODEM (baseband) is solved with Qualcomm’s 9200/9215 and 9600/9615/9625 parts support GSM/EDGE/WCDMA/CDMA/EVDO/and LTE the technologies of interest here. So we are nearly there with 3 parts. There is something missing though.

The Missing Link

the missing link image

So what’s stopping us from a single multimode multi-band design to serve all networks and end users? The Power Amplifier (PA) and Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) situation. I’m not going to go too deep here because for multiple reasons but on the face of it there are many extra components that would be needed to support all of the Bands 1,4, 12,13, 17 and 25 with MIMO for LTE and PCS/AWS/800MHz cellular for CDMA. It’s not impossible and there are some design decisions that can be made if the OEM is willing to live with extra band specific LNA/PA’s on board. The downside is without any magic, they will take up extra space, create more heat and consume power with or without use. I think there is a better way (Custom silicon) that Apple and Samsung could probably bring to bear more quickly than any other OEMs.  

There You Go

So as you can see, there are 2 paths and on 1, we are tantalizingly close to having universal mobile devices. Oh yeah, as I have mentioned before you will probably need a removable UICC too and Apple has this design presently.  The Path 1 fix with a universal mobile device, when to expect the LNA/PA/duplexor/filter solution? Like I said, an innovator like Apple or Samsung could knock it out rapidly (assuming quickly with core purchased IP from SkyWorks, TriQuint etc…) like mid this year. Else, the groundhog will see it’s shadow and we’ll be having to check at the end of next winter. On the Path 2 fix, implement VoLTE, make LTE ubiquitous and stop using 3G networks, that will take a wee bit longer.

 

 

public knowledgeOK there is a non profit named Public Knowledge, based in Washington D.C. of course, and fight for our networks to be open. I personally like that mission but they have put out a disturbing statement … See this:

AT&T is using the data caps that it imposes on its home broadband subscribers to disadvantage competitors to AT&T Wireless.

The AT&T 3G MicroCell acts as a miniature cell tower that can be used to supplement and improve cell phone service for voice calls or data applications. However,  AT&T is exempting data from AT&T Wireless MicroCells from the data caps it imposes on its wireless home broadband users. This is similar to Comcast’s decision last year to exempt its own online video service from its data cap.

The following can be attributed to Michael Weinberg, Vice President:

“AT&T is egregiously abusing data caps to give its own services advantages over competitors. There is no reason why AT&T should treat AT&T Wireless MicroCell data different than any other data – including data from a Verizon or Sprint MicroCell – on a subscriber’s home connection.

“Internet service providers should not be able to use data caps anti-competitively. When providers give preferential treatment to data associated with their services, they undermine competition and inhibit innovation. This is precisely the type of discrimination at the core of the net neutrality debate. The FCC and, if necessary, Congress must take steps to end data cap abuse.

AT&T microcell small cell

OK this is a bit misguided. The AT&T Microcell  allows AT&T subscribers to avoid data caps by NOT carrying user traffic over the WCDMA/LTE macro mobile network infrastructure, but pushes it upstream on the END USER’S BROADBAND connection.

C’MON, what’s the problem with that???? Am I missing something here? It’s not like the neighbors can’t buy a MicroCell from their neighborhood AT&T store to avoid going over THEIR data cap, or just connect their own home broadband to a WiFi AP to bypass the AT&T network… Heck, as of today Facebook lets you call each other so this is not even relevant to voice.

The only way I can think to make sense of their complaint is if they are complaining that the small cell core infrastructure (ignore that it’s just SIP based, for now) is closed, thus limiting what types of small cells we end users may obtain and use on the network. There could be an interesting ecosystem here. I doubt this is their angle but it’s a valid complaint.

jackie-chan-wtf-face-i16_m

So an asymmetrical attack, Sprint and Verizon have deployed far more small cells, without technical merit really 99.99% of the time comes from your competitor.

Anyway things like this irritate me to no end…

 

I have a nit to pick. LTE standards require devices to use Universal Integrated Circuit Cards (UICC) otherwise known as SIMs (Subscriber Identity Modules from GSM days) to authenticate to the network.Physical SIM Form Factors

So this is all well and good from an intentions standpoint as theoretically it allows end users to switch UICC modules into multiple devices and have any one of those devices attach to the LTE network as our device. Unfortunately this is not the case in practice though. See example:

iphone_vs_sg3_Simm

For the US market, The iPhone 5 supports a REMOVABLE micro UICC where as the Samsung Galaxy 3 uses an EMBEDDED UICC.

This is hogwash for people like me that want the flexibility to change devices to suit my needs (for example, changing to an iPhone when visiting my Samsung buddies or using the SG3 in meeting s in Cupertino etc…)

So there is a standard here but it’s not a standard. On the one hand it’s good for me, Joe Six Pack, to have a removable UICC so I can switch devices at my whim, or when one gets broken or stolen etc.. however on the other hand I can see where embedded devices like picture frames and alarm systems might be better off with an embedded UICC. Oh yeah, it’s a tad more difficult to steal and use an embedded UICC LTE device but it’s not impossible, so that is an advantage for embedded. 

Now when this gets resolved, by hopefully every UE supporting a removable UICC, then we will have to go hammer on Apple and other manufacturers to use the latest QCOM/Broadcom etc… RF components to build us a single device that traverses multiple networks. (no more ATT SKU vs VZW SKU.) Because with a single devices and a removable UICC, we can be VERY HAPPY CONSUMERS, with CHOICES that can hold operators accountable for their choices. 

Until then, I am going to complain early and often.

 

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...

 

 

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