6G is coming sooner than you think, FCC chief Rosenworcel says

Posted on November 1, 2023

6G is coming sooner than you think, FCC chief Rosenworcel says

US Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel believes that the time to start planning for 6G is now, and has outlined several steps that the government agency plans to take in preparation for the new wireless standard.

While there’s no general agreement on what technical innovations will be incorporated into 6G, it’s become clear that the goals of the technology are ambitious. Broadcast virtual or augmented reality, high-quality telehealth and more are expected by wireless experts.

That, however, will require a great deal of spectrum, and Rosenworcel — speaking at the National Science Foundation last week — said that the FCC is working to identify suitable frequencies for the new standard.

“We have already identified the 7-16GHz band as prime mid-band airwaves for the 6G era,” she said. “That is why we have started an inquiry into making 550MHz of spectrum in the 12.7-13.25GHz band available for new commercial mobile use.”

Currently, the airwaves between 7GHz and 16GHz are used for a wide array of different purposes, including fixed wireless links, aeronautical communications, location-based signals, and even radio astronomy, according to FCC records. But the most common usage in those bands includes several services related to satellites.

Hence, Rosenworcel’s announcement that the FCC has already begun a rulemaking designed to explore the possibilities of a unified satellite/terrestrial standards framework is unsurprising.

“[W]e believe next-generation communications will combine traditional ground-based airwaves with satellite signals,” she said.

Spectrum requirements for 6G

The spectrum needs for 6G are likely to be orders of magnitude higher than those for 5G, according to Gartner senior director analyst Susan Welsh de Grimaldo. She said that even a subset of envisioned 6G capabilities could demand up to 3GHz of wide area spectrum, per a recent whitepaper from Ericsson.

“With anticipated timing of first commercial 6G deployments in 2030, there is already an urgent need for the US to identify and plan for allocation of substantial amounts of new spectrum for both wide area and local area use for 6G,” she said. “Early alignment on spectrum is important to foster development and innovation and to be ready for commercial launch.”

There are aspects to the FCC’s public approach to 6G that are encouraging, according to Welsh de Grimaldo. For one thing, early 5G efforts focused too heavily on the millimeter-wave spectrum — an especially high frequency that offers wide channels and excellent potential throughput, but makes it difficult to provide wide area coverage due to limited propagation range. It has seen limited use in 5G deplotyments.

“With 6G, the FCC and NTIA seem to be addressing the learnings from the 5G spectrum challenges — that is, to identify early on mid-band spectrum that will provide enough capacity and coverage and hopefully align more closely with spectrum bands for 6G in other countries,” Welsh de Grimaldo said.

Rosenworcel, in her remarks, also urged Congress to restore the FCC’s spectrum auctioning authority, which lapsed on March 9. Restoring that authority would clear the way for more auctions, which, she said, have proved both highly remunerative for the government and highly efficient in allocating spectrum for commercial use.

“We cannot afford to wait,” said Rosenworcel.

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6 industries where private 5G makes sense

Posted on October 25, 2023

6 industries where private 5G makes sense

OK, I’ve come around on the notion of private 5G.

Last year, I blogged about private 5G and explained how you’d know you were a prospect for the technology as an alternative to WiFi or public cellular services. My focus was on the same community of workers that most tech empowerment has focused on, meaning the white-collar or “carpet” types. Since the first of the year, I’ve had a chance to chat with 31 companies who are using or deploying private wireless technology, and I’ve also chatted with some of their integrators and suppliers. None of the enterprises were using private 5G in the hallowed (carpeted) halls of an office. Instead, their targeted jobs were outside in the dirt—sometimes literally—or on some factory or warehouse floor.

My new insight isn’t a broad license to tout private 5G to the skies, or to rush out to grab your share. It turns out that of the roughly 1,200 private wireless buyers I can identify, almost all are in just six verticals. They are agriculture, energy, healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing.

The applications in these verticals vary, but one common thread is that they’re far more about sensors than they are about smartphones. Another common thread is that they’re more often driven by integrators than by vendors, and those two points are critical for companies considering or promoting private 5G. Finally, all these companies considered Wi-Fi (including Wi-Fi 6) and cellular services, and rejected both of them.

When is 5G better fit than Wi-Fi

IoT, meaning sensors and controllers, may or may not meet the mobility requirement I set in that past blog, but they do have something that’s almost equivalent, which is distributability. In all but one of the verticals, you’re likely to find a large physical space populated by a bunch of devices. The devices may measure or detect things, control things, and in short are fundamental to the operation of the facility. There may be dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of them, and they have to operate out in the open, in all sorts of weather, with minimal care.

Distributability is the reason the value proposition for these verticals is broader than the one that drives office-worker empowerment. Generally, business technology is justified by productivity gains, and so it focuses on jobs with the highest unit value of labor. We see that in all our private 5G verticals, especially in energy and healthcare, but we also see opportunities to target masses of lower-labor-value workers. In an agricultural irrigation system that involves 10,000 valves and a larger number of sensors, 5G can save the time it would take a laborer to check and change each one, and that adds up to a big savings providing that costs can be managed.

Those remote devices, unlike smartphones, aren’t in the possession of people who can keep them charged up, and you can’t have people running around to change batteries. Thus, power consumption is really important. Wi-Fi is a power hog compared to 5G, and that alone can be a big problem for remote sensors and controllers. There’s also a range problem in most missions; Wi-Fi isn’t good for much more than a couple hundred feet, and in most of the applications these companies reported, there was no point from which all their devices could be reached using Wi-Fi. One user told me that they needed a mile range.

Why not public 5G, you might wonder? Well, think of a thousand little devices, each with their own cellular data plan. Forget a car, the operators would send an airplane for you if you had that kind of deal on the table, but nobody is going to spend that much on an IoT application. Private 5G could save (forgive the mixed metaphor) a boatload of cash, and in many cases a single private tower or two will cover a major facility.

The needs of applications lead to 5G

How did the 31 companies I spoke to get into private 5G? All of them said that they knew the capability existed, but that they were launched on their private 5G initiative by an integrator who was looking at a facility-control challenge for the buyer. In other words, their consideration really started at the application level, and private 5G was suggested as the best communications tool for the job. I’m told by private 5G product/service sources that this is the most common way to start a private 5G project, though some (usually large) buyers do go directly to a 5G resource.

Who actually provides the elements of the private 5G network? Again, the majority of buyers I talked with said that their integrator was their contact for the 5G components and tools needed. Only one of the 31 said that they provided input to the integrator on the approach they preferred; the rest did what the integrator suggested. Interestingly, the integrators involved said that while they had a preferred supplier, they were open to other suppliers if prospective buyers had strong views. In most cases (roughly 60%) the integrator suggested a vendor who provided all the technology, and for the rest, the integrator recommended a radio strategy and a 5G software and hosting strategy. Public-cloud provider private-5G resources were used by only six of the 31, but all of the buyers who used the public cloud in their 5G deployment did use the special private-5G features offered.

Integrators are key in choosing private 5G.

The private 5G providers I talked with recognized the importance of integrators and developers in promoting the applications behind private 5G deployment. They all said that APIs were “very important”, industry-specific knowledge and contacts were “critical”, and referral programs and certification/qualification were “very important”. The integrators all listed a good developer/integrator program and effective lead generation and channel conflict management as their top requirements, closely followed by name recognition of the 5G provider.

As useful as the views of private 5G adopters were, they didn’t answer all the questions in the space. One question was the business case, and just what that meant. All 31 of these private 5G adopters said the decision to use private 5G was “a given” because of cost, but that didn’t mean the project itself was easily justified. In fact, nine companies who had considered private 5G and not adopted it said that their problem wasn’t with private 5G but with project benefits overall. Said one company, “We had 1,900 devices to connect, and there was never a question that private 5G would be the best way to connect them. The question was whether having those devices connected and having an application to use them would pay back. We’re still not sure.”

Another question was whether greater acceptance of private 5G would stimulate other firms to consider it, and the answer is another of those annoying “Yes, buts…”. Integrators said that a win for them in a given industry always generated other prospects in the same industry, but none mentioned that success in one vertical generated opportunities in others. That may be because integrators tend to focus on one vertical, and a horizontal market for elements of private 5G, one that crosses industries, is yet to develop. That, in turn, is because office automation is the most compelling cross-industry function, and 5G has little value so far in that area.

Here’s how 5G use might expand.

But there could be. So far, private 5G is justified by some highly credible, vertical-focused, applications. That first private 5G application is the hardest to justify because its benefits have to cover the high cost of initial deployment and overcome executive uncertainty about becoming their own 5G provider. In theory, every other mission should be easier. That to me means that somehow those vertical-focused integrators have to step back and find other valuable private 5G applications, and not just to maximize their own 5G benefits. A second mission for a private 5G network already deployed and justified should be the lowest apple of all, and if that second mission were targeting “carpet” workers, it could be spread by referral beyond those six verticals. Maybe adding it to a marginal business case for non-carpet workers in other verticals would tip the scales and justify private 5G in those other markets.

However it’s done, to be really successful private 5G needs to escape the vertical application that first justified it and if possible the six current verticals.  Ever hear of a one-trick pony?  Nothing positive is ever said about one, so everyone with an interest in private 5G needs to ponder that analogy.

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Artificial intelligence helps solve networking problems

Posted on October 18, 2023

Artificial intelligence helps solve networking problems

With the public release of ChatGPT and Microsoft’s $10-billion investment into OpenAI, artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance. For enterprise networking professionals, this means there is a very real possibility that AI traffic will affect their networks in major ways, both positive and negative.

As AI becomes a core feature in mission-critical software, how should network teams and networking professionals adjust to stay ahead of the trend?

Andrew Coward, GM of Software Defined Networking at IBM, argues that the enterprise has already lost control of its networks. The shift to the cloud has left the traditional enterprise network stranded, and AI and automation are required if enterprises hope to regain control.

“The center of gravity has shifted from the corporate data center to a hybrid multicloud environment, but the network was designed for a world where all traffic still flows to the data center. This means that many of the network elements that dictate traffic flow and policy are now beyond the reach and control of the enterprise’s networking teams,” Coward said.

Recent research from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) supports Coward’s observations. According to EMA’s 2022 Network Management Megatrends report, while 99% of enterprises have adopted at least one public-cloud service and 72% have a multicloud strategy, only 18% of the 400 IT organizations surveyed believed that their existing tools are effective at monitoring public clouds.

AI can help monitor networks.

AI is stressing networks in both obvious and nonobvious ways. It’s no secret that organizations that use cloud-based AI tools, such as OpenAI, IBM Watson, or AWS DeepLens, must accommodate heavy traffic between cloud and enterprise data centers to train the tools. Training AI and keeping it current requires shuttling massive amounts of data back and forth.

What’s less obvious is that AI enters the enterprise through side doors, sneaking in through capabilities built into other tools. AI adds intelligence to everything from content creation tools to anti-spam engines to video surveillance software to edge devices, and many of those tools constantly communicate over the WAN to enterprise data centers. This can create traffic surges and latency issues, among a range of other problems.

On the positive side of the ledger, AI-powered traffic-management and monitoring tools are starting to help resource-constrained network teams cope with the complexity and fragility of multi-cloud, distributed networks. At the same time, modern network services such as SD-WAN, SASE, and 5G also now rely on AI for such things as intelligent routing, load balancing, and network slicing.

But as AI takes over more network functions, is it wise for enterprise leaders to trust this technology?

Is it wise to trust AI for mission-critical networking?

The professionals who will be tasked with using AI to enable next-generation networking are understandably skeptical of the many overheated claims of AI vendors.

“Network operations manage what many perceive to be a complex, fragile environment. So, many teams are fearful of using AI to drive decision-making because of potential network disruptions,” said Jason Normandin, a netops product manager for Broadcom Software.

Operation teams that don’t understand or have access to the underlying AI model’s logic will be hard to win over. “To ensure buy-in from network operations teams, it is critical to keep human oversight over the AI-enabled devices and systems,” Normandin said.

To trust AI, networking professionals require “explainable AI,” or AI that is not a black box but that reveals its inner workings. “Building trust in AI as a reliable companion starts with understanding its capabilities and limitations and testing it in a controlled environment before deployment,” said Dr. Adnan Masood, Chief AI Architect at digital transformation company UST.

Explainable and interpretable AI allows network teams to understand how AI arrives at its decisions, while key metrics allow network teams to track its performance. “Continuously monitoring AI’s performance and gathering feedback from team members is also an important way to build trust,” Masood added. “Trust in AI is not about blind-faith but rather understanding its capabilities and using it as a valuable tool to enhance your team’s performance.”

Broadcom’s Normandin notes that while networking experts may be reluctant to “give up the wheel” to AI, there is a middle way. “Recommendation engines can be a good compromise between manual and fully automated systems,” he said. “Such solutions let human experts ultimately make decisions of their own while offering users to rate recommendations provided. This approach enables a continuous training feedback loop, giving the opportunity to dynamically improve the models by using operators’ input.”

AI can assist network support with natural-language chat.

As enterprise networks become more complicated, distributed, and congested, AI is helping resource-strapped network teams keep up. “The need for instantaneous, elastic connectivity across the enterprise is no longer just an option; it is table stakes for a successful business,” Coward from IBM said. “That’s why the industry is looking to apply AI and intelligent automation solutions to the network.”

The fact is that AI-powered tools are already spreading throughout cloud and enterprise networks, and the number of tools that feature AI will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Enterprise networking has been one of the sectors most aggressively adopting AI and automation. AI is currently being used for a wide range of network functions, including performance monitoring, alarm suppression, root-cause analysis, and anomaly detection.

For instance, Cisco’s Meraki Insight analyzes network performance issues and helps with troubleshooting; Juniper’s Mist AI automates network configuration and handles optimization; and IBM’s Watson AIOps automates IT operations and improves service delivery.

AI is also being used to improve customer experiences. “AI’s ability to adapt and learn the client-to-cloud connection as it changes will make AI ideal for the most dynamic network use cases,” said Bob Friday, Chief AI Officer at Juniper Networks. Friday said that as society becomes more mobile, the wireless user experience gets ever more complex. That’s a problem because wireless networks are now critical to the daily lives of employees, especially in the age of work-from-home, which forces IT to support users in environments over which IT has little to no control.

This is why AI-powered support is one of the most popular early use cases.

“AI is enabling the next era of search and chatbots,” Friday said. “The end goal is an environment where users enjoy steady, consistent performance and no longer need to spend precious IT resources on mountains of support tickets.”

Chatbots and virtual assistants built with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) can understand questions that users ask in their own words. The system responds with specific insights and recommendations based on observations made across the LAN, WLAN, and WAN.

“Where this client-to-cloud insight and automation simply was not possible just a few years ago, today’s chatbots can utilize NLP capabilities to provide context and meaning to user inputs, allowing AI to come up with the best response,” Friday said. “This far surpasses the simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses that originally came from traditional chatbots. With better NLP capabilities, chatbots can progress to become more intuitive, to the point where users will have a hard time telling the difference between a bot and a human.”

The early stages of this vision are already underway. AI is currently being used to help Fortune 500 companies accomplish such things as managing end-to-end user connectivity and enabling the delivery of new 5G services.

Gap turns to AI-powered operations and support.

Retail giant Gap’s in-store WLAN networks were originally designed to accommodate a handful of mobile devices. Now these networks are used not only for employee connections to centralized resources, but also to connect shoppers’ devices and an increasing array of retail IoT devices across thousands of stores.

“Wireless in retail is really tough,” said Snehal Patel, global network architect for Gap

Inc. As more clients connected to Gap WLANs, a string of problems emerged. “Stores need enough wireless capacity to support innovation, and the network operations team needs better visibility into issues when they arise,” Patel said.

Gap’s IT team searched for a WLAN technology that would leverage the scale and resiliency of public clouds, but the team also wanted a platform that included tools like AI and automation that would enable their networks to scale to meet future demand.

Gap eventually settled on a set of tools from Juniper. Gap deployed Juniper’s Mist AI, an AI-powered network operations and support platform, Marvis VNA, a virtual network assistant designed to work with Mist AI, and Juniper’s SD-WAN service.

Gap’s operations team can now ask Marvis questions, and not only will it tell them what’s wrong with the network, but it will also recommend the next steps to remediate the problem.

“Before Mist, we spent a lot more time troubleshooting,” Patel said. Now, Mist continuously measures baseline performance, and if there’s a deviation, Marvis helps the operation team identify the problem. With enhanced visibility into network health and root-cause analysis of network issues, Gap has been reduced technical-staff visits to stores by 85%.

DISH taps AI to scale 5G for enterprise customers.

Another Fortune 500 company that has adopted AI to modernize networking is DISH Network, which has deployed AI to enable new 5G services. DISH was seeing increasing demand for enterprise 5G services but was having a hard time optimizing its infrastructure to meet that demand.

Enterprise customers were seeking 5G services to enable new use cases, such as smart cities, agricultural drone networks, and smart factories. However, those use cases require secure, private, low-latency, stable connections over shared resources.

DISH knew that it needed to modernize its networking stack, and it sought tools that would help it deliver private 5G networks to enterprise customers on demand and with guaranteed SLAs. This was not possible using legacy tools.

DISH turned to IBM for help. IBM’s AI-powered automation and network orchestration software and services enable DISH to bring 5G network orchestration to both business and operations platforms. Intent-driven orchestration, a software-powered automation process, and AI now underpin DISH’s cloud-native 5G network architecture.

DISH also intends to use IBM Cloud Pak for Network Automation, an AI and machine-learning-powered network automation and orchestration software suite, to unlock new revenue streams, such as the on-demand delivery of private 5G network services.

Cloud Pak automates the complicated, cumbersome process of creating 5G network slices, which can then be provisioned as private networks. By automating the process, DISH can create enterprise-class private networks on 5G slices as soon as demand materializes, complete with SLAs.

 AI-powered advanced network slicing allows DISH to offer 5G services that are customized to each business. Businesses are able to set service levels for each device on their network, so, for example, an autonomous vehicle can receive a very low-latency connection, while an HD video camera can be allocated high bandwidth.

“Our 5G build is unique in that we are truly creating a network of networks where each enterprise can custom-tailor a network slice or group of slices to achieve their specific business needs,” said Marc Rouanne, chief network officer, DISH Wireless. IBM’s orchestration solutions leverage AI, automation, and machine learning to not only make these private 5G slices possible, but also to ensure they adapt over time as customer use evolves.

How IT pros should prepare for AI.

As AI, machine learning, and automation power an increasing array of networking software and gear, how should individual network professionals prepare to deal with their new artificial colleagues?

While few professionals will miss the mundane, repetitive chores that AI excels at, many also worry that AI will eventually displace them entirely.

“While AI is developing exponentially, it is inevitable network teams will be exposed to AI-enabled devices and systems,” Broadcom’s Normandin said. “As network experts are not meant to become AI specialists, a cultural change is probably more likely to happen than anything else.”

Masood of UST agrees that a cultural change is in order. “Network teams are rapidly evolving from just managing networks to managing networks with a brain,” he said. “Within the context of networking, these teams will need to develop the ability to work collaboratively with data scientists, software engineers, and other experts to build, deploy, and maintain AI systems in production.”

Network professionals will need to level-up existing skills in network management and optimization so they can accomplish such tasks as using machine-learning algorithms to predict network congestion and to improve network performance. They will also need to develop new skills in data analysis and visualization, NLP, outlier analysis, anomaly detection, and optimization algorithms. “I am not suggesting they become an AI developer or a data scientist,” Masood said, “but deeper understanding of the underlying algorithms and statistical models used to build networking specific AI systems will definitely give them a competitive edge over their non-AI-literate counterparts.”

Normandin said that a new role, NetDevOps, will emerge to manage AI-orchestrated networks. “Successful NetDevOps initiatives will look like fully automated environments that can deploy changes across networks, ready to be consumed in a DevOps approach all along the [continuous integration/continuous delivery] pipeline,” he said.

Programmable, software-defined, and cloud-based network environments have made NetDevOps possible through infrastructure-as-code and automation. “Now, network operations teams have to make their Agile revolution and accept the risk of more frequent changes and more automation,” Normandin said. “As a consequence, they’ll need to refocus on the main outcome: monitoring and guaranteeing the digital experience delivered by the networks.”

Click here to read the full article from NETWORKWORLD.

Qualcomm introduces 5g modem system for small, low-power IoT devices

Posted on October 11, 2023

Qualcomm introduces 5g modem system for small, low-power IoT devices

5G connectivity is being used in a wide range of products, but one thing they have in common is that they tend to be very high-powered devices. Up until now, there has been little emphasis on low-power devices, such as small edge/IoT devices or consumer products.

Qualcomm is addressing that with Snapdragon X35 5G Modem-RF, a 5G New Radio (NR) processor designed to serve the low-power and low-bandwidth markets.

The company claims it is the first NR-Light processor based on the 2020 3GPP Release 17 spec that was written to support low-power 5G IoT devices over any of the broadcast frequencies allocated to 5G. At the same time, it is compatible with legacy LTE (4G). The spec is also known as “reduced capacity” or RedCap.

“Our new integrated modem-RF system is optimized for power consumption and performance so modems can do more with less,” wrote Gautam Sheoran, vice president of product management at Qualcomm in a blog post announcing the processor.

The chip was intended to bridge the complexity gap between high-speed mobile broadband devices and extremely low-bandwidth IOT devices. Snapdragon X35 also has a reduced footprint meant to fit more readily into smaller IoT devices such as surveillance cameras, industrial sensors, wearables, and consumer devices.

Customer sampling of Snapdragon X35 is expected to begin in the first half of 2023. The first commercial mobile devices are expected to be launched by the first half of 2024.

Click here to read the full article from NETWORKWORLD.


Who’s selling private 5G and what do you get?

Posted on October 4, 2023

Who’s selling private 5G and what do you get?

Private 5G is technology that can be used in local area networks. Not to be confused with the public 5G connectivity offered by telephone companies, private 5G is used in corporate campuses, office buildings, factories and warehouses, event venues, and airports, either instead of or in addition to Wi-Fi.

According to an unpublished survey from research firm Forrester, 44% of corporate telecommunications  decision-makers plan to create private 5G networks. Industries with significant private 5G plans include water and waste, high-tech manufacturing, and retail and wholesale. Other areas where private 5G might crop up include stadiums and construction sites, says Forrester analyst Andre Kindness. “They’re prime for 5G technologies.”

The technology is very new, and few enterprises have the expertise to deploy it themselves, so most companies that want to use private 5G are turning to service providers to help set up the networks. Providers include telcos, private wireless network vendors, original equipment manufacturers, systems integrators, and major cloud players.

Enterprises will have to decide what kind of provider makes the most sense given the scale and complexity of their environments. There are pros and cons to each private 5G approach, and service levels can vary dramatically.

Telcos lead with 5G skills, spectrum licenses

An uptick in provider interest is one factor that’s driving private 5G adoption. A growing number of wireless carriers are beginning to offer private 5G network services to enterprise customers. The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia recently rolled out 5G using Comcast Business to help set up the stadium network, for example.

The major global wireless carriers, such as AT&T, Comcast, Orange, Telefonica and Verizon, have several advantages when it comes to private 5G networks.

First, they have the in-house expertise on how 5G works and access to all the needed hardware. Second, they have the scale and international reach to support the biggest multinational enterprises, with all the necessary local partners and expertise. Finally, they own the spectrum.

Enterprises can use shared Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum or unlicensed spectrum such as 5G New Radio Unlicensed (NR-U), but there are times when those aren’t appropriate or are too difficult to deploy.

Verizon was the largest buyer of CBRS 5G spectrum in the U.S. in 2020, buying nearly $2 billion dollars’ worth of spectrum rights, followed by Dish Network with just under $1 billion, Charter with $464 million, and Comcast with $458 million.

Private vendors offer turnkey 5G managed services

Another option is vendors that are specifically focused on rolling out 5G networks, such as CTS, Boingo, Kajeet, and WWT. These companies can provide network design and installation, as well as ongoing security and operations monitoring and management.

“Private wireless providers offer an end-to-end, turnkey managed service and run the private network behind the enterprise firewall,” says Brian Watkins, executive vice president for sales and business strategy at Betacom, a wireless-infrastructure company that recently added 5G-as-a-service to its suite of offerings. “The enterprise maintains control and ownership of their data, and they have unlimited data usage”

When buying 5G from a carrier, enterprises might incur ongoing data costs. Plus, they might still have to buy hardware, software, and services they need from other vendors, complexities that could be deal breakers, according to Betacom CEO Johan Bjorklund. (MxD set up a private 5G network at its manufacturing innovation facility in Chicago with help from Betacom.)

“The average enterprise doesn’t have the scale to do this,” he says. “They’d have to add a lot of headcount or do training. What they want at the end of the day is a functional network that solves the business problems.”

Hardware vendors and service providers team up

According to IDC analyst Rohit Mehra, the most common 5G deployment strategy starts with traditional networking suppliers including Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, and ZTE.

“Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung have a major play, globally,” Mehra says. “With Huawei and ZTE, much of their success is limited to greater China.” IDC hasn’t published 5G market-share numbers yet because the industry is still in its infancy, he says.

In order to acquire licensed spectrum, enterprises would need to look for a package where a telco has some role in the shared offering. For example, Nokia has a partnership with AT&T.

Multinational organizations could select a vendor with a global presence or at least a presence in the countries the company is interested in, Mehra says, and let the vendor dictate the in-country partnerships.

Networking vendors are also starting to offer other pieces of the 5G puzzle.

Vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia offer hardware and some of the software required to run private 5G networks in an attempt to become one-stop solutions providers, says Jagadeesh Dantuluri, general manager for private and dedicated networks at Keysight Technologies, which provides hardware and software for private 5G solution providers.

“They do not want the end customers to look aside for any other vendors,” he says.

System integrators bring customization options

System integrators like Accenture, Capgemini, and IBM are also helping enterprises deploy 5G networks.

For example, Accenture recently partnered with Google Cloud and Australian telecom Telstra to build a private 5G network at Marvel Stadium, an arena owned by the Australian Football League.

Working with integrators can offer large customers more customization options, says Chris Christou, senior vice president and expert on cloud and mobility at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“And there’s more of the opportunity to work directly with equipment manufacturers and chipset manufacturers for specialized features you want in the network,” Christou says. “There’s more tailoring to your specific use case.”

However, many system integrators lean more towards the consulting side, rather than deploying physical infrastructure, says Arun Santhanam, Capgemini’s vice president for telco.

System integrators often work directly with equipment vendors and partner with carriers when 5G spectrum is required, and there are advantages to working with a system integrator instead of a 5G vendor, he says.

Carriers are good at building large, scalable networks, but they may not have the process expertise. “It’s very hard for a 5G provider to think about the business functions,” Santhanam says. “How do you go from running process A to process B? And if you don’t think about change management, the whole thing falls apart.”

Systems integrators are also good at interoperability, he says. “You might want multiple things and want to start connecting,” Santhanam says. “How do I get them all talking to each other?”

Achieving such interoperability is a challenge today, he says, though eventually the industry will get through this growth pain. “People will start working on interoperable standards to make that happen,” he says.

Cloud providers pitch rapid deployment

Major cloud providers, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, offer support for private 5G networks.

“Hyperscalers are integrating private-network offerings in their edge offerings to increase the touch points with the end customers,” says Keysight’s Dantuluri.

The big cloud providers basically offer private 5G in a box, says Dan Hays, principal and head of the US corporate strategy practice at PwC.

The boxes are technically known as 5G small cells, and they’re also referred to as 5G hotspots, 5G endpoints, 5G base stations, or 5G radios. They are specified and designed by the cloud providers and manufactured by large contract electronics manufacturers.

“It’s a small piece of equipment that any business can just take out and plug in, and immediately you have a private network available,” Hays says.

AWS, for example, previewed its AWS Private 5G managed service last year. Customers would specify where they wanted to build a mobile network and specify its capacity, and AWS would deliver and maintain the small-cell radio units, servers, 5G-core and RAN software, and SIM cards, according to AWS.

The earliest versions of these devices typically use unlicensed 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum. That makes deployment easier, because the band is open to everyone, but it also might have to be shared with other users.

The downside is that the current versions of small cells don’t always scale well, Hays says, “but they give you the basics of connectivity.”

Startups eye private 5G opportunities

Along with the tech stalwarts, there’s a new wave of technology startups focusing specifically on deploying private 5G. They include Celona, Inseego, Cradlepoint, and Sierra Wireless, says IDC’s Mehra.

The rise of startups will be driven by the increasing commoditization of the core infrastructure, says Jason Shepherd, vice president of ecosystem at Zededa, a Santa Clara, California-based edge-computing vendor.

Plus, the range of private 5G networks is constrained to single customers, so telcos might be unnecessary to provide network connectivity, Shepherd says. “We will see an increasing number of non-telco players, including startups, offering new networking services,” he says.

There is an opportunity for service-provider startups to differentiate themselves, he says. For example, they can combine vertical domain expertise, networking knowledge, physical infrastructure, and system integration to meet specific end-user needs.

“This will be particularly important for applications in verticals such as manufacturing, energy and mining that need to take into account the needs of both the operational technology and IT organizations,” he says.

DIY requires RF engineering know-how, procurement expertise

For some enterprises, it’s compelling to procure their own private 5G spectrum and build out their own network.

Forrester’s Kindness says he has a client in Bakersfield, California, that’s pumping oil. In a case like that, it might make sense for a company to forgo using a cellular carrier and build its own 5G network because, “Verizon or ATT might not want to build towers out there,” he says.

The downside, Kindness says, is that it’s hard to find professionals who understand 5G networking. “The cellular carriers probably own most of the skill pool out there,” he says.

According to PwC’s Hays, companies looking to build their own private 5G networks will need to assemble the hardware, connect it to a 5G cellular core network, set up the backhaul connectivity, and may also need to partner with a spectrum-access system for CBRS spectrum.

The hardware requirements will depend on the shape and size of the installation, he says, but will typically require antennas, small cells, base station equipment, and core network equipment.

“This can sometimes be purchased off the shelf,” Hays says. “But more often than not in larger installations, it requires RF engineering skills to identify the right components before they can be procured from network equipment OEMs.”

Once the hardware is in place, the 5G networks themselves are software-driven, he says. That can include virtualization platforms as well as core networking functions, which are usually purchased with the help of system integrators or engineering providers.

Smaller deployments might take advantage of turnkey private 5G solutions, Hays says, “but larger installations in major buildings, venues, and campuses will require significant system engineering and integration expertise.” The private 5G networks are essentially smaller versions of commercial telecom systems, he says.

“Additionally, companies will need to have capabilities to engineer, install, monitor, and maintain the network,” Hays says. That’s beyond the typical capabilities of corporate IT departments. However, training on private 5G is becoming more widely available through OEMs, professional organizations, and conferences, he says.

Click here to read the full article from NETWORKWORLD.

Early adopters embrace private 5G

Posted on September 27, 2023

Early adopters embrace private 5G

The appeal of private 5G is driving companies to explore ways to improve the performance, scalability and flexibility of their mobile networks.

Enterprise deployment of the technology has been slow due to the pandemic and an immature device ecosystem, but that’s not stopping early adopters. To help get started, they’re turning to service providers, which can include telcos, private wireless vendors, hardware vendors, systems integrators, and major cloud players.

Here’s a look at how three private-5G deployments were rolled out.

Sports arena amps up visitor experience with private 5G

The Wells Fargo Center recently rolled out 5G, using Comcast Business to help set up the network. The Philadelphia sports arena is home to the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, and the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League.

The deployment in the Wells Fargo Center uses a mix of 600 MHz and CBRS spectrum, according to Brian Epstein, head of strategic wireless solutions at Comcast Business. The CBRS component included a combination of CBRS Priority Access Licenses and CBRS General Authorized Access unlicensed spectrum.

“The private 5G network was ideally positioned to deploy small, less-intrusive cameras when and wherever we needed them,” says Phil Laws, the general manager at the Wells Fargo Center. Previously, the arena was using wired connections.

The cameras are used to focus on Gritty, the mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, as well as Lou Nolan, the voice of the Flyers for 50 years.

“The 5G camera deployed at his position this season brought his famous ‘power play’ call directly onto the video board in an organic way that we had never tried before,” says Laws. “This deployment was seamless without needing cabling or really any preparation at all. Very point and shoot.”

The network was also tested for use streaming data to LED screens located on the sidewalk outside the arena. “Traditionally, displays on the exterior requiring regular updates have been fed using wired networks that fix them into a position forever,” he says. “With this type of deployment, the displays are free to roam where power can reach them. This will allow us to make adjustments to their use and position depending on the event need.”

The Wells Fargo Arena deployment also uses Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud platform, an end-to-end private wireless networking and edge computing platform that includes radio, baseband stations, and software.

The 5G network is able to support other bandwidth-intensive and low-latency applications, says Comcast’s Epstein. “For example, with video streaming, mobile phones are used to shoot HD video that is distributed to screens on the scoreboard,” he says.

Specialist builds private 5G testbed

MxD set up a private 5G network at its manufacturing innovation facility in Chicago with help from wireless-infrastructure company Betacom, which recently added 5G-as-a-service to its suite of offerings. Betacom’s service can include network design and installation, as well as ongoing security and operations monitoring and management.

MxD is the nation’s Digital Manufacturing Institute and the National Center for Cybersecurity in Manufacturing, which partners with the Department of Defense and about 300 companies, including Boeing, Rolls Royce, Siemens, and John Deere.

“We started looking at 5G three years ago,” says MxD technical fellow Tony Del Sesto. The first project was using AT&T to set up a 5-mm wave 5G system. Then, a month ago they went live with a new private 5G network that uses midband 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum, according to Del Sesto,

The goal is to test both approaches to 5G, and to allow manufacturing companies to come in and experiment with them, which is important because different 5G frequencies can perform differently on factory floors depending on local physical factors. “It’s hard for manufacturers to do tests in their own facilities,” says Del Sesto. “Especially when you’re running a business and can’t interrupt your operations.”

Using millimeter wave means having to work with a telco, he says, but that doesn’t mean that data has to leave the facility. “Even though it’s on a public network, it can circulate locally in the factory.”

Millimeter waves can offer extremely high speeds and bandwidth. “Shorter wavelengths don’t go through walls very far,” says Del Sesto. That means that facilities using those shorter wavelengths need more antennas to provide the same coverage.

On the other hand, with CBRS, a mid-band spectrum, a manufacturer doesn’t have to work with a telco, he says, and can operate the system itself. “I’m not going to say that one system is better or worse,” he says.

With either option, a factory can replace Ethernet cables with wireless connections, making it easier to move factory lines around and allowing for self-driving vehicles.

The biggest problem for enterprises today, Del Sesto says, is that the tablets and sensors and other IoT devices factories use aren’t yet ready for 5G. That will come, he says. Until then, factories might want to experiment with 5G gateways that gather data from IoT devices via wired connections but backhaul to data centers via 5G.

“By putting the sensors on a gateway, you usually save a bunch of installation money,” he says. “And there’s the flexibility. If you need to move a factory line, it’s a lot easier to move the gateway than to reroute all the Ethernet cable.”

Australian Football League taps system integrator

Marvel Stadium, an arena owned by the Australian Football League, chose to go with systems integrator Accenture for its private 5G network. Accenture partnered with Google Cloud and Australian telecom Telstra for the deployment, which is set to go live in in March of 2023.

The private 5G network will allow fans to navigate the stadium using smartphones. They’ll also be able to hold up their phone cameras to receive information about the environment or to access content such as player statistics and promotional communications from the football league. Other applications include augmented reality (AR) multi-player games and pre-game AR shows

“Technology such as 5G, AR and cloud have a wealth of potential to create new and innovative experiences,” says Behren Schulz, Accenture’s director of design and innovation in Australia and New Zealand.

Click here to read the full article from NETWORKWORLD.

The average US 5G connection is getting faster

Posted on September 21, 2023

The average US 5G connection is getting faster

T-Mobile is still the fastest 5G provider in the US by some distance, but all three of the major national mobile service providers recorded major increases in their average connection speed between March and June of this year, according to a report released today by Opensignal.

Much of the across-the-board increase, the report said, is due to the carriers beginning to use the mid-band 5G spectrum that was auctioned off recently by the FCC. Opensignal said that areas where C-band spectrum is available have seen noticeable improvements to average connection speeds.

Other areas of mid-band spectrum, however, are the reason why T-Mobile continues to boast a substantial lead over both AT&T and Verizon in Opensignal’s speed tests. T-Mobile averages 171Mbps over a 5G connection, compared to 72Mbps for Verizon and 53Mbps for AT&T, thanks in large part to its early acquisition of 2.5GHz spectrum, the researchers said.

“However, T-Mobile is not remaining idle and is continuing to advance the quality of its users’ 5G experience with rising 5G download speed and other measures,” the report said. “This is a clear indication that the carrier is pushing ahead on its plans to expand both breadth and depth of its mid-band 2.5 GHz 5G network.”

Verizon’s more rapid C-band build-out gave it a larger percentage bump to 5G speeds than its competitors, rising by nearly 30% over its mark since the last report. That compares favorably to a 10% bump seen by AT&T over the same period. The lower band 2.5GHz signals used by T-Mobile also offer an advantage in coverage range, given their stronger ability to propagate over long distances, and the report found that T-Mobile’s 5G network was available 40% of the time, compared to almost 19% for AT&T and just 10% for Verizon.There were also significant variations in average speeds when broken out by region, according to Opensignal – Verizon’s 72Mbps national average was pushed upward by figures of 100Mbps in several states, including Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Indiana and Michigan. AT&T posted numbers of between 79.3Mbps and 82Mbps in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

The major carriers are more tightly grouped when it comes to upload speeds, however. T-Mobile still leads, at 17.8Mbps, but Verizon and AT&T are close behind at 14Mbps and 10Mbps, respectively.

Click here to read the full article from NETWORKWORLD.

T-Mobile Now Serving Up High-Performance 5G ‘Network Slicing’

Posted on September 13, 2023

T-Mobile Now Serving Up High-Performance 5G ‘Network Slicing’

Serving up something good one slice at a time isn’t just for pizza; it’s also been a longtime goal of 5G. And now after years of “network slicing” not living up to earlier delivery predictions, T-Mobile says it’s begun offering this high-performance flavor of 5G wireless to customers.

In a post Monday on T-Mobile’s corporate blog, EVP and chief technology officer John Saw recounted how T-Mobile had staged a first-ever commercial deployment of network slicing to support Red Bull’s 2023 Cliff Diving World Series in Boston.

Saw writes that the carrier provided a virtualized slice of its 5G network for Red Bull’s exclusive use so that it could “easily and quickly transfer high-resolution content from cameras and a video drone circling the event to the Red Bull production team in near real-time over T-Mobile 5G” at speeds that topped out at 276Mbps.

And because this slice was cut off from the rest of T-Mobile’s network, this traffic didn’t slow down device use for T-Mobile subscribers at that June event. Saw compared that to the robotaxi meltdown that hit San Francisco in August, when a network traffic jam led to a physical traffic jam as a cluster of Cruise self-driving cars stopped in streets.

(Cruise doesn’t advertise which carrier it uses; the 2021 announcement of a collaboration between AT&T and Cruise’s parent company GM to provide 5G connectivity to its cars could be a clue, but Cruise’s PR department did not answer a query emailed Monday morning.)

Network slicing was one of the original sales pitches for 5G, and constituted a germ of technological truth inside vaporous claims that 5G would make self-driving cars possible. But making slicing a commercial reality has proved to be much more complicated than lighting up 5G service for smartphones.

T-Mobile tackled one major prerequisite for slicing by deploying “standalone” 5G—meaning it does not require an LTE connection to establish an initial link to a device—starting in 2020. It’s since backed multiple startups looking to build advanced apps on its 5G network, some of which would work much better with slicing, and at the start of August announced a beta test of slicing for real-time video-calling applications.

AT&T and Verizon have had a slower start, with the former beginning to deploy standalone 5G this spring while the latter began its standalone deployment last year. Verizon also announced its own network slicing demonstrations in June.


All three carriers, along with many analysts, see offering network slicing and other value-added services to business customers as one of the wireless industry’s best ways to build a business model that doesn’t rely too much on selling undifferentiated bandwidth to everyday consumers, a scenario that industry insiders disparagingly call being a “dumb pipe.”

Click here to read the full article from PCMag.


Cable Internet Weaker Than Expected as Fiber and 5G Home Internet Dominates Growth

Posted on September 6, 2023

Cable Internet Weaker Than Expected as Fiber and 5G Home Internet Dominates Growth

The past few years has shown that having a quick, reliable internet connection is a must-have. As a result, consumers are increasingly fleeing cable for newer and faster alternatives.

That’s according to study conducted by RVA LLC on behalf of the Fiber Broadband Association, part of an annual study that looks at the changing dynamics of the internet industry. The study, with a sample size of 4,000, found 17% of respondents had switched internet service providers. Fiber-optic lines, which offer the highest speeds possible, picked up 15% of those switchers, while wireless internet nabbed 11%. Cable was the biggest loser, having contributed most of those switchers, with satellite a distant second.

The numbers underscore a desire by consumers to seek out the fastest available service, or barring fiber service, the most convenient with 5G home internet service. Interestingly, those wireless gains come despite that option emerging in a bigger way in just the last few years, compared to the longer legacy of fiber. Indeed, interest has picked up for wireless home internet, which we call Cord Cutting 2.0, because of the clear pricing, convenience and ease of installation.

While Verizon and T-Mobile have been in the 5G home internet game for a while, AT&T last week made its first foray into the business, launching in 16 markets.

“Wireless share improvement came from 5G bandwidth improvement, especially in areas where low quality DSL, low quality cable modem, wireless, or satellite were the only previous choices to the consumer,” the FBA study said.

An interesting stat in the report is how RVA breaks down the market share of internet providers. The study says cable internet only makes up 47% of the total internet business, which is far lower than other studies that are closer to two-thirds of the market. RVA said the difference lies in how it calculates the total market, noting that other studies look at the sum of cable subscribers from publicly traded cable companies compared to the total from all publicly traded wireline companies.

RVA, however, takes the much larger total of all household internet users, which gives the total cable industry 54% of the market. But if you excise the cable fiber business, the percentage drops to that 47% mark.

That decline and the shift away from cable comes even as the cable industry has upgraded their existing networks with higher speeds and moving fiber deeper into their network, the study said.

Customers are more happy about their fiber and wireless services, with fiber boasting a net promoter score — a measure of how often a person would recommend a service — of 25%, with wireless following with 18%.

“The level of consumer support for fiber broadband is rather striking,” the study said. “This data, combined with continually increasing (fiber to the home) availability, would certainly suggest continued market share growth for fiber broadband, and potential serious trouble ahead for cable share.”

Click here to read the full article from Cord Cutter News.

How airlines give you internet access at 35,000 feet — and why it still needs a lot of work

Posted on August 30, 2023

How airlines give you internet access at 35,000 feet — and why it still needs a lot of work

Flights used to be a chance to sit back (albeit a bit cramped) and watch a recently released movie or catch up on some reading. Now they’re just another place to log on.

Delta and United each host more than 1.5 million inflight WiFi sessions a month, the airlines told CNN Business, while JetBlue said its service is used by “millions of customers” every year. Southwest declined to share specific numbers but said inflight Wifi is “popular.”

Alaska Airlines, meanwhile, estimates that about 35% of its passengers on average make use of its $8 onboard WiFi services which include surfing the web and streaming.

While most airlines will allow certain messaging apps for free, full internet access in the skies usually comes at a premium, with Delta charging nearly $50 for a monthly pass on US flights (though the airline plans to switch to a $5 per flight per device offering by the end of this year). But with a market that’s currently estimated at around $5 billion and projected to grow to more than $12 billion by 2030, according to research firm Verified Market Research, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Inflight internet has been around for nearly two decades, with aircraft manufacturer Boeing announcing its service, known as Connexion, in April 2000 and debuting it on a Munich-Los Angeles Lufthansa flight in 2004. Boeing discontinued the service in 2006, saying the market for it had “not materialized” as expected. But the advent of smartphones and subsequent efforts by a host of satellite providers and airlines have helped the technology evolve significantly in the past decade — though it still has some catching up to do in order to compare to home and office networks.

How it works

There are two main types of inflight connections. The first, known as air-to-ground or ATG, relies on antennae attached to the aircraft that catch the signal from cellphone towers on the ground.

Intelsat, which launched air-to-ground services with American Airlines in 2008, currently operates a version of the technology on more than 1,000 aircraft across North America.

The one major drawback of this technology is that, much like cellphone service on the ground, it is dependent on the density and connectivity of towers, and so flights over rural areas, deserts or large water bodies are likely to suffer drops in connectivity. The maximum speeds for these systems are currently around 5 megabits per second (which is shared by hundreds of passengers), according to Andrew Zignani, a research director at technology intelligence firm ABI Research who specializes in wireless connectivity. By comparison, median global download speeds for mobile and fixed broadband are around 30 megabits per second and 67 megabits per second respectively, according to recent data from monitoring app Speedtest.

“To date, the biggest issues have been speed, limited availability, gaps in coverage, dropouts, and price,” Zignani told CNN Business.

That’s why airlines and providers are increasingly switching to satellite-based connections that are relatively less susceptible to interruptions because they can more effectively cover the entirety of the flight path from space and keep the signal active as it moves through the air.

That includes Intelsat, which has a network of over 50 satellites serving airlines such as Alaska, American, Delta, United, Air Canada, British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

“As regional jet fleets are refreshed we expect the majority to migrate to satellite-based solutions,” Jeff Sare, Intelsat’s president of commercial aviation, told CNN Business.

Viasat, another major provider used by several airlines around the world, uses its own network of satellites that provide high-speed connectivity and is gearing up to launch another satellite constellation later this year. The company debuted its services with JetBlue in 2013 and now serves more than a dozen airlines around the world.

But even satellite connections are currently capable of around 100 megabits per second per aircraft or around 15 megabits per second per passenger device, a far cry from the speeds terrestrial WiFi is capable of.

Many airlines use a combination of WiFi providers and types of technologies, depending on the type of aircraft and routes they need to be deployed on.

Newer players such as Starlink, the satellite internet service run by billionaire Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, are also entering the fray. Earlier this year, SpaceX announced a partnership with Hawaiian Airlines to provide high-speed internet through Starlink’s network of low-earth orbit satellites.

“Some of these solutions also adopt a hybrid approach, combining the best of both technologies to ensure optimal coverage depending on the specific flight path,” said Zignani. “I believe we will see opportunities for all technologies in the coming years, and recent partnerships are showing that each technology will have its own part to play,” he added.

Challenges and opportunities

There are still gaps between inflight WiFi and the networks you would use in your home, office, a coffee shop, or anywhere on the ground.

While most airline WiFi connections now support messaging and social media functions, and some even have live TV and video streaming capabilities, providing users with the same level of bandwidth and connectivity mid-air can be a challenge.

“The biggest point of difference for inflight WiFi is the complexity added by the mobility element,” Don Buchman, vice president and general manager for commercial aviation at Viasat, told CNN Business. “The aircraft is traveling at a high rate of speed, typically banking during the flight, and often flying across large geographical areas that demand consistent coverage for a high-quality in-flight connectivity experience.”

And while satellites solve for some of the restrictions that cellphone towers face, expanding the satellite network to keep up with increasing demand is not always straightforward.

As Sare of Intelsat puts it: “It is much faster and cheaper to deploy new cellular towers than to launch a satellite on a rocket.”

In a survey by Intelsat last year of airlines, service providers and equipment manufacturers, 65% of respondents said they anticipate increases in the number of passengers who expect to be connected while flying. The two biggest impediments to increasing inflight WiFi adoption, the survey indicated, were the high price of the service and “poor internet connection.”

Companies such as Viasat, Intelsat and Starlink continue to expand that capacity, however, launching more satellites every year in anticipation of the growing demand for their services. That added capacity will not only enhance the online experience for users, but could also potentially give airlines more avenues to monetize and lower the price.

“One example is ad sponsored inflight WiFi so passengers can access WiFi for free and use it however they would like,” Buchman said, adding that Viasat is also exploring ways to use its connectivity services to help airlines with functions such as crew management and aircraft maintenance.

The biggest priority, according to Sare of Intelsat, is shortening the time it takes to make those technological advances happen, and he foresees more partnerships between companies to help move the industry standard forward.

“Our vision is achieved when passengers can’t tell the difference between being connected on the ground and in the air.”

Click here to read the full article from CNN.