Editors note: This week we’ll take a look back at the 50 stories that drew the highest level of engagement from our RCR Wireless News community.
Mobile devices making data connections must be configured with an LTE APN
Within the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network infrastructure are many LTE identifiers that help move things along. One of these identifiers is APN LTE. The help that APN brings is specifically important, as it is responsible for connectivity requests, which basically means it’s the one left asking for permission when it comes time to connect to another network. This is a constant and necessary task for the LTE network.Access Point Name (APN) is an identifier that lives in the LTE core network, otherwise known as the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). In that home, the APN comes into play inside the Home Subscriber Server (HSS) node of the core network.
The HSS contains users’ SAE subscription data such as the EPS-subscribed Quality of Service (QoS) profile and any access restrictions for roaming. HSS also contains information about the (Pocket Data Networks) PDNs to which the user can connect, as reported by Alcatel-Lucent. “This could be in the form of an access point name (APN) (which is a label according to DNS naming conventions describing the access point to the PDN) or a PDN address (indicating subscribed IP address(es)). In addition the HSS holds dynamic information such as the identity of the MME to which the user is currently attached or registered. The HSS may also integrate the authentication center (AUC), which generates the vectors for authentication and security keys.”
4×4 MIMO tests on T-Mobile network finds significant performance boost
Claimed performance advantages of complex multiple-input/multiple-output antenna technologies appear to have been validated by recent network performance testing conducted by Signals Research Group.
The testing was conducted by SRG using T-Mobile US’ network and a pair of Samsung Galaxy S7 devices, one enabled for 4×4 MIMO, the other not. The tests, which used Accuver Americas XCAL-M drive test solution and cooperation from T-Mobile US, found median data rates of 22.8 megabits per second on the device not using the enhanced antenna protocol versus 35.3 Mbps for the device so enabled.
SRG noted the tests were conducted with each device locked to using only T-Mobile US’ AWS-1 spectrum channel in the 1.7/2.1 GHz band, with higher data rates expected if the devices were able to tap into additional spectrum support the carrier has behind its LTE network.
“While it isn’t straightforward to compare these results with what is possible on other LTE networks, it is safe to say that the unique features that we tested in the T-Mobile network with the T-Mobile Galaxy S7 accounted for all the performance gains that we observed,” SRG noted in its report. “In the absence of these features, the performance between the two phones would have been equivalent.”
LTE for IoT: Sequans’ LTE Cat-M chipset
LTE is typically marketed as a high-speed, high-bandwidth technology, but not everyone sees it that way. French chipmaker Sequans has spent the last several years focused on slower, low-power LTE chipsets with the goal of creating LTE modems that are inexpensive enough to support the “Internet of Things.”
“You need something cheaper, more efficient in power consumption and obviously lower on the speed, because you don’t need that speed … this is really the Cat-M technology,” said Sequans CEO Georges Karam. Verizon certified Sequans’ Cat-M chipset for use on its network in 2016.
Cat-M refers to Category M, the second generation of LTE chipsets meant for IoT applications. The “M” initially stood for “machines.” Category M follows Category-1 LTE, part of the existing 3GPP LTE standards, which enables reduced power consumption and cost by capping speeds at 10 megabits per second.
Sequans was the first chipmaker to announce a Cat-M solution, which caps speeds at 300 kilobits per second. The Monarch chipset integrates baseband, an RF transceiver, RAM and power management in a 6.5×8 mm form factor. Solution providers like Gemalto will add batteries, power amplification, switches and antennas to complete the IoT modules. Gemalto said it will create Cat-M LTE modules using the Sequans chipset, building on its success with Cat-1 modules that use the Sequans modem.
5G fixed wireless technology
Many operators are seeing fixed wireless access as the likely first phase of “5G” deployments as the technology can help solve the last mile problem with fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-premise deployments, while incorporating future 5G air interfaces, spectrum, radios and antenna systems into existing networks.
The future development of 5G technologies promises to incorporate a range of disparate applications and requirements – from narrowband internet of things technologies and machine-to-machine communications to low latency, high bandwidth use cases like autonomous vehicles and remote industrial control – in a single network.
But before the 5G standards are set and the full vision of mobile 5G is realized, telecommunication operators are working to refine their understanding of the technological components while establishing the use and business cases needed to create a return on the massive research and development spend that will ultimately result in a global 5G standard.
In the U.S., Verizon Communications and AT&T have both identified 5G fixed wireless access as the first phase of deploying next-generation networks; timelines suggest this first wave is tracking for commercialization in 2017, well ahead of the standardization goal of 2020. As consumer demand for broadband to support emerging applications like streaming 4K video and virtual reality gaming grows at a fast pace, service providers are investing heavily in FTTH, which is a costly proposition.
MPLS vs. VPN vs. Leased Line: Five factors to consider
In establishing connectivity between remote offices or network elements, enterprises have multiple options to consider. The basic conundrum is the question of whether to use a leased line, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or an MPLS architecture. Although all three establish connectivity, the technologies are not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Leased lines are physical entities. VPNs can be provided over different network layers (Layer 2 or Layer 3). MPLS is a network traffic routing mechanism considered a layer 2.5 technology, and can also be used to provide VPN services.
Here are five factors to consider in the MPLS vs. VPN vs. leased line debate.
COST. Leased lines are the most expensive. VPNs are less costly and come in multiple flavors – layer 2 VPNs are more secure, layer 3 VPNs are faster to deploy and less expensive but exposed to the risks and congestion of running over the public Internet. MPLS increases efficiency compared to relying on IP-based routing.
SECURITY. Leased lines win out in terms of security, as they are dedicated only to a specific customer’s traffic. VPNs over the public Internet are the least secure. MPLS falls somewhere in the middle, as it emulates the “feel” of a dedicated line but still relies on shared network elements. MPLS has no inherent encryption and its security depends heavily on the network core being secure, according to Professor Jose Santos of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Telecommunications Department.
RELIABILITY. Again, leased lines come out in front. VPNs can be subject to the variability and congestion of the open Internet as traffic makes its way from one network point to another, as it shares the virtual road with other traffic. MPLS allows prioritization of traffic and establishment of quality of service levels, including the definition of fallback paths to ensure reliability in the event of outages within the network requiring traffic to be re-routed.
SCALABILITY: Leased lines are the most difficult to scale, both because of the time needed for deployment and the expense. Layer 3 VPNs are quick and easy to deploy, but can become complex to manage as a business grows. MPLS is widely accepted as an efficient technology that is easily scaled.
OPERATIONAL DATA NEEDS: This includes the question of the type of data flowing and the business’ network needs. Does the business require only point-to-point communication between two locations? Point to multi-point? A mesh network covering multiple locations, where each branch must be able to communicate with all others? Leased lines again fall to the rear in terms of easily addressing complex network needs, particularly for medium-sized businesses. MPLS has both point-to-point and one-to-many capabilities for communication.
Sensor types and their IoT use cases
Sensors are the troops of the “internet of things,” the on-the-ground pieces of hardware doing the critical work of monitoring processes, taking measurements and collecting data. They are often one of the first things people think of when picturing IoT.
The decreasing price of these tiny devices is helping keep IoT deployment costs low and enabling a myriad of use cases. But not every sensor is made the same and every IoT installation requires a specific type of sensor. We will take a look at several different sensor flavors and their corresponding use cases.
Temperature sensors can be used in nearly every IoT environment, from the factory floor to agricultural fields. In manufacturing, these sensors can continually measure the temperature of a machine to ensure it stays within a secure threshold. On the farm, they are used to track the temperature of soil, water and plants to maximize output.
Proximity sensors detect motion and are frequently used in a retail setting. A retailer can use a customer’s proximity to a product to send deals and coupons directly to their smartphone. Proximity sensors can also be used to monitor the availability of parking spaces in large venues like airports, malls and stadiums.
50B IoT devices connected by 2020 – beyond the hype and into reality
For half a decade, the predictions for growth in the “internet of things” and machine-to-machine markets have been staggering:
• 2010, IBM: “A world of 1 trillion connected devices” by 2015.
• 2011, Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg: “50 billion connected devices” by 2020.
• 2013, Cisco: “50 billion things will be connected to the internet by 2020.”
• 2013, ABI Research report: “30 billion” by 2020.
• 2013, Morgan Stanley report: “75 billion devices connected to the IoT” by 2020.
• 2014, an Intel infographic: “31 billion devices connected to internet” by 2020.
• 2014, ABI Research updated report: “41 billion active wireless connected devices” by 2020.
• 2015, Gartner Research: “4.9 billion connected things in use in 2015 … and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.”
Although the specific predictions and the numbers differ, what is remarkable is that the numbers predicted for 2020 have been consistently extremely large over the years. The IoT market is experiencing explosive growth around the world and the numbers are still performing at what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations” in its well-known “hype cycle” diagrams.
But how realistic are these massive numbers? Even the most conservative prediction – Gartner’s 20.8 billion connected things by 2020 – is predicated on a steady 30% annual growth. Cisco’s oft-reported 50 billion connected things is dependent on linking up “tires, roads, cars, supermarket shelves, and yes, even cattle” by 2020, according to the company’s blog. No one can know if either of these things will happen.
Sprint preps for 5G with more 3CCA, small cells
5G prep was the name of the game for Sprint in 2017. Sprint CTO John Saw said the carrier would continue to focus on adding coverage and capacity “where it’s needed,” including further expansion of its three-channel carrier aggregation network technology and the use of its recently announced high performance user equipment device technology.
Saw noted the carrier’s 3CCA technology was currently available in more than 100 markets, with demonstrated network speeds of more than 200 megabits per second. The only device that currently supports the technology, which aggregates three 20-megahertz channels in the 2.5 GHz band, is the HTC Bolt, though the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Apple iPhone 7 are expected to receive over-the-air 3CCA updates.
Saw also reiterated the carrier’s recently announced plans to deploy HPUE technology into devices early this year, which Sprint has said will extend the reach of its 2.5 GHz-based network by up to 30%. The carrier noted last month the HPUE technology comes from a power upgrade in the device designed to allow for greater uplink connectivity support.
LTE Call Setup
We’ve discussed Long Term Evolution (LTE) in depth in terms of technological architecture, use, features, speed, etc., but we need to remember its predecessor. New technologies, LTE included, would not be the speedy giant it is today without learning from those technologies who lived before it. GSM is one of them. To successfully understand our future, we must understand our past.
So, what is GSM? GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile), is a standard set developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe protocols for second generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by wireless phones.
Originally, the GSM standard was developed to replace the first generation (1G) analog cellular networks, and was described a digital, circuit switched network optimized for full duplex voice telephony. Over time, GSM’s capabilities expanded to include data communications, first by circuit switched transport, then packet data transport via GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution or EGPRS).
Further improvements to GSM were made when the 3GPP developed third generation (3G) UMTS standards followed by fourth generation (4G) LTE Advanced standards. Now that we’ve covered what GSM is and where it came from, how exactly does it work? Let’s discuss call setup in GSM.
Small cells: Backhaul difficulties and a 5G future
While the requirements for 5G are still being finalized, two principles are emphasized in every evolution of cellular standards: capacity and coverage. Small cells are at least a partial solution to meeting those two requirements, and the Small Cell Forum believes the technology will soon “dominate the mobile infrastructure.”
“Small cells” is an overarching term for low-powered radio access nodes that help provide service to both indoor and outdoor areas. These nodes can work in either licensed or unlicensed spectrum, and have a range between 10 meters and two kilometers. The purpose of installing small cells is to increase range and capacity in densely populated urban areas that cannot be sustained by macrocells. Similar to distributed antenna systems, the growth of small cells is a response to increasing global data traffic, which Cisco estimates will have increased 11-fold between 2013 and 2018.
Small cells have defined purposes when it comes to providing end users an improved cellular experience in congested urban areas. There are three primary small cell use cases:
- Increasing capacity in areas with high user densities;
- Improving coverage and available data rates;
- Extending handset battery life by reduced power consumption.