At the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference, John Stephens, senior executive vice president and chief financial officer, AT&T discussed the company’s plans for 2018 and beyond. Mr. Stephens said AT&T remains confident that it is on the right track to get its wireline business services back to positive growth as more customers transition to next-generation strategic services like SD-WAN and Carrier Ethernet. However, the drag from legacy services will continue to be an issue for the near term. He then outlined the company’s priorities for 2018, which include closing its pending acquisition of Time Warner and investing $23 billion in capital to build the best gigabit network in the United States.
On the entertainment side of the business, AT&T plans to launch the next generation of its DIRECTV Now video streaming service in the first half of 2018. The new platform will include features like cloud DVR and a third video stream. Additional features expected to launch later in 2018 include pay-per-view functionality and more video on demand. Note that DIRECT TV Now can operate over a wireline or wireless network with sufficient bandwidth to support video streaming. Stephens said during the interview:
“……Giving us this opportunity to come up with a new platform later in this first half of this year, the second-generation plant for giving customers Cloud DVR, additional ability to pay per view and most sporting events and movies, and all kinds of other capabilities is what we’re seeing here, that’s what we want to do with regard to that entertain business and transitioning and we’re confident that we’re on the right track and it’s going quite well.”
The company’s 2018 plans also include improved profitability in its wireless operations in Mexico and, after the Time Warner acquisition closes, deployment of a new advertising and analytics platform that will use the company’s customer data to bring new, data-driven advertising capabilities within premium video. And, as always, AT&T remains laser-focused on maintaining an industry-leading cost structure.
AT&T’s investment plans include deployment of the FirstNet network, America’s first nationwide public safety broadband network specifically designed for our nation’s police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders.
“We were 56 out of 56, 50 states, 5 territories and the districts, probably all choose to put their public safety network, their FirstNet, their first responder network with AT&T, so that’s thrilling for us, that gives us the full funding of the program, it gives us the full authority to be the public service provider for the country, we’re really proud of that, and only because of the business aspects that’s serving our fellow citizens and being able to participate in the honorable job of saving lives and protecting people. So we’re really jazzed up about that.
Secondly, our plans were made last year for how to build out, and we’ve now been given the authority and the official build plans, approved build plans from the FirstNet authority. We spend last year investing in the core network, I think if people filed us in the fourth quarter; they said we actually got a $300 million reimbursement from the FirstNet authority for the expenditures we incurred last year. So the relentless preemption, the prioritized service refers to prices for police and fire and handling some emergency medical personal; all of that’s been done and now we’re out deploying the network, not only the 700 but also our AWS and WCS, our inventoried network that we now get to put into service on a very economic basis because we can do one tower client, we have the crane out there once, we have the people out there once and they’ve put all three pieces of spectrum at it once.”
The company will also enhance wireless network quality and capacity and plans to be the first to launch mobile “5G” service in 12 cities by the end of the year. AT&T announced in February that Atlanta, GA; Dallas and Waco, TX. will be among its first “5G” markets.
“We think about 5G is 5G evolution and I say that because it’s really important to put it all in perspective. So we think FirstNet, put WCS, AWS with 700 band 14 [ph], and use carrier aggregation and you use forward [indiscernible]; we’ve done that kind of test without the 700, we did that in San Francisco, we got 750 mag speeds in the City of San Francisco on this new network, this new 5G evolution; it’s using the LTE technology, it’s using the existing network but all this new technology. So if you think about that evolution now, when you lower that network hub, those 750 theoretical speeds might go down to 150 or 100 or somewhere down but tremendous speed even on a loaded network; so that’s the first step, we’re doing that now extensively and we’re going to do more of that as we build the first step that work out and put the 700 band in. So that’s the first step for us in this evolution.
Second, people might not think about this way but for us absolutely critical is the fiber bill. We’re taking a lot of fiber out to the Prime [ph], we’re taking a lot of fiber out to business locations, currently we have about 15 million locations with fiber between business and consumer, and by July next year, we’ll have about 22 million, about 8 million business, about 14 million to the Prime if you will, for consumers. So fiber is the key, and it’s a key not only delivering to the home or to the business but for the backhaul support. So if you’re an integrated carrier like we are and you’re building this fiber to go to the home, you’re going to pass the tower, you’re going to get fiber to that tower, you’re going to pass the business location, shopping mall, strip center, you’re going to build out to those.
So 5G is the second stage, we’ve got to think all the inter-gig this is the ability to deliver broadband overall electrical power lines, we’re testing that, we’ll see how that goes, that’s another step. If you think about using millimeter wave to do backhaul for small cells in really congested areas, we have high traffic volumes, you want to take a lot of traffic off, we have tested that, we have used millimeter wave to do that, we can do that. If you think about millimeter wave to do fixed wireless; so from the ally to my home, we have tested that we have the capability to do that, the challenges on that is where do you take it from the ally, where do you offload it, give it on to the network at what those costs are, but we can do that.
Lastly, you will see us put 5G into the core network. All of those things that were going to have to be measured by one of the chipsets ready for the handsets, we expect the chipsets might be next year, handset will come after that but we’re looking at the historically slow upgrade timeframe for phones. We had a couple of quarters last year that the upgrade rates were about 4%, that would equate the 25 quarters before your phone base turned over in an extreme example; so suggesting that things are going to be in the core network, it’s going to take a while, we’ll have pucks [ph] out by the end of the year, that will help but you have to have balance with regard to this.
When you think about those business cases, you think about those augmented reality and virtual reality and robotics and autonomous cars and things on the edge, those are going to be really important, that’s where the business cases will take us but we’ve got a long way to go before we get there. As we build FirstNet, we have been good fortunate being able to so to speak build the network house and leave the room for our 5G capability so that when it’s ready, we can just plug it in to do it with software defined network design, we had a great advantage for that but we’re going to have to make sure we have all of the equipment, not only switching equipment, the radio, the antenna but also the handset equipment before we start — if you will over-indexing on the revenues opportunities, they will be there, we will lead in the gigabit network.
We’ll have the best one because what FirstNet provides us and what the technology developments have allowed us and we will use 5G in that network but I want to be careful about how we think about when it’s going to be — you’re going to have a device in your hand and walking around on a normal kind of usage basis using 5G.”
Stephens said that AT&T reaches about 15 million customer locations with fiber. This includes more than 7 million consumer customer locations and more than 8 million business customer locations within 1,000 feet of AT&T’s fiber footprint. He expects this to increase to about 22 million locations by mid-2019.
For 2018, AT&T expects organic adjusted earnings per share growth in the low single digits, driven by improvements in wireless service revenue trends, improving profitability from its international operations, cost structure improvements from its software defined network/network function virtualization efforts and lower depreciation versus 2017.
Like earlier quarters, the challenges in the fourth quarter for AT&T came from declines in legacy services like Frame Relay and ATM. The company noted that fourth-quarter declines in legacy products were partially offset by continued growth in strategic business services. Total business wireline revenues were $7.4 billion, down 3.5% year-over-year but up sequentially.
Stephens said that more AT&T customers are adopting next-gen services, creating a new foundation for wireline business revenue growth.
“What’s happened is our customers have embraced the strategic services,” Stephens said. “Strategic services are over a $12 billion annual business and are over 42% or so of our revenue and are still growing quickly.”
Indeed, AT&T’s fourth-quarter strategic business services revenues grew by nearly 6%, or $176 million, versus the year-earlier quarter. These services represent 42% of total business wireline revenues and more than 70% of wireline data revenues and have an annualized revenue stream of more than $12 billion. This growth helped offset a decline of more than $400 million in legacy service revenues in the quarter.
Stopping short of forecasting overall wireline business service revenue growth, Stephens said that AT&T will eventually see a point where strategic services will surpass legacy declines.
“As we get past this inflection point where strategic services are growing at a faster than the degradation of legacy, we can get to a point where we are growing revenues,” Stephens said. “We’re not predicting that but we see the opportunity to do that.”
To achieve these business services revenue goals, AT&T’s business sales team is taking a two-pronged approach: retaining legacy services or converting them to strategic services.
While wireline business services continue to be a key focus for AT&T, the service provider is not surprisingly looking at ways to leverage its wireless network to help customers solve issues in their business. The wireless network can be used to support a business customer’s employee base while enabling IoT applications like monitoring of a manufacturing plant or a trucking fleet. Stephens expanded on the role of IoT to close out the interview:
“…you (‘ve) got to realize that if you build this FirstNet network out, things like IoT, things like coverage for business customers, things like the ability to connect factories that are automated, the robotics that have to have wireless connectivity to a controlled center for business customers, all improves dramatically and with that comes this opportunity to sell these wireless services. When you’re in — with the CIO and you can solve his security business, you can solve his big pipe of strategic services but you can also solve some wireless issues that his HR guy has for his connectivity for his employees, you can solve some issues that his engineering department has because they want to get real-time information about how their products are working out, whether it’s a car or a jet engine or a tractor, how it’s working in the field in real-time or you can give them new product and services demand for their internal sources like their pipelines or their shipping fleet.
This IoT capability can solve a lot of issues, you can make that CIO as the success factor for all his related peers, that’s a great thing to great solutions approach to business and that’s what we’re trying to do. Our team is trying to provide solutions for the business customers and we think having those two things together are really important.”
AT&T announced on Tuesday three cities to get its so called “5G” mobile network this year. The three cities are: Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Waco, Texas. The U.S. mega carrier plans on deploying its version of “5G” over mmWave in a total of 12 cities by the end of 2018, as we previously reported. The remaining cities will be announced at a later date.
Several carriers have been trialing various versions of non standardized 5G networks for some time. AT&T says this rollout will be based on the 3GPP release 15 New Radio specification (which will not by itself be presented as a contribution to ITU-R WP5D for IMT 2020 radio aspects- see Closing Comment below).
This AT&T version of “5G” is said to offer theoretical peak speeds of several gigabits a second at much lower latency than existing 4G-LTE wireless networks. The combination of faster speeds and lower latency is thought to help speed adoption of real time control of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and electric utilities that require a persistent Internet connection.
“After significantly contributing to the first phase of 5G standards, conducting multi-city trials, and literally transforming our network for the future, we’re planning to be the first carrier to deliver standards-based mobile 5G — and do it much sooner than most people thought possible,” said Igal Elbaz, SVP of Wireless Network Architecture and Design at AT&T.
The AT&T “5G” rollout is ahead of availability of consumer “5G” devices. Both device makers and wireless carriers need to closely time launching “5G” devices and networks so the return on investment is maximized. If one launches significantly early or late, the other will suffer.
There’s a good chance major hardware makers will announced some of the first “5G” devices next week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain. Let’s hope there’s not a proliferation of “5G” device versions- one for each wireless carrier!
From the previously referenced AT&T press release:
We believe 5G and SDN go hand in hand. A virtualized and software-defined network lets you develop, deploy, and protect new network applications faster than with a hardware-based model.
We’re on the most aggressive network virtualization path that we know of in our industry. We plan to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. Our goal in 2017 was 55%, and we hit that mark.
The experience we’ve gained by leading the industry transformation to network virtualization and software control will help our customers to get the most out of 5G.
Ultimately, we expect to reach theoretical peak speeds of multiple gigabits per second on devices through mobile 5G. While speed is important, we also expect to see much lower latency rates. With higher speeds and lower latency rates, our mobile 5G network will eventually unlock a number of new, exciting experiences for our customers.
For these experiences to become reality, you need mobile 5G powered by SDN and edge computing. We’re making the cloud smarter, faster and local.
Let’s carefully examine this quote from the press release:
“This is standards-based, mobile 5G we’re talking about. AT&T is the only U.S. carrier that’s announced plans to deliver this ground-breaking technology to its customers in 2018.”
AT&T will likely be the first U.S. carrier to deploy mobile “5G” based on millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and technology. Sprint’s rollout is expected in 2019, T-Mobile only anticipates national mobile coverage by 2020, and Verizon has focused on fixed access “5G” for its early deployments (also not standardized).
However, AT&T’s mobile “5G” initial deployment is NOT close to being “standards-based mobile 5G,” as the company claims. That’s because the only true 5G standards will be the ITU-R WP5D IMT 2020 recommendations, which won’t be completed till the end of 2020 (as we’ve pointed out countless times). ITU-R won’t even start their detailed Radio Interface Technology (RIT) evaluation process till 2019! Further, 3GPP won’t even submit the initial templates for their proposed IMT 2020 RIT till the January 30 to February 7, 2019 ITU-R WP 5D meeting with their final WP 5D submission in July, 2019.
From the 3GPP website:
The final and fully comprehensive 3GPP IMT-2020 submission (encompassing both Release 15 and Release 16) is planned for July 2019 (to be presented at the July 9-17, 2019 ITU-R WP 5D meeting).
To help the Evaluation Groups in their work, 3GPP is currently planning a workshop to present the 5G solutions to interested external bodies – specifically the Evaluation Groups – to allow a better understanding of the 3GPP technologies for 5G. More news will follow soon – on the date and place of the 3GPP Workshop.
AT&T should know better than to call it’s 2018 (3GPP New Radio based/mmWave spectrum) wireless roll-outs “standards-based mobile 5G.” That’s because Stephen Blust (firstname.lastname@example.org) of AT&T chairs the ITU-R WP5D standards committee! AT&T also sends other delegates to WP 5D meetings, so the company is totally on top of the real 5G/IMT 2020 standards effort which we’ve shared with IEEE techblog readers for several years now.
Also note that neither ITU-R or ITU-T have any serious standards project(s) underway for SDN or network virtualization or NFV aspects of IMT 2020 (standardized 5G). Those are considered out of scope for ITU. That leaves it up to Open Source Consortium(s) to develop those related specifications.
From the February 2018 ITU-R WP 5D Meeting in Seoul, Korea:
Addendum 1. High-level scopes for Working Party 5D working and Ad hoc Groups:
|WG GENERAL ASPECTS||– To develop deliverables on services, forecasts, and also convergence of services of fixed and mobile networks which take account the needs of end users, and the demand for IMT capabilities and supported services. This includes aspects regarding the continued deployment of IMT, other general topics of IMT and overall objectives for the long-term development of IMT. To update the relevant IMT Recommendations/Reports.
– To ensure that the requirements and needs of the developing countries are reflected in the work and deliverables of WP 5D in the development of IMT. This includes coordination of work with ITU-D Sector on deployments of IMT systems and transition to IMT system.
|WG TECHNOLOGY ASPECTS||– To provide the technology related aspects of IMT through development of Recommendations and Reports. To update the relevant IMT‑2000 and IMT-Advanced Recommendations. To work on key elements of IMT technologies including requirements, evaluation, and evolution. To develop liaison with external research and standardization forums, and to coordinate the external and internal activities related to the IMT-2020 process.
– To manage the research topics website and its findings.
|WG SPECTRUM ASPECTS||– To undertake co-existence studies, develop spectrum plans, and channel/frequency arrangements for IMT. This includes spectrum sharing between IMT and other radio services/systems coordinating as appropriate with other Working Parties in ITU-R.||A. JAMIESON
|AD HOC WORKPLAN||– To coordinate the work of WP 5D to facilitate efficient and timely progress of work items.||H. OHLSEN
Addendum 2. Agreed overall deliverables/workplan of ITU-R WP 5D:
The following table provides the schedule of when approval of the planned major deliverables will be achieved following the procedures of WP 5D.
|June 2018||Mexico WP 5D #30||• Finalize CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.8 (MTC)
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.EXPERIENCES]
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT. MTC]
• Further update/Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R
• Finalize draft CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.1, and send input to WP 4C
• Finalize draft CPM text on WRC-19 agenda item 9.1, Issue 9.1.2, and send input to WP 4A
|October 2018||[Japan] WP 5D #31||• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.MS/MSS.2GHz]
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.1 452-1 492MHz]
• Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT.3300 MHz RLS]
• Finalize draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[MT.3300 MHz FSS]
• Finalize draft new Report/Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT.COEXISTENCE.AMS]
• Finalize draft revision of Report ITU-R M.2373
• Finalize revision of Recommendation ITU-R M.1036
• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT.BY.INDUSTRIES]
• Finalize revision of Recommendation ITU-R M.1457
|February 2019||Geneva WP 5D #31’bis’|
|July 2019||[Geneva] WP 5D #32||• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/YYY Input Submissions Summary
• Finalize revision of Recommendation M.2012
• Finalize draft new Report M.[IMT.AAS]
• Finalize Addendum 4 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|December 2019||[Geneva] WP 5D #33|
|February 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #34||• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/ZZZ Evaluation Reports Summary
• Finalize Doc. IMT-2020/VVV Process and use of GCS
• Finalize Addendum 5 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|June 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #35||• Finalize draft new Report ITU-R M.[IMT-2020.OUTCOME]
• Finalize Addendum 6 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
|October 2020||[TBD] WP 5D #36||• Finalize draft new Recommendation ITU-R M.[IMT‑2020.SPECS]
• Finalize Addendum 7 to Circular Letter IMT‑2020
AT&T says it will use small cells for its mobile “5G” service planned for 12 U.S. cities this year. The company’s first of these roll outs will use millimeter wave  spectrum, which offers higher capacity rates than low-band spectrum but does not propagate over large distances. That requires transmit/receive radios need to closer together than they are in LTE deployments.
Note 1. Millimeter wave (also millimeter band) is the band of spectrum between 30 gigahertz (Ghz) and 300 Ghz.
“Millimeter wave is more associated with small cell-like ranges and heights,” said AT&T’s Hank Kafka, VP of network architecture. “It can be on telephone poles or light poles or building rooftops or on towers, but generally if you’re putting it on towers it’s at a lower height than you would put a high-powered macrocell, because of the propagation characteristics.”
“5G will change the way we live, work and enjoy entertainment,” said Melissa Arnoldi, president, AT&T Technology and Operations. “We’re moving quickly to begin deploying mobile 5G this year and start unlocking the future of connectivity for consumers and businesses. With faster speeds and ultra-low latency, 5G will ultimately deliver and enhance experiences like virtual reality, future driverless cars, immersive 4K video and more.”
AT&T has announced 23 cities that are getting its 5G Evolution infrastructure, which the company describes as “the foundation for mobile 5G.” Those cities are Atlanta; Austin; Boston; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Buffalo, New York; Chicago; Fresno, CA; Greenville, South Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; Houston; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Louisville; Memphis; Nashville; New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Pittsburgh; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Tulsa, Oklahoma and Sacramento, California.
AT&T’s deployment of small cells to support mobile 5G will be largely independent of another 2017 AT&T infrastructure initiative – the build-out of the 700 MHz spectrum for FirstNet.
“Where appropriate we’re always going to try and get as much synergy as we can … but there’s a difference between dealing with small cell sites and dealing with macro sites,” Kafka said.
“You’ll find that a lot of radios that suppliers are putting out now are going to be upgradeable to support 5G,” Kafka said. “Some of the radios we’re deploying now do have that capability in the hardware.”
Kafka said that in some instances, tower crews might be able to add “5G” equipment near the base of the tower at the same time they add 700 MHz radios to the top. But the synergies between the two deployments are limited.
In sharp contrast to AT&Ts endorsement of millimeter wave technology, Sprint’s CTO John Saw said last week that he is not sure that using millimeter waves to deliver 5G services is a practical economic use of the high-band spectrum and that Sprint will be focusing on using its existing bandwidth to initially deploy 5G.
“What is the cost to deliver a bit over millimeter waves? Where is the business case on that?” John Saw asked at the Citi conference in Las Vegas.
Verizon CTO Hans Vestberg told a CES panel last week that Verizon “will be first” to deploy 5G. Verizon is moving ahead with deployment of pre-standard fixed-wireless 5G service, starting with a rollout in Sacramento, California in the second half of this year. But Vestberg noted fixed-wireless is just one part of what Verizon plans to do with 5G.
“From 5G you can do different slices. We are now focusing on one slice, which is basically residential broadband to deliver superior performance quicker to market…That’s one use case, we can talk about many others.”
AT&T has introduced a high speed “4G” service in the form of LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) in Indianapolis, IN. LTE-LAA uses unlicensed spectrum. According to AT&T it will provide theoretical gigabit speeds to some areas of the city. LTE-LAA has reached a peak of 979 Mbps in a San Francisco, CA trial.
“Demand continues to grow at a rapid pace on our network,” the Bill Soards, President AT&T Indiana in a press release. That’s why offering customers the latest technologies and increased wireless capacity by combining licensed and unlicensed spectrum is an important milestone.”
The U.S. mega telco recently announced plans to roll out its 5G Evolution program in Minneapolis. That initiative – which aims to provide networks with the capability to support 5G when it is ready – already is in use in parts of Indianapolis and in Austin, TX. It features LTE Advanced features such as 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO and 3-way Carrier Aggregation.
AT&T says that it invested $350 million in its wired and wireless network infrastructure in Indianapolis between 2014 and 2016.
In her October 31st keynote at the Fog World Congress, Alicia Abella, PhD and Vice President – Advanced Technology Realization at AT&T, discussed the implications of edge computing (EC) for network service providers, emphasizing that it will make the business case for 5G realizable when low latency is essential for real time applications (see illustration below).
The important trends and key drivers for edge computing were described along with AT&T’s perspective of its “open network” edge computing architecture emphasizing open source software modules.
Author’s Note: Ms. Abella did not distinguish between edge and fog computing nor did she even mention the latter term during her talk. We tried to address definitions and fog network architecture in this post. An earlier blog post quoted AT&T as being “all in” for edge computing to address low latency next generation applications.
AT&T Presentation Highlights:
- Ms. Abella defined EC as the placement of processing and storage resources at the perimeter of a service provider’s network in order to deliver low latency applications to customers. That’s consistent with the accepted definition.
“Edge compute is the next step in getting more out of our network, and we are busy putting together an edge computing (network) architecture,” she said.
- “5G-like” applications will be the anchor tenant for network provider’s EC strategy. augmented reality/virtual reality, Multi-person real time video conferencing, and autonomous vehicles were a few applications cited in the illustration below:
Above illustration courtesy of AT&T.
“Size, location, configuration of EC resources will vary, depending on capacity demand and use cases,” said Ms. Abella.
- Benefits of EC to network service providers include:
- Reduce backhaul traffic
- Maintain quality of experience for customers
- Reduce cost by decomposing and disaggregating access function
- Optimize current central office infrastructure
- Improve reliability of the network by distributing content between the edge and centralized data centers
- Deliver innovative services not possible without edge compute, e.g. Industrial IoT autonomous vehicles, smart cities, etc
“In order to achieve some of the latency requirements of these [5G applications?] services a service provider needs to place IT resources at the edge of the network. Especially, when looking at autonomous vehicles where you have mission critical safety requirements. When we think about the edge, we’re looking at being able to serve these low latency requirements for those [real time] applications.”
- AT&T has “opened our network” to enable new services and reduce operational costs. The key attributes are the following:
- Modular architecture
- Robust network APIs
- Policy management
- Shared infrastructure for simplification and scaling
- Network Automation platform achieved using INDIGO on top of ONAP
- AT&T will offer increased network value and adaptability as traffic volumes change:
- Cost/performance leadership
- Improved speed to innovation
- Industry leading security, performance, reliability
“We are busy thinking about and putting together what that edge compute architecture would look like. It’s being driven by the need for low latency.”
In terms of where, physically, edge computing and storage is located:
“It depends on the use case. We have to be flexible when defining this edge compute architecture. There’s a lot of variables and a lot of constraints. We’re actually looking at optimization methods. We want to deploy edge compute nodes in mobile data centers, in buildings, at customers’ locations and in our central offices. Where it will be depends on where there is demand, where we have spectrum, we are developing methods for optimizing the locations. We want to be able to place those nodes in a place that will minimize cost to us (AT&T), while maintaining quality of experience. Size, location and configuration is going to depend on capacity demand and the use cases,” Alicia said.
- Optimization of EC processing to meet latency constraints may require GPUs and FPGAs in additional to conventional microprocessors. One such application cite was running video analytics for surveillance cameras.
- Real time control of autonomous vehicles would require a significant investment in roadside IT infrastructure but have an uncertain return-on-investment. AT&T now has 12 million smart cars on its network, a number growing by a million per quarter.
- We need to support different connectivity to the core network and use “SDN” within the site.
- Device empowerment at the edge must consider that while mobile devices (e.g. smart phones and tablets) are capable of executing complex tasks, they have been held back by battery life and low power requirements.
- Device complexity means higher cost to manufacturers and consumers.
- Future of EC may include “crowd sourcing computing power in your pocket.” The concept here is to distribute the computation needed over many people’s mobile devices and compensate them via Bitcoin, other crypto currency or asset class. Block chain may play a role here.
Timon Sloane of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) provided an update on project CORD on November 1st at the Telecom Council’s Carrier Connections (TC3) summit in Mt View, CA. The session was titled:
Spotlight on CORD: Transforming Operator Networks and Business Models
After the presentation, Sandhya Narayan of Verizon and Tom Tofigh of AT&T came up to the stage to answer a few audience member questions (there was no real panel session).
The basic premise of CORD is to re-architect a telco/MSO central office to have the same or similar architecture of a cloud resident data center. Not only the central office, but also remote networking equipment in the field (like an Optical Line Termination unit or OLT) are decomposed and disaggregated such that all but the most primitive functions are executed by open source software running on a compute server. The only hardware is the Physical layer transmission system which could be optical fiber, copper, or cellular/mobile.
Author’s Note: Mr. Sloane didn’t mention that ONF became involved in project CORD when it merged with ON.Labs earlier this year. At that time, the ONOS and CORD open source projects became ONF priorities. The Linux Foundation still lists CORD as one of their open source projects, but it appears the heavy lifting is being done by the new ONF as per this press release.
A reference implementation of CORD combines commodity servers, white-box switches, and disaggregated access technologies with open source software to provide an extensible service delivery platform. This gives network operators (telcos and MSOs) the means to configure, control, and extend CORD to meet their operational and business objectives. The reference implementation is sufficiently complete to support field trials.
Illustration above is from the OpenCord website
Highlights of Timon Sloane’s CORD Presentation at TC3:
- ONF has transformed over the last year to be a network operator led consortium.
- SDN, Open Flow, ONOS, and CORD are all important ONF projects.
- “70% of world wide network operators are planning to deploy CORD,” according to IHS-Markit senior analyst Michael Howard (who was in the audience- see his question to Verizon below).
- 80% of carrier spending is in the network edge (which includes the line terminating equipment and central office accessed).
- The central office (CO) is the most important network infrastructure for service providers (AKA telcos, carriers and network operators, MSO or cablecos, etc).
- The CO is the service provider’s gateway to customers.
- End to end user experience is controlled by the ingress and egress COs (local and remote) accessed.
- Transforming the outdated CO is a great opportunity for service providers. The challenge is to turn the CO into a cloud like data center.
- CORD mission is the enable the “edge cloud.” –>Note that mission differs from the OpenCord website which states:
“Our mission is to bring datacenter economies and cloud agility to service providers for their residential, enterprise, and mobile customers using an open reference implementation of CORD with an active participation of the community. The reference implementation of CORD will be built from commodity servers, white-box switches, disaggregated access technologies (e.g., vOLT, vBBU, vDOCSIS), and open source software (e.g., OpenStack, ONOS, XOS).”
- A CORD like CO infrastructure is built using commodity hardware, open source software, and white boxes (e.g. switch/routers and compute servers).
- The agility of a cloud service provider depends on software platforms that enable rapid creation of new services- in a “cloud-like” way. Network service providers need to adopt this same model.
- White boxes provide subscriber connections with control functions virtualized in cloud resident compute servers.
- A PON Optical Line Termination Unit (OLT) was the first candidate chosen for CORD. It’s at the “leaf of the cloud,” according to Timon.
- 3 markets for CORD are: Mobile (M-), Enterprise (E-), and Residential (R-). There is also the Multi-Service edge which is a new concept.
- CORD is projected to be a $300B market (source not stated).
- CORD provides opportunities for: application vendors (VNFs, network services, edge services, mobile edge computing, etc), white box suppliers (compute servers, switches, and storage), systems integrators (educate, design, deploy, support customers, etc).
- CORD Build Event was held November 7-9, 2017 in San Jose, CA. It explored CORD’s mission, market traction, use cases, and technical overview as per this schedule.
Service Providers active in CORD project:
- AT&T: R-Cord (PON and g.fast), Multi-service edge-CORD, vOLTHA (Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction)
- Verizon: M-Cord
- Sprint: M-Cord
- Comcast: R-Cord
- Century Link: R-Cord
- Google: Multi-access CORD
Author’s Note: NTT (Japan) and Telefonica (Spain) have deployed CORD and presented their use cases at the CORD Build event. Deutsche Telekom, China Unicom, and Turk Telecom are active in the ONF and may have plans to deploy CORD?
- This author questioned the partitioning of CORD tasks and responsibility between ONF and Linux Foundation. No clear answer was given. Perhaps in a follow up comment?
- AT&T is bringing use cases into ONF for reference platform deployments.
- CORD is a reference architecture with systems integrators needed to put the pieces together (commodity hardware, white boxes, open source software modules).
- Michael Howard asked Verizon to provide commercial deployment status- number, location, use cases, etc. Verizon said they can’t talk about commercial deployments at this time.
- Biggest challenge for CORD: Dis-aggregating purpose built, vendor specific hardware that exist in COs today. Many COs are router/switch centric, but they have to be opened up if CORD is to gain market traction.
- Future tasks for project CORD include: virtualized Radio Access Network (RAN), open radio (perhaps “new radio” from 3GPP release 15?), systems integration, and inclusion of micro-services (which were discussed at the very next TC3 session).
Addendum from Marc Cohn, formerly with the Linux Foundation:Here’s an attempt to clarify the CORD project responsibilities:
- CORD is an open reference architecture. In that sense, CORD is similar to the ETSI NFV Architectural Framework, ONF SDN Architecture, and MEF LifeCycle Services Orchestration (LSO) reference architectures.
- As it is a reference architecture, it is not an implementation, and is maintained by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), which merged with ON.LAB towards the end of 2016.
- OpenCORD is a Linux Foundation project announced in the summer of 2016. It is focused on an open source implementation of the CORD architecture. OpenCord was derived from the work undertaken by ON.LAB, prior to the merger with ONF in 2016.
- For technical details, visit the OpenCORD Wiki
- Part of the confusion is that if one visits the Linux Foundation projects page, CORD is listed, but the link is to the OpenCord website.
Telit, an Israeli based semiconductor company specializing in Internet of Things (IoT) silicon, today announced that its LE910B1-NA, LE910B1-SA, LTE Category 1 (Cat 1) and LE910B4-NA, LTE Category 4 (Cat 4) received certification for operation on AT&T’s LTE nationwide network. The aforementioned modules also support Voice over LTE (VoLTE).
Telit also received certification for its 600 Mbps, LTE Category 11 (Cat 11) LM940 global (single SKU) PCI Express Mini (mPCIe) data card targeted at segments including network routers and gateways, and the mobile computing industry.
Certification enables IoT integrators and providers to immediately integrate and test their devices with the certified modules and data card and start leveraging the reliability and coverage of AT&T’s LTE Cat 1, Cat 4-VoLTE and Cat 11 services for the IoT.
For more information on the LE910B1/4-xA:
For more information on the LM940 Cat 11 data card:
“Voice over LTE is an absolute necessity for the IoT particularly for the American market where operators need to turn off spectrum-inefficient circuit switch voice technology. Our existing customers using 2G, 3G, and non-VoLTE LTE modules from the xE910 family can now simply drop in the VoLTE variants, go through required testing with our help and start deploying voice capable products endowed with a very long life,” said Yosi Fait, Interim CEO, Telit.
“The LM940, now certified for immediate activation, remains the only global product for the router and gateway segment to allow OEMs to leverage 3x carrier aggregation capabilities currently available from AT&T,” he added.
The LE910B1/4-xA module is a member of Telit’s best-selling xE910 family and can easily be applied as a pin-to-pin replacement for existing devices based on the family’s modules for 2G, 3G, LTE Categories 1, 3 and 4. With the company’s design-once-use-anywhere philosophy, developers can cut costs and development time by simply designing to the xE910 LGA common form factor, giving them the freedom to deploy technologies best suited for the application’s environment.
The LM940 boasts an exceptionally power efficient platform and is the ideal solution for commercial and enterprise applications in the network appliance and router industry, such as branch office connectivity, LTE failover, digital signage, kiosks, pop-up stores, vehicle routers, construction sites and more. The data card includes Linux and Windows driver support.
Telit also features the broadest portfolio of certified LTE IoT Category modules in the industry.
For more information about the Telit portfolio of LTE modules: https://www.telit.com/products/cellular-modules/
Last week, GCT Semiconductor  announced an LTE device which will also support the (proprietary) Sigfox wireless IoT interface. The GDM7243I chip features low power consumption, which will allow it to be used for tracking devices to connect using the Sigfox wireless IoT network for several years without the need for frequent battery re-charging.
Note 1. GCT Semiconductor’s engineering development team is in South Korea. Marketing and sales are in San Jose, CA.
“We’re pleased to be working closely with Sigfox to bring this capability to market and support ultra-long battery life and global coverage for our IoT customers,” said John Schlaefer, CEO of GCT Semiconductor, speaking at Sigfox World IoT Expo 2017 in Prague, Czech Republic.
GDM7243I based tracking devices operate on the Sigfox network for location tracking but will switch to the cellular network as required.
Hybrid IoT devices can connect to the Sigfox wireless IoT network and operate in low-power mode to send and receive notifications only. The Sigfox network can also provide backup connectivity to IoT hybrid devices in case of cellular network coverage limitations, congestion, breakdown, or jamming of security/alarm systems.
The Calliope LTE Platform for IoT is a member of Sequans’ StreamliteLTE™family of LTE chipset products. Calliope is designed specifically for wearables and other Category 1 M2M and IoT devices. Calliope comprises baseband and RF chips, an integrated IoT applications processor running Sequans’ carrier-proven LTE protocol stack, an IMS client, and a comprehensive software package for over-the-air device management and packet routing. It includes Sequans’ powerful interference rejection technology, Sequans AIR™.
Calliope can add Cat 1 LTE connectivity to M2M and IoT modules and is also suitable for wearables and M2M devices for metering, home automation, and automotive applications.
- Certified by Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, NTT Docomo and T-Mobile
- Throughput: up to Category 1 – 10 Mbps DL/ 5 Mbps UL
- Ultra low power consumption
- 3GPP Release 10; software-upgradable to Release 11
- FDD and TDD, up to 20 MHz LTE channels
- Embedded application CPU
- Wafer-level packaging
- Supports VoLTE and location based services
- Host environments: Android, Android Wear, Linux, Windows, Real Time OS
- Versatile interfaces to host system: UART, USB, HSIC
- Includes Sequans AIR™ interference cancelation technology
- Certified for VoLTE by Verizon Wireless
For more info:
The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN), an industry association of mobile carriers, has defined requirements for 5G including data rates, transmission speeds, spectral efficiency and latency.
So has ITU-R WP 5D- the only real standards body for 5G (AKA IMT 2020). However, the wireless networking industry has yet to agree on the Radio Access Network (RAN) and related 5G standards, despite 3GPP release 15 on “New Radio.” 5G standards won’t be completed until very late in 2020.
As we’ve reported in several IEEE techblog posts, AT&T and Verizon are conducting 5G trials in the US while other trials are proceeding in Europe and Asia.
Bullish Opinions on 5G:
Broad deployment of 5G networks is not expected until the 2020 timeframe, according to Sam Lucero, a senior principal analyst for M2M at IoT at IHS Markit. Yet despite the lack of standards, a number of speakers at last month’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) Americas in San Francisco were more bullish on 5G and expectations for its rollout.
“We expect 5G to come faster and be broader than originally thought,” said Rajeev Suri, president and CEO of Nokia. Suri said Nokia expects 5G networks to be deployed in 2019, with widespread trials next year.
“4G is like a really good rock band,” said Andre Feutsch, CTO at AT&T. “5G is like a finely tuned orchestra.” He added that he sees n 5G a tremendous opportunity for advancing and “frankly making the network more relevant.”
“From a network perspective, [5G] is an evolution,” said Gordon Mansfield, vice president of RAN and device design at AT&T. “However, from a capability perspective it will be a revolution as it unfolds.”
“The 4G network is foundational to 5G,” said Nicki Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon. She added, “It’s hard to really peel 4G and 5G apart in some ways. The good news is that the investments we make today [in 4G] lead us down the 5G path.”
“We’ve been trying to define what 5G is for the past five years,” said Ron Marquardt, vice president of technology at Sprint. “We are getting close to being able to define that. We need to educate industries on how 5G can and will disrupt them.”
Feutsch said 5G technology will enable carriers to provide solutions to a greater number of use cases. He said a lot of the work that has been done to date with pre-standards trials of 5G “were really to gain a lot of insights that helped us feed right back into the standards work.”
He added that standardization and openness would be critical to creating the healthy ecosystem that is required to enable 5G to flourish.
“We’ve got to standardize on this and avoid proprietariness as much as possible” to build a healthy 5G ecosystem Feutsch said. He said a lot of innovation for 5G would come from smaller companies — “disruptors” that need to rely on standards to make the technology they are developing fit into the 5G landscape.
Derek Peterson, chief technology officer at Boingo Wireless, a provider of mobile Internet access, also emphasized the importance of standards and urged audience members to participate in standards efforts. “Participating in standards is very important because it is going to take a collaborative effort to make all of these things work together,” he said.
The densification required for 5G transmission speeds will rely on a far greater number of smaller cell sites than previous generations of wireless technology. The process of getting the cell sites approved can vary widely from place to place, and often be one of the biggest roadblocks to 5G.
“It can take a year to get a permit for something that it takes an hour to hang on a pole,” Mansfield said.
“The biggest barrier is going to be the density that you need for 5G is something that we have never seen before,” said John Saw, Sprint’s CTO. “It’s going to be more than putting 5G on the towers that we know and love today. We need to change how we get permits for this.” Saw added.
With the wireless industry prepared to spend an estimated $275 billion to deploy 5G, governments need to streamline permitting processes.
“I think public policy makers get to have a say in how fast we spend it and where we spend it. They need to get used to the fact that there may be hundreds and perhaps thousands of permits being requested to get this density that is required,” Saw concluded.
Panelists in an IoT session said that the primary barriers to enterprise IoT adoption include limited battery capacities and insufficient interoperability between connected devices, including VPN support, cloud service compatibility and other technologies. No mention was made of 5G for low latency IoT applications.
AT&T has brought its fixed wireless broadband service to nine more states, bringing the total coverage to more than 160,000 rural locations in 18 states. The service, partly funded by the U.S. federal Connect America Fund (CAF) program, provides homes and businesses with download speeds of at least 10 Mbps with a minimum of 1 Mbps upstream. The service uses licensed WCS (Band 30) 2.3 GHz spectrum.
This fixed wireless service has broadband usage caps of 160 GB per month, with additional 50 GB increments of data charged at $10 per month. It’s priced at $60 per month when bundled with other AT&T services.
The additional 9 states include:
They join Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, where this AT&T rural broadband service is already available in certain markets. AT&T has plans to reach 400,000 locations by the end of this year, and over 1.1 million locations by 2020. This AT&T rural broadband expansion is partially funded by the Connect America Fund (CAF), the FCC’s program to expand rural broadband access.
“Closing the connectivity gap is a top priority for us,” said Cheryl Choy, vice president, wired voice and internet products at AT&T in a press release announcing the expansion. “Access to fast and reliable internet is a game changer in today’s world.”
AT&T may gain some competition for this fixed wireless service, at least in Mississippi. C Spire just announced their intention to aggressively expand fixed wireless service in Mississippi this week. They cited the advantage their 25 Mbps fixed wireless service has over certain CAF funded 10 Mbps fixed wireless options, a specific reference to AT&T.
“For many rural families and communities, the introduction of this service from AT&T will mark a new era of increased broadband speeds and access to cheaper and more diverse content.” said Bret Swanson, president, Entropy Economics. “AT&T’s move into these new communities will also yield additional economic benefits and can help create new jobs.”
To learn more about Fixed Wireless Internet from AT&T, go to att.com/internet/fixed-wireless.html.
AT&T Expands G.fast & FTTH Deployments:
In sharp contrast to Verizon’s decision NOT to deploy G.fast, AT&T has announced expansion of its G.fast service for multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and its fiber-to-the-home network (AT&T Fiber).
The mega telco will extend its all-fiber network in two markets — Biloxi-Gulfport, MS and Savannah, GA. AT&T will also be offering its hybrid fiber-coax service for MDUs in 22 metropolitan markets.
The AT&T G.fast deployments will use “fiber runs to the telecom closet on the property, and individual coax runs to each apartment unit,” an anonymous AT&T spokesperson said to Telecompetitor.
Residents of properties served will also be able to obtain DIRECTV service without installing a dish at their individual units. Instead, the video service will be delivered over D2 Advantage, which the AT&T spokesperson described as “a centrally wired satellite dish that is shared among residents in the property.”
AT&T announced eight metro areas where G.fast can be deployed immediately, including Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle and Tampa. In 14 other markets, consumers in target MDUs can order service now for deployment in “the near future,” the company said.
AT&T is one of multiple carriers that are looking at G.fast as part of their broadband strategy. The technology can support considerably higher speeds than DSL or fiber-to-the-neighborhood (FTTN) services – and although bandwidth is lower than it might be for a fiber-to-the-home deployment, the cost is considerably less.
The news that AT&T is deploying G.fast is not surprising, as the company already has conducted a trial of the service in Minneapolis and executives have indicated deployment plans. At this year’s Open Network Summit (ONS), AT&T’s Tom Anschutz told an audience that G.fast would improve the speed and signal quality of data transmission on older, low grade twisted pair, which is used in many MDUs and in condominium complexes (where this author lives). He hinted that market segment would be a focus area for AT&T.
AT&T is extending the reach of its fiber network:
AT&T claims to have the largest fiber network in its 21-state home broadband footprint, reaching more than 5.5 million residential and commercial locations across the 57 markets after adding over 1.5 million sites since January 1st. Plans call for extending service availability to another 1.5 million locations by year’s end, boosting the total to 7 million.
Of those 5.5 million homes and businesses now reached by AT&T Fiber, the mega telco said it has signed up more than 2 million broadband subscribers. The company did not, however, break out how many of those subs are new ones, as opposed to DSL customers who have been upgraded to the new FTTH network.
However, the mega telco ranks #1 on Vertical Systems U.S. Fiber Lit Buildings (Fiber to commercial buildings) leaderboard: