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.

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.

How airlines are working to improve inflight wifi

Posted on August 23, 2023

How airlines are working to improve inflight wifi

Alexis Hickox, head of global business development, Cabin Solutions at Collins Aerospace and Boeing’s inflight entertainment and connectivity strategy lead, Bryan Wiltse, reveal the latest in inflight wifi and connectivity thinking.

No matter how large the satcom antenna or well-stocked the server, wireless IFE and communications count on reliable, easily accessed wifi connectivity between aircraft systems and passenger devices.

And while messaging and streaming video keep the customers in the cabin happy, airlines are also finding an increasing role for wifi-enabled data transfer, not only for aircraft health monitoring and safety services, but also inflight planning and crew communications.

Compare your mobile phone, tablet, laptop or games console to the latest product online, and chances are it’s already not the latest model – obsolescence in 12 months is easily achieved and for a long lead time industry that’s as tightly regulated as aerospace, keeping pace is a major headache.

The airlines and connectivity providers have themselves compounded the challenge with years of claiming their service brings a home or office experience to the sky. Some industry insiders claim the experience has improved so quickly that inflight connectivity has struggled to keep pace.

The reality is that when it comes to moving data on or off the aircraft, physics and technology have so far denied airlines the ability to offer a genuine home/office experience to individual passengers, regardless of the quality of service on the ground. With technology continuing to advance, the gap between expectation and delivery is narrowing.

Bryan Wiltse says the OEM works hard to keep pace. “Boeing is constantly evaluating technology and working with expert suppliers in the connectivity space to provide the most current systems available. We work through rigorous evaluation processes to ensure the technology is safe and ready for introduction on a commercial airplane, while the focus on industry standards and standardised installation allows for easier upgrades as technology evolves.”

And, he agrees: “The consumer electronics industry very much drives what we’ll see next in airborne wifi and connectivity. Passengers and airlines will expect the next device, experience or functionality to work in the air as it does on the ground. This will drive future functionality within the connected airplane.”

Inflight wifi, aircraft cabins

Alexis Hickox, head of global business development, Cabin Solutions at Collins Aerospace, has worldwide responsibility for the company’s cabin connectivity business, primarily from the passenger perspective.

She says several elements are responsible for delivering a great wifi passenger experience, including the right broadband network: “We use Inmarsat’s GX aviation network, which is perhaps the highest performing available today.

“Passengers are particularly annoyed by ‘black spots’ between satellites, or their connection dropping off because of patchy satellite networks, put together using capacity provided by different operators. GX is provided by one party, with satellite coverage from overlapping beams, plus spot beams that can be directed at busy areas, delivering a seamless internet experience.”

When airlines wirelessly stream content only from onboard servers, satellite connectivity is irrelevant to wifi efficiency, but when internet connection is offered, wifi becomes only the conduit through which poor quality service is delivered to a passenger device – continuously needing to log back on very quickly becomes ‘extremely onerous’, Hickox says.

Meanwhile, the process of creating a ‘connected airplane’ is changing. Many airlines are continuing to upgrade aircraft fleets for satcom and wifi connectivity, while new-build airliners are increasingly delivered either equipped with IFEC suites, or provisioned ready to accept them with minimal modification.

In fact, the process of installing cabin wifi, streaming IFE and/or satcom connectivity is perhaps less demanding than expected.

Wiltse notes: “All Boeing’s production airplanes are capable of accepting wifi system installations, although they remain a customer choice, and airlines must select them for installation. Post-production installations can be purchased through Boeing Global Services.

“The difference between a production and retrofit installation is minimal. Regardless, installations include the same system hardware – broadband satellite antenna and subsystem, file server and wireless access points. The differences, if any, will typically be in the system wiring and equipment location. We provide post-production support, while Boeing Global Services supports airline requests for connectivity.”

Inflight wifi: IFE, connectivity

Considering the work required to engineer an aircraft for wifi, Wiltse reports: “Boeing has not made any specific airplane design or material changes to support wifi systems, but we have completed extensive airplane-level testing to determine the most advantageous equipment installation locations to maximise wireless coverage within the airplane. These optimised installation locations allow for the best possible aircraft wifi environment for the passengers and crew.”

Collins Aerospace’s Hickox explains the essential architecture of a cabin wifi network. “A wireless LAN infrastructure, capable of supporting multiple user sessions simultaneously, is required. Collins Aerospace uses a Miltote offering, which we’ve integrated into our overall solution.

“It means each wireless access point [WAP] can support around 60 high-definition streams concurrently, plus 255 IP addresses. On a narrowbody we’d usually install four WAPs, and five on a widebody, providing coverage for 240 passengers concurrently on the narrowbody and 300 on the widebody.

“Looking at a Collins Aerospace solution from a hardware perspective, it first requires the satellite hardware, comprising a modman, Ka-band aircraft network data unit [KANDU], radio frequency unit, antenna and radome. In the cabin, the wireless hub is a gateway server, linked to the WAPs with cabling.”

Collins Aerospace focuses on providing connectivity through its wireless IFE, but Hickox says the wifi architecture for a ‘simple’ streaming system linked only to an onboard server, would essentially be identical.

Considering the cabin as a wifi environment, Hickox reckons delivering good coverage is really relatively simple, a statement that may surprise those of us whose phones pick up their home router 100ft away in the garden, but fail to see it from the adjacent room. “The aircraft cabin isn’t a difficult environment for wifi. And, using high-performing WAPs that cover a considerable range, we can create separate SSIDs, creating discrete VPN networks for the crew and passengers. Neither interferes with the other and they’re securely managed.”

Cybersecurity ought to be a major concern in just about every aspect of our day-to-day lives, including when we connect to a wifi network and onto the internet during a flight. Collins Aerospace manages individual passenger security from the ground, via a system employing Sandvine cybersecurity software.

Inflight wifi, personal electronic devices

“It manages the network, helping optimise the passenger experience and providing tools, including TCP accelerators, to ensure data is protected. Our service is PCI compliant, so all data is also protected according to local rules and regulations.”

Hickox mentions Collins Aerospace’s ground infrastructure frequently, and it’s clearly a key component in delivering its IFE and communications offering, right down to the wifi that connects passenger devices via WAP to the server and onto broadband.

What does the infrastructure look like? “We integrate into Inmarsat’s network and we have New York and London as our primary ‘meet me’ points. They integrate into our ‘private’ global network, which is able to route data back to airline headquarters, for example. We also have our own data centres and capability to interface into airline networks.”

Beyond happy passengers

Hickox notes that Collins Aerospace is primarily seeing its airline customers seeking connectivity solution as a means of entertaining passengers, enabling them to source their own, online amusement.

Happy passengers certainly help make profitable airlines, but Hickox acknowledges there’s considerably more potential in wifi connectivity than simply entertaining customers. Gate and other aircraft communications can speed flight preparations, inform preventative maintenance and keep passenger data updated.

Boeing’s Wiltse says there’s no need for airlines to wait for suitable technology: “The capability to connect the airplane from gate-to-gate is available today. The ground connection can leverage various types of technology – cellular, 802.11, 802.16 and so on.

“In addition, the capability for continued use of the satellite broadband connection is now approved. Moving data – passenger manifest, catering requests, airplane health, media content and more – can be accomplished in multiple ways both on the ground and in the air.”

Airlines are already exploiting the potential of wifi at its most simple – in the cabin – as well as employing it as an operational tool, but must carefully apply resources to the critical, ongoing task of delivering quality customer support; passengers are typically uninterested in the mechanics, or physics, of an IFEC system, until it breaks.

Inflight wifi: IFE, connectivity

Airlines, providers and OEMs are therefore well advised to have robust customer service provision in place as an essential component of their overall connectivity provision.

It’s a requirement Collins Aerospace recognises. Hickox explains: “We have a number of ground-based tools and operational systems providing customer support and the capability to monitor all the communications and hardware on an aircraft, through our satcom dashboard.

“It actually covers flight deck and cabin, showing any problems with onboard equipment. We also have a content management system that airlines have access to, so they can manage their passenger internet packages.

“It means they can analyse requirements on individual routes and tweak the specific internet offering to best serve their customers. So, there’s the passenger and content management side of things, including the AVOD and internet packages, which the airline performs directly, and then the operational side, where Collins Aerospace works.”

The company gathers performance and health data from the cabin wifi system in flight, just as it does from its IFE servers and satcom equipment. Information on aircraft movement returns to the ground via ACARS, enabling Collins Aerospace to follow it using its flight tracking functionality.

“We also monitor the connectivity status and aircraft communications, via the satcom network. It consumes a very small slice of the ‘pie’ of data coming off the aircraft.”

Personal devices

Anyone who’s enthusiastically tackled the packaging on a wireless speaker freshly arrived from Amazon will know that connecting even the simplest devices via wifi, or even Bluetooth, isn’t always quite as straightforward as it ought to be.

Inflight wifi to which a passenger can’t connect is perhaps almost as frustrating as a network that continuously drops out. And yet passengers from all over the world travel on airliners flown by international operators, bringing with them devices of various capabilities and specifications.

How does Collins Aerospace ensure they will all connect with the minimum of hassle?

“We support pretty much all operating systems and devices, but if we see an anomaly from a particular country, we test the affected devices in our lab as part of the programme implementation test phase. We test extensively to ensure our systems are compatible with indigenous devices and hardware.”

The process obviously requires that Collins Aerospace keep a close eye on the types of device likely to come on board when a new operator begins using its IFE systems, but there’s actually even more to it than that. “There’s also the challenge of what particular apps or messaging applications a country might have. We have to ensure our systems on the ground and in the air will interface with those as well.”

With the vast potential of satcom and wifi already extensively exploited, what’s next for the industry? Speaking for Collins Aerospace, Alexis Hickox first considers past challenges.

“Looking at the early providers in North America, the model was to provide full hardware and service, offering carriers a potentially low cost entry. I think the challenge now is for airlines to justify the investment in hardware and service provision, and the vendors need to help them find the business case that strikes the right balance between investment and return. It’s something Collins Aerospace can do well because we have so many systems on the aircraft and on the ground.

“Today, we find that when an airline is looking to move forward with internet provision, the evaluation stage is really about the business case and what they’ll do with the service. Providing internet to passengers is an important part and their expectation that it will be available is the major driver, but not the only benefit to the airline.

“Using the broadband link and secure flight deck wifi access for EFB applications, for example, or providing real-time, inflight data access and offload, deliver real operational advantages.

“Wireless IFE is also far more dynamic than traditional in-seat systems. Much of it is software-driven and airlines have considerably greater control over what they can do and when they can do it. Rather than having to wait for their IFE provider to support content changes, for example, they can do it themselves.”

Asked how Boeing sees its wifi future, Wiltse’s response is understandably circumspect: “The world has become more connected and the ever-increasing number of connected ‘things’ certainly provides intriguing opportunities within aerospace. Boeing is exploring the significant potential of this space.”

Click here to read the full article from Aviation Business News.

People are just realizing Wi-Fi speed is ruined by two common household activities – including heating problem

Posted on August 16, 2023

People are just realizing Wi-Fi speed is ruined by two common household activities – including heating problem

TWO household activities that many people do every day can negatively impact your Wi-Fi signal. They’re not always easily avoided, but it’s good to be aware of how they impact your Wi-Fi – and how you can make small changes to minimize their effect. That way you can try and plan important video calls or downloads for specific times.

How you clean and heat your home could be affecting your Wi-Fi

How you clean and heat your home could be affecting your Wi-FiCredit: Getty

The first activity is vacuuming your home.

Using your vacuum near your Wi-Fi router might disrupt your speed. This isn’t constantly happening and can depend on where you’re cleaning. Some interference is possible due to the electric motor in vacuums and the radiation they can emit. Once you switch the vacuum off or are at a suitable distance, any disruption should stop.

The second household activity that can slow your Wi-Fi is heating your home.

How you heat your home probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of your Wi-Fi performance but it can affect it. Underfloor heating can cause big problems when it comes to internet speed, according to Eye Networks. It’s definitely something worth considering if you expect your Wi-Fi signal to reach multiple floors. That’s because underfloor heating involves metal. Metal is a hard substance for Wi-Fi signals to penetrate. Anyone using hydronics to heat their home might also encounter some Wi-Fi issues. Hydronic heating involves liquid water or gas moving around pipes in your home.

Water is another difficult substance for Wi-Fi signals to move through. That’s because water easily absorbs the radiation sent out by your router, leaving a black hole with no signal around the area in question. To try and resolve these issues, move your router away from pipes and large amounts of water. Try and keep it raised and as central in your home as possible.

Click here to read the full article from The U.S. Sun.

A 5G wireless future begins with fiber

Posted on August 9, 2023

A 5G wireless future begins with fiber

In the soap opera that has become contemporary politics, every idea seems to generate vast amounts of polarized hysteria. Take, for instance, the seemingly innocuous announcement by Britain’s opposition Labour party in the run-up to the forthcoming general election of a plan to provide every home and business with a fiber broadband connection. That idea was simultaneously decried as a crackpot communist scheme and heralded as a visionary idea to revolutionize the country.

It was, of course, neither. But what it did—intentionally or not, and whatever your personal politics—was highlight the indispensable role that fiber broadband plays in the future of every developed and developing nation.

The future of communications is wireless, but the future of wireless is fixed.

The politics of 5G

It’s true that the future of communications is wireless, but the future of wireless is fixed. 5G mobile technology is going to be the star, there’s no doubt about that. But without fiber supporting it, 5G’s star will not shine nearly as bright nor as far as it should.

The technical arguments for why 5G needs fiber have been well documented and, fundamentally, come down to the simple math of needing high-capacity backhaul for the massive amounts of low-latency, high-bandwidth traffic that 5G will create. What’s less well documented are the economic and political arguments for supporting 5G with fiber.

Firstly, there is a simple fact that better communications increase GDP. From the invention of the telegraph to successive generations of mobile technology, each period of augmented connectivity is accompanied by an economic boost. Consequently, there is a clear correlation between a nation’s wealth, its mobile performance and fiber penetration. In other words, the regions benefiting the most from wireless communication have the best fixed access networks.

In providing that connectivity, it is the converged operators—those operating both fixed and wireless access networks—that demonstrate the best returns. Convergence tends to bring operational efficiencies, cost efficiencies and more customer value in the shape of bundled wired/wireless offers. In recent years, these returns have been driving M&A activity between mobile-only and fixed-only operators.


High fiber availability = faster 5G deployments = faster time to market

These macro-level observations on the mutually beneficial relationship between fiber and 5G are backed up by some micro-level explanations.

Firstly, avoiding 5G is not an option, at least not for long. ARPUs from current mobile services are falling around 2 percent per annum. 5G is expected to provide a 3 percent per annum uplift through innovative business applications and premium consumer services. But to realize these new 5G revenues, operators must invest not only in 5G but in mobile backhaul as well.

There are only two backhaul technologies that can cope with the high-throughput and low-latency demands of 5G: microwave and fiber. Microwave is the lower-CAPEX option but can only cope with 5G performance levels for a single hop in the range of about a kilometer. What’s more, 5G networks will require significantly more radio cells than 3G or 4G due to the increased capacity and reduced range of 5G. As a result, the density of backhaul capacity for 5G is many times higher than 4G. Whether operators choose an all-fiber or a hybrid microwave–fiber backhaul strategy, there will always be a need for a significant investment in fiber.

Richer nations with well-developed fiber networks can look forward to a 25 percent return on capital within 11 years.

So how do operators turn a buck? Some detailed analysis from Nokia Bell Labs paints a difficult picture. While every 5G deployment will make a loss during its first few years, the richer nations with well-developed fiber networks can look forward to a 25 percent return on capital within 11 years.

However, operators that need to deploy a significant amount of fiber could see a 60 percent drop in their return on capital in the first five years. That’s an untenable prospect, so it’s no wonder that the early 5G announcements are primarily coming from operators in countries that already have high fiber availability. Everyone else needs to come up with some innovative fiber investment strategies if 5G is going to take off.

Sharing is caring

The obvious solution is for the fiber investment to be shared somehow. The idea behind any common infrastructure investments—be they road, rail, electricity or communications—is that it makes economic sense for the cost of the network deployment (which has a long payback period) to be communized and for profits made from delivering innovative services by competing service providers to be privatized.

In our future 5G world, a common fiber network would ensure that operators and enterprises have open and economical access to fiber for 5G backhaul needs and so they can focus on the rapid development of service innovations for industrial customers.

Consider Stockholm in Sweden, where a public body responsible for a city-wide fiber network currently reaches 90 percent of homes and 100 percent of businesses. It is no surprise that Stockholm was one of the first cities in the world to be 5G-ready. A recent FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) Council Europe study claims that where there is FTTH, the incremental cost to make the network 5G-ready are marginal: you virtually get 5G fiber connectivity for free.

Similar fiber/5G symbiosis can be found in Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Qatar. Different countries have, of course, different means and different starting points. Nevertheless, there are some common principles emerging:

  • A community- or country-wide commitment to and prioritization of digital connectivity in order to drive economic prosperity and living standards.
  • A joined-up approach to the infrastructure where transport, utility and communication networks are deployed in cooperation with and consideration of each other. This is perhaps where developing economies can play catch-up, building out their fiber networks as they develop other core infrastructure.
  • Governmental organizations and private enterprises cooperating to ensure fair opportunity for incumbent operators, alternative operators, and investors.

The economics of fiber infrastructure suggest that 5G’s potential won’t be realized by relying on market forces alone. A concerted socio-political effort will be needed as well.

Click here to read the full article from Nokia.

AT&T Expands 5G and Fiber Nationwide

Posted on August 2, 2023

AT&T Expands 5G and Fiber Nationwide

AT&T Expands 5G and Fiber to Connect Rural, Urban and Tribal Communities Nationwide

Nationwide Coverage Surpasses 2.91 Million Square Miles; Tribal Land Coverage Increases by 40% in Last 2 Years

What’s the news? From Fiber to 5G, AT&T* has hit significant network milestones that are aggressively expanding coverage, increasing capacity and strengthening network resiliency. Over the past 5 years (2018–2022), AT&T invested more than $140 billion primarily in our U.S. wireless and wireline networks, including capital investments and acquisitions of wireless spectrum.1 It’s helping us open the door to a world of possibility for people and businesses across the AT&T network and helping first responders save lives with mission-critical connectivity on the FirstNet® network. See how we’re doing it:

Setting the bar for network resiliency: We’re focused on becoming the best, biggest and most resilient network in America. Last year, we led the industry by establishing a 3rd “emergency” pathway to each mobility network hub (MTSO) to combat extreme weather and climate events as well as increasing instabilities in the commercial power infrastructure landscape. Thanks to this initiative, we’ve reduced the likelihood of major outages by nearly 35%. And we’re undergoing the largest refresh of our power backup systems in the history of our network – investing millions of dollars in generators, batteries and systems to help keep our network up and running when there is a local power outage. In addition, using network digital twin, we’re able to simplify processes, model resiliency measures and forecast how to optimize our build. And we’ve been working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to model future climate impacts through our Climate Change Analysis Tool. These insights are helping us make data-driven decisions for how we prioritize resiliency investments for the future. And when Mother Nature does strike, we’re at the ready with one of the largest and most advanced disaster recovery programs of its kind.

Connecting people on the go: We have the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider.2 And with the largest wireless network in America,3 we now cover more than 2.91 million square miles. That’s an increase of about 100,000 square miles in 2022, or like covering the entire United Kingdom. And we’ve grown America’s Most Reliable 5G Network4 to reach 290 million people in nearly 24,000 cities and towns across the U.S.

We’ve also increased coverage by more than 40% on federally recognized tribal lands in the last 2 years (2020 – 2022) thanks to public-private partnerships like FirstNet and those created through the American Rescue Plan, as well as our own investment initiatives. This includes places like Cherokee Nation in Kenwood, Oklahoma where people previously had to drive more than 10 miles to get mobile cell service.

Plus, as of the end of 2022, more than 150 million people could take advantage of our mid-band 5G spectrum – more than double our original end-of-year 2022 target. We also doubled the number of venues and airports with AT&T 5G+ last year to now bring super-fast speeds and increased connectivity to parts of more than 50 cities and nearly 70 venues and airports in the U.S.

Connecting first responders: As America’s public safety’s communications partner, we’re giving more of the public safety community access to their network. FirstNet already covers 99%+ of the U.S. population, covering more first responders than any network5. And now public safety on FirstNet has access to 250,000+ more square miles than competing commercial network offerings. We’ve also surpassed 99%+ of our Band 14 coverage target with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), delivering more dedicated connectivity to federal, state, tribal, territorial, urban and rural first responders when they need it.

Building a network for tomorrow: Fiber is our foundation. In fact, we have so much fiber that you could stretch it to the moon and back 3 times. In 2022, we laid more than 60,000 miles of fiber in the U.S. alone. All that fiber helps carry more than 594 petabytes of data traffic on an average day, up 23% year-over-year (or the equivalent of streaming nearly 40 million 2-hour long movies in HD).

And as the nation’s largest fiber internet provider,6 we’re committed to providing more Americans with access to reliable, high-speed broadband. This is critical as people are consuming roughly 30 times more data in their own homes than on the go with smartphones. Currently, AT&T Fiber is available to more households than any other fiber internet service.6 And we’ve passed 24 million locations – including 4 million business locations – in 100+ U.S. metros7 – that’s on track to pass 30+ million locations by the end of 2025.

As much as we depend on connectivity today, we think this is only the beginning. It’s why we’re also testing and helping develop innovative, out-of-this-world satellite solutions for remote and challenging geographic locations. This includes our collaboration with AST SpaceMobile on testing the first-of-its-kind space-based cellular broadband network (i.e., voice, text and video) accessible directly by standard mobile phones – helping to one day keep you connected, anywhere.

Learn more about coverage in your local area or read more FirstNet news.

What are people saying?

Chris Sambar
Head of AT&T Network

“Society thrives on connection. And our people, resources and expertise are what’s making AT&T the best connectivity provider. These network milestones reinforce this, and we’ll continue to expand and fortify our infrastructure to give more communities – rural, urban and tribal – access to the connectivity we all rely on.”

Lynda Zambrano
Executive Director, National Tribal Emergency Management Council

“There has been historical underinvestment in broadband infrastructure on Tribal Nations. FirstNet, Built with AT&T is helping tackle this problem by making buildout for Tribal communities a priority. With this expanded connectivity, Tribal first responders have new tools to help them communicate and coordinate their emergency operations to serve our tribal communities.”

Click here to read the full article from AT&T.

Why Fiber Is the Key to Getting Faster 5G Everywhere

Posted on July 26, 2023

Why Fiber Is the Key to Getting Faster 5G Everywhere

The government’s $42.5 billion investment in physical broadband infrastructure could be a game-changer for getting 5G to more places, from suburbs to rural communities.

During the pandemic, Liora Bram got even more accustomed to juggling work with family. As life began to open up in the spring, and her children returned to their regular routines of school and sports practices, Bram found herself running her small public relations business from her car as she waited for school pickup or on the sidelines at a baseball game.

She expected her new iPhone 13 and 5G wireless service from Verizon Wireless to help her take her home office mobile. But that’s not what happened. More often than not, she’s found herself unable to access critical apps like Microsoft Outlook because she can’t get a signal. Now she’s just accepted that in some parts of town she has no access.

Bram said she’s chalked up the poor service quality to the fact that she doesn’t live in an urban center and that the 5G signal just may not be robust enough yet. Her town of North Grafton, Massachusetts, is about 40 miles west of Boston. Her community of roughly 7,800 residents isn’t a dense suburban market, but she noted that it’s not exactly rural either.

“I just assumed that a 5G device and service would mean everything would be faster,” she said. “My phone is my lifeline for managing my work and my household. I just don’t understand why I can’t replicate the connection and experience I get at home wherever I am. That to me was the promise of 5G, and that’s not what I’m getting right now.

Kevin King, a director of communications for Verizon, said he isn’t sure why Bram is having issues, since the company’s coverage map shows that its 5G Ultra Wideband service is offered in her town. He also said the company is in the midst of expanding its C-band midband spectrum, which today covers more than 100 million people around the country and is expected to cover at least 175 million by the end of the year.

Still, Bram isn’t alone in her frustration. While we’re still a long way from seeing any of the much-hyped futuristic applications that 5G was supposed to bring, like autonomous vehicles or augmented reality, even the promised higher download speeds and super responsive networks have been inconsistent or simply unavailable to most people, especially those who live outside big cities or dense suburban communities.

But there’s a potential answer to her 5G coverage issue: more fiber.

Fiber-optic lines buried underground or strung on utility poles might seem counterintuitive when all you hear about are ads talking about wireless everything, but an investment in old-fashioned physical infrastructure is critical to ensure those wireless signals can get to more places and people.  That’s because those signals don’t actually travel that far — hopping between your phone and a local cell tower or base station that’s hooked into that physical infrastructure.

A driver with one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding a cellphone
The promise of 5G for many is being able to take their home office on the go, like while waiting in the car line at school pickup. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

There’s reason to be hopeful on the fiber front. The federal government plans to pour more than $42.5 billion into broadband as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in 2021. The money, which is being distributed through the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration directly to states, is supposed to ensure all Americans have access to affordable, consistent high-speed internet.

Experts have called it a historic opportunity to finally end the digital divide. While the program appears intent on getting fiber connected directly to people’s homes, wireless experts say it could also provide a much needed boost to core infrastructure that can be tapped for mobile 5G in less densely populated areas and rural regions.

Getting broadband — both wired and wireless — to more places is critical as the affordable housing crisis pushes more people beyond the suburbs in rural and exurban areas. That includes North Grafton, which is close enough to commute to a big city, but not dense enough to be considered a true suburb. Those regions have traditionally suffered from poor service because carriers worry there are too few customers to justify the investment.

“It’s a big deal,” said Ben Moncrief, executive vice president of C Spire operations in Alabama. The Mississippi-based regional service provider has been building a fiber network throughout Mississippi and Alabama to support its own regional wireless network and deliver fiber broadband to homes and businesses. “This kind of money, especially in rural areas, could accelerate 5G networks and help lots of small carriers get to places they otherwise weren’t able to get to because the population density is too low.”

But wireless experts concede that access to fiber isn’t the only help needed from the feds to make 5G in rural areas a reality.  Rural and smaller wireless carriers still need federal programs to help fund the deployment of next-generation service in these markets, too.

“Fiber alone is not going to get us nationwide 5G,” said Tim Donovan, senior vice president of legislative affairs for the Competitive Carrier Association. “It’s an important part, but there’s a lot more to it.”

5G needs fiber

It doesn’t matter which “G” or generation of wireless technology we’re talking about, all wireless networks need to hand off traffic to high-speed, hardwired infrastructure.

“The first rule of building a wireless network is to get signals out of the air and into the ground at the first available point,” said Gary Bolton, who heads the Fiber Broadband Association. “It’s like building a house, you need a strong foundation of infrastructure. And fiber is key, because it’s future proof.”

It’s this future-proofing that led C Spire to start investing in fiber infrastructure in the early 2000s. More than 20 years later, the regional carrier, which operates throughout Mississippi, the Memphis metropolitan area, the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama including Mobile, has several thousand miles of fiber-optic cable it uses for backhaul for its wireless business as well as a fiber-to-the-home broadband service.

“The company leadership recognized a long time ago that fiber was essential to improving the quality of the customers’ wireless experience,” Moncrief said. “It’s just capable of carrying such huge capacity.”

The investment has allowed the company to keep up with larger national players AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile in offering the latest 5G service.

There are two big technical reasons why fiber backhaul is critical to 5G. First, because 5G is able to connect more devices and will eventually offer real-time feedback to fuel applications, like self-driving cars and advanced augmented reality experiences, it needs lots of capacity to carry all that data.

Second, true 5G relies on a mix of so-called midband and millimeter wave spectrum that operate at much higher frequencies than the low-band spectrum used to deploy 4G LTE. Because this spectrum is higher frequency, its transmission range is considerably shorter than low-band frequencies used for 4G. This means 5G networks that use midband frequencies in rural areas will need many more cell towers. And those cell towers will need access to more fiber backhaul.

“The future of 5G networks and really any next-generation network depends upon our ability to densify, enrich and build out as much fiber as quickly as we can,” said Chip Pickering, a former Republican congressman from Mississippi and now CEO of Incompas, a trade association advocating for competition policy across all networks. “Whether it’s 5G, low-orbit satellite, fixed wireless, small cell wireless network; the more fiber we have around the country, the more it enables all the other types of network technologies to be high capacity, highly reliable, and redundant.”

The promise of federal money

Building wireless and broadband networks in rural America is incredibly expensive, and in some places, it’s nearly impossible due to the terrain. But in most cases, the real barrier is low population density. Broadband and wireless providers simply won’t offer service if they can’t get enough customers to pay for it.

It’s a problem that policymakers have faced for decades as they try to close the digital divide. Despite billions of dollars being spent by the federal government to subsidize the cost of building infrastructure throughout the country, the lack of connectivity in rural America still persists.

This is where NTIA’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program and other programs funded by the Jobs Act come in. The Jobs Act allocated $42.5 billion to go toward building broadband access in areas of the country where it doesn’t yet exist. NTIA has also established another $1 billion program to provide funding for middle mile projects, which is the part of the internet infrastructure serving regional networks.

As part of its rules, the agency stated it will prioritize projects that will “provision service via end-to-end fiber-optic facilities to each end-user premises.” The main objective by making fiber a priority is to ensure that federal dollars are being spent on infrastructure that can be easily and affordably upgraded in the future. But NTIA also noted the importance of leveraging the fiber for other technology, like next-generation wireless because “new fiber deployments will facilitate the deployment and growth of 5G and other advanced wireless services, which rely extensively on fiber for essential backhaul,” the agency said in its published rules.

Access to fiber could be especially beneficial to smaller rural carriers, most of which can’t afford to build their own fiber backhaul networks.  According to a cost model analysis commissioned by CCA in 2021, the total price tag to offer ubiquitous 5G coverage in unserved rural markets would be about $36 billion. Access to fiber backhaul would put a big dent in that cost.

“If the fiber is readily available for carriers to access for backhaul, we can take that cost down by $6 billion,” CCA’s Donovan said. “So that’s a significant savings that can help get 5G built everywhere, even in the most rural and remote areas.”

Not as easy as it sounds

If NTIA is able to fulfill its mission of getting fiber deeper into more communities, it could be a game-changer for 5G in rural markets. And 5G in these markets means that the aspirational applications like autonomous vehicles or round-the-clock mobile medical monitoring can actually become reality, because to truly make these applications useful, a network needs to be ubiquitous even for folks just driving or passing through those regions.

But Donovan offers one big caveat: Small carriers still need access to this infrastructure, which is easier said than done. He said there are places today in rural areas where fiber already exists, but smaller carriers still can’t get access to it.

“If a fiber provider won’t make it available for a reasonable price, you basically have an interstate highway without an on-ramp,” he said.

Donovan also emphasized that backhaul is only one piece of the puzzle. Smaller rural carriers still need federal funding and support through the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund programs to make 5G a reality in rural and less densely populated regions of the country.

“We’ve been building wireless networks for 40 years now in this country,” he said. “If there’s a place that hasn’t been served yet, there’s probably a reason. Financial support through USF and other federal programs specific to the 5G deployment are still going to be an important part of fixing this issue, along with having access to wireless spectrum.”

For Bram and the hundreds of thousands of others out there waiting for 5G to truly come to their town, the ubiquitous coverage can’t come soon enough.

“Right now it feels like things were actually better with my old 4G phone and service,” she said. “And that’s really frustrating. All I want is for things to work consistently, so I can stop stressing.”

Click here to read the full article from CNET.

Apple strikes ‘multibillion-dollar’ deal with Broadcom for 5G parts

Posted on July 12, 2023

Apple strikes ‘multibillion-dollar’ deal with Broadcom for 5G parts

Apple’s long-expected switch to internally developed 5G modems is clearly moving forward. The iPhone maker has struck a “multibillion-dollar” deal that will have Broadcom develop components for 5G and other wireless connectivity. Some of the parts will be made in American facilities, including a key Broadcom manufacturing base in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The companies didn’t say which products would use the 5G tech, but the arrangement isn’t necessarily limited to the iPhone. Apple is believed to have started work on in-house 5G in 2020, a year after buying the majority of Intel’s phone modem business. The company hasn’t been shy about its plans, as it has recruited 5G developers and set up shop in Qualcomm’s hometown of San Diego. It also established a wireless-focused office in Munich.

Rumors suggest Apple’s 5G modems will first reach shipping products in late 2024 or early 2025. Neither Apple nor Broadcom has confirmed this, but Qualcomm told CNBC in March it assumes it won’t provide iPhone modems in 2024.

This could be a significant blow to Qualcomm. While the company has diversified its chipmaking with in-car tech and low-power hardware, it’s still heavily dependent on cellular modem sales and counts Apple as one of its largest customers. It will have to lean more on Android phone makers to bolster its bottom line. Qualcomm chips for Windows PCs have struggled to compete against x86-based equivalents.

Apple’s anticipated move isn’t surprising. The company has long tried to reduce its dependency on third parties, most notably switching to its own CPUs starting with the A4-based iPad in 2010. While Apple may need Broadcom’s help, it won’t be closely tied to Qualcomm’s hardware release schedule — and might not risk expensive patent disputes, either. In theory, Apple could claim a technological edge by building 5G modems uniquely optimized for its devices.

Click here to read the full article from engadget.