Alcatel-Lucent: Virtualization Gets Real

Alcatel-Lucent has struck a carrier virtualization partnership with South Korea’s national operator, KT. The two companies have signed a “technical collaboration agreement” that will involve the development of NFV capabilities for KT’s “Giga” Network, based on the vendor’s CloudBand platform, reports LightReading.

KT’s Gigatopia strategy involves building a high-speed, integrated wired/wireless next-gen network that is ready for all manner of future media and data transport and geared up for the Internet of Things. The Cloud-based wireless network approach was largely developed by AlcaLu subsidiary Nuage Networks.

KT chief executive Hwang Chang-gyu urged the world’s leading mobile carriers and manufacturers to collaborate in establishing the so-called “GiGAtopia,” referring to a mobile environment connected through superfast gigabit technology.

Evolved Packet Core is an evolution of the packet-switched architecture used in GPRS/UMTS. The use of individual circuits to carry voice and short messages are now being replaced by IP-based solutions. The radio access network (RAN) provides the radio access technology. Much of that cellular hardware is now being “virtualized” in the data center.

Alcatel-Lucent is delivering virtualized mobile network functions to KT with evolved packet core (EPC), IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) and radio access network (RAN).

Cloud RAN virtualizes the hardware. Hardware that was once located on the mast or at the base of a cellular tower is now being replaced by software running in a data center, creating a virtualized radio network. A fiber link connects the remote RF head to the data center. Alca-Lu’s CloudBand platform is one of the leaders bringing cloud computing and IT technologies to wireless networks.

China Mobile showed VoLTE via virtualized network at Mobile World Congress using Alcatel-Lucent’s virtualized proof of concept LTE RAN basestation and virtualized evolved packet core solutions.

The Alcatel-Lucent opened a Customer Network Center in Japan this month. It was created to make the trend towards cloud-based networking, tangible for customers. It will allow for demos and interoperability testing of virtualized solutions over the CloudBand NFV platform to support Alcatel-Lucent’s Japan NFV/Network Transformation initiative which is already under way in Japan.

Alcatel-Lucent’s Light Radio uses smart active antenna arrays to deliver multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) gains and sophisticated beamforming in a very small footprint. RF energy can then be dynamically beamed where it is needed based on changes in cell loading and traffic density.

Saudi Arabia’s Mobily is the first service provider globally to deploy Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio Wireless Cloud Element Radio Network Controller (WCE RNC), a new platform that underpins Alcatel-Lucent’s virtualized LTE RAN activities.

Alcatel-Lucent is collaborating with Intel to speed industry move to cloud-based radio access networks while China Mobile conducted a proof of concept demonstration of Lucent’s Cloud RAN at Mobile World Congress 2014.

Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm are collaborating to develop small cell base stations that enhance 3G, 4G and WiFi networks to improve wireless connectivity in residential and enterprise environments.

Small cells aren’t just about adding coverage. Location-based services with targeted marketing and advertising are big drivers.

EE UK: Quad Play Video Service

EE, the UK’s largest mobile operator, with 775,000 subs, is moving into TV services, providing on-demand audio and video. EE has launched its own TV service, offering live and recorded content which can be viewed on TVs, mobile devices and tablets via a set-top box. EE, formerly Everything Everywhere, is a 50:50 joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and Orange.

Their smart TV box is said to be worth £300 but will be free for all EE mobile customers who sign up to an EE Broadband (landline) plan. The EE TV app enables smartphones to be used as remotes for controlling content broadcast from the TV box.

The EE television service will offer 70 Freeview channels, a 24-hour replay service and extra on-demand and catch-up TV channels, including BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Daily Motion and Wuaki.tv. The set-top box contains a one terabyte (TB) hard disk, which the firm said could store up to 25 days worth of standard definition content and five days worth of high-definition shows.

“Today we’re taking EE somewhere completely new. We’re going to introduce EE TV, a personal TV that puts mobile at heart of the home TV experience,” EE CEO Olaf Swantee said.

The service will be free with EE’s home broadband and landline packages, but will cost from £9.95 per month for EE mobile customers. The replay and recording features help in differentiating it from similar offerings by BT or Netflix. Vodafone has also been pursuing a similar quadplay strategy in other European markets.

The launch of the service brings EE into competition with the likes of Virgin Media and BT, which will reportedly launch consumer mobile services in the first quarter of the next year.

BT’s plan is to undercut mobile operators by enabling calls and data use via its 5.4 million wifi hotspots instead of 4G networks. BT also bought a ton of 2.6 GHz spectrum in the UK’s auction last year, as did Vodafone and EE.

Some 13 years ago, BT spun off their cellular holdings to O2. BT is now expected to entice customers by offering full packages covering broadband, TV, mobile and fixed line phone services using its 2.6 GHz frequency, and re-enter the consumer mobile market.

EE TV tech specs

  • 4 HD (high definition) tuners – DVB (digital video broadcasting) – T2
  • 1 terabyte hard drive
  • Dual-band WiFi (2.4/5 gigahertz)
  • 1 gigabit per second ethernet
  • Latest Broadcom processor (3000 DMIPS)
  • Full home broadband TV support

The EE television service allows users to watch different programmes on a TV and up to three smartphones or tablets at the same time via a set-top box. It also provides the option to record four programmes simultaneously, with the set-top box having a 1TB capacity. EE TV is free with EE’s home broadband and landline packages which start at £9.95 per month for EE mobile customers, who will receive an increased data allowance to support the service.

There are plans to enable the EE TV service on EE’s 4G network in the future, with video content already accounting for more than half of the data traffic on EE’s 4G network.

Olaf Swantee, the CEO of EE, said that as the UK’s largest and fastest network, EE has “unrivalled insight into people’s changing viewing habits”, which helped it to create “a service that has mobile at its heart, and makes the TV experience more personal than ever before”.

The launch of the service brings EE into competition with the likes of Virgin Media, Vodafone and BT.

The UK has decided to break the 190 MHz-wide band of 2.6 GHz frequencies into two groups, 140 MHz of paired frequencies and 50 MHz of unpaired.

United Kingdom has a total of 80 million subscribers, with a 130.55% penetration rate. Mobile operators in the UK include:

French upstart telecommunications company Iliad, which is known as “Free Mobile” in France, made an initial offer for T-Mobile US, which was rejected. It is broadly expected to have another go at T-Mobile US, shortly.

Iliad’s French operator Free Mobile, launched in 2012, built their own 2.6 GHz network to cover at least 25% of the French population. Free is now the second largest ISP in the country.

Free offers 20 GB/mo 4G service along with unlimited voice and messaging for $US27/month. The Freebox Revolution router, which delivers a triple play of broadband, TV and landline telephone calls to Iliad’s 6 million subscribers.

More than 8 million consumers flocked to Free Mobile as Orange and France’s two other wireless operators, Vivendi’s SFR and Bouygues suffered steep declines in sales. In April, Vivendi vacated the market altogether by selling SFR to Luxembourg-based Altice in a deal valued at 17 billion euros, reports Bloomberg.

Could any Comcast, Google, Netflix or Amazon launch a quad-play start-up in the United States and blow up mobile, broadband and cable in one shot? I’ll take you there.

First you’d need a chunk of 600 MHz (for voice and mobile data), a chunk of 2.6 GHz, and then some 5 GHz (free) WiFi spectrum. Dish, Google and CBS would be a good partnership. Billboards and street furniture could be the infrastructure to hang it on.

How hard could it be. AT&T plans to buy one 10 x 10 block at 600 Mhz for $9 billion. Add 40MHz at 2.6GHz for $1.5 billion and $6 billion for infrastructure. And you’re done.

Will mobile ad revenue make wireless a practical option for greenfield operators like Google? Who knows. Somebody is running the numbers.

Related Dailywireless articles include; UK Auction Winner Announced, UK Begins 800/2.6GHz Auction Process, Joint LTE Network in UK Planned by Vodafone and Telefónica, Ofcom: LTE This Year for Everything, Everywhere, Joint LTE Network in UK Planned by Vodafone and Telefónica, UK Spectrum Auction: Delayed Again?, UK Spectrum Auction: Legal Threat from 02UK?, UK Delays 4G Auction, Ofcom: White Spaces by 2013, UK Gets Free Public WiFi, Europe’s Digital Divide Auction, German 4G Auction: It’s Done,

LTE Direct Gets Real

LTE Direct, a new feature being added to the LTE protocol, will make it possible to bypass cell towers, notes Technology Review. Phones using LTE Direct (Qualcomm whitepaper), will be able to “talk” directly to other mobile devices as well as connect to beacons located in shops and other businesses.

The wireless technology standard is baked into the latest LTE spec, which is slated for approval this year. It could appear in phones as soon as late 2015. Devices capable of LTE Direct can interconnect up to 500 meters — far more than either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But issues like authorisation and authentication, currently handled by the network, would need to be extended to accommodate device to device to communication without the presence of the network.

At the LTE World Summit, Thomas Henze from Deutsche Telekom AG presented some use cases of proximity services via LTE device broadcast.

Since radio to radio communications is vital for police and fire, it has been incorporated into release 12 of the LTE-A spec, due in 2015.

At Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference in San Francisco this month, the company announced that it’s helping partners including Facebook and Yahoo experiment with the technology.

Facebook is also interested in LTE Multicast which is a Broadcast TV technology. Enhanced Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (also called E-MBMS or LTE Broadcast), uses cellular frequencies to multicast data or video to multiple users, simultaneously. This enables mobile operators to offer mobile TV without the need for additional spectrum or TV antenna and tuner.

Sprint Offers International Wi-Fi Calling

Sprint will begin offering International Wi-Fi Calling back to the United States at no additional cost starting with an over-the-air software update to Samsung Galaxy S 4 with Sprint Spark rolling out now. This new feature allows those traveling abroad with Wi-Fi Calling enabled phones to make and receive calls to friends and family in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico at no additional charge while connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Three of the four major wireless operators in the US have announced they’re deploying voice over LTE service (excepting Sprint). Voice over LTE will eventually replace existing 2G voice service. Currently LTE is a data-only service, with voice routed through their separate 3G infrastructure.

Wi-Fi Calling lets Sprint customers use voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. Available at no additional charge to Sprint customers with a compatible Android smartphone, it offers improved voice, data and messaging services in locations that previously had limited or no mobile network coverage.

Sprint’s HD Voice transmits and receives a wider octave range on traditional cellular networks. HD Voice actively detects background noise and minimizes its presence, making your voice and the voice on the other end of the call more defined and easier to understand.

WiFi calling essentially allows cell phone packets to be forwarded to a network access point over the internet, rather than over-the-air using cellular providers. Since the system works over the internet, a UMA-capable handset can connect to their service provider from any location with internet access. This is particularly useful for travellers, who can connect to their provider and make calls into their home service area from anywhere in the world.

Say you take your Wifi phone to France, you can connect to Wi-Fi Calling and call your friend in Seattle. The call is billed like a local call to Seattle (e.g. it comes out of your bucket of minutes), with no international roaming fees. But if you’re in France and you call a French number (+33 …) then it’s billed like an international call to France.

Wi-Fi calling is available on T-Mobile and others, using special Wifi handsets or with smartphone apps like Kineto.

Kineto Wireless, a major supplier of telco-OTT solutions, says it has added a suite of Smart Calling services to its downloadable Smart Comms smartphone application for mobile operators. The new services include the ability to make and receive cellular calls and SMS over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), 2nd line service, home line calling, and international VoIP calling.

OpenBTS: 3G Cellular Data Goes Open Source

Range Networks (Twitter) is simplifying cellular networks using Open Source hardware and software. OpenBTS software is a Linux application that uses a software-defined radio to present a standard 3GPP air interface to user devices.

OpenBTS (Open Base Transceiver Station) allows standard GSM-compatible mobile phones to be used as SIP endpoints in Voice over IP (VOIP) networks. OpenBTS was developed and is maintained by Range Networks. The public release of OpenBTS is notable for being the first free software implementation of the lower three layers of the industry-standard GSM protocol stack.

The aim of the project is to drastically reduce the cost of GSM service provision in rural areas, the developing world, and hard to reach locations such as oil rigs. It’s also used to provide free cellular-like services for events like Burning Man.

OpenBTS announced last month the public release of OpenBTS-UMTS 1.0, providing data capability for 3G networks. The new code is available to the OpenBTS community immediately as a free download.

Industry leading software-defined radio (SDR) suppliers Ettus Research and Nuand make radio hardware that supports OpenBTS-UMTS.

Nuand has a USB 3-powered Software Defined Radio. Out of the box the bladeRF can tune from 300MHz to 3.8GHz without the need for extra boards.

Since 2006, the folks behind OpenBTS have been running the Papa Legba camp at Burning Man have provided fully licensed independent (free) cellular service with help from Geeks Without Bounds and others.

OpenBTS is now part of the GNU Radio project and administered by the Free Software Foundation. The original founders of this project are David A. Burgess and Harvind S. Samra.

GNU Radio can be used with external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment.

Keyless car remotes, home alarm systems, traffic alert systems, toll-collection transponders, TV satellites, airliner communications, medical pagers and even space probes can all be disrupted, thanks to software-defined radio, two Australian researchers demonstrated in separate presentations at the BlackHat security conference this month.

See Dailywireless; Free Cellular at Burning Man 2013, Burning Man: Ten Years of Communications Innovation, Range Networks: Open Source Cellular Networks, Burning Man Goes Live, Interactive Arts Festivals

Ubiquiti Announces VoIP Android Phones for Enterprises

Ubiquiti Networks, today announced that it has launched UniFi VoIP, a new line of Enterprise smart phone technology using Android phones. The system will be managed by a PBX integrated within the UniFi Software Defined Networking (SDN) Control Plane to provide seamless, scalable telephony.

UniFi VoIP, according to Ubiquiti, will offer a superior user-experience at a fraction of the cost of traditional solutions. UniFi VoIP phones will feature:

  • Hi-resolution touch screens
  • Android KitKat 4.4.2 with Google Apps and Google Play support
  • Advanced call manager application with powerful conferencing and group calling features
  • WiFi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities
  • Integrated hi-res video camera for video conferencing
  • Plug and Play SIP Setup (no analog phone lines needed)
  • Advanced call groups and conference call capabilities

The UniFi Controller software is bundled with the UniFi VoIP Phone at no extra charge.

Ben Moore, vice president of business development at Ubiquiti Networks, said “the UniFi platform will become much more than just wireless. It will shape into a massive Software Defined Networking platform encompassing routing, switching, video security, VoIP, wireless and much more.”

UniFi VoIP is now sampling with shipments expected this quarter.