Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GSMA Mobile World Congress Serves Up Latest Technology

You will get to digest fully what was on the menu at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week in my Wrap-up article that will be posted when the show comes to a close. For now though I can give you a tapas selection of the technology that has been whetting the appetites of the attendees this week.

To start, building on the past few years LTE is the key technology being discussed and although opinions vary as to the timescale for deployment it is a focus of activity and investment. The buzz though surrounds 4G TD-LTE, a time division duplex (TDD) version of LTE, which is the next evolution for TD-SCDMA. Although driven by the Chinese market this technology is envisaged as having global applications.

Femtocells came under the spotlight too in a special Femtozone featuring a programme highlighting research, business cases etc. If this tapas has given you food for thought, look out for my full report soon.

Richard Mumford (International Editor)

Verizon 4G LTE Service Coming Soon!

Speed, speed and more speed -that is what I want. Verizon has answered this demand by announcing it will begin testing 4G wireless service using LTE this year and launch it in at least 25 to 30 markets in the U.S. in 2010. This is based on their roll-out of EV-DO, assuming they will get to about the same level in the first year of deploying LTE. Verizon will continue to build out the 4G wireless network and expects to blanket the continental U.S. and Hawaii with the new wireless network by 2015.

The new network will use the 700 MHz wireless spectrum that Verizon acquired in the Federal Communications Commission's auction last year. The company announced in 2007 that it had planned to use LTE for this market which will be available after the US broadcasters finish transitioning to digital TV signals. Several GSM operators around the world have also announced plans to use LTE which means that Verizon 4G wireless subscribers might eventually be able to roam globally.

Verizon has been testing the service in several areas in the U.S. including Minneapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and northern New Jersey. It's also been working with Vodafone (their co-parent) and China Mobile to test deployments in other parts of the world, including Budapest, Hungary, Dusseldorf, Germany, and Madrid. In its initial trials, Verizon says it has demonstrated peak download speeds of around 50- 60 Mbps. But average download speeds are likely to be lower since the wireless spectrum is a shared. The network will certainly be much faster than the average speed of Verizon's 3G EV-DO service which typically gets up to 400-700 Kbps.

Moblie World Congress 2009 Kicks Off!

So what's hot this year at Mobile World Congress. It seems a little subdued because of the projections for handsets to decline by about 10% this year but there is always the next big thing coming down the road in technology. There seems to be a fair amount of green technology - mostly solar powered devices, etc. Android has picked up some support from a few applications providers and RFID/payment technologies are taking hold in handsets.

WiMAX was hot last year but this is the year of LTE (even as WiMAX is actually rolling out some implementations). With such a large installed base of infrastructure, LTE will come on strong even though WiMAX has a lead as far as timing is concerned. And Agilent came out strong at the show yesterday with some 9 or 10 news releases. Several of them surrounded LTE test solutions such as a complete end-to-end analysis and troubleshooting solution for LTE networks. The Signaling Analyzer Real Time (SART) for LTE provides comprehensive monitoring and network diagnostics by interpreting, correlating and analyzing protocol signaling messages produced by multiple network technologies at mobile network interfaces. They also announced the first LTE real-time signal generation and channel emulation solution for base station test, new commercial test products for TD-LTE: PC-based software for creating standards-based TD-LTE signals and vector signal analysis (VSA) software with TD-LTE modulation analysis capability plus a MIMO connectivity option and network conformance testing system for mobile WiMAX.

Agilent and Anite plc also announced they will demonstrate 3GPP LTE interoperability showing end-to-end streaming video with LTE UE devices from Signalion and Blue Wonder Communications plus Agilent will demonstrate LTE EVM, Tx power measurements and downlink transmit diversity for mobile device test using the E6620 wireless communications test set at Mobile World Congress so drop by to see them.

That is a large dose of test equipment! What have you seen at Mobile World Congress???

mmWave Scanners make the News

Doing a little business traveling this week and so I'm being treated to a copy of USA Today outside my hotel room door and I have to say it's nice to see microwave (in this case millimeter-wave) technology making the front page of a mainstream newspaper. The article in mention "Scanners replace detectors in tryout" refers to a new scanning technology being tested out by the Transportation Security Administration at the Tulsa International Airport.

An experimental program that begins today will test whether the $170,000 body scanners could replace $10,000 metal detectors that have screened airline passengers since 1973. The scanners should be capable of detecting non-metallic weapons such as plastic and liquid explosives, which the TSA considers a major threat. The scanners bounce harmless "millimeter waves" off passengers' bodies and use no radiation. The Journal had reported such technology several times over the past 2 years (see our cover story from October 2007 (A Radar-based Concealed Threat Detector) and our Executive Interview with Mark Hebeisen from Endwave Corp. (Endwave supplies the millimter-wave front-end that is part of the system from L3 Communications)

Airline passengers will skip metal detectors and instead be screened by body scanning machines that look through clothing for hidden weapons. Critics of the technology raise privacy concerns because the passenger's images reveal outlines of private body parts (these will be blurred for machine operators).Security analyst Bruce Schneier, a frequent critic of the TSA, said the scanners should improve security but warned that they take longer than metal detectors — 30 seconds vs. about 15 seconds per passenger. "There will be pressure to do the screening faster, which will be sloppier," Schneier said.

Airports in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City will join the test in the next two months, TSA spokesman Christopher White said. Hopefully, the trials will be a great succuss. I would love to be able to travel again without having to undress for security.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stimulus Package Opens Grant Funding for Wireless Broadband

The final passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill by Congress last week calls for over $6 billion in grants for the expansion of broadband areas across America. This funding will provide continued progress in the deployment and adoption of broadband technology that is vital to ensuring that the United States will remain competitive worldwide. As a platform capable of providing access everywhere, wireless broadband will be essential in bringing innovation and helping reach the Obama Administration’s goal of achieving universal broadband connectivity.

Commercial entities are clearly eligible for direct grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), go to Commercial wireless hardware vendors and network providers stand ready to move forward with plans to bring wireless broadband to rural and underserved areas. Having direct access to grant funding will allow them to do so in a timely manner, helping create jobs fast, enable productivity, and should help jump-start our economy.