Thursday, October 28, 2010

WiMAX or TD-LTE: Addressing the demand for broadband services through a multi-technology approach

Author: Ashish Sharma, VP of Marketing, Alvarion

For the past couple of years, there has been growing debate in the industry press creating a “WiMAX vs. LTE” perception. This “either-or” narrative is a common phenomenon which makes it easier to conceptualize the market from a technological standpoint, but it is a disservice for service operators. The truth behind the hype is that a multi-technology approach is the most attractive and viable way for operators to grow their markets and grow within their markets.

As the U.S. continues to expand its broadband penetration, it is imperative for operators to evaluate a host of technologies that can provide broadband services throughout the country, including rural areas. Most operators desire for a platform that meets current requirements with the flexibility to accommodate future technologies, so that their investment is protected. WiMAX is already enabling a host of broadband applications for various types of service providers around the world. TD-LTE, on the other hand, is emerging as a new technology that has considerable momentum in a couple of key markets.

Broadband remains a key growth area that will be addressed by multiple wireless technologies including those that are OFDMA-based like WiMAX and LTE technologies. While these two technologies are derived from different ecosystems, there are many similarities in the underlying technologies that enable both standards. The similarities will enable migration, which some service providers are demanding in order to have freedom of choice in the future.

TD-LTE is a standard for TDD (Time Division Duplexing) spectrum and has gained momentum in China over the last year or so. WiMAX is also based on TDD and is very similar to TD-LTE.

WiMAX will continue to be a preferred technology for 4G wireless broadband for many types of service providers due to maturity of available solutions; vibrant ecosystem, including devices; and low IPR costs associated with the technology.

The ability to migrate from WiMAX should also be seen as a point of strength for the technology so that operators can take advantage of the spectrum available today and achieve a significant ROI with WiMAX. There is no doubt that WiMAX will continue to strengthen and grow while the other technologies begin to mature. The prospects for TD-LTE appear to be very positive today, and migration is possible. WiMAX, as a 4G technology for TDD, is also continuing to evolve its own development path to WiMAX 2 with advanced features and functionalities.

Depending on the business model, applications and timeline, operators may have a tendency to prefer one flavor of TDD technology versus another. Eventually both technologies will coexist as they are driven from two separate ecosystems and the demand for broadband services continues to grow around the world.

The bottom line for service providers is that they can quickly and cost-effectively provide 4G services today with WiMAX, with full confidence that regardless of how the market develops, their investment will be protected.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fox, Cablevision and the Demise of the Terminating Monopoly

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

Day three of “House” Held Hostage.

While many (ok, just a few) folks are focused on the fate of “House,” the medical TV drama on Fox, we here in Tech/Telecom Policy Land are watching a sea change in what the Fox/Cablevision drama is telling us about the net neutrality debate.

Earlier this year, we filed comments in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding, explaining, at great length, exactly why the “terminating monopoly” theory of net neutrality regulation (one of the policy justifications used for imposing rules on ISPs), just didn’t make sense in the Internet ecosystem.

Well, in a semi-controlled experiment still underway, Fox and Cablevision are doing a pretty good job proving that point. Some would even say the (ISP) King is dead. Long live the (Content) King. Fox and Cablevision are embroiled in a dispute over retransmission consent that has resulted in Cablevision customers losing access to Fox channels. Over the weekend, the dispute briefly escalated to the point where Fox was allegedly blocking Cablevision’s Internet customers from accessing Fox content on Hulu and

Several prominent supporters of net neutrality regulation, including Representative Ed Markey and Public Knowledge rushed in to complain that such action was inconsistent with the FCC’s Open Internet principle that protects the right of users to access the lawful content of their choice – an irony given that many of those same folks insisted that the FCC’s net neutrality proposals should focus solely on ISPs not content providers like FOX. By way of example, see this comment from Public Knowledge, remarking that the FCC’s Open Internet draft rules only apply to ISPS: “The proposed Open Internet rules make no attempt to regulate broadband access providers in their role as content providers and editors. In fact, the Open Internet rules make no attempt to regulate anyone in their roles as content providers or editors.”

Parenthetically, I sincerely hope everyone’s enjoying irony #2 of this drama – Cablevision being denied access to programming, while it simultaneously refused to provide Verizon with access to a NY gubernatorial debate…IN THE MIDDLE of this dispute with Fox. While Cablevision has never shied away from taking an “aggressive” view of its rights to deny programming to its competitors, you gotta admire the chutzpah in this case.

So, how does Fox’s temporary blocking of Internet content to Cablevision customers show that there’s no terminating monopoly problem on the Internet? Simple, here’s how. As any telecom lawyer/policy wonk will tell you, the so-called terminating monopoly on the PSTN was created by the confluence of two factors that arose from common carrier regulation: the ability of local phone companies to file tariffs requiring long distance companies to pay them access charges and the INABILITY of long distance companies to block calls to those local phone companies.

On the unregulated Internet, we’ve got the opposite situation. Cablevision (the local phone company in this analogy) has no tariffing power, and Fox and presumably other content providers (the long distance companies in this analogy) appear ready to block the transmission of content when they think it’s in their business interest to do so. By the way, this same type of thing occurs every day when ESPN blocks certain premium content for Internet users whose ISPs don’t pay ESPN for the privilege of accessing that content. Far from being the victims of a terminating monopoly as some pro-regulation advocates predicted, these content providers clearly see themselves as possessors of an “originating monopoly.”

The demise of the “terminating monopoly” school of thought has profound implications for the debate over net neutrality. If content providers can collect “tolls” on the Internet and ISPs don’t have the unilateral power to force third parties to pay to “use their pipes,” then what is the point of the net neutrality debate anyway?

Additionally, many people are questioning whether the “Incident at Hulu Hill” represents a net neutrality violation or not? We don’t know the answer for certain, but the question reminded us of a rather prescient statement by Commissioner Michael Copps that might just hint at the FCC’s ultimate answer: “In particular, we need to recognize that the gatekeepers of today may not be the gatekeepers of tomorrow. Our job is not so much to mediate among giants as it is to protect consumers.”

Reprinted from the AT&T Public Policy Blog.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WCAI Symposium @ 4G World Wraps Up with FCC Keynote, Policy Summit

Welcome to the third and final day of the WCAI International Symposium @ 4G World!

Today we are going to explore some of the key regulatory and policy issues facing the wireless broadband industry in the United States. Seven months into the implementation of the FCC's National Broadband Plan, we will look at the progress made on meeting the established benchmarks and address such policy issues as network neutrality and new spectrum availability.

Kicking off the WCAI Broadband and Wireless Policy Summit today, FCC officials will deliver a keynote address on unleashing new spectrum for wireless broadband. Phoebe Yang and Julius Knapp of the FCC will discuss the agency's plans and progress toward reaching the goal of making available an additional 500 MHz of spectrum over the next ten years that is suitable for mobile and fixed broadband use.

Moving on, we will hold three regulatory panels that will feature who-is-who in the industry and government, including former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin of Patton Boggs; John Leibovitz of the FCC; Bob Quinn, Hank Hultquist and Joan Marsh of AT&T; Jonathan Snyder of KeyOn and Joseph Sandri of FiberTower. The sessions will be moderated by reporters from Politico and TR Daily and an analyst from Medley Global Advisors.

We hope you'll enjoy today's program and look forward to the day filled with dynamic discussions, new information and networking opportunities!

WCAI Honors Best in Industry and Government with Annual Awards

Recognizing achievements of some of the brightest minds in the industry and government, WCAI last night presented its annual awards at the Networking Dinner held as part of the WCAI International Symposium @ 4G World. The Government Leadership Award went to Julius Knapp, who heads the Office of Engineering and Technology at the FCC. Dr. Mohammad Shakouri, Corporate VP, Innovation and Marketing at WCAI member Alvarion was presented with the Innovation Achievement Award. Dr. Vinton Cerf VP & Chief Internet Evangelist at WCAI member Google was recognized with the Industry Service Award.

Since becoming OET Chief at the FCC in 2006, Julie Knapp has worked to unleash new spectrum for wireless broadband and improve the utilization of existing spectrum. Mr. Knapp spearheaded the DTV white spaces proceeding to create an entirely new ecosystem for advanced unlicensed devices. He also created the unique, light licensing regime in the 3.65 GHz band and pioneered the power spectral density approach to power limits in the 700 MHz and other bands.

"Julie's contributions during his time as Chief of OET are alone deserving of recognition -- but they are only a part of Julie's legacy," said WCAI President Fred Campbell when presenting the award. "Julie has been with the FCC for 36 years, and has held numerous leadership roles in the OET during that time. From my own experience working with Julie at the FCC, I know that nobody works harder and nobody cares more about the role that engineering and technology play in the agency's work."

Presenting the award to Mo Shakouri, Mr. Campbell said: "Mo has been instrumental in growing WiMAX into a multi-billion dollar industry, and he is widely recognized as a global voice for 4G technologies. He has also been a voice for innovation at Alvarion, a global 4G communications leader with the industry's most extensive customer base. Mo is truly an innovation leader in every sense of the word."

Last but not least, WCAI was honored to recognize Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, for his distinguished industry service. Mr. Cerf's achievements are numerous and include the development of the first commercial email system connected to the Internet, and funding and formation of ICANN from the start. During his time at Google, Mr. Cerf has become well-known for his predictions on how technology will affect future society, including such areas as artificial intelligence, the advent of IPv6 and the transformation of the television industry and its delivery model.

We congratulate the honorees and thank them for their tireless work and contribution to the success of the wireless broadband industry!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

WCAI to Hold Annual Spring Summit April 6-7, 2011 in Washington, DC

Building on success of the annual events WCAI has hosted for almost two decades, we announced today that we will hold our long-running and highly-successful annual Spring Summit on April 6-7, 2011 in Washington, DC. We look forward to providing yet another opportunity for our members and others within the wireless broadband ecosystem to get together and share experience about what it takes to run a successful business in today's constantly changing environment.

The Summit will bring together high-level executives from leading operators, vendors and system integrators, as well as government officials and media representatives. Industry experts will examine operational, technical and regulatory challenges companies face as they are rolling out next-generation networks and services in the United States and beyond. Speakers will present on topics ranging from operator business models, to infrastructure and device availability, to services and applications.

WCAI has a distinguished track record of attracting some of the brightest minds in the industry to our annual events. WCAI's most recent Summer Summit 2010 featured an FCC workshop on the National Broadband Plan, a keynote address by Clearwire EVP Gerry Salemme on what it takes to bring 4G to America, and a presentaton by Motorola Networks CTO Bill Payne on the WiMAX migration paths to 802.16m or TD-LTE.

We look forward to reconnecting with old friends and welcoming new faces to the WCAI Spring Summit 2011, as we work to create one place for industry stakeholders and regulators to learn, network and succeed!

WCAI Launches L@Net Group to Promote 4G Deployments at 2.5 GHz in Latin America

A group of Latin American licensees operating in the 2.5 GHz BRS spectrum band announced the formation of an alliance today to promote the usage of the band for 4G networks and services in the region. Operating under the WCAI umbrella, L@Net, which stands for Latin American Networking, was created to encourage innovation, promote market opportunities, bring investment, facilitate 4G interoperability and roaming, and develop strategies for harmonized regulations in the region.

L@Net brings together more than 20 operators from nine countries, including Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brasil, Argentina and Chile. The group's founding members are Ansitel (Mexico), Neotec (Brasil) and Multivision (Bolivia).

"We welcome L@Net members to the WCAI and look forward to working with Latin American operators to leverage the sucess we've seen in other countries and encourage 4G network deployments in the 2.5 GHz band in the region," said WCAI President & CEO Fred Campbell.

L@Net Summit Highlights the Second Day of WCAI International Symposium @ 4G World

Welcome to the second day of the WCAI International Symposium @ 4G World!

Today is all about our international members, as we are zeroing in on one of the fastest-growing wireless broadband markets in the world, Latin America. Whether you are a local operator in search of financing for your future deployments, or an international vendor looking to establish your presence in this promising land, the L@Net Summit is the place to be.

During the Summit, we will look at the current regulatory environment in the 2.5 GHz, 3.5 GHz and other major 4G bands in Latin America and provide an update on the upcoming spectrum auctions for the next-generation technology. We will also highlight some of the available options for financing 4G network deployments and examine alternative funding opportunities in the region.

The day will wrap up with the WCAI's Annual Networking Dinner that will feature an operator discussion on building a business case for WiMAX and LTE in the TDD spectrum. Participating in the discussion will be executives from leading internatioal and U.S. operators, including China Mobile, Enforta (Russia) and DigitalBridge Communications.

See you at the L@Net Summit!

Monday, October 18, 2010

WCAI Kicks Off Symposium @ 4G World with 3.65 GHz Channel Plan Announcement

WCAI kicked off its annual International Symposium @ 4G World today with the announcement of a significant step toward unlocking the potential of the 3.65 GHz band. The announcement came at the day-long 3.65 GHz Summit that WCAI is holding today to examine the remaining technical and regulatory challenges facing the band, look at the business models that proved successful and discuss the ways to maximize return on investment.

After months of tireless work and multiple iterations, the WCAI's 3.65 GHz Working Group today adopted and released the 3.65 GHz Channel Plan to minimize harmful interference among operators in the band. The plan is part of the 3.65 GHz Best Practices that the Working Group has been developing since it launched last November. It is the result of collaboration among leading 3.65 GHz vendors and operators both in the U.S. and abroad.

"We feel that this channel plan is an example of the type of work that can be accomplished through collective efforts and within the WCAI to facilitate future commercial successes in the band," said Jason Lazar of KeyOn Communications, who chairs the WCAI 3.65 GHz Working Group.

Still ahead are three days filled with valuable content and numerous networking opportunities. Those who are interested in learning about key regulatory issues, investment strategies and wireless broadband network deployments in one of the world's fastest-growing markets -- Latin America -- should not miss the L@Net Summit WCAI will host tomorrow, Oct. 19. Also tomorrow, WCAI will honor some of the best minds in the industry with annual awards and host an operator discussion on building a business case for WiMAX and LTE in the TDD spectrum at the WCAI's Annual Networking Dinner. The third and final day of the Symposium will feature the FCC keynote address, followed by the WCAI Broadband and Wireless Policy Summit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Still Waiting for a Reason to Apply Open Internet Regulations to Mobile Broadband

In its comments on the FCC’s recent Public Notice asking whether open Internet regulations should apply to mobile broadband, WCAI explodes the myth that open Internet regulations are necessary to subsidize mobile device and applications makers.
WCAI demonstrates in its comments that the device and applications segment of the mobile market is a hotbed of innovation, competition, and industry growth:

• There are at least 33 companies manufacturing more than 630 unique devices for the U.S. market.
• There are currently 11 companies producing OS for the mobile devices segment, none of whom is vertically integrated with a mobile broadband service provider.

• Entirely new types of devices are being created, including the Apple iPad and the Kind e-reader.
• The mobile applications market is experiencing annualized growth rates of up to more than 500 percent.

The data presented by WCAI clearly indicates that there is intense innovation and competition in the applications and devices segments and that there is no discernable market failure in these segments.

Open Internet proponents nevertheless believe regulations are necessary to ensure applications entrepreneurs can “innovate” without “first seeking the permission” of a network operator. In the absence of some market failure, however, “seeking permission” is merely a euphemism for paying market-based rates for use of the network. And there is no basis for believing that device and applications developers are unable to fully participate in the mobile market.

The argument that mobile network operators should be subsidizing mobile applications providers is nonsensical given the relative entry costs of these two market segments. The cost of entry into the applications market is so low that an entrepreneur can earn a living as an independent mobile software developer working out of the home. In comparison, Clearwire’s entry into the mobile broadband service provider market has required billions of dollars in capital. Given this huge disparity, it seems clear that, if the Commission were to subsidize mobile broadband investment, it ought to subsidize investment in the network – and not in devices and applications.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Broadband Stimulus Post-Game Recap

By John M. Celentano, Market Development Manager, TESSCO

Reprinted from Connected Planet

Well, folks, the clock has run out and the Broadband Stimulus Bowl is over. This contest is one for the history books. The Recovery Act set a prize of $7.2 billion for this event with $2.5 billion in the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiative Program (BIP) and $4.7 billion in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP). BIP funds are intended for broadband access (last mile) network deployments in poorly served or unserved areas. BTOP grants are intended to support comprehensive community infrastructure (middle mile) inter-city, inter-building, and public safety facilities; public computer centers (community entities-schools, libraries and municipal facilities); and sustainable broadband adoption (broadband education and training programs).

Why wasn’t more money allocated to wireless infrastructure? Wireless systems can extend broadband to subscribers over many miles at much lower deployment costs, around $1,500 per subscriber for the access portion (base station and subscriber units). Moreover, wireless systems are easier and faster to deploy than trenching fiber cable over long distances. It appears to be a matter of numbers or maybe less familiarity among the reviewers with wireless broadband, even with many wireless products on the RUS LOM.

BIP budgeted $10,000 per subscriber for FTTH deployments. Most of these projects are in rural areas with lots of wide-open spaces, so deployment costs will be higher than if FTTH were deployed in denser-populated areas. Still, that figure is probably 2-3 times what can actually be done to extend fiber into rural markets.

Comprehensive community infrastructure (CCI)/middle mile BTOP projects are adding significant dark fiber capacity to the national network. While there is a "build it and they will come" feel to some of these projects, if the demand for broadband services continues, that capacity should be burned off at a steady pace. Still, it behooves players on both the last mile and CCI squads to team up to make end-to-end broadband a winner.

Overall, $9.4 billion was designated for 653 projects with $6.6 billion in grants, $1.3 billion in loans, and another $1.5 billion in matching funds. Infrastructure projects took 434 awards, with $5.8 billion in grants and $1.3 billion in loans.

The first half--Round One--was a free-for-all with seasoned veterans almost overrun by a pack of undisciplined, freewheeling walk-ons and free agents scrambling to score a piece of the action. Those that couldn’t demonstrate viable performance were cut almost immediately.

Second half action in Round Two was much more orderly with applicants showing more disciplined approaches and greater technical and economic feasibility.

Team BIP Highlights: A total of nearly $4.0 billion, well above the original appropriation, was awarded in grants, loans, and matching funds to 310 BIP players that include 294 last mile, 12 middle mile, four Satellite Broadband projects and one Technical Assistance grant.

The vast majority, 79% last-mile projects went to wireline plays, either fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) or digital subscriber line (DSL) over copper. A total of 50% of all BIP projects were for FTTH. Another 19% of the plays went to a mix of wireless or hybrid wireless/fiber projects. Wireless-only projects accounted for just 15% of the BIP awards, up from around 5% in Round One.

Team BTOP Highlights: The term “middle mile” was used until Round Two when CCI came into the game, presumably because it applies to projects that involve more than just intercity backbones. CCI applies to backhaul facilities between towns and cities, and interconnecting major institutional buildings and campuses. Over $4.4 billion was awarded to middle mile/CCI projects alone, including $973 million in matching funds. As expected, the majority (83%) of these projects went for fiber technology that is a proven reliable high-capacity technology for inter-city and long-haul applications. Wireless accounted for 10% of BTOP projects along with another 7% that went for hybrid fiber-wireless combos.

A couple of points to note:

First, the referees (reviewers) faced a monumental task in sorting out projects that had merit from those that did not; they did a commendable job.

Second, most BIP awards went to established companies that have a history of borrowing, and repaying, RUS funds. Scores of BIP applicants were turned down flat because they had no track record or because their proposals were not feasible.

Third, fiber projects far outweighed wireless alternatives. This is, in part, because more wireline companies (independent telcos, ISPs, small cablecos) applied for funds. Fiber systems are the safe bet; the technology is stable and the players are established. Fiber equipment manufacturers are well-known, reliable, and have a good performance record. Plus, most of the FTTH products picked for these projects already are on the RUS List of Materials (LOM).