Comcast Buys Cloud Control WiFi Company

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Comcast has acquired PowerCloud Systems, a spinoff from PARC that developed cloud-based WiFi management, reports TechCrunch, reportedly for under $50 million.

Skydog, their cloud-managed Wi-Fi router was a scaled-down version of their cloud-based networking solution that PowerCloud sells to small and medium-sized enterprise customers. Skydog’s hardware consisted of a dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi router with a 2-by-2 antenna array. Once you’ve registered your home network in the cloud, you can divide your network into distinct zones (public or private, for example), and define different policies for each zone and for each user.

The Kickstarter-funded Skydog router watches over your network, sends alerts and improves connectivity, performance and security.

“This would be a good move for Comcast as it instruments the home, first with connections, then with sensors, then with the apps that help a customer understand how everything is moving through their pipes, their home, their electrical wires,” James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, says about the acquisition.

PowerCloud can manage multiple sites from a single webpage — no matter how many APs they have, or where they’re located. The combination of the inexpensive Ubquiti access points with PowerCloud’s Cloud Command is considerably less expensive than the combination of Meraki Access Points and Meraki’s Cloud Controller.

In June, Comcast said its Xfinity WiFi footprint had expanded to about 3 million hotspots nationwide, getting it closer toward a goal of expanding that footprint to 8 million hotspots by the end of 2014.

If Comcast’s strategy is to take over the lower 5GHz band with “free” public WiFi (for Comcast subscribers), perhaps PowerCloud Systems would be a good way to go about it.

Hotspot 2.0 is a new set of protocols to enable cellular-like roaming. A variety of partnerships are developing nationwide and world-wide, including:

Infrastructure providers are also enabling small businesses and organizations to “roll their own” Hotspot 2.0 network:

Multi-User MIMO promises to handle large crowds better then Wave 1 802.11ac products since the different users can use different streams at the same time. Public Hotspots serving large crowds will benefit with MU-MIMO but enterprise and carrier-grade gear could be a year away, say industry observers.

You can kiss the lower 5GHz band goodbye for any truly “free” municipal network.

The FCC has increased Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, making Comcast and mobile phone operators happy since they can make use of 802.11ac networks, both indoors and out, even utilizing all four channels for up to 1 Gbps wireless networking.

The FCC’s 5 GHz U-NII Report & Order allowed higher power in the 5.150 – 5.250 GHz band.

These FCC U-NII technical modifications are separate from another proposal currently under study by the FCC and NTIA that would add another 195 MHz of spectrum under U-NII rules in two new bands, U-NII 2B (5.350 – 5.470 GHz) and U-NII 4 (5.850 – 5.925 GHz).

Commercial entities, including cable operators, cellular operators, and independent companies seem destined to blanket every dense urban area in the country with high-power 5 GHz service – “free” if you’re already a subscriber on their subscription network

Related Dailywireless articles include; Ruckus Announces Cloud-Based WiFi Services, Cloud4Wi: Cloud-Managed, Geo-enabled Hotspots, Ad-Sponsored WiFi Initiatives from Gowex & Facebook, FCC increases Wi-Fi power in the lower 5 GHz band at 5.15-5.25 GHz, Comcast Creates Hotspot 2.0 National Network,Cloud4Wi Annouces Cloud-Controlled WiFi , PowerCloud: Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , WiFi & Hotspot 2.0 at MWC, Hotspot 2.0 Moves Out, NYC & Cable Provide Hotspot 2.0 Service, Cities of San Jose and Santa Clara Get Free WiFi, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood,Cloud-based WiFi: $100 a Pop , Meraki Cloud Managed Security

Dish Will Participate in TV Auction

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Dish Network plans to take part in the U.S. government’s TV spectrum auction next year, reports Bloomberg. The FCC plans to sell airwaves between TV Channels 30 and 51 which may be given up voluntarily by TV stations.

The company “looks forward to meaningfully participating” in the sale, Englewood, Colorado-based Dish said in a regulatory filing today. The auction “offers opportunities for competitive providers and new entrants to bid on and win much-needed lowband spectrum.”

The revised spectrum plan, approved in May, allows AT&T and Verizon to bid on at least 40 MHz regardless of how much spectrum broadcasters are willing to sell. It would also reserve 30 MHz for smaller carriers. AT&T and Verizon would be prevented from bidding on the 30 MHz of reserved spectrum if they hold more than 45 MHz of spectrum below 1 GHz in that market.

The FCC says AT&T and Verizon command around 70 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses. Sprint and T-Mobile hold around 15 percent of all low-band spectrum licenses.

Dish has built a portfolio of wireless airwave licenses worth almost $26 billion, raising the possibility that it may become an acquisition target of one of the wireless carriers. Since Dish already owns 700MHz frequencies on the “E-block”, carrier aggregation could theoretically enable Dish to gang their unpaired 700MHz band with 2-way 600MHz frequencies, effectively making them competitive with the 20×20 MHz 700 MHz slots owned by Verizon and AT&T.

Dish now has around 50 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 5 MHz in the 700 Mhz in markets across the country. In February it was the only serious bidder the 1900 MHz PCS H Block spectrum and paid $1.56 billion for the 10 MHz block from 1915-1920 MHz (for the uplink) and from 1995-2000 MHz (for the downlink).

Dish also controls 40 MHz of AWS-4 spectrum adjacent to a portion of the H Block which runs from 2000-2020 MHz (for the uplink) and 2180-2200 MHz (for the downlink).

Full mobility won’t be happening soon for greenfield wireless operators like Dish (or Google). They’ll need 600 MHz. A 10 x 10 MHz block in the 600 MHz band might cost $12 billion. AT&T and Verizon’s 700 MHz spectrum is already near capacity and they don’t seem motivated to share infrastructure.

If 70 MHz is available in the 600 MHz auction, surely AT&T and Verizon will each buy 20 MHz (10×10) for 40 MHz total. That might leave 30 MHz for smaller carriers, with 10 MHz each (5×5) for Sprint, T-Mobile and Dish.

The FCC voted in March on rules for the AWS-3 spectrum auction later this fall. The Report and Order sets flexible-use regulatory, licensing, and technical rules for 65 megahertz of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, which includes the 1695-1710 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, and 2155-2180 MHz bands. The Order will make 40 megahertz (of the total 65 megahertz) of the AWS-3 spectrum available for commercial use. The 15 MHz chunk will be available on a shared basis with federal incumbents.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T will likely be major bidders of AWS-3 spectrum, but the two dominate carriers did not get their wish to have two chunks of 10Mhz X 2. Instead, the auction will include three 5×5 megahertz options, and just a single 10×10 megahertz license covering the country, notes RCR Wireless.

The FCC also left it up to carriers to voluntarily have AWS-3 be interoperable with AWS-4 (MSS) spectrum, which Dish Network controls. Dish argued to the FCC earlier this month for an interoperability requirement for AWS-4. That will likely mean the big carriers will shut out Dish.

Related Dailywireless articles include; New Spectrum Cap Rules Transforming 600 MHz Auction, FCC Sets AWS-3 Auction Rules, AWS-3 Auction Rules: Who Benefits?, Dish Wins Everything in H-Block PCS Auction, Verizon Activates AWS Band , DOJ Sets Conditions for Verizon AWS, Verizon Getting AWS Spectrum Says WSJ, T-Mobile Okayed to Test Spectrum Sharing, Verizon’s Spectrum Deal: Tough Nut, AT&T Buys 2.3 GHz from NextWave, AT&T Wants 2.3 GHz for LTE, FCC to Okay Verizon/Cable Spectrum Buy,

TD-LTE Subs Growing Fast

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The total number of TD-LTE subscribers worldwide increased to 12.48 million at the end of the first quarter of 2014 and will increase to 70.4 million at the end of the year, according to Digitimes Research.

Saudi Arabia-based Mobily accounted for 28.2% of the 12.48 million subscribers, followed by Japan-based SoftBank Mobile with 27.5%, China-based China Mobile with 22.4% and Saudi Telecom Company with 10.8%, Digitimes Research indicated.

Interestingly, US-based Sprint, which is rolling out TD-LTE on its 2.6 GHz Clearwire frequencies, was not listed among the major hitters.

As of the end of the first quarter of 2014, 53% of TD-LTE networks around the world were dual-mode (both Frequency Division and Time Division) and many TD-LTE operators had transformed their operations from unpaired WiMAX frequencies.

The dominant global band for TD-LTE devices will be at 2.6 GHz.

A total of 1.2 billion smartphones are expected to be shipped this year, up 29 percent from a year ago, TrendForce said in a research note. In addition to Qualcomm and HiSilicon Technologies, Marvell, MediaTek and Intel will launch multi-mode, including TD-LTE-supporting, 4G chip solutions in the second half of 2014.

ZTE claims it is now the “leading vendor” of 4G infrastructure to China Mobile and following the launch of new LTE multiband smartphones this year, ZTE forecasts that 4G devices will account for 40 per cent of total terminal shipments in 2014.

After spending more than $US2.75 billion on 4.3 million WiFi hot spots, China Mobile has quit the rollout and will redirect its spending to LTE. The hotspots are good at generating traffic, but hopeless at generating income, with ARPU of just $US2.58 per month. China Mobile hopes to have 500,000 LTE basestations installed by the end of 2014.

In South Korea, according to the latest more conservative figures, KT, the second-largest mobile carrier there, had 107,097 LTE base stations, compared to the largest carrier, SK Telecom with 63,885 and LG Uplus with 37,619 LTE basestations.

Sprint is working with rural partners for deployment of 2.5 GHz LTE. Using its new 8T8R radio heads combined with carrier aggregation, companies like VTel expect to see a significant speed boost, especially for fixed LTE deployment.

The total number of TD-LTE subscribers will grow to 179.8 million at the end of 2015 and to 276.2 million at the end of 2016, predicts Digitimes Research.

There are expected to be some 300 million LTE subscribers by the end of 2014 with some 70 million TD-LTE subs. TD-LTE subs are expected to grow faster than FD-LTE subs as China and India come online, although paired frequency FD-LTE is expected to remain dominant.

Currently most LTE subscribers are using paired frequencies, with AT&T and Verizon major FD-LTE players in the United States on the 700 MHz bands. Verizon said the total number of LTE devices on its network was about 48 million in the first quarter of 2014. Some 57 percent of AT&T’s 100 million customers used an LTE-capable device at the end of the first quarter.

LTE connections will total 1 billion by 2017, according to a new study by Juniper Research, and reach 1.8 billion by 2019 – representing 22% of the global active mobile connections. By 2019, Juniper said the Far East and China will generate the majority of LTE service revenues.

Facebook’s initiative, introduced by Zuckerberg at MWC 2014, spoke of “promising results” achieved with “free access” at Globe in the Philippines and Tigo in Paraguay. Free access to Facebook and other services, such as Wikipedia and weather information, may be an inducement to paid data services.

Watches Going Cellular

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Wearable devices will reach a point later this year where they are “fully independent” — that is, not dependent on a smartphone — according to AT&T’s head of emerging devices Glenn Lurie, speaking at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco today (#MobileBeat).

AT&T says the key to the wearables market taking off is having products that are simple to use and don’t rely on a cellphone for Internet connectivity. Today most smartwatches require a nearby smartphone, inter-connecting via Bluetooth.

Wearable devices with cellular connections that are not tied to smartphones will hit the market later this year, according to Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T Mobility.

“It’s going to happen in healthcare,” he said. “It’s going to happen in wellness and it’s going to be terrific.”

Smartwatches are allegedly the next big thing, but so far they look like the tech industry’s largest beta program, says Larry Dignan at ZDNet.

“Beyond fitness tracking—which smartwatches largely struggle with relative to dedicated activity trackers—it’s hard to find much of a use case. Battery life for Samsung’s latest is a joke. Some of the screens are hard to see in the sun. And while notifications are handy in most cases you’re directed to your smartphone to do much with them.

The stage is largely set. Apple has to save the day. No pressure. Otherwise, smartwatches will have such bad word of mouth that the category is doomed.”

Android Wear and Android Wear Apps now support the new wearables which include a variety of watches by Samsung Gear Live, the LG “G” Watch and Motorola’s Moto 360, as well as dedicated fitness devices.

Internet of Things: Divided or United?

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Intel, Broadcom, Samsung, Dell, Atmel and others have joined forces to launch the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), an organization that will set standards for connecting billions of household gadgets and appliances. OIC intends to initially target the smart home and office.

The Internet of Things (IoT), aka Machine to Machine (M2M) or the Internet of Everything (IoE) adds internet connectivity to the billions of devices that are now ubiquitous in our environment. Some M2M applications will deliver and process information in real time, or near-real-time, while other nodes will have to be extremely low-power or self-powered.

The intention of the OIC is to create specifications for interoperability. It will encapsulate various wireless standards to enable secure device discovery and connectivity across different devices.

“Our goal in founding this new consortium is to solve the challenge of interoperable connectivity for the Internet of Things without tying the ecosystem to one company’s solution,” said Intel corporate vice president and general manager of Software and Services Group Doug Fisher.

But the OIC is not the only consortium to focus on the Internet of Things, notes Forbes.

Microsoft, Haier, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Sharp, and others announced the AllSeen Alliance in December, which now has a total of 51 members. The organizations involved in AllSeen will work off of Qualcomm’s AllJoyn open source project initially.

OIC said it will share specifications and code with other groups to establish a common Internet of Things interface. The OIC added that its platform will emphasize security and authentication.

Apple and Google, two of the biggest players in the Internet of Things market, may go their own way.

This year, Google acquired smart thermostat company Nest for $3.2 billion and WiFi-enabled camera company Dropcam for $555 million. Last week, Google announced it partnered with Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool and light bulb maker LIFX to integrate their products with Google’s Nest. The Nest thermostat will turn your heat up and LIFX will turn your lights on when your Jawbone wristband detects that you’re awake.

Last month at WWDC, Apple announced a new smart home framework called HomeKit, which can be used for controlling connected devices inside of a user’s home. Apple’s connected car infotainment system is called CarPlay.

Today, Ubiquiti Networks is launching electrical outlets with remote switching (over Wi-Fi) and energy monitoring. The in-wall design allows users to replace existing wall outlets and light switches/dimmers. Unlike traditional switches, the light switches come with touch panels which can be controlled via Wi-Fi for energy monitoring.

IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion “things” globally by 2020. This is expected to include 30.1 billion installed “connected (autonomous) things” in 2020.

900MHz Standard for Smartwatches?

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The IEEE 802.11ah standard is the new PHY and MAC design that operates in the 900MHz band. It is intended to support extended range WiFi, and the Internet-of-everything (IoE) devices. It would compete with other technologies for home automation such as Zigbee and Z-wave which also use the 900 MHz band.

The 11ah standard is optimized from the ground up for extended range, power efficiency, and scalable operation, explains Qualcomm. It uses the 802.11a/g specification that is down sampled to provide 26 channels, each of them able to provide 100 kbit/s throughput. It can cover a one-kilometer area.

The new 11ah design enhances link-budget compared to 2.4GHz and supports mandatory and globally interoperable 1 and 2 MHz bandwidth modes which open up new use cases for WiFi: home automation, smart grid, wearable consumer electronics, low-power sensors, etc. 11ah also supports 4, 8, and 16 MHz bandwidths for higher-data rate applications (e.g. in the US where 26MHz is available in 900 MHz band).

With 11ah, WiFi coverage improves in previously hard to reach places such as garages, back yards, attics, buildings, factories, malls, etc. A single 11ah AP can provide whole home coverage.

An IEEE draft 2.0 version is expected in mid-2014 (IEEE timeline). Qualcomm and other participants have been leading these standardization efforts.

The 150 Kbps minimum data rate results in short on-time for sensors with short bursty data packets thus lowering their power consumption. It’s optimized to scale to thousands of nodes by using efficient paging and scheduled transmissions.

Apple’s HealthKit was rolled out at the recent Apple annual World Wide Developer’s Conference. The developer’s toolbox allows makers of health and medical devices such as Fitbit, UP, Misfit and iHealth to integrate their offerings with Apple’s new mobile operating system iOS8. The Health application may utilize the iPhone’s own M7 motion tracking hardware for data sourcing.

Android Wear is something of a follow-on to Google Health which has been permanently discontinued. Android Wear Apps now support the new wearables which include a variety of watches by Samsung Gear Live, the LG “G” Watch and Motorola’s Moto 360, as well as dedicated fitness devices.

Currently most all fitness devices and watches connect to a smartphone by Bluetooth at 2.4 GHz. With 900 Mhz, the range of smartwatches, smart meters, and fitness devices might be greatly expanded. Chips supporting Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.15.4, and Zigbee protocols are expected to arrive in the next year or so.

Meanwhile, the U.S. white space focus has been on remote broadband access, using the 802.22b and 802.11af standards. The U.K. plans on using these airwaves as building blocks for much slower M2M infrastructure for the internet of things.

Neul plans to launch the first networks using its own NeulNet base stations and has trialed a network in Cambridge.

Related Dailywireless articles include; 802.11ah: WiFi Standard for 900MHz, Wispapalooza: Jim Carlson on White Spaces, Ofcom Announces White Space Partnerships, Facebook Promotes Internet for Next 5 Billion, Super Wi-Fi Summit, FCC Supports National White Space Networking, War 2.0 for Unlicensed Spectrum, Congressional Battle over Unlicensed Spectrum, UK White Space Trial: Some Unimpressed , Google Begins White Space Database Trial, FCC: TV Auction in 2014, Spectrum War: Unlicensed, Shared and Auctioned, White Space Radio using 802.11af Demoed, FCC: TV Auction in 2014 , FCC Dishes Dirt, Talks Up 3.5 GHz, Spectrum Bridge Partners with Carlson Wireless