Monday, May 15, 2017

Big shifts in the U.S. mobile market – part 4


After years of rather stagnant market positions and look-a-like services, suddenly a lot is happening in the U.S. mobile market. In the first three articles of this series, we looked at the move to unlimited mobile data plans, the new regulatory climate in Washington, the Broadcast Incentive Auction, and the coming unlicensed spectrum technologies.

The FirstNet project is huge

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 there were calls to improve the communications of emergency response teams; sixteen years later and the U.S. is still working to put in place a national network capable of providing voice, video and broadband data communications to first responders. Until now, there has been a patchwork of incompatible radio systems, but finally it looks like the FirstNet project is ready to move ahead, providing a significant improvement for emergency personnel and potentially providing a long-term pillar of support for one of the four major U.S. mobile operators. FirstNet has publicised a very big number to reflect the size of its program: $46.5 billion.


In 2012, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) was created and funded by Congress an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet set up its headquarters in Reston, Virginia along with a technical lab in Boulder, Colorado. The organisation is headed by a 15-member board and led by Michael Poth (CEO) and TJ Kennedy (president), both of whom have backgrounds in law enforcement. The FirstNet technical team is headed by Jeff Bratcher, CTO, who previously served at the NTIA and was at Motorola Cellular and Siemens Mobile during the earlier part of his career. FirstNet funding was raised from previous FCC spectrum auctions.

FirstNet will build a new Band Class 14 (700 MHz) network designed to be reliable, functional, safe and secure, and provide optimal levels of operational capability at all times. The infrastructure plan is divided in distinct layers: core network, transport backhaul, RAN and public safety devices.

AT&T wins the bid

On March 30th, FirstNet announced its selection of AT&T as its strategic partner. The record-breaking public-private partnership for communications infrastructure is formalised in a 25-year agreement covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, tribal lands and 5 U.S. territories. The broad terms of the agreement were listed as follows:

FirstNet to provide 20 MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout.

AT&T to spend about $40 billion over the life of the contract to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network, with a focus on ensuring robust coverage for public safety.

Additionally, AT&T will connect FirstNet users to the company’s telecommunications network assets.

The procurement process began with a network RFP issued by FirstNet in January 2016. AT&T said it was selected on a 'best value award' that considered financial sustainability and was based on more than just a technically acceptable solution at the lowest cost.

In describing the project, AT&T said it will provide a nationwide seamless, IP-based, high-speed mobile network supporting prioritised communications. The system will also leverage existing infrastructure. 5G capabilities will be added in the future. Another outcome of the project is that it will also make 20 MHz of prime broadband spectrum available for private-sector development. AT&T has assembled a team that includes Motorola Solutions, General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting and Inmarsat Government. FirstNet will be a huge step forward over the current emergency response systems, many of which have not been updated in over a decade and lack the video chat capabilities available on any smartphone.

Network slicing

For AT&T, the project will be a very powerful overlay to its own mobile infrastructure. In a sense, FirstNet will be a high-profile, high-margin MVNO on the AT&T infrastructure giving it a point of differentiation over its competitors. Due to its nature and budget, it is likely that many network elements are owned by and solely dedicated to FirstNet. This level of technical detail is not published in press announcement but might be accessible via the RFP documentation that should be part of the public record.

Meanwhile, AT&T and its competitors are building overlay networks on their mobile infrastructure for other applications and users, such as connected cars. For instance, AT&T provides in-vehicle connectivity for Tesla, supporting remote diagnostics, over-the-air updates, live traffic, Internet entertainment and other telematics. Entering the era of autonomous cars, the mobile infrastructure will have to keep up with latency and data volume requirements. Virtual network slices will become more numerous and more granular.

As the agreement outlines, FirstNet traffic will be flowing between its network domain and resources on the larger AT&T network, such as third-party, connected vehicles with cameras already at the scene of an accident. The expertise that AT&T gains by building the FirstNet project should be highly applicable to other commercial customers.

Concluding thoughts

With all these forces coming into play, 2017 is shaping up to be one of the big transformative years in communications, at least for the U.S. mobile market. Looking back at 2008, one can clearly see how the iPhone changed the course of all the major vendors. Now, instead of a single event, multiple changes are all happening at once; the regulatory climate will be a bigger factor than we have been used to during the Obama years; and if the AT&T Time Warner deal goes through, there will be heightened pressure on the other three players to keep up.

NEC Demos 50T per fibre over 11,000 km

NEC announced that it has demonstrated transmission capacity of 50.9 Tbit/s on a single fibre over a distance of more than 11,000 km, which the company claims represents the first time 50 Tbit/s have been achieved over 10,000 km using C+L band erbium-doped fibre amplifiers (EDFA).

NEC stated that the high capacity, long haul transmission demonstration corresponds to a record capacity-distance ratio of 570 Pb-km (Petabit/s per kilometre). NEC noted that its efforts to extend the benchmark 50 Tbit/s transmission capacity to trans-Pacific distances supports the current trend of increasing the reach of ultra-high capacity submarine cable segments.

The company stated that achieving the high capacity transmission, even employing extremely wide bandwidth EDFAs, requires the efficient use of bandwidth at a level approaching the Shannon limit, the fundamental spectral efficiency limit of optical communications. NEC added that while there is more than one way to design modulation formats that allow transmission close to the Shannon limit in the linear regime, these generally do not perform well in the non-linear regime, where the performance gap increases approaching the non-linear Shannon limit.

To address this issue, NEC researchers developed a multilevel, linear and non-linear constellation optimisation algorithm. Leveraging this algorithm, it created an optimised 32QAM (opt32) constellation that allows performance close to Shannon capacity and, more importantly, enables a higher non-linear capacity limit that is more appropriate to submarine transmission.

Additionally, the new modulation format developed by NEC is simpler to implement as it does not require iterative decoding or non-uniform coding. As a result, opt32 modulation enabled NEC researchers to achieve spectral efficiency of 6.14 b/s/Hz over a trans-Pacific route.

The demonstration also featured C+L amplification to maximise the capacity per fibre pair, and as part of the solution NEC researchers also developed a patent-pending bi-directional amplifier that is designed to reduce the effective noise figure and overall device complexity.

Netcracker 12 Targets Operation of Virtual and Cloud Infrastructure

Netcracker Technology announced the launch of Netcracker 12, a new technology platform featuring a comprehensive product suite designed to help service providers accelerate digitalisation and operationalise virtual and cloud infrastructures at scale.

The new Netcracker 12 provides an integrated platform with two-speed architecture and advanced agility layers designed to support rapid customer engagement, while optimising the digital business and operational domains.

The enhanced Netcracker product portfolio aligns to the business, operational and infrastructure needs of digital service providers and encompasses domains including:

1.         Digital customer enablement, leveraging a multi-speed architecture and analytics to enable omni-channel customer support and management, also offering an application and partner ecosystem.

2.         Digital business enablement, designed to transform legacy customer, partner and revenue management IT environments into cloud-based business systems.

3.         Digital operations enablement to help service providers rapidly create and deliver new digital, virtualised, cloud and value-added services over hybrid networks and including NFV management and orchestration and SDN controllers.
4.         Digital and cloud infrastructure, comprising virtual network functions (VNFs) including customer-edge, core and value-added VNFs, as well as data centre and NFVI and IoT and M2M modules.

5.         Advanced analytics that leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics modules that can be applied to internal and external operations.

6.         Cloud platform, a microservices-based, cloud-native platform that serves as the foundation for all Netcracker products and solutions, deployable in private, public or hybrid clouds using a DevOps approach.

7.         Business, operations and infrastructure agility layers, comprising an API ecosystem that enables the multi-speed IT architecture.

Netcracker noted that Netcarcker 12 is complemented by an expanded portfolio of professional services, designed to ensure that customers receive the support and guidance required to manage the complexities of a multi-speed IT architecture as they launch digital transformation and virtualisation initiatives.

Nokia and KDDI trial 5G on 28 GHz

Nokia and Japanese operator KDDI, serving around 40 million mobile subscribers, announced they have conducted a trial simulating future 5G network demands, providing high-speed, gigabit connectivity inside an apartment block utilising Nokia radio technology on the 28 GHz band.

The trial, conducted between the KDDI Research building and a residential apartment approximately 100 meters away, achieved speeds in excess of 1 Gbit/s over the 28 GHz band, demonstrating how 5G technology can be used inside apartment blocks to meet demand for wireless ultra-broadband including in major cities such as Tokyo, which is estimated to be the world's most densely populated metro area.

The trial with KDDI was carried out in Fujimino City, Saitama Prefecture and represents the first in a series of planned 5G collaborations between Nokia and KDDI following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2016 to develop technologies for a new, faster generation of wireless communications.

The trial specifically involved the Nokia AirScale base station, part of its 5G FIRST end-to-end solution, which provided coverage and connectivity to the apartment block. In addition, Nokia AirFrame provided a commercial platform to enable the cloud RAN and support the transmission of streaming data.

  • Last December, Nokia announced that KDDI had deployed its Motive Service Management Platform (SMP) to enhance customer care by streamlining and speeding the resolution of issues for its mobile subscribers. Nokia Motive SMP enables KDDI to improve the detection, troubleshooting and resolution of issues when subscribers use online self-care tools. KDDI was to deploy Motive SMP across its service areas in Japan via Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Telenor selects NEC for Microwave Systems

NEC announced that it has signed a global frame agreement with global telco Telenor based in Norway covering the provision of microwave communications systems to the group's 13 telecom affiliates in Northern Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Through this agreement, NEC will provide full support for the deployments, from the introduction of its ultra-compact microwave communications systems, iPASOLINK VR and iPASOLINK EX Advanced, to maintenance services over a period of five years.

Under the agreement, NEC will initially supply the iPASOLINK solution to Telenor Pakistan, before expanding the delivery of its products to the group's affiliates in other geographic areas. Telenor group has operations in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, as well as Pakistan.

NEC noted that it has a longstanding relationship with Telenor extending over decades, and has previously entered into a number of global frame agreements for microwave communications systems since 2006. NEC claims to be Telenor's largest supplier of microwave communications systems in terms of cumulative shipments.

  • In 2016 NEC and NEC Scandinavia announced it had been selected to provide routing, switching and security equipment and maintenance services to Telenor Norway and Telenor Sweden within the frame of the group's IP/MPLS network modernisation program (BRUT).
  • In 2015, NEC, together with Juniper Networks and Infinera, announced a global framework agreement with the Telenor Group under which it would act as a turnkey solution provider for Telenor with responsibility for delivering all major elements of the operator's transport network, including microwave, IP routers and optical equipment.

AT&T notes Streamlined rules for Small Cell Deployment in Iowa

AT&T announced that Iowa's governor Terry Branstad has signed into law a new measure designed to streamline and standardise rules and so accelerate the deployment of small cell technology to help support the next generation of high-speed wireless services in Iowa.

AT&T noted that small cell technology will be an integral building block for future 5G wireless broadband connectivity. The compact small cells are antennas that can be affixed to existing structures such as traffic signals, buildings and street lights. The size and flexibility of small cells can help target areas that require additional capacity in a cost-efficient way.

Small cells are designed to enable faster wireless Internet speeds, provide increased and more targeted network coverage to support demanding applications such as streaming content and provide the foundation for future technologies including 5G, smart cities and connected vehicles.

AT&T stated that it invested nearly $150 million in its Iowa wireless and wired networks from 2014-16 on upgrades to improve network reliability, coverage, speed and performance for consumer and business customers. In 2016, AT&T noted that it implemented over 350 wireless network upgrades in the state, including the addition of new cell sites and adding capacity on existing cell sites.

ZTE and China Mobile deploy 3D-MIMO

ZTE announced that working with China Mobile, China Mobile Zhejiang and the China Mobile Jiaxing Branch it has completed the commercial deployment and multi-scenario test verification of 3D-MIMO technology utilising its Pre5G Massive MIMO solution in Jiaxing.

China Mobile and ZTE jointly completed what was believe to be the first 3D-MIMO field verification in 2015. Subsequently, to enhance 4G network performance and the user experience, since December 2016 China Mobile and ZTE have been deploying a new generation of broadband 3D-MIMO base stations in Jiaxing. The partners have also conducted testing of the technology for scenarios such as high-traffic locations in universities and 3D coverage in high-rise residential buildings.

ZTE noted that universities may present high-traffic and high-interference scenarios, as well as demands in terms of single-user traffic, therefore China Mobile has conducted verification testing in such locations. 3D-MIMO can offer a solution to address this issue, and implementing 5G massive MIMO technology in 4G networks can maximise utilisation of existing spectrum and enhance 4G network speed and capacity.

By increasing downlink capacity by up to a claimed 3-5x and uplink capacity by up to 4-6x, the solution can deliver 5G-like performance on 4G LTE user equipment.

ZTE stated that for the 3D-MIMO site Jiaxing, using the three carriers on the 3D-MIMO site the downlink field rate reached 1 Gbit/s, around 3x that of macro base stations, while uplink performance has increased to provide a peak rate of 237 Mbit/s, 8x that of macro base stations. By sharing the traffic of super-busy cells, the 3D-MIMO site helps to reduce the resource occupancy of 8T macro-station cells and improve service throughput.

Test results for the Jiaxing 3D-MIMO site showed that, compared to co-frequency 8T macro stations providing the same coverage, the uplink and downlink spectrum efficiency of small-packet services (such as web page browsing and WeChat) can be increased by an average of 2-3x, while spectrum efficiency for large-packet services (such as file downloads) can be increased more than that. ZTE noted that up to 800 commercial users were in the cell during the tests.

In addition, ZTE stated that the results of previous verification testing in high-rise scenarios showed that, compared with 8T macro stations on the site, the 3D-MIMO base station can deliver vertical large-angle 3D coverage and enable both uplink and downlink rate gains in indoor weak/remote coverage points of up to 2-3x, while in weak coverage points at the cell edge the gains can be greater.

ZTE noted that in 2016 with China Mobile, 3D-MIMO pre-commercial verification was conducted in 29 provinces and 50 cities, with both companies working to advance the development of 3D-MIMO technology.

Brazil's Exceda introduces BALANCE multi-CDN Load Balancing

Exceda, a provider of content delivery network (CDN), security, and web intelligence services based in Brazil, announced the introduction of a CDN load balancing service that allows customers to leverage the performance of a multi-CDN strategy.

The new Exceda BALANCE service is designed to help customers add, configure, load balance and monitor multiple CDNs through a single managed service to help meet cost and performance requirements. Exceda BALANCE will be available from July 2017.

The new service will leverage Exceda's established capabilities in planning, integrating and managing customers' CDN solutions, and provide a single workflow to enable the management of multiple CDNs, monitored by the Exceda professional services team.

The BALANCE service will specifically utilise Real User Monitoring (RUM) and synthetic monitoring functionality, along with proprietary analysis tools, to enable balancing of web traffic between multiple CDNs in near-real time based on traffic load, cost and Internet conditions.
Exceda recently announced that its XCDN eCommerce-based CDN, currently available only to customers in the Americas region, would be expanded via collaborations with multiple CDN partners to enable the delivery of website content to and from locations worldwide.

Established in 2002 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Exceda is a major Akamai channel partner providing CDN, DDoS, WAF, data analysis and professional services designed to help customers accelerate web performance while reducing their infrastructure costs.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Big shifts in the U.S. mobile market – Part 3


After years of rather stagnant market positions and look-a-like services, suddenly a lot is happening in the U.S. mobile market. The first part of this series looked at the move to unlimited mobile data plans and the new regulatory climate in Washington; the second part covered the rapidly evolving spectrum map in the U.S., including the recently completed Broadcast Incentive auction and the bidding war for mmWave spectrum.

Extending LTE-Advanced to unlicensed spectrum

The evolving spectrum map in the U.S. would not be complete without at least a look at LTE-Advanced in unlicensed spectrum, a proposal that has been backed by Qualcomm and others for some years but which has yet to see mass adoption. Everyone likes something for free, so there certainly should be strong motivation by carriers to augment their performance using spectrum they do not have to pay for. However, the industry has been talking about this for nearly four years. Finally, it looks like the U.S. market is ready for the first commercial rollouts in the coming months. As of May 2017, there is a budding ecosystem of silicon, software and systems supporting the use of unlicensed spectrum. Downlink rates could reach into the hundreds of megabits per second close to a tower, with the right handset and the carrier is aboard.

There are at least four models for LTE Unlicensed: LTE-U, LAA, LWA and MulteFire.


LTE-U, which is based on 3GPP Release 12, combines LTE in unlicensed spectrum (5 GHz) with LTE in the licensed band through carrier aggregation in the downlink. LTE-U, along with LWA, is supported by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with X12 LTE, as well as the discrete Snapdragon X12 LTE modem. The new Samsung Galaxy S8 is the first mobile on the U.S. market to support LTE-U.


LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) is a 3GPP standard finalised in 3GPP Release 13 that uses a licensed LTE band as the primary carrier augmented through Carrier Aggregation to add a carrier in unlicensed 5 GHz (WiFi) spectrum for the downlink only. The idea is to carry high-priority traffic on the licensed band, while lower priority traffic is carried over the WiFi channel. The idea is very appealing to mobile operators but faced resistance from WiFi proponents and Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) who worried about interference. As early as 2015, it looked like Verizon and T-Mobile were ready to move ahead with LAA, but these plans were put on hold by the interference question.

A Qualcomm paper now finds LAA to be suited for the U.S. market, as well as EU countries and Japan, because it uses Listen Before Talk (LBT) technology to ensure co-existence with WiFi. In September 2016, the FCC granted an equipment authorisation to Qualcomm. Support for uplinks in the WiFi channel is expected in Release 14 and demos were featured at Mobile World Congress in February.


LTE - WiFi link aggregation (LWA), which is defined in 3GPP Release 13, is aimed at deployments where the operators already has carrier WiFi in operation in either or both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. WiFi resources can be managed through the LTE anchor. Qualcomm says the aggregation is possible even when LTE and WiFi access points are at different physical locations.


MulteFire targets deployments operating solely in unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band and without a licensed anchor channel. The MulteFire Alliance, which was formed in 2015, is developing a global ecosystem for LTE in unlicensed spectrum and the further development of small cell technology. The MulteFire Release 1.0 specification, which was approved in December 2016, builds on elements of 3GPP Release 13 LAA for the downlink and Release 14 enhanced LAA (eLAA) for the uplink. It includes enhancements for operation solely in unlicensed spectrum such as robust procedures for mobility, paging, initial access and efficient uplink control channels. It also uses Listen Before Talk to operating in shared spectrum.

Backers of this MulteFire include Liberty Global, CableLabs, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm and many others. Potential applications could include large campuses that want to use LTE technologies instead of WiFi for managing large numbers of wireless connections on their premises. It is not clear if any carriers will launch services based on MulteFire, but presumably it could offer a pathway to market for a new entrant.

The following covers news relating to operator's unlicensed spectrum rollouts for the U.S. market:

T-Mobile US

In February, following the FCC certification of equipment from strategic partners Ericsson and Nokia, T-Mobile US, confirmed that it was deploying LTE-U technology in its LTE network. The company anticipates introducing new network capabilities and devices in the coming months. LTE- will enable T-Mobile customers to tap into the first 20 MHz of under-utilised unlicensed spectrum on the 5 GHz band and use it for additional LTE capacity. T-Mobile said it already has more capacity per subscriber than AT&T and Verizon, and the addition of LTE-U will extend that lead.


In February, as part of its announcement to bring 5G Evolution technologies to its first markets this year, AT&T said that LTE-LAA will play a key role in enabling peak speeds of 1 Gbit/s. The carrier highlighted Samung's Galaxy S8 as the first handset capable of its faster service. AT&T has a separate pre 5G trial underway in Austin that uses Ericsson's 5G RAN technology and the Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform. This trial evaluates the use of 28 GHz, 39 GHz and sub-6 GHz frequency bands. AT&T is also working with Nokia to deliver DIRECTV NOW over a fixed wireless 5G connection using 39 GHz mmWave technology.


Verizon has worked closely with Qualcomm since at least 2015 to support LTE-U and put to rest interference concerns raised by the WiFi Alliance. In 2016, the companies conducted joint LTE-U testing in Oklahoma City and Raleigh under permission from the FCC. Verizon recently filed for an extension of that testing permit and was also a recent launch partner for Samsung’s Galaxy S8. There are no recently documents on the Verizon website discussing LTE-U or LTE-LAA plans but an analyst meeting to discuss the company's spectrum strategy is scheduled for May 8th.


Sprint, which currently serves about 60 million subscribers, holds more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets. This vast pool was created through its integration with Clearwire, the venture that long ago sought to build a nationwide WiMAX network. In 2013, Sprint completed the integration of Clearwire. More recently, Sprint CTO John Saw was quoted in the press as saying that Sprint would not have to resort to unlicensed WiFi bands to boost its network as it already has plenty of licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top U.S. markets.

In March, Sprint, together with Qualcomm and Motorola Mobility (a division of Lenovo) showcased a gigabit-class LTE service that employs three-channel carrier aggregation (CA) and 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in combination with 4 x 4 MIMO and 256QAM higher order modulation technology to deliver Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network. Sprint stated that it plans to utilise its 2.5 GHz spectrum to offer gigabit LTE service in high-traffic locations across the U.S. as part of its strategy to provide a foundation for 5G by 'densifying' its network via the addition of small cells and smart antennas. Sprint also plans to utilise massive MIMO, a key element of 5G, to further enhance capacity and coverage for its 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE spectrum.

Leveraging massive MIMO radios using 64T64R, Sprint expects to be able to increase capacity to beyond the 1 Gbit/s rate and deliver capacity of 3 to 6 Gbit/s per sector. Sprint also noted that working with Ericsson, at MWC 2017 it demonstrated 1 Gbit/s performance over 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum, while in collaboration with Nokia it demonstrated how massive MIMO can be used to increase cell capacity up to 8x compared to 4G LTE using 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE spectrum with 64T64R.

Beaten to the punch

Carrier aggregation has been in deployment now for several years and the various versions of LTE in unlicensed spectrum likewise have had several years in which to mature. Global carriers started to announce field trials as early as July 2015. For instance, in that month, Huawei and NTT Docomo performed a live demonstration of co-channel coexistence between LAA and WiFi systems. A software-based Listen Before Talk (LBT) was featured already in that trial.

In February, Vodafone Turkey claimed to be the first carrier worldwide to deploy commercially install a network “ready to use LAA technology, based on the 3GPP R13 standard. The LAA-ready network was tested using a Huawei Lampsite base station in Vodafone Turkey's Arena Store in Istanbul. It uses 40 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in 5 GHz and 15 MHz licensed spectrum in 2.6 GHz for three carrier aggregation. It hit an on-site peak download speed of 370 Mbit/s using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with X16 LTE mobile test device.

In April, GSA published a report stating that 13 operators were trialing or deploying LAA, and 8 operators were trialing or deploying LTE-U. Early movers in the international area for LAA include China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom (trials with Qualcomm), SK Telekom, SmarTone (Hong Kong), Vodafone Netherlands (trial with Ericsson) and others. For LWA, there is a trial underway in Taiwan by ChungHwa Telekom and in Singapore by M1.

Verizon to acquire Straight Path for $3.1bn

Straight Path Communications has announced a definitive merger agreement under which Verizon Communications will acquire Straight Path for $184.00 per share, equating to an enterprise value of approximately $3.1 billion, in an all-stock transaction.

Straight Path holds an extensive portfolio of 39 GHz and 28 GHz wireless spectrum licenses, specifically 868 FCC spectrum licenses providing wireless coverage across the U.S. The company also develops next generation wireless technology through its Straight Path Ventures subsidiary, and holds licenses and conducts business related to certain patents via its Straight Path IP Group subsidiary.

Concurrent with the agreement, Verizon will pay on behalf of Straight Path a termination fee of $38 million to AT&T, which on April 10th announced an agreement to acquire Straight Path for $95.63 per share, representing a total value of $1.6 billion. The sum implied a premium of 204% to the closing price of Straight Path's stock of $31.41 on January 11th and a 162% premium to the $36.48 price on April 7th.

As part of the agreement with Verizon, Straight Path announced that it is terminating the previously announced definitive agreement to merge with AT&T and Switchback Merger Sub. As previously announced, the Straight Path board determined after consultations with financial and legal advisors that the transaction with Verizon constituted a superior proposal. AT&T opted not to make any new bids or proposals to Straight Path or to propose amendments to the original agreement.

The acquisition of Straight Path for $184.00 per share in Verizon stock implies a premium of 486% to the closing price of Straight Path common stock of $31.41 on January 11, 2017, the day prior to Straight Path announcing its FCC settlement and strategic alternatives process, and a 404% premium to the closing stock price of $36.48 on April 7th, the business day prior to announcement of the AT&T merger agreement.

The proposed transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of Straight Path and Verizon, and the companies currently anticipate closing within nine months, subject to FCC review. The transaction is supported by Straight Path's majority shareholder, Howard Jonas, who has entered into a voting agreement with Verizon and agreed to vote his Class A shares in support of the transaction.

Regarding the acquisition, Hans Vestberg, EVP and president of global network and technology at Verizon, said, "Verizon now has all of the pieces in place to accelerate the deployment of 5G… combined with the recent transactions with Corning, XO Communications and Prysmian Group, this is another step to build the next-generation network for its customers".

AT&T Buys 39 GHz and 28 GHz Licenses for $1.6 Billion

AT&T agreed to acquire Straight Path Communications, which holds a nationwide portfolio of millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, including 39 GHz and 28 GHz licenses. Specifically, AT&T will acquire 735 mmWave licenses in the 39 GHz band and 133 licenses in the 28 GHz band. These licenses cover the entire United States, including all of the top 40 markets. The deal was valued at $1.6 billion, which includes liabilities an

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Samsung and Cisco work with Verizon to implement 5G in Detroit

Samsung Electronics America, a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, and Cisco, in partnership with Verizon, announced the successful deployment of what is believed to be the first multi-vendor end-to-end 5G trial network in the field, specifically in the Ann Arbor suburb of metropolitan Detroit in Michigan.

The companies noted that earlier in the year, Verizon announced that it planned to conduct customer trials of 5G technology for home broadband service via fixed wireless access. Under this program, Verizon is planning to launch trials in five U.S. cities in the second quarter of 2017 and expects to be conducting pilot trials in a total of 11 markets by the middle of the year.

The partners stated that each trial location presents a unique set of test parameters, including in terms of equipment vendors, geographies, population density and demographics. Ann Arbor is the first location to address a multi-vendor deployment of 5G, leveraging a solution that includes a 5G virtualised packet core based on the Cisco Ultra Services Platform with Advanced Services and Samsung's virtual RAN (vRAN), combined with its 5G Radio base stations and 5G home routers, to enable the delivery of broadband services to trial customers.

Based on Verizon's 5G Technical Forum specification, the three companies have completed a series of network vendor interoperability tests (NVIOT) that demonstrated seamless interworking between core network, radio edge and user devices. The tests also served to demonstrate a core principle of next-generation network virtualisation via multi-vendor support.

The Verizon multi-vendor trial is designed to showcase the readiness of key 5G technologies and prepare the way for the deployment of commercial 5G networks in the future. The trial also demonstrates that service providers can implement 5G networks to address specific market requirements by selecting network infrastructure components from a range of vendors.

Early ecosystem development has become a core focus for 5G, with IT and telecom pioneers alike working to build alignment and stability around next-generation R &D. Verizon’s 5G Technical Forum, to which Cisco and Samsung are strong contributors, has set out to establish early direction for commercial 5G technologies and services, with the goal of establishing a body of experience that is already being used to inform global 5G standards development efforts and ensure a smooth transition to commercialization.

  • Verizon announced in February plans to rollout 5G pre-commercial services to select customers in 11 U.S. markets by mid-2017. The company noted that the trials would encompass hundreds of cell sites and several thousand customer locations, with pilot markets to include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville (New Jersey), Brockton (Massachusetts), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington DC.

Openreach to Consult on Broadband Expansion

Openreach, a unit of BT and the largest network infrastructure provider in the UK, responsible for a network serving around 30 million residential and business customers, has announced that it will consult with its communications provider customers regarding the best way to enhance broadband connectivity across Britain.

The company, which provides broadband infrastructure to more than 580 service providers, is to request customer input relating to two key policy issues for the UK: developing the investment case for a large-scale, 'full fibre' network; and extending faster broadband speeds to 'not-spots' that currently have access to services offering less than 10 Mbit/s bandwidth.

Full fibre network

Openreach has previously stated its aim of making ultra-fast broadband of more than 100 Mbit/s available to 12 million homes and businesses by the end of 2020. However, the business wishes to explore the conditions that might enable it to invest in more full fibre, FTTP, infrastructure.

The consultation with providers will assess the demand for FTTP, the potential benefits and costs of a expanded FTTP deployment, and the enablers required to support investment. Openreach is currently engaged in a scoping phase, with the expectation of launching a formal consultation in the summer of this year.

Universal broadband coverage

Openreach also plans to launch a consultation with providers on the next steps for the emerging broadband technology Long Reach VDSL, which has been demonstrated to enable higher broadband speeds over long phone lines connected to fibre cabinets. This technology could help deliver universal broadband in line with the government's policy objectives as set out in the Digital Economy Act, which targets the availability of minimum 10 Mbit/s access speed for all customers.

The consultation process is designed to enable Openreach to determine the most effective way of deploying Long Reach VDSL technology so that it delivers the most benefit for customers, as well as supporting the aim of achieving universal broadband in the UK.

Openreach stated that by the end of 2017, according to analysis by Thinkbroadband, an estimated 95% of the UK is due to have access to broadband speeds of at least 24 Mbit/s, while currently around 3% of the UK does not have access to a service with at least 10 Mbit/s bandwidth.

Additionally, Openreach is planning to introduce changes to the way it interacts with the industry that include a confidential process allowing service provider customers to discuss new strategic initiatives with Openreach, prior to any public consultation. The proposed changes are part of Openreach's preparations for greater functional separation from BT Group.

Worldwide Disruptions from WannaCry Ransomware

On Friday 12-May-2017 major organizations worldwide fell victim to a rapidly spreading ransomware attack known as WannaCry, WCry, WanaCrypt and WanaCrypt0r.  The ransomeware ecrypts files on the victim's Windows PC and displays a note demanding $300 or $600 in Bitcoin to unlock the machine. Here's a roundup:

The ransomware exploits a vulnerability (MS17-010) in the Windows Operating that was once part of the NSA's toolkit and was leaked earlier this year by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. The exploit provides the attacker with system priviledges on the target Windows machine.
  • Avast reported that the ransomware is mainly being targeted to Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan, but has impacted an estimated 130,000 unpatched Windows systems worldwide. 
  • McAfee identified this MS17-010) exploit as the Equation Group’s ETERNALBLUE exploit, part of the FuzzBunch toolkit released by Shadow Brokers. 
  • The infection vector appears to be phishing emails.
  • Microsoft released a security update for the MS17-010 (link is external) vulnerability on March 14, 2017. Windows users are urged to update their systems ASAP.
  • A British blogger under the handle @MalwareTechBlog appears to have come across a method that has slowed or stopped the spread of the infection. The ransomeware relied on an unregistered domain. By registering the domain, a kill switch for the virus was created.
  • The remediation step recommended by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is to restore infected systems from a known clean back-up.
  • The UK's National Health Service (NHS) reported widespread ransomware incidents leading to an inability to access patient records, postponement of non-emergency treatement and cancellation of many other services on Friday. Technical teams worked overnight to restore systems.
  • Deutsche Bahn suffered delays and cancellations when terminals in many stations were infected.
  • Telefónica Spain confirmed that some PCs on its internal network were affected.
  • The Russian Interior Ministry reported that its operations were disrupted.
  • McAfee reported on a new kind of RaaS (ransomware-as-a-service) portal named Fatboy Ransomware that is capable of adjusting the ransom based on the victim's location. McAfee says that while Fatboy is not as technically sophisticated, it is an example of the evolving business model for cybercriminals.

Friday, May 12, 2017

ABI forecasts NFV market to reach $38bn by 2022

According to ABI Research's latest Network Functions Virtualization Tracker and Forecasts report, after a slower start than initially anticipated, the network function virtualisation (NFV) market is set to experience moderate growth based on continuing NFV investments by major telcos.

ABI Research forecasts that North America will be the largest market, accumulating $13 billion in NFV-related investments during 2022, while Europe will see the highest growth rate with an estimated 53% CAGR between 2017 and 2022. The research firm notes that early adopters claim benefits offered by NFV-enabled systems including reductions in network capex and opex, service agility and faster deployment of new network elements.

ABI forecasts that overall NFV market revenue will reach $38 billion in 2022, although hardware expenditure, including servers, storage devices and switches, is expected to decline over time, while software and services segment spending is forecast to experience growth rates of 55% and 50%, respectively.

ABI notes that although the NFV market is evolving and technical expertise is starting to mature, the standardisation and multi-vendor involvement challenges will remain over the next two years. It adds that software and services vendors will have the opportunity to identify NFV use-cases for enterprise verticals and leverage these to deliver end-to-end integrated systems.

In terms of suppliers, ABI believes that the established vendors, including Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia, plus specialists such as Amdocs and Netcracker, will see early success, with systems integration becoming ever more important. It also notes that vendors are investing in open source software, which may increase business opportunities initially but could create difficulties in the future, particularly if telco interest in specific open source projects wanes.

ABI notes that currently, NFV is primarily seen as a means of reducing costs, but that new revenue opportunities will require a wider transformation which is likely to be driven by 5G after 2020.

Commenting on the report, Neha Pachade, senior analyst at ABI Research, said:

-           "In 2015 and 2016 the market experienced some early successes, but mostly reconsiderations and failures with NFV… early adopters conducted proof of concept testing and NFV-integrated system demonstrations to understand the impact of NFV in the technical, operational and cultural domains".

-           "Forecasts indicate that NFV will become a sizeable opportunity for vendors, although it is not yet clear whether it will cannibalise existing hardware-based product lines or create new market use cases".

Centec and DASAN Form Partnership

Centec Networks, a supplier of Ethernet switching silicon and SDN white box solutions, and DASAN Network Solutions, a provider of network solutions in Korea, announced a partnership intended to enable the joint development of flexible and cost-effective next generation network solutions.

By combining Centec's advanced high-speed Ethernet switching silicon with DASAN's system design expertise, the two companies plan to jointly develop next-generation network switching solutions designed to address all layers of the open-networking ecosystem, from chips and equipment to network operating systems and applications.

The partners noted that they are already collaborating in a number of industry standards groups, and through the new partnership plan to expand their work together on industry specifications and initiatives aimed at addressing networking demands arising from the growth in global data traffic, with a focus on enhancing flexibility and efficiency and reducing cost of ownership.

In September 2016, Zhone Technologies announced it had completed the acquisition of DASAN Network Solutions to create DASAN Zhone Solutions, a global provider of fibre access solutions for enterprise and service provider networks, with the combined entity 58% owned by DASAN Networks, formerly the parent company of DASAN Network Solutions.

DASAN Zhone Solutions, based in Oakland, California and with manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Korea and China, is a provider of fibre and copper broadband access, Ethernet switching, mobile backhaul, passive optical LAN and software defined networking solutions.

In November last year, Centec Networks and EmbedWay, a provider of intelligent infrastructure products and solutions, jointly introduced the ExSwitch6400 series 10 Gigabit Ethernet SDN white box solution, claimed to be the first high-density 10/40 Gigabit Ethernet open-networking platform to offer native 100 Gigabit Ethernet (4 x 25 Gbit/s SerDes) uplinks.

ADTRAN appoints Gregory McCray, CEO of Alphabet's Access, to board

ADTRAN, the provider of next-generation open networking solutions, announced the appointment of Gregory McCray, CEO of Alphabet's Access Company, the subsidiary that oversees the Google Fiber operation, to its board of directors.

ADTRAN stated that Mr. McCray's background in building the connected future is expected to be an asset to its board as the company focuses on expanding the availability of gigabit broadband to support the demands of smart cities, the Internet of Things (IoT) and software-defined networking (SDN).

Gregory McCray has extensive experience in marketing, sales, engineering, operations, M&A, management and international roles within the communications technology industry. As CEO of Access, he is leading efforts to deliver gigabit access to support Internet, TV and phone service in markets across the U.S.

Previously, Mr. McCray served in a number of executive roles, including CEO of Aero Communications, which provides installation, services and support to the communications industry and chairman and CEO of PipingHot Networks, a provider of broadband fixed wireless access equipment.

Gregory McCray has also held positions including SVP of customer operations at Lucent Technologies, where he managed the customer technical operations group for EMEA, and as a member of the board with CenturyLink, where he served as chairman of the cyber security and risk committee, as a member of the compensation committee and the nominating and corporate governance committee.

Mr. McCray holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Iowa State University, an M.S. in Industrial & Systems Engineering from Purdue University and has completed executive business programs at the University of Illinois, Harvard and INSEAD.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Video: Data Center Boom in Ireland

Will the data center boom accelerate in Ireland?

Ireland is already home to the largest concentration of major cloud providers in Europe. In recent months, we have seen Irish data center expansions from AWS, Google, Facebook, Equinix and Microsoft.  New next-gen transatlantic cables have landed on the Emerald isle.

With Brexit uncertaintly in the air, will even more data center operators move to Ireland?  In this video, Paraic Hayes, Vice President of IDA Ireland, says the government is extremely active to support the expansion of this activity with the goal of making Ireland the data capital of Europe.

Facebook dreams of better network connectivity platforms – Part 2


Facebook has a stated goal of reducing the cost of network connectivity by an order of magnitude. To achieve this its labs are playing with millimetre wave wireless, free-space optics and drones in the stratosphere.

Project Aquila takes flight

At this year's F8 conference, Facebook gave an update on the Aquila drone aircraft, which is being assembled in California's Mojave Desert. The Aquila project is cool - pretty much everything about this initiative, from its name to its sleek design, has an aura about it that says 'this is cool', who wouldn't want to be developing a solar-powered drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737. Using millimetre wave technology onboard Aquila, Facebook has achieved data transmission speeds of up to 36 Gbit/s over a 13 km distance; and using free-space optical links from the aircraft has achieved speeds of 80 Gbit/s over 13 km.

Several media sources reported a technical set-back last year (rumours of a cracked frame) but those are in the past or perhaps not relevant any more. At F8, Facebook said Aquila has progressed and is now ready for field testing. However, here again, one element that seems to be missing is the business case. Just where is this aircraft going to fly and who will pay for it?

As described by Facebook, Aquila will serve regions of the planet with poor or no Internet access. Apparently, this would not include the oceans and seas, nor the polar regions, where such an aircraft might have to hover for months or years before serving even one customer. Satellites already cover much of our planet’s surface and for extremely remote locations this is likely to remain the only option for Internet access. New generations of satellites, include medium earth orbit (MEO) constellations, are coming with improved latency and throughput. So Facebook's Aquila must aim to be better than the satellites.

The aircraft is designed to soar and circle at altitudes up 90,000 feet during the day, slowly descending to 60,000 by the end of the night. The backhaul presumably will be a free-space laser to a ground station below. At such a height, Aquila would be above the weather and above the jet stream. During the day, with an unobscured view of the sun, it would recharge the batteries needed to keep flying at night.

Apart from satellites, the alternative architecture for serving such regions would be conventional base stations mounted on tall masts and connected via fibre, microwave or satellite links. Many vendors are already offering solar-powered versions of these base stations, and there are plenty of case studies of how they have been used successfully in part of Africa, and the advantages over a high-flying drone are obvious: mature technology, fixed towers and known costs, no possibility of dangerous or embarrassing crashes.

One could imagine that the Facebook approach might bring new Internet access possibilities to areas such as the Sahara, the Atacama, over islands in the Indonesian archipelago. But is not clear if Aquila’s onboard radios would be powerful enough to penetrate dense forests, such as in the Amazon or Congo. So, if the best deployment scenario is a desert or island with some humans but insufficient Internet access, why is satellite service not a viable option? The likely answer again is economics. Perhaps the populations living in these regions simply have not had the money to purchase enough smartphones or laptops to make it worthwhile for a carrier to bring service.

A further consideration worth noting is that it may be difficult for an American company to secure permission to have a fleet of drone aircraft circling permanently over a sovereign nation. Intuitively, many people would not feel comfortable with a U.S. drone circling overhead, even if it were delivering faster social media.

Designing a communications platform for emergency deployments

Facebook's connectivity lab is also interested in disaster preparedness. At the F8 keynote, it unveiled Tether-tenna, a helicopter-drone that carries a base station and is connected via fibre and a cable with high-voltage power to a mooring station. The system is designed for rapid deployment after a natural disaster and could provide mobile communications over a wide area. But is it a complex technology that provides minimal benefits (certainly not an order of magnitude) over existing solutions?

The closest equivalent in the real world is the cellular-on-wheels (COWs) segment, which is now commonly used by most mobile operators for extending or amplifying their coverage during special events such as outdoor concerts and football matches. A typical COW is really just a base station mounted on a truck or trailer. After being hauled to the desired location, the units can be put into operation in a matter of minutes, using on-board batteries, diesel generators or attachment to the electrical grid. The units often have telescoping masts that extend 4-5 metres in height.

In comparison to a COW, Facebook's Tether-tenna heli-drone will have a height advantage, perhaps 100 metres over the competitors, enabling it to extend coverage over a greater range. However, the downsides are quite apparent too. Base station weight restrictions on the heli-drone, which also must carry the weight of the tether, will be more limiting than on a mast, and this means that the Tether-tenna will not provide the density of coverage possible via a COW, thereby limiting its potential use cases.

In addition, a crashing heli-drone could do a lot of damage to people or property on the ground, and wind would be a major factor, as would lightning strikes. There is also the possibility of collisions with other drones, airplanes or birds. Therefore ensuring safety might require a human operator to be present when the drone is flying, and insurance costs inevitably would be higher than any of the many varieties of COWs that are already in service.

AT&T has a more elegant name for this gear, preferring to call them Cells on Light Trucks (COLTs). During the recent Coachella 2017 music festival in California, AT&T deployed four COLTs equipped with high-capacity drum set antennae, which offer 30x the capacity of a traditional, single-beam antenna. AT&T reported that the COLTs were instrumental in handling the 40 Tbit/s of data that traversed its network during the multi-day event - the equivalent of 113 million selfies. Data traffic from Coachella was up 37% over last year, according to AT&T. Would a heli-drone make sense for a week-long event such as this?  Probably not, but it's still a cool concept.

All of this raises the question: is a potential business case even considered before a development project gets funded at Facebook?

In conclusion, Facebook is a young company with a big ambition to connect the unconnected. Company execs talk about a ten-year plan to advance its technologies, so they have the time and money to play with multiple approaches that could make a difference. A business case for these three projects may not be apparent now but they could evolve into something serendipitously.

Calix and Radisys Partner on Residential CORD

Radisys and Calix announced the delivery of an end-to-end cloud edge solution based on commercially available systems and software that is compliant with the Residential Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (R-CORD) architecture, designed to enable SDN, NFV and the cloud model in the access network.

The integrated turnkey access solution for R-CORD combines the CORD open software and hardware building blocks with Radisys' OCP-based DCEngine platform and the carrier-grade Calix AXOS E9-2 Intelligent Edge System, featuring the recently announced AXOS OFx Connector with the open source vOLT-HA integration software and 10 Gbit/s PON converged fibre access (NG-PON2 and XGS-PON).

Deployment of the converged cloud edge solution into the last mile network is intended to allow service providers to accelerate new service introduction while also maintaining quality of experience for subscribers.

The company's noted that the shift to a subscriber-driven network, combined with device proliferation and bandwidth intensive applications, is driving changes in access network design. In this environment, open software-controlled infrastructure can enable service providers to increase agility and reduce costs, as well as speed new service introduction.

It was noted that trials of the R-CORD solution running on the Radisys OCP-based DCEngine hyperscale platform, integrated with Calix's AXOS E9-2 edge system are underway with multiple Tier-one service providers.

For the field trials, Calix is providing the physical optical termination system, with the Radisys DCEngine 16U integrated rack, based on the OCP-compliant CG-OpenRack-19 specification, providing the multi-rack level network functions virtualisation (NFVi) and container-based infrastructure for hosting thousands of virtualised network functions (VNFs) and applications under open software-defined networking control.

Regarding the joint solution, Shane Eleniak, VP of systems products at Calix, said, "The Calix/Radisys R-CORD POD takes advantage of the flexibility and modular architecture of the AXOS E9-2 Intelligent Edge System, AXOS OFx Connector and vOLT-HA integration software… the combination of Radisys' CORD expertise and the componentised architecture, native NetConf/Yang interfaces and anySDN flexibility of the AXOS platform has delivered the first commercially available R-CORD POD solution, bringing the promise of SDN into the access network".

M-CORD Innovations: Transforming Central Offices for 5G

M-CORD takes the best ideas from the pivotal Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) and adapts them for next generation mobile networks. CORD combines NFV, SDN, and the elasticity of commodity clouds and M-CORD adds the latest innovations in mobility, including for the radio access network (RAN), core, and services. This video, hosted by Joseph Sulistyo, Senior Director of Open Networking Solutions at Radisys, provides a broad overview...

Coriant trials disaggregated 100/150/200G with Telefónica Germany

Coriant completed a network trial with Telefónica Germany that featured disaggregated 100, 150 and 200 Gbit/s transmission over live fibre links in the existing 10 Gbit/s DWDM dispersion compensated network.

The recently completed trial with Telefonica Germany involved the Coriant Groove G30 network disaggregation platform and demonstrated the ability to cost-efficiently increase the performance of deployed optical infrastructure using advanced disaggregated optical transmission and open networking capabilities.

The alien wavelength trial was implemented over three separate live links in Telefónica's existing 10 Gbit/s DWDM transmission network spanning distances of 1,070 km, 630 km and 290 km, with connectivity to key network sites including Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.

Supporting interoperability with Telefónica's existing 10 Gbit/s optical line system, the Coriant Groove solution achieved disaggregated 100 Gbit/s transport across all three links, 150 Gbit/s over the 630 km and 290 km links, and 200 Gbit/s capacity over the 290 km connection.

Coriant stated that following the successful trial, in mid-2017 it plans to work with Telefónica Germany to conduct further alien wavelength testing on the operator's 100 Gbit/s national backbone network in Germany utilising the disaggregated Coriant Groove G30 muxponder solution.

  • In 2015, Telefónica Germany deployed the Coriant 8600 Smart Router Series and 8000 Intelligent Network Manager (INM) to upgrade its mobile backhaul network and support the integration of the O2 and E-Plus network infrastructures.