Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moving Forward on White Spaces

By Richard Whitt, Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, Google

On November 4, 2008, as millions of Americans lined up to cast their ballots in a historic presidential election, another important vote was taking place at the Federal Communications Commission. After some six years of careful study, that morning the FCC voted unanimously to open the TV “white spaces” spectrum – the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels – to unlicensed uses by all Americans.

One week from today, the five current FCC Commissioners will meet to set final technical rules for the white spaces. If it gets the rules right, the Commission will have taken a huge step to put better and faster Internet connections in the hands of the public.

Thanks to their unique range and strength, the TV white spaces are sometimes referred to as “Wi-Fi on steroids,” powerful enough to unlock new innovations and applications that simply are not possible over traditional Wi-Fi. Demonstration projects across the country are giving us a small sneak peak of what’s possible with the white spaces – for example, Wilmington, North Carolina, has blanketed its city with wireless Internet access, while Plumas County, California, is running a “smart grid” wireless network. Indeed, one of the great advantages of the white spaces is that ordinary citizens can employ them in a wide variety of ways, without the need to formally apply for (let alone purchase) a spectrum license from the FCC.

In setting the final rules, there are at least two critical issues the FCC needs to address. First, when it comes to interference protection, the Commission should support a geolocation solution. A few opponents of unlicensed white spaces have demanded that the FCC also require a spectrum-sensing solution, a move that would be redundant and expensive, and could severely limit commercial investment. Second, the Commission should establish a reasonable “keep-out” zone for wireless microphones. This will protect the users of authorized wireless microphones, while also allowing white spaces devices to operate in big cities, where spectrum is a coveted resource. Additionally, once the rules are set, the FCC will need to authorize one or more white spaces database administrators.

Google and many others in the tech industry are eager finally to get the green light to start innovating and building new services on these airwaves. From new wireless devices, to better broadband access, to more reliable communications networks for emergency responders, to better-connected classrooms – the white spaces have the potential to spark the next-generation of wireless communications.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Migration to Mobile 4G Networks

By Monica Paolini, Founder, Senza Fili Consulting

Mobile broadband requires operators to change the way they manage data services. The transition to a 4G IP network will give them the tools to manage traffic actively and achieve three goals:

  • Increase network efficiency and capacity, lowering transport costs
  • Offer service plans that are more flexible, fair, and personalized
  • Maximize revenues from subscribers, applications and content providers, and vertical applications

We just published a white paper sponsored by Cisco on the transition to 4G IP networks.

Mobile broadband is a great success story. After several years of timid growth, mobile broadband adoption has exploded, driven by the concurrent availability of must-have devices like the iPhone and Droid, a myriad of applications that are intuitive to use, and attractive service pricing. The sudden growth in mobile broadband is happening at a time when mobile operators are fighting a slow but inexorable decline in voice revenues and see data revenues as their main hope for maintaining their profitability levels.

Yet for mobile operators mobile broadband is a relatively new service that presents many challenges. Despite its simplicity, the flat-fee model-with or without traffic caps-does not meet subscribers' demand for flexible and personalized data services. Network congestion, poor subscriber experience, and the inability to reach new market segments are among the problems that operators have started to encounter as mobile broadband becomes widely adopted in the consumer market.

On the other hand, operators have unparalleled, but largely under-utilized, access to real-time information about their subscribers and their network. They know where their subscribers are and what they are doing, what their preferences and plan settings are, which devices and application they use. They also have real-time information on traffic levels and traffic flow for each cell site, which allows them to decide whether and how to prioritize traffic. By using this information, operators can expand the potential of mobile broadband services, making them available to a wider range of subscribers and devices, while managing traffic growth, providing a reliable and fair service to subscribers, and protecting their profitability.

In our latest paper, we present a case for a more active management of mobile broadband services that leverages the IP network to pursue three goals:

* More efficient use of network resources. This is required in order to expand network capacity to meet subscribers' demand in a cost effective way, which will enable operators to operate profitably.

* More flexible, fair, and personalized service plans. Mobile operators realize they have to move beyond flat-fee unlimited plans. To improve their subscribers' experience and differentiate their services from the competition, they can add features that allow them to move beyond capped plans.

* Maximize revenues. Flat-fee unlimited plans are not effective at segmenting the market and gaining revenues from added-value services, because for many potential subscribers the available plans are too expensive, or do not offer the features they want. A wider choice in service plans can address the demand from these subscribers, and raise data revenues. Furthermore, mobile broadband can create new revenue streams from advertisers and content and applications providers, and facilitate the development of new business models that make mobile data services more attractive, easier to use, and more effective. Mobile operators can also gain additional revenues from vertical applications, through partnerships with MVNOs, enterprises and public agencies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WCAI to Host a Webinar on Enabling Smart Cities Through a Unified Communication Platform

WCAI will hold a webinar this Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 10 am ET, to examine how cities and municipalities can create significant efficiencies to their day-to-day operations through the use of a unified communication infrastructure. Today cities are looking to better manage multiple local government applications such as traffic management, utilities automation, law and order, etc. They would also like to offer their residents a better lifestyle and access to new opportunities through broadband services.

The webinar – "Enabling Smart Cities Through a Unified Communication Platform" – will highlight a case study from City of Houston, a leading U.S. city that is at the forefront of one such initiative. Broadband wireless pioneer Alvarion will provide an overview of how to cost effectively build state of the art communication infrastructure for cities and municipalities. The webinar is free of charge and open to all. Register Now!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Enabling Smart Cities through a Unified Communication Platform

Ashish Sharma, VP Marketing, Alvarion

There is rapidly growing interest among municipalities and public safety agencies worldwide to invest in multi-purpose, city-wide broadband networks, thereby creating a “Smart City.” The goal for these “Smart City” initiatives is to provide a cost-effective and efficient approach for managing the city’s day to day operations. The technology of choice for the “Smart City” is the 4G WiMAX wireless network, which allows cities and municipalities to invest in a single scalable network infrastructure that can satisfy the diverse requirements of multiple city agencies. For a cost-effective “Smart City” solution, municipalities require a single, multi-purpose network for a wide range of applications and services including public safety and security, mobile broadband connectivity for first responders, intelligent traffic systems, connecting multiple city buildings and agencies and more.

The shift from multiple single-application solutions to a common platform that can be shared by multiple agencies for diverse citywide applications and services is a dominant trend among cities and municipalities. A common multi-purpose network approach based on Point-to-Multipoint (PMP), Mesh, and Point-to-Point (PtP) wireless topologies for optimal coverage leads to lower initial investment, lower operating costs and better overall performance.

WiMAX technology, based on the IEEE 802.16e standard, has the features and attributes necessary to meet the cost, performance and coverage demands required for a wide area cost-effective, all-inclusive broadband municipal network.

Alvarion’s complete portfolio of wireless broadband products are ideally suited to meet the demands and challenges of a broadband municipal multi-purpose network and support a full range of network topology options, including PMP, PtP and Mesh. This offers considerable flexibility in deploying a network for complete citywide coverage.
  • PMP provides the majority of coverage with each base station supporting multiple stationary or mobile terminals. It is very easy to add or adjust terminal sites to address changing conditions. Even temporary terminals can be installed in a matter of hours within the base station coverage area to provide added surveillance for special events or planned gatherings or demonstrations.
  • Line-of-site PtP links can be used to provide a dedicated high capacity link to a business or educational campus, a shopping center or any other venue where the traffic volume is expected to be high. A high capacity wireless PtP link is also a preferred option for the backhaul connection to the core network. This will most often be more cost-effective than leased lines.
  • Coverage within the campus or shopping center environment can be achieved with a Mesh or Wi-Fi network.

In general, in most municipalities all three topologies along with Wi-Fi will be utilized for optimal coverage, performance and cost.

Municipalities have already realized many of the benefits of broadband connectivity for public safety applications and video surveillance with limited, application-specific solutions. To cost-effectively extend this capability, improve performance and support additional and more diverse citywide applications and services it is necessary to consider alternative network solutions. A citywide broadband wireless access network based on the 4G WiMAX global standard provides a common infrastructure with all of the attributes and features required for a high performance, cost-effective, multi-purpose municipal network.

If you’re interested in learning more about “Smart City” initiatives and the how to cost effectively build communication infrastructure, please sign up for our upcoming free webinar on Wednesday, September 15. The webinar will highlight a case study from City of Houston, a leading US city that is at the forefront of one such initiative. Additional details and registration information are available here:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Danger of Dogma

Hank Hultquist, Vice President-Federal Regulatory, AT&T

Reprinted from the
AT&T Public Policy Blog.

One of the central dogmas of the Church of Extreme Net Neutrality (CoENN) is that quality of service on the Internet, or using the preferred nomenclature of the CoENN, “paid prioritization” is the equivalent of a deadly sin.
The CoENN creed against quality of service states that paid prioritization of Internet traffic: (1) has never been contemplated by standards organizations like the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); (2) does not exist on the Internet today and, to the extent it exists anywhere, is probably being used nefariously by the pagans; and (3) if it did exist on the Internet, it would be available to and affordable for only a small number of deep-pocketed hegemons.

These iniquities of paid prioritization are spelled out in a recent filing at the FCC in which Free Press preaches the old time religion of the dumb network. But, like so many dogmas, this one turns out to be, well, not exactly true.

Which leads me to the letter we filed yesterday in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding to correct the record with respect to paid prioritization. In a nutshell, we point out that, contrary to the CoENN’s claims: (1) the IETF documents clearly contemplate and permit differentiated pricing of Internet traffic based on the use of prioritization; (2) paid prioritization of Internet traffic is widely available to businesses today; and (3) such prioritization is often voluntarily purchased by small and medium-sized enterprises, including minority-owned businesses and community organizations.

I think our letter speaks for itself, and provides the details and facts on these three points in a succinct five pages, but I would like to elaborate briefly on a couple of points. First, the elders of the CoENN seem to have adopted a somewhat self-contradictory creed. At various times, Free Press has expressed the view that any router-based prioritization of Internet traffic is by definition harmful to unprioritized packets. Yet now they seem to have endorsed the use of DiffServ, which is a mechanism for router-based prioritization, as long as it is in the control of “end users.”

Free Press apparently does not recognize that content and application providers may also be “end users” of Internet access services. Indeed, to the extent that packets must be marked for prioritization at their origin, content providers may be the “end users” best placed to make use of DiffServ.

One sometimes hears from members of the congregation of the CoENN that the introduction of paid prioritization would enable ISPs to turn best effort Internet transmission into a “dirt road” and force virtually the entire Internet ecosystem to “pay extra” for prioritized transmission. (Query: why would ISPs require such an elaborate scheme to raise rates if they have the market power attributed to them by the CoENN?) Yet now Free Press seems to suggest that ISPs would restrict prioritization to only a few “deep-pocketed Internet giants.” While I enjoy the Da Vinci Code conspiracy theories as much as the next blogger, I do expect at least some superficial consistency.

Finally, Free Press has tried heroically to distinguish “router-based” prioritization from “geographic” prioritization (i.e., CDNs), based on unsubstantiated allegations that geographic prioritization does not result in any displacement of unprioritized traffic. For whatever reason, they apparently never subjected this particular doctrine of the faith to any empirical testing. Well, someone else did and found that geographic prioritization can be quite effective in pushing unprioritized packets to the proverbial slow lane.

The FCC must view with healthy skepticism the interpretations and opinions it receives on technical Internet standards, and how they are operationalized by ISPs, from an advocacy group with no demonstrable expertise or experience in such matters. When it comes to data-driven policy making, there is no room for faith-based initiatives, as Chairman Genachowski testified before Congress last year.