Telecom Council TC3 Wireless Session Quicktakes & Highlights: Sept 18-19, 2013 at Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale,CA

At the Telecom Council’s annual TC3 Summit this week, almost every cellular carrier talked about the importance of micro/nano cells to improve capacity to cope with exponentially increasing mobile data traffic.  Surprisingly, none talked about macrocells or LTE Advanced (ITU-R compliant “4G” RAN technology that many thought would start getting deployed next year).

At the opening TC3 session: “Investor Forum meeting,” the Nokia Ventures representative stated that “the mobile industry is heavily disrupted and (as a result) there will be many new opportunities in the next few years.”  Among the strategic areas Nikia is interested in are: security, cloud, mobile, data centers, and video.

During it’s “Fireside Chat” session with Edgewater, BT said it had acquired licensed spectrum and was looking for innovations from vendors in femtocells, Self Organizing Networks (SONs), and “open models.”  That strongly implies that BT is preparing to re-enter the mobile network provider market- either on its own or by sharing spectrum with O2 (owned by Telefonica).  This April, the Financial Times reported: “The UK telecoms group has begun a tender for an operator to provide BT mobile services to its customers, both in the consumer and business markets, as well as supplying its own staff. Auction experts said BT had been unexpectedly aggressive in bidding for spectrum, ending up with more than it needed for simply boosting its widespread WiFi networks.”

China Mobile’s large TD-LTE deployment was described.  As the biggest mobile operator with 740 million subscribers, China Mobile is rolling out the largest LTE network with 200,000 base stations throughout 100 cities in China this year. China’s largest mobile carrier uses equipment from 9 wireless network infrastructure vendors, including Huawei, ZTE and 3 smaller Chinese companies.  They claim to be the world leader in TD-LTE deployments.
China Mobile is looking for innovations in various fields to address the above challenges: Cloud-RAN, ET and GaN power amplifier, low cost WDM transmission solution, mmWave Front haul, small cell, TDD/FDD integration, VoLTE, SON, massive MIMO etc. 
Caroline Gabriel (Rethink-Maravedis) wrote:

“In fact, the world’s largest cellco has gone its usual route of breaking its contract into a large number of chunks and including just about all the contenders in the mix – nine equipment suppliers have been selected.

This approach can be complex to manage, in terms of a harmonized network deployment across China’s scattered and diverse regions. However, it gives Mobile access to the innovations and brainpower of as many companies as possible, which it regards as critical as it builds the world’s largest platform for TD-LTE.

The operator has been determined not to be left in a technology backwater as it was with its TD-SCDMA 3G network, and has been putting its considerable weight behind getting every infrastructure and device maker to support a TD-LTE ecosystem. It is also working closely with other holders of unpaired spectrum round the world to encourage build-outs and roaming deals, and so drive economies of scale.

China Mobile has already been working with a number of vendors on its trial TD-LTE build-outs, which are larger and more service-rich than many fully commercial deployments in other countries. However, it will only be able to turn on full commercial services once it receives its 4G licence, expected late this year or early 2014. Therefore this new round of contracts is the largest so far, with a total value of CNY20bn ($3.27bn), though it certainly will not be the last chance for suppliers to get a piece of the huge network.

Together, the companies will build a network covering 31 provinces with 207,000 TD-LTE base stations. The roll-out will be closely watched round the world, especially by other TDD operators such as Sprint/Clearwire in the US, Sprint’s majority owner Softbank of Japan, and Bharti Airtel and Reliance Infotel in India. However, there will be lessons for the wider LTE community too, since Mobile is increasingly taking on the role familiar among Japanese and Korean carriers – experimenting with new architectures, and driving suppliers’ R&D programs accordingly, a process which can inject significant funds into next generation architectures, and also goes a long way to defining ‘4G+’ platforms for the whole world.

For instance, China Mobile has been running extensive trials of Cloud-RAN architectures, and wants to scale these up dramatically to support 100 or more cell sites in the macro layer, with all their baseband processing virtualized in the cloud. This approach to network design is likely to become increasingly mainstream, and many of the rules will be established by this Chinese deployment. Here Alcatel-Lucent will be particularly important (along with other C-RAN partners like Intel and ZTE). ALU may have received only about 11% of the deal, reportedly, but it has worked closely with Mobile on a TDD version of its lightRadio design, which will be key to C-RAN and HetNet deployments.

The cellco also aims to be a leader in small cells (it calls its own version of this technology the ‘nanocell’), both for LTE and Wi-Fi (where it already accesses a network of perhaps two million hotspots). Therefore it will move quickly to a full HetNet, in which the various layers of cells, in different bands, will interwork fully to create a seamless pool of capacity. It has the advantage of a relatively clean slate, a huge budget and a vast resource of sites with fiber backhaul. Few will be able to emulate that elsewhere, but they will certainly be able to study the possibilities of the new architectures when deployed at scale.”

Software for mobile health was a theme that came up frequently at TC3 sessions with wireless telcos. Sprint expressed a strong interest in this area, and in the data that mobile health apps can generate. When asked about how it hopes to monetize this data Sprint said that strategy is still evolving.  Note that Sprint is a leader in M2M communications and that IEEE ComSocSCV has visited their M2M Collaboration Center in Burlingame, CA three times over the last few years.

There were very few wireless technology start-ups presenting during the Investor Forum and SPIF sessions.  Here are brief summaries:


RF front end using “active antenna system” that is able to dynamically respond to continuously changing wireless environment.  Interaction between antenna system and wireless modem along with end to end performance optimization was said to provide for a better user experience.

StreetLight Data:

Contextualizes anonymous location data (from cellular towers and GPS devices) to measure consumer mobility patterns for a place.  “This next generation geospatial data can help brick and mortar retailers, and planners, transform the way they make decisions.”

Wefi Inc:

Key innovator in mobile data collection and analytics.  Customers include Cricket Wireless, TW Cable.  SDK for mobile apps comes pre-loaded on devices sold by carrier partners.  End users don’t pay for this capability.

Radio Gigabit

(Russia):  MM Wave wireless backhaul with beam steering capability. Advanced radio technology for next generation mobile networks includes smart lens antennas beamforming and DSP.  “Will be the next big thing in small cell backhaul.” 

Steven Augustino of Kelley Drye & Warren law firm presented a keynote talk on the new FCC’s Chairman’s Spectrum Policy. 
-The number 1 goal of new FCC Chair Tom Wheeler will be to make more spectrum available for commercial use.  This will be accomplished by a “broadcast incentive auction” where TV broadcasters will voluntarily relinguish their wireless licences and auction them for use by mobile broadband service providers.
-Second goal:  Make broadband Internet access more pervasive throughout the U.S., especially in unserved and underserved (rural) areas.  A related goal is for 99% of schools to get 1G bit/sec access as part of the broadband for e-rate initiative.
-Third goal:  Improve public safety networks and the reliability of the nation’s 911 emergency phone service.
More details on Mr. Augustino’s talk in a follow up article.


The final TC3 day one event was the SPIFFY awards- the Council’s annual innovation recognition ceremony where SPIFFY members recognize entreprenneurs helping to improve the telecom industry. 

2013 SPIFFY Award Nominees were selected by the 25 members of the Telecom Council’s Service Provider Forum (SPIF) from among over 100 early-stage representing the broad a range of telecom products and services who presented in Telecom Council meetings from June 2012 to May 2013.  But only seven start-ups were selected for awards.

The winners of the 2013 SPIFFY Awards are:  

•The Edison Award for Most Innovative Start-Up goes to SIGFOX.
•The Ground Breaker Award for Engineering Excellence goes to Jibe Mobile.
•The Graham Bell Award for Best Communication Solutions goes to Range Networks.
•The San Andreas Award for Most Disruptive Technology goes to SmartThings.
•The Core Award for Best Fixed Telecom Opportunity goes to 2600hz.
•The Zephyr Award for Best Mobile Opportunity goes to Quixey (mobile app search engine).
•The Prodigy Award for the Most Successful SPiF Alumni goes to Violin Memory.
•The Fred & Ginger Award for Most Supportive Carrier goes to Orange (located in SF) for the active role of their Silicon Valley-based team in supporting telecom entrepreneurs.

President of Telecom Council, Liz Kerton said proudly of the 25 SPIF carriers and the 100+ startup presenters: “A great year for innovation in telecom; we all applaud these winners for their contributions to the future of our industry. The Telecom Council looks forward to presenting many more telecom companies to the industry in the coming years.”

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