Europe’s Digital Divide Auction

Regulators across Europe are auctioning spectrum this year in the the 800MHz Digital Dividend spectrum and at the 2.6GHz frequency. Norway, Finland and Sweden auctioned their spectrum in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively, while Germany, Denmark, and Austria held auctions in 2010. France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland and Belgium are all expected to have spectrum auctions this year.

The Digital Divide Spectrum is the spectrum freed up by the transition to digital television, since it needs less spectrum. In Europe, it is from 174 to 230 MHz (VHF) and from 470 to 862 MHz (UHF). However, the location and size of digital dividend vary among countries. Most carriers plan to use LTE on the new spectrum.

Spain’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) spectrum auction has just concluded, reports Light Reading. Some 270MHz of spectrum was up for grabs, with 58 blocks available in the 800MHz, 900MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands. Incumbent Telefónica SA, Orange Spain and Vodafone España got most of the spectrum, leaving eight bidders empty-handed.

The auction raised €1.65 billion (US$2.37 billion), above the minimum required but short of the €2 billion ($2.87 billion) the Spanish government had hoped for. Vodafone España won 60MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, for which it will pay €518 million, and says it will launch LTE in rural as well as urban areas.

The operator, also known as Vodafone Spain, is paying €518 million (US$744 million) for 20MHz (2 x 10MHz) in the 800MHz band, which will become available in 2014 when the switch from analog to digital TV is completed in Spain, and 40MHz (2 x 20MHz) in the 2.6GHz band, which is available immediately.

Vodafone Spain, which has 17.35 million customers, says it has also been given permission to “re-farm” some of its 900MHz spectrum, which was initially issued for GSM services, for 3G and, as a result, intends to extend its 3G services into rural areas before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Five Italian operators have submitted requests to participate in Italy’s upcoming spectrum auctions in the 800MHz, 1800MHz, 2000MHz and 2600MHz bands, reports Reuters. Italy’s four main mobile operators, Telecom Italia, Vodafone, Wind and 3 – plus broadband provider Linkem – have declared their interest. The government is hoping to raise EUR2.4 billion. The companies will now have a month to present their offers.

France launched their LTE spectrum process earlier this month. Operators have until September to submit their bids. Higher-end 2.6GHz spectrum will be divided into four lots and awarded in October, while the desirable 800MHz band will be split into 14 lots before being allocated in 2012.

Bidders in the 800MHz band will be obliged to cover 98 per cent of the population within 12 years.

The UK government aims to raise £5 billion ($8 billion) from the forthcoming spectrum auction. The UK will auction 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz for the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum that is in use today. Their auction is planned to start in the first quarter of 2012.

The UK’s analogue television signals are being switched off, region by region, between 2008 and 2012. In principle, this means that all 368MHz might be available for new uses, but it was previously decided by the Government that 256MHz of the 368MHz should be used for digital terrestrial television (DTT). This digital broadcasting will be provided by six multiplexes, each of which can carry a number of television channels and some other services.

This decision allowed digital terrestrial television to expand its coverage – to match that of analogue, at 98.5% of the population; and its capacity – to around 10 times that of analogue in most of the country, and around 5 times elsewhere.

At the same time, digital switchover will allow the remaining spectrum – 112MHz – to be released for new uses. It is this 112MHz that forms the core of the ‘digital dividend’.

The U.S. 700MHz auctions in 2008 raised a total of $19.6 billion dollars, with the 10 MHz “D-block” spectrum remaining unsold. AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless accounted for $16.3 billion of the $19.6 billion of the 700 MHz bids.

Europe left 50 MHz in the middle of the 2.6 GHz spectrum, believing unpaired WiMAX might use that space. CEPT carriers lobbied against it (pdf), hoping to commander it for additional downlink channels.

Now, with unpaired LTE (TD-LTE) getting strong support from China and India, the industry may be shifting again. The potential of TD-LTE to save spectrum — especially when utilizing next generation LTE Advanced with 20 MHz channels — is significant. Carriers may coordinate their approach to LTE for global roaming — or simply lock out competition by using paired 20 MHz channels – despite being inefficient in a data-driven world that runs on asymmetric channels.

The world’s largest mobile carriers (like SingTel, Vodafone, Telefónica, América Móvil, France Orange and Telenor), may like the idea of grabbing 40 MHz in the 2.6 GHz band (20 Mhz x 2) — there’s only room for three carriers that way.

But two of the largest mobile carriers in the world, China Mobile (600 million subs) and Bharti Airtel (208 million subs), are TD-LTE supporters. Their support may help make the unpaired frequency band a lot more competitive.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced, Spectrum Drama: Made for TV, LTE Spectrum: It’s War, German 4G Auction: It’s Done, Auctions Winding Down in Germany & India, Germany 4G Auctions Begin, Europe to Follow, EU: Global LTE Roaming at 1.8 GHz, T-Mobile Makes Its (4G) Move, End Near for Indian WiMAX?, WiMAX & LTE: Policy Vs Pragmatism, Intel: LTE Not Nail in Coffin, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, India’s Broadband Auction: No Free Lunch, TD-LTE Gains Momentum, WiMAX Forum: Not Dead Yet, Yota Dumps WiMAX, UK Getting LTE, WiMAX to TD-LTE: Everybody’s Doin’ It, Speculation on Sprint Infrastructure, LG Telecom: CDMA & LTE Handover, Australia: WiMAX to TD-LTE,

PhoneGap: Open Source Mobile App Tool

Nitobi, the creators of the PhoneGap mobile app development framework, today released PhoneGap 1.0 in Portland, Oregon, after O’Reilly’s Open Source (Oscon) conference.

PhoneGap, an HTML5 platform, allows developers to use foundation web technology (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) to create native mobile applications.

Developers can write their app once and deploy it to six major mobile platforms and app stores, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Bada and Symbian.

The open source code is downloaded approximately 40,000 times every month, more than 600,000 times in total. Today’s major release puts the focus on accessing native device APIs, which is new ground for the web, says the company. The plugin development process has also been simplified.

“Most of these new enhancements come from our community,” said Brian LeRoux, Senior Software Engineer at Nitobi and PhoneGap evangelist. A team of senior software engineers at IBM has been a major benefit. Other contributors include Adobe, which integrated PhoneGap into Dreamweaver so that developers can package apps with PhoneGap and launch iOS and Android emulators directly from within Dreamweaver. Others include Alcatel-Lucent, Sabre, Cisco, Logitech and Time Warner.

In related news, Alibaba is launching its mobile platform, Aliyun, for China on the K-Touch W700 handset later this month. The Aliyun platform focuses on cloud-based, web applications but is also “fully compatible” with Google Android apps. Alibaba will complement each handset with 100 GB of data storage on its AliCloud service. China, the world’s largest mobile phone market, has nearly 907 million mobile subscribers, according to statistics provided by the three leading telcos in June.

Mobile Economy: Boom Town

The second-quarter earnings season is over, reports Phil Goldstein in Fierce Wireless. According to Strategy Analytics, Apple shipped the largest number of smartphones in the second quarter, followed by Samsung and then Nokia.

Although Apple’s 142 percent year-on-year growth placed it as No. 1 this quarter, Samsung’s 500 percent year-on-year growth shows that going forward, the top smartphone OEM position is Samsung’s to lose,” said ABI Research analyst Michael Morgan.

According to IDC, Nokia remained No. 1 in overall handset market share in the second quarter, followed closely by Samsung.

Nielsen reports a 39-percent Android platform market share across the major smartphone manufacturers, while Apple’s iPhone operating system claims a 28 percent stake.

A new app storefront forecast by Strategy Analytics says the app economy is strong and getting stronger. Paid downloads are expected to drive nearly $2 billion per quarter by the end of 2012. They predict the Android Market will overtake the Apple App Store in quarterly volume by the end of 2012. Android will be helped with additional assistance from third party distribution outlets such as the Amazon App Store, GetJar, Nook App Store and others.

Apple Richer Than US Government

Apple now has more cash than the U.S. government, the Financial Post reports.

The operating balance for the United States is now at $73.768 billion and falling, according to the U.S. Treasury. Meanwhile, Apple has 75.876 billion in the bank – with more coming in every day (pdf).

Earlier this week, shares of Apple began trading North of $400 on the Nasdaq Stock Market for the first time in the company’s history. Apple’s market capitalization currently stands at $363.25 billion, making it the second largest company on the planet, after Exxon Mobil.

Spectrum Debate Tied to Debt Ceiling

Police and fire departments across the country are better coordinated when disaster strikes across municipal lines but serious gaps remain in public safety communications, according to remarks at a Senate hearing Wednesday on the state of emergency communications 10 years after the 9/11 attacks. Several pending bills in Congress support giving first responders a dedicated piece of spectrum, known as the 700 MHz D-Block, for a state-of-the-art public network.

The spectrum debate is being tied to the debt ceiling plan, says C/Net. A big part of that is the 700 MHz first responder network. The FCC determined that the best way of delivering more spectrum for first responders was a joint public/private approach. The spectrum would be auctioned to commercial users who would build the nationwide network. It would be available to everyone with priority access for first responders.

Many Republicans opposed that move. Their approach was to give public service users the spectrum at no cost and fund it to the tune of $10-$25 billion. But where would the money come from?

Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced a bill to auction unused television channels and use those proceeds to build the first responder network. That bill passed through the Senate Commerce Committee in June. It called for the D-Block to be given to the public safety community and for the government to pay $12 billion to build the LTE network.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has now put into his debt-ceiling bill provisions for giving the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and $7 billion in funding, to build a nationwide broadband network for first responders.

How much money can be raised through TV auctions? The Congressional Budget Office (pdf) estimates that incentive auctions could bring in nearly $25 billion over the next 10 years. Under one bill that has already been proposed in the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office expects around $6.5 billion of that could be used to reduce the deficit.

Now that the Obama administration has agreed with first responder lobbyists over the D-Block, some Republicans are moving in the opposite direction. D Block legislation will likely face tough opposition in the House, where many members are focused primarily on curbing federal-government spending, not initiating new multi-billion dollar programs.

Verizon’s 700 MHz LTE network operates on 10 MHz duplex channels, similar to the proposed dedicated public safety network. With a spectral efficiency of 1.5 bps/Hz, Verizon delivers sector throughput of 15 Mbps. But that’s over a much more dense, 2-3 mile cellular radius, serving around 300 subscribers per sector. If a 10-15 mile radius is planned, coupled with more powerful handsets, then a traffic jam may happen. That’s why cellular-style architecture may be needed. It would cost a lot more money.

Verizon spent $10 billion for their frequencies and some $5 billion on LTE infrastructure. But Verizon already had most of the towers and fiber backhaul in place. In addition, Verizon did not have to buy $5,000 radios for every one of its subscribers.

LightSquared planned to spend $7 billion building a nationwide LTE network, with the help of Nokia Siemens Networks (although that deal went South when Lightsquared contracted services to Sprint this week).

LTE is forecast by ABI Research to generate more than $11 billion in service revenue in the United States in 2015.

A battle between government agencies is now breaking out, says Urgent Communications. All government agencies — from inspectors to parks workers to sanitation department members — would like to use broadband public safety spectrum. But if a city has to create one system for public safety and another for the rest of its work force, the cost to build and support two solutions may be too large.

If the full 10 MHz of the D Block is auctioned, many industry experts say significant costs will be incurred to mitigate interference. On the other hand, if commercial providers fund the bulk of the network, then the government might save $10-20 billion and the spectrum wouldn’t be wasted.

Putting LTE on police relays sounds good – but don’t expect broadband data to reach 100 mobile users in a 10-15 mile radius. It won’t. One 700 MHz land/mobile radio tower can’t substitute for six, 700 MHz celltowers without sacrificing capacity and speed.

The San Ramon fire department has developed an app in-house (above). If everyone used it, they might need cellular service.

The D-Block can be disputed technically. Both sides have merit. It’s really about funding. A joint public/private partnership would save a lot of money. Perhaps giving the D-Block to both first responders and municipalities would be a reasonable compromise.

Related stories on DailyWireless include; The D-Block Gamble, D-Block Gets a Hearing, National Wireless Initiative, White House: D-Block to Police/Fire, State of the Spectrum, FCC Green Lights Lightsquared, Charlie’s Big Play, Phoney Spectrum Crisis?, Oregon’s $600M Public Safety Network Likely Killed, Oregon’s Public Service Network: $100M Over Budget, Bay Area 700 MHz Net in Altercation , SF Announces LTE First Responder Net, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, FCC: Interoperability on 700 MHz Band, Riot in D Block,AT&T Talks Up LTE AT&T Gets Heat on MediaFLO Spectrum, Combining AWS and 700 MHz: Why?, Cox Communciations: Out of Cellular Operations, Free Mobile Development for Cities & Governments, U.S. Wireless Growth, T-Mobile’s Secret Sauce: 2x10MHz, FCC Finalizes Rules on 700MHz: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement

ARM Chips Simulate Brain

Up to a million ARM processor cores are going to be linked together to simulate the workings of the human brain, reports EE Times. Chips, designed at Manchester University in the U.K. and manufactured in Taiwan, will form the building blocks for a massively parallel computer called SpiNNaker (Spiking Neural Network architecture).

SpiNNaker is a joint project between the universities of Manchester, Southampton, Cambridge and Sheffield and has been funded with a £5 million (about $8 million) government grant. The chips are based on an old ARM instruction set architecture and were delivered to the university last month.

Professor Steve Furber of the University of Manchester has been studying brain function and architecture for several years, but is also well known as one of the co-designers of the Acorn RISC Machine, a microprocessor that is the forerunner of today’s ARM processor cores. In the human brain, communication between its computing elements, or Neurons, is achieved by the transmission of electrical “Spikes” along connecting Axons.

“We have small simulations running now, and will be scaling up over the next 18 months,” said Professor Furber.

US researchers have simulated half a virtual mouse brain on a BlueGene L supercomputer at IBM. Half a real mouse brain is thought to have about eight million neurons each one of which can have up to 8,000 connections to other nerve fibers.

Last year IBM performed cortical simulations of a cat brain (one billion neurons, 10 trillion synapses) on a BlueGene/P supercomputer. IBM will join five US universities in an ambitious effort to integrate real biological systems with supercomputer simulations of neurons. The Allen Mouse Brain Atlas is an interactive, genome-wide image database. The ultimate goal is to create a circuit with the complexity of a cat’s brain.

There are about 100 billion neurons with 1,000 trillion connections in the human brain. Even a machine with one million of the specialized ARM processor cores developed at Manchester would only allow modeling of about 1 percent of the human brain. Furber believes the machine will be a vital tool for neuroscientists and psychologists to test hypotheses on individual brain characteristics.