Summer 2020

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In This Issue

Artificial Intelligence


Without a doubt, trends in AI are in lockstep with wireless. AI is finding increasing infusion in...

From the Editor

FUD – that is, perhaps, the steadfast belief held throughout the ages. Fear of the unknown has led.....

Industry Transformation Can Lead to Unforeseen Communications Tax Complications

When you take a moment to consider everything that is changed in recent years, it is astounding...
Privacy Safety

Is it Influence or Manipulation? A Case for an Internet Code of Conduct

We usually do not have a good memory of how life was in the past, or how inconvenient it could be...

The Cold, Hard, Truth About 5G Conformance Testing 

Ten years ago, during the transition from 3G to 4G, handset and base station makers had to...
5G mmWave

The Challenge of mmWave Isolator Design

As 5G becomes more and more mainstream new challenges arise, especially in the millimeter...

The Benefits of 5G Timing

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Piyush Sevalia, Executive Vice President, Marketing,...
Case Study

One of the World's Largest Municipal Gigabit Wireless Access Networks is in Jerusalem

Jerusalem known worldwide as the Holy City, is also one of the most innovative high-tech cities...
5G Special Report

The Five Myths of 5G

5G Is Here. Now What? The first 5G commercial services have now been launched in several major...
5G Concealment Thought Leader Forum

How Concealing Small Cell Sites Will Reduce Time-to-Deployment and Simplify the Installation and Upgrade of 5G Sites

To meet coverage requirements in urban areas, 5G mmWave network...
5G Thought Leader Forum

5G Fixed Wireless Access: More of a Challenge Than a Complement to Fixed Broadband

Operators tend to think about 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) in one of two ways: as a...
Business Thought Leader Forum

Why is RCS Poised to Thrive in 2020 and Beyond?

2019 was a big year for RCS - 2020 is showing similar promise. For the uninitiated, RCS stands for ...
Thought Leader Forum
5G Thought Leader Forum

5G Fixed Wireless Access: More of a Challenge Than a Complement to Fixed Broadband

Research Director of Fibre Networks, Analysys Mason

Business Thought Leader Forum

Why is RCS Poised to Thrive in 2020 and Beyond?


Artificial Intelligence


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Without a doubt, trends in AI are in lockstep with wireless. AI is finding increasing infusion in the wireless infrastructure. Because emerging and next-generation wireless networks will be too complex to be managed by humans, AI will have to be in charge.

AIThis will lead to the proliferation of virtualized networks and, eventually, software-defined networks. AI will also become the major controller in portable wireless devices. Overall, the trend will be the increasing ability of machines to learn and act intelligently across most technological platforms.

Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX). It is obvious how critical wireless is to this ecosystem. The trend here will move towards “smart” devices and objects that are connected in a variety of ways beyond just data in, data out. As devices get smarter, more and more control will be handed over to them and again, AI will be the driver.

Wearables and augmented humans. Augmented humans are the next trend in smart wearable technology. What started out as an aid to fitness, has evolved into smart watches and will now be morphing into smart wearables. They will become “living” assistants with the ultimate objective to assist people in living healthier, safer, more efficient lives. That trend will end up as augmented humans. We will be the walking wireless.

Big Data

AIThe data tsunami, as it is so often referred to, show no signs of abating. As edge networks emerge, we will see more and more data swirling around these localized networks. That will only add to big data trends. The next step in such data analysis will be what is called augmented analytics. Such analytics will be managed by AI. Coupled with 5G, AI will have the ability to dissect these enormously complex and varied data streams, providing much better, more precise, and understandable results.

Smart Places and Intelligent Spaces

Trends in intelligent offices, homes, and spaces are on the fast track. The benefits of such areas run the gamut from energy efficiency to personal security, and more. Intelligent spaces will be intricately linked to all types of wireless networks, from simple temperature sensors to complex meeting spaces capable of handling all the devices and requirements of multi-element gatherings. Eventually, coupled with augmented humans, such environments will remove most of the manual activities associated with mechanical and electrical functions.

Extended Realities

Extended realities (ER) are wrapping the various types of reality platforms (virtual, augmented, and mixed reality) into a single, more manageable ecosystem. Going forward, this trend will make existing and emerging reality platforms much simpler, hence giving this, somewhat stalled and segmented sector, new life. The goal is to push all of the varied vectors towards a more creative and congruent, immersive digital experiences. Digital twins. A digital twin is a virtual copy of an actual physical object, product, process, network, ecosystem, etc. The concept of digital twins is only in its infancy and the implications of this is huge. Digital twin technology is an innovative technology that permits experimentation on virtual copies of the original. This is useful in so many ways because it allows the results of changes to be seen without the cost and risk of doing it to the physical object. Look for this to permeate nearly every segment of the physical world as this technology matures. Facial recognition. While there is much attention being paid to facial recognition in the vein of security, we are only scratching the surface. AI and wireless sensing will be major components of this technology as it matures. The chink in the armor will be privacy.

The trend will be to find the sweet spot in handling captured data. Another trend in this segment will deal with regulation. It is taking some time for regulation to snake its way though the many legal issues. Although we will no doubt see greater regulatory control over the use of facial recognition, it will be everywhere once the privacy issues are resolved.

Autonomous vehicles. There is a lot of action in the autonomous vehicle industry but little real forward progress in deployments. Autonomous vehicle trends are being harnessed by several vectors such as regulations and some infighting between technology segments. However, what is trending rather unabated is advanced optics.

Following that is collaboration and partnering, both in technologies and organizations. Not far behind are some actual deployments of variants of self-driving vehicles, such as shuttle services and ride-sharing. While this technology has a long way to go before, we see mass deployments, because there are life-safety issues involved, slow and sure will be the case for some time. Digital platforms. Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb are all household-name examples of digital platforms – networks that facilitate connections and exchanges between people. This trend is turning established business models on their heads, leading many traditional businesses to transition to, or incorporate, a platform-based model.

Remotely Piloted Vehicles

RPVs are one of the hottest topics in today’s wireless space. Be it food delivery, ordinance delivery, or bomb disposal vehicles, the trend is to develop more and more sophisticated devices. Along with RF, AI is being used to take much of the control for mission analysis away from the pilot and handing it to a computer. This allows for more precise, real-time accuracy as the mission progresses.

Going forward, sophistication is the word of the day as new vectors such as search and rescue missions, firefighting, warehousing, premise security, transportation, and more, will all be transformed as RPV technology advances – even pilotless taxies and passenger drones are on the horizon.

Quantum Computing

quantum computing Perhaps nothing is quite as exciting as the Quantum computer (QC) World. These unimaginably fast computers are showing capabilities that make even the fastest computers look like snails. But all that glitters is not necessarily gold. While QC holds the promise of making science fiction come true, it is far from mainstream. Current devices are extremely fragile and must be contained in near-absolute zero Kelvin conditions – not something found in one’s basement.

Current trends are to move to commercial viability and deal with real-world problems while working on bringing them out of the deep freeze. We may see that within reach near the end of this decade. Current work in quantum computing is largely restricted to labs, although there are a couple of systems available for commercial applications.


From the Editor

There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear – Bill Gates

FUD – that is, perhaps, the steadfast belief held throughout the ages. Fear of the unknown has led to everything from genocide to revolution, and war. And it continues today with 5G. There is no doubt RF is dangerous. So are automobiles. The trick is to use them safely. As we have individuals using vehicles with reckless abandon, we also have 5G hawkers wanting to push out 5G without vetting its unknown hazards.

Since the beginning of the modern use of RF for communications, there have been fears that such waves can have an adverse effect on life forms. In truth, this is 100 percent true. So, we have learned, over time, how to use RF so as not to cause harm.

It is not rocket science. RF energy distribution is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Therefore, all we have to do is bound it by those two simple parameters – power and distance. We understand the physics of RF and its propagation characteristic well, make that relatively easy to accomplish safe boundaries.

However, since the beginning of the modern RF era, there has been the equivalent of the timeless battle between good and evil if incidental and over time exposure is harmful to the body. It has been related to any number of conditions such as tower location, antenna placement, radiation patterns, and more. And, it is not reserved for the telecom segment. The issues of harmful RF have emerged in medical and consumer environments as well.

The latest volley around this is being fired by conspiracy theorists. Attention-getting acts include vandalism of cell towers and creating FUD with false information and claims. Some of the perpetrators even seem to think Covid 19 has something to do with 5G.

For example, recently, Thomas Cowan, a U.S. doctor, took the position that 5G poisoned cells in the body forcing them to excrete waste which eventually became known as COVID-19. It is prudent to note that this doctor is on disciplinary probation and being investigated by the Medical Board of California for using unlicensed drugs. He is also an author of books promoting ideas contrary to conventional medical procedures and a champion of the anti-vaccination movement.

Nevertheless, the video went viral and was reposted by several ignorant celebrities. Other media outlets such a TV stations (ITV and ESTV) and countless social media sites followed suit. It was just the fodder to set off the gullible who take what they want from data and fabricate it to suit their beliefs.

The most laughable conspiracy theories include that the lockdowns around the globe are a coverups for governments to secretly support the installation of 5G antennae or antennas, en masse, while we are all at home huddling around our various communications devices. There are similarly ludicrous ideas such as the belief that the Glastonbury festival was being used as a scaled experiment for 5G on the masses, 5G is being developed as a military-grade weapon, and viruses can communicate through the radio airwaves.

As well, enemies of the state, such as Russia, are busy fanning the conspiracy theory flames. A recent YouTube video published by RT (formerly Russia Today a government-funded international TV network) suggested that children playing near 5G cell towers could suffer cancer, nose bleeds, and learning disabilities.

Researchers have raised the possibility of covert state-backed campaigns — though, to date, none of the social media platforms have announced concrete evidence of clandestine foreign operations focused on the topic.

In the end, much like the conspiracy theories about China’s spy equipment and that Covid 19 is a weaponized virus unleashed on the U.S. by China, all such claims about 5G are utter nonsense.

There is a “but” however. And that refers back to the beginning of this editorial – safe deployment. With existing systems, it is easy to find the sweet spots and we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on how to find the edges and make sure these systems are as safe as possible.

With 5G, the lines are not as clear. While there is substantial evidence that distribution of radiating elements is safe when the rules are followed, the wild card is densification with mmWaves.

Particularly in the mmWave band, we are wandering into areas that are not as well documented as existing platforms. While we can extrapolate, not everything scales from platform to platform. The densification of 5G radiating elements is a moving target at mmWave frequencies where many types of local networks (small cells) are going to emerge. This, because it is the only spectrum with sufficient bandwidths to support the plethora of new services being envisioned.

Additionally, autonomous cars, augmented reality (AR), smart homes, and more, will generally look to mmWave frequencies for enhanced functionality. The volume of these, coupled with living at higher frequencies and smaller propagation characteristic, are the issue. That makes it quite likely that we will be bombarded with such waves, far more regularly than we are now. And, therein lies the issue – exposure over time. 

While we understand this very well with current environments, we have little experience with complex settings where dense, multiple mmWave situations exist using new transmission schemes. Even if it turns out to be as expected, potentially, the amount of time we are exposed to such waves alone, becomes a concern.

There is reputable, scientific evidence of this. For example, in 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program concluded a 10-year study on the effects of cell phone radiation (2G and 3G, 900 MHz phones, barely on the edge of mmWave) on laboratory rats. There was clear evidence that these frequencies caused malignant Schwannomas in the heart, and some evidence that they caused malignant gliomas in the brain. The exposure level was four times that of typical environments. However, in uber-dense deployments, it is quite possible that 5G mmWave environments may reach such levels.

The point is that, without a doubt, RF waves have the ability to alter living cells and DNA. Most studies use levels far beyond what we typically experience with existing systems. But, with 5G mmWave that will change. It is highly probable we will be constantly bombarded with such radiation and we do not have a good understanding of these types of environments on humans and animals.

The time has come to stop hiding behind old data (the FCC rules on this have not changed since 1996) and saying it is valid for mmWave frequencies – it is not. There is no doubt we will be deploying 5G radiators en masse. We need to have a clear understanding on exactly what this will do to humans and other living things.

ErnBy Ernest Worthman, Executive Editor, AWT Magazine, Senior Member, IEEE

Industry Transformation Can Lead to Unforeseen Communications Tax Complications

When you take a moment to consider everything that is changed in recent years, it is astounding to think just how drastically the communications industry has been reshaped.

From the slow death of wireline to fast-fading traditional voice services, numerous transitions have led to a landscape that looks remarkably different than it did a mere decade ago. Phone calls have been replaced with texting and chatting. DVDs have been traded for media downloads and streaming digital platforms. And a massive move toward VoIP has led wireless, cable, and software companies alike to offer new types of voice services.

Of course, there are many more changes to come, with one continuing trend in particular behind it all – data. With the anticipated mass rollout of 5G, both business and consumer appetites for data-intensive apps and services are bound to skyrocket.

So, it is easy to understand why so many companies are redefining how they will meet consumer demand and rethinking how they can remain competitive. Many voice, video, and technology services are already converging via communications service providers (CSPs) that offer various combinations of voice, media, content, entertainment, and apps over networks designed to serve as rich, functional platforms.

However, in the midst of tremendous opportunities, there are also some accompanying big risks — ones that many companies tend to overlook. Near the top of the list is communications taxation. While businesses may be used to collecting and remitting sales and use tax, a failure to consider the communications tax implications of new offerings can lead to unanticipated liabilities.

That means, in many cases, what begins as an exciting new product launch has the potential to end in costly penalties and interest. To avoid such a fate, it is imperative for companies to become familiar with the possible tax ramifications of new business models, and to revisit rules and regulations both early and often.

The Arrival of 5G

With the long-anticipated rollout of 5G, expectations are high for desirable business models — and companies across industries are paying close attention. According to Ericsson's latest report, The Industry Impact of 5G, 74 percent of businesses plan to invest in 5G technologies to create more value for customers. And while 59 percent of companies surveyed in 2016 said 5G would not be on their radar for at least five years, that figure fell significantly to just 11 percent in 2018.

As 5G broadly rolls out, it is expected to power a profusion of new services. In many instances, the increased speed and lower latency will be used to enhance existing data-intensive services. In other applications, new capabilities will be combined with IoT technologies such as sensors, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and telematics in efforts to take businesses to the next level.

For carriers, 5G investments might mean expanding beyond traditional communications services to enter new areas such as eCommerce. For other companies, the move may involve increasing profit margins by focusing attention on SD-WAN and other high-value offerings.

Carriers and service providers have made clear that some of these new offerings are likely to roll out soon, while others are still a blip on the horizon. Regardless of where, when, or how they are introduced, the implications are the same. The transition is not just going to change how consumers and companies interact with the world. It may very well transform business relationships with tax authorities, too.

Put simply: The latest industry advancements will very likely cause even more confusion and complexity for taxes.

Communications Tax Complexities

As current trends expand, the complexities of communications taxation will continue to grow. For this reason, analysts say it is imperative that companies remain aware of the possibility they could become liable for communications tax — something that could occur as soon as a product or service begins transmitting data. Getting ahead of any potential communications tax responsibility will be key to gaining a competitive advantage.

The arrival of 5G is predicted to have enormous implications for communications taxes — Aberdeen researchers “The arrival of 5G is predicted to have enormous implications for communications taxes,” Aberdeen researchers said in a 2019 report, Communications Tax Compliance: Surviving and Thriving with Preparedness and Agility. “5G will enable sensors to transmit data approximately a hundred times faster than its predecessor, 4G, and could empower a multitude of new companies to enter the market.”

“As a result of these dynamics, policymakers are scrambling to keep up and determine how to tax the associated infrastructure and technology.”

However, while most businesses are familiar with the process of collecting and remitting sales and use tax, many are unaccustomed to the depth and complexity of communications tax. In addition to some incredibly complex calculations, communications tax varies significantly across local, state, and federal regulatory authorities.

In addition, while typically lagging, rules and regulations have been known to change daily across jurisdictions. The rapid pace of innovations, mergers, and acquisitions — not to mention the complexities of bundling and nexus — will all impact how communication services are taxed.

Many companies are currently opting to collect sales and use tax alone, but this is a big gamble. What would happen to the business if it faced a sudden tax shock? In addition to back taxes, you may incur both interest and penalties — and the company could be forced to contend with negative customer reactions if potentially raising prices to cover the costs.

At the heart of the matter is one mission-critical question; when and how will communications tax apply to new products and services? Unfortunately, the answer is not an easy one.

New Services add to complexity Infographic Most integrated small cell poles mount the 4G/5G antennas or radios at the top of the pole to optimize performance and make concealment easier. The overriding characteristic of pole toppers should be flexibility in configuration, so the radios can be positioned optimally (and eventually upgraded) depending on the needs of that particular site. Importantly, the pole manufacturer must be able to provide a concealment material that does not interfere with the 5G mmWave signals. To meet required coverage patterns, multi-tenant siting and future upgrades, the pole topper should have a uniform form factor that can host different brands of 5G radios, as well as be backwards compatible with lower frequency bands. With unique mounting options, the form factor can support different orientations of the radios, radios on different levels, on top of one another or back-to-back.

Technology is advancing far faster than policymakers’ abilities to adapt rules and regulations. As a result, tax laws are a patchwork of transition as thousands of local jurisdictions, states, and the federal government seek to regulate an industry that is in a continuous state of change. That means different areas of communication are all taxed in very different and, exceptionally, complex ways.

With some of the most complicated tax calculations and filing requirements of any industry, communications tax can make it incredibly difficult for companies to know when, where, and how to stay compliant as they adopt new business models. This is why, even in the midst of tremendous progress, this one area can quickly become a detriment to growth.

The successful communications company will remain up-to-date on the latest changes and challenges and watch for potential transitions on the horizon. In particular, it pays to watch several potentially sticky areas: Nexus, bundling, marketing, and business structure.

Nexus Determinations

“Nexus” defines the level of a connection between a taxing jurisdiction and a business entity. It is important to understand because state taxes are not typically imposed until nexus has been established with a company. While each state has its own unique definition of nexus, most consider “physical presence” as one of the key determining factors. Many also look at “economic connection," which is determined based on the amount of sales a business generates within the state or jurisdiction.

For this reason, many companies know to consider sales and use tax when determining if they are obligated to file and remit to state and weigh physical factors such as the presence of warehouse facilities, storefronts, and employees. What they may not know is that nexus can also apply to communications technology, even in instances where there’s little more than invisible, undetectable digital signals to track.

Because each state has its own set of factors, determining when a company is obligated to register and comply with state communications taxes has become a highly complex process. And the more states a company sells in, the more complicated it gets, especially since the minimum threshold can vary wildly from state to state. When you add in the complexities of bundling, the process becomes even more complex.

These intricacies are becoming a big issue for even the largest and most established carriers, not to mention fast-growing companies looking to capitalize on 5G.

Bundling Complexities

When it comes to new data-driven business models, it is beneficial to both consumers and businesses to provide “bundled” offers. These are offers that provide several different services presented as a single package. They make one-stop shopping easy for the customer and can provide a competitive advantage for the provider.

But here again, the complexities of communications taxation can make a mess of an otherwise sound, competitive offering. That is because the moment a non-taxable service is packaged with a taxable one, the entire bundle may become subject to communications taxes and regulatory fees.

Making a difficult situation even more complex, these bundles almost always involve highly complex communications tax calculations. For instance, some elements might need to be broken out so sales tax can be levied on communications fees. Even more complex are calculations for tiered taxing, tax on tax, and prorated taxing.

Each service must be billed and reported accurately, regardless of how the bundle is marketed to customers as a unit. And while there is usually an option to lower tax liability by unbundling services in internal billing, remaining compliant requires constant research, validation, and updates to the ever-changing tax rates across states. This can quickly become burdensome when nexus grows beyond a few states, or for those who are new to communications tax.

Marketing Challenges

One often-overlooked reason for communications tax complexity is the lack of coordination between internal teams, especially when it comes to marketing. Products might inadvertently be categorized as communications services for tax purposes as a result — well before various departments have time to understand the implications.

For example, consider the technology company that decides to scale its portfolio of services to include SD-WAN or other data services. In this scenario, it is not uncommon for sales and marketing to move forward with exciting product launch plans.

However, if those departments use certain terminology when promoting new offerings, there is a very real risk that the content could trigger a communications tax audit. Believe it or not, something as simple as incorporating “voice calls” or “video conferencing” into website copy can render the business subject to the complexities of communications taxation for the first time.

On the one hand, every innovation is an opportunity to gain more market share. But, from the perspective of tax authorities, they may also open the door to new sources of tax revenue. With so many agencies facing budget shortfalls following the dramatic decrease in traditional telecom services, state auditors will continue to watch closely for new entrants into the communications tax space. As standalone IoT solutions and specialty software become more prominent, so does the threat of communications tax audits.

Business Complexities

In an era when emerging technologies are leading to new partnerships and business relationships, it is vitally important to stay aware of who is responsible for communications tax, and when — particularly when it comes to protecting the bottom line.

For example, consider the auto manufacturer that enters a relationship with a wireless company to provide telematics and voice service. The important question to ask in this scenario is, “Who will be responsible for collecting and remitting communications tax? Will those taxes be charged early on in the supply chain, or will they be eventually passed on to the end consumer”?

Finding accurate answers means that both businesses will need to carefully consider the contractual language that’s used. And, while many companies tend to overlook this step, it is a vital one — especially since it will dictate when resale and exemption certificates need to be procured.

This issue is one that will, no doubt, be faced by a growing number of companies as they explore new and innovative ways to deliver voice, information services, high-speed data, and the IoT. Across the landscape, business-altering decisions will need to be made on who is responsible for what, and when, down the entire supply chain.

This is yet another area where it may be time for many businesses to start factoring in the complexities of communications taxation. The reason: A surprising number of tech companies are now promoting offers that could make them responsible for hefty communications taxes and fees, without ever realizing they are liable to states and the federal government.

If those liabilities are not caught and brought up-to-date before a merger or acquisition, the result could be a painful headache for the acquiring entity in the form of penalties, back taxes, and new charges for unsuspecting customers.

Preparing for 2020 and Beyond

As technology advances and competition accelerates, more tax changes are yet to come. With new offerings hitting the market virtually every month, communications tax authorities will be seeking new ways to capture revenue from these products and services.

Maintaining compliance in this ever-evolving tax landscape requires several critical components that all businesses should be aware of. The more a company plans ahead for the implications of communications tax, the better able the businesses will be to reduce errors and minimize audit liabilities.

First, it is important that all key players are able to analyze new technologies at a basic level. By breaking down the fundamental components of a new offering, it can become exponentially easier to understand when a product or service may be taxable — or at least know which questions to ask to make that determination.

In addition, it is imperative to stay up to date on the latest changes. Moving forward, different departments will need to understand how each new technology could be impacted by communications taxation. Those responsible for product planning, product launches, and marketing in particular — not to mention accounting and finance — should all remain aware of the latest communications tax and regulatory laws.

These steps apply even to the businesses that are not currently liable for communications tax. Just because a company is not subject to complex rules and regulations today, that doesn’t mean its status will not soon change in the eyes of auditors.

Lastly, for companies that are still new to this space, collaboration is key. In fact, one of oldest and simplest strategies — networking with colleagues to see what others are doing to manage risk — can be the best way to stay ahead of tax complexities. In some cases, ensuring compliance may involve bringing on an advisor that specializes in the complexities of communications tax.

Many businesses are finding that communications tax can get very complicated, very fast, and that it pays to have an expert on hand to help keep costly penalties and fines at bay.

The Future Is Here

It is an exciting time for business growth, and the opportunities for expansion will only continue to multiply. In the midst of all this change, it pays to keep the auditor in mind. The more a company prepares for the potential communications tax impacts of 5G and related innovations, the better prepared the business will be to maximize every opportunity — minus the risk of a financial shock. And that is a competitive edge worth pursuing.

Steve Lacoff Steve Lacoff is General Manager of Avalara’s Communications business unit. He previously served as Avalara’s Senior Director of Product Marketing. Steve has spent 20+ years in the Telecom and SaaS industry with experience across Data, Voice-over-IP, and Video Streaming. In his leadership roles at Comcast, Bandwidth.com and Sprint Nextel, Steve developed deep expertise across business development, product, marketing, sales, and partner and channel enablement. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned his MBA from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management.
Privacy Safety

Is it Influence or Manipulation? A Case for an Internet Code of Conduct

We usually do not have a good memory of how life was in the past, or how inconvenient it could be from time to time. I realized this recently, when I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam with tickets ordered over the Internet for 3:30 in the afternoon. Arriving at the museum at 3:30 pm, we were just able to walk right in. I was reminded that when we visited the museum 5 years ago, we had to stand in line waiting for about 3 hours.

This example seems to be about convenience. But it is about more than that. Just think about a tourist who has now another three hours to roam around the city, visiting another museum. This regained three hours create economic value through activity elsewhere. The reality is that the Internet has become the engine for economic growth, as there are surely many more examples of small improvements creating together, an avalanche of economic growth.

So, a connected world is a better world, right? This question is very much on-trend, especially in light of recent security and privacy breaches. Time to really give this question a second thought. The online equivalent of the hole-in-the-wall gang These days we live in the “Wild West” of the Internet – from a legal perspective, the Internet is almost totally unregulated. Perhaps more importantly, the effects of the Internet on our society are hardly understood. It is not just our legislators who do not understand the Internet. Many (Internet) engineers do not understand it either! Well, they may understand pieces of it, but only a few people have a grasp on the big picture. As a society, we are learning about the effects of the Internet as we go along.

Here’s one example of this ongoing learning. Netflix knows my tastes and recommends movies to me that fit my tastes. Initially, I thought this was a great Netflix feature! But I began to realize that the consequence of following the recommendations was that I was becoming more entrenched in my own bubble. What I thought was an enrichment, turned into a lack of variety and made me monotonous. It made me poorer, in a sense.

Value flip Shifting from the Netflix example to something larger, we know by now that the Internet, or maybe more specifically, the social media on the Internet, has a tendency to create bubbles, where like-minded people meet, interact and agree emphatically with each other. As we do that, our bubbles seem to expand, and our perceptions become our realities – they become our version of the truth. Our critical thinking skills begin to erode, even about our own ideas, because we prefer to hang out in our bubble of “like-minds.” There is a continuum of this kind of behavior, of course, but the tendency is clearly there.

This is another value flip. What seemed like a good idea at the beginning, has flipped and become negative – and with a dark side that you might not immediately suspect.

Targeting advertising In the same way that Netflix recommends movies, social media uses its capability to “know” us, to sell advertising. It’s called “targeted advertising,” and there is a lot of good to be said about it. Blanket advertising is an expensive waste, like throwing big piles of advertising folders for all kinds of products into every mailbox on every street in the whole city. Again, this targeted advertising seems like a positive thing. Now I only see advertisements on things I really care about – a win for both the advertiser and for myself. (How we love living in our bubbles!) 
Influence vs. manipulation Before explaining the value flip of targeted advertising, let us explore the difference between influence and manipulation. Advertising clearly tries to influence our behavior, and we are used to that. We have even built up a certain resilience about it – probably because we know that influence is part of our daily life, and we probably influence others as much as others influence us. So far, so good.

However, there is a dark side to influence. It is called manipulation. It happens when there is an imbalance in information between the two parties, and one party exploits that imbalance to take advantage of the other party. This is nothing new, unfortunately. One example is the advertising experiments that were performed in the movie theaters of the 1950s, where very fast ad images were inserted into the movies being shown. These images, of soft drinks, for example, were so short (milliseconds), that people did not consciously notice them. Whether these experiments led to any favorable effects for the advertiser is an open question. But, once the public found out, the outcry about this type of manipulation led to the outlawing of this type of “subliminal messaging” in many countries.

The Value Flip of Targeted Advertising

Pole-mount small cell cabinet If social media start to know us so well that they know our weaknesses, our uncertainties, our vulnerabilities, then they can exploit that by selling this knowledge to advertisers. Targeted advertising suddenly flips to its dark side, and instead of being influenced, we are being manipulated.

Even if we have approved the third party (the advertiser) to inspect our data via our dealings with the social media outlet, did we really make an informed decision that this would lead to manipulation? But that has become the reality. The imbalance of information is exploited by “big data” and “artificial intelligence” applied to the information we reveal about ourselves by using social media, and that exposes us to become victims of manipulative advertising. This manipulative advertising can be subtle, like phishing, or less subtle, like data theft. When the information of large groups of people is obtained, and those groups are then bombarded with very specific targeted messages, it can have huge impacts. As we now understand, it can tilt the outcomes of elections.

Is a Code of Conduct Needed?

The Internet is a new frontier, and it probably is comparable with the Wild West, with no law and order yet established. Invented by great minds and put together by great engineers, certainly, but as a society, we are still in the early stage of learning about the impacts on our daily lives. And we still have a long way to go to deal with the consequences.

Pole-mount small cell cabinetCars and traffic would be a good analogy here. Simply put, a car is a tool that conveniently takes us from point A to B. At least, that is probably the way it started. Of course, today, a car is not just a simple tool. It is about driver’s licenses, traffic rules, police and highway enforcement, traffic accidents, car insurance, freeways, gas stations, gas distribution, traffic congestion, traffic reports, the list goes on and on. It probably took us 50 years to establish this car ecosystem, this fabric, that we are conveniently using every day as if it has always been there. And, it is still evolving. Even today, we continue to work on improving traffic safety, and other technologies for self-driving cars. Such wireless products help sense danger, connect information, and protect lives. Innovation is never-ending, especially as the automotive infrastructure further evolves with smart cars and smart cities, much like the Internet is evolving.

Switching back to the subject of Internet security, I recently wrote an email to a friend about a particular subject, buying a car of a certain brand, and I assumed that the email was completely private. However, to my surprise, that same day I received an advertisement on social media about that brand, and a deal especially made for me. Coincidence? Perhaps. Or, perhaps not.

In the physical world, the privacy of correspondence has been protected for centuries. Tampering with the mail is considered a felony crime in the U.S., for example. Why is this assumption of privacy broken when we move to write an email and sending it over the Internet? Similarly, we know that in the physical world, our houses cannot be entered without a warrant. But, if I bring in devices and sensors, including cameras and microphones, can I still consider my home secure? More specifically, am I really waiving all expectations of protected privacy? Can the data generated by these devices be freely used for targeted advertising? Is my voice assistant only “listening” when I call out the keyword? Or can my personal situation now be exploited freely all the time? Will it take 50+ years to make the Internet a safer place? Will it take 50+ years to sort out the difference between influence and manipulation? I definitely hope not! Can we wait for legislation? Probably not. Do we need a code of conduct for the Internet now? It sure seems like it. What would an Internet code of conduct include?

Probably. It is not that difficult to get started. The code of conduct for the Wild West was pretty straightforward. Basically, it was, “let’s pretend we live in the civilized world and comply with the rules of the physical world as if enforcement was in place.” A code of conduct for the Internet, the virtual world, should also mirror the rules of the physical world and adopt those rules without any enforcement being in place, while we wait for legislation to (maybe) catch up. Perhaps these three elements are key: It seems to me that these rules, sooner or later, will be implemented in the Internet, for the simple reason that they make sense. They have made sense in the physical world for hundreds of years, why would they not make sense in the virtual world?

Nothing Good Comes Free

The Internet is indeed a great invention. And it should not be dominated by a few large companies that are able to determine law and order as it suits them. We are dependent on the Internet, as anyone who has tried to go a weekend without using it can attest. We often hear a response to breaches of privacy that goes something like, “well, these online applications are all free to use – what did you expect?” It reminds me of my mother warning me to be very careful if something is offered for free, as there is nothing free in this world…. Have we been too naïve as individuals? Is that the same as knowingly waiving our privacy? Have we been too naïve as a society? Does that mean we are okay with elections being influenced? Maybe. Or maybe it is part of growing up and understanding what the intricacies and the dangers are – and learning how to protect ourselves. This may cost us some money, but maybe it is worth it?

Recently I was asked whether self-regulation or imposed legislation of the Internet would stifle innovation. My first thought was that it probably would – and fair enough because we have some cleaning up to do! We have gone a little ahead of ourselves and assumed a little too much freedom in the Wild West of the Internet without understanding the price.

But, after thinking about it a while longer, I realized that making the Internet a safe place and a fair environment is an innovation challenge in itself. So, in that sense, self-regulation or legislation does not stifle innovation at all. It steers the Internet in the right direction. It is just an example, albeit a very important example, of market feedback for engineers and innovators to develop the right products.

Pole-mount small cell cabinet Cees Links is a Wi-Fi pioneer. Under his responsibility, the first wireless LANs were developed, ultimately becoming household technology integrated into PCs and notebooks. He also pioneered the development of access points, home networking routers, and hotspot base stations. He was involved in the establishment of the IEEE 802.11 standardization committee and the Wi-Fi Alliance. He was also instrumental in establishing the IEEE 802.15 standardization committee to become the basis for the Zigbee® sense and control networking. Cees Links was the founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies, which is now part of Qorvo, and has become the General Manager of the Wireless Connectivity Business Unit. He was recognized as Wi-Fi pioneer with the Golden Mousetrap Lifetime Achievement award. For more information, please visit www.qorvo.com.

The Cold, Hard, Truth About 5G Conformance Testing 

Of all the challenges mobile device and base station manufacturers are up against in the 5G rollout, passing conformance and device acceptance tests is among the most daunting.

Ten years ago, during the transition from 3G to 4G, handset and base station makers had to overcome significant hurdles. However, the changes between 3G and 4G were small compared to the rollout of 5G. The transition from 4G to 5G is considerably more disruptive, involving many more changes and the incorporation of far more innovative and complex technologies. 

For starters, 5G devices operate at higher frequencies with wider transmission bandwidths, and connections require entirely new access technologies. Mobile devices must be able to handle dual connectivity, receiving both 4G LTE and 5G signals, and then aggregating the streams to create a seamless, harmonious user experience. 

For conformance test, that is just the beginning of the complexity involved. One of the most frequently cited benefits of 5G is a surge in the number of expected use cases, resulting in a corresponding exponential increase in the number of test cases. 5G’s Frequency Range 2 (FR 2), spanning from 24.25 GHz to 52.6 GHz, brings a significant increase in test complexity. To top it all off, 5G remains a moving target — conformance test requirements and methods are not yet complete, while the standards continue to evolve. 

Here are four tips to prepare for 5G conformance and acceptance tests.

Tip number one – use the minimum requirements as a guide In order to understand the 5G specifications. It is important to look back at the process that generates them. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) radio access network (RAN) working committees define the conformance goals (Table 1). 

5G NR originates with a vision of pervasive connectivity, extreme data rates, and low latency with highly reliable networks. The IMT-2020 vision, created by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) working with the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT), has three primary use cases for 5G NR: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra reliable low latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

The 3GPP study item technical report (TR) 38.913, describes the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the different deployment scenarios, as well as vehicle-to-everything (V2X) requirements. KPIs include targets for peak data rates, spectral efficiency, latency, reliability, and user equipment (UE) battery life.

The RAN working groups develop the 5G NR specifications based on the IMT-2020 goals. 5G NR documents are available in the 38.xxx series documents located on the 3GPP website.

Table 1 Table 1. 3GPP RAN working groups generate technical reports and technical specifications.

Conformance tests ensure a minimum level of performance in UEs and base stations. Table 2 lists the 3GPP requirements documents. Conformance tests validate transmitter characteristics, receiver characteristics, and their performance.

Additional tests for devices include radio resource management (RRM) and protocol testing. Base station tests are structured around radio frequency (RF) parameters. UEs have a much longer list of conformance requirements that add radio access, signaling, and demodulation tests. UEs must also undergo validation by certification organizations, such as the Global Certification Forum (GCF) and PCS Type Certification Review Board (PTCRB), to ensure 5G commercial devices comply to the latest 3GPP specifications.

To ensure UE devices operate as expected on a specific network, they must pass acceptance tests by mobile network operators.

Conformance test specifications originate from the minimum requirements specified in the 3GPP RAN2 and RAN4 documents. The conformance specifications take into consideration the test measurement uncertainty and test tolerance.

Operators and device and base station original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) specify the test requirements for each test. The minimum requirement specification is more stringent than the conformance specification. Designers can use the minimum requirement as a guide to test their 5G NR products until 5G NR conformance test requirements are complete. The minimum test requirements ensure that 5G products pass the final conformance test cases.

Table 2 Table 2. 3GPP conformance tests for base stations and devices.

Tip number two – address test system complexity with high-performance instruments. The lower frequency tests in 5G NR Frequency Range 1 (FR1) are similar to 4G LTE tests, but FR2 testing stresses the test solution in many new ways. The test equipment required to test the FR2 range needs to cover wider frequencies and bandwidths. The requirements are up to 60 GHz for measuring spurious emissions, and up to 1.6 GHz bandwidth to support inter-band carrier aggregation.

Conformance requirements state that all FR2 device and base station tests — as well as some FR1 base station tests — are radiated tests. This requires over-the-air (OTA) testing, which introduces additional test challenges, including greater path loss and higher measurement uncertainties that make it challenging to achieve measurement accuracy.

Pre-conformance and conformance tests require a calibrated OTA test solution that covers all the requirements outlined in the 3GPP conformance documents listed in Table 2. Example tests include transmitted power, signal quality, intermodulation, spurious emissions, and blocking tests.

A test solution for millimeter-wave (mmWave) designs needs to accommodate higher frequencies with wider channel bandwidths. The solution must also have an adequate signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to detect and demodulate 5G signals accurately. When testing transmitters, for example, SNR is critical in the signal analyzer to ensure accurate error vector magnitude (EVM) and adjacent channel leakage ratio (ACLR) measurements.

In an OTA test setup where path loss is an issue, a vector signal generator (VSG) with high output power and low EVM will ensure adequate SNR for testing 5G receivers.

A selectivity and block test setup requires multiple mmWave signal generators to provide the fixed reference channel, a modulated interfering signal, and a continuous wave (CW) signal. High output power is also important to overcome higher path losses at mmWave frequencies.

Figure 1 Figure 1. Base station receiver intermodulation conducted test setup for part 1 (part 2 is OTA). When specifying a 5G test solution, it is also important to select test equipment that has adequate range to cover the requirements from sub‑6 GHz to the different mmWave operating bands. Since many tests require multiple sources for receiver tests and multiple analyzers for transmitter tests, a modular platform will reduce the test footprint and simplify the test setup (Figure 1).

Tip number three - ensure test case coverage with standard platforms 5G NR aims to support many different use cases and deployment scenarios over FR1 and FR2 operating bands. The test combinations create a vast matrix of test cases (Figure 2).

For example, 5G NR can operate in standalone (SA) or non-standalone (NSA) mode. In standalone mode, the 5G NR connects directly with the 5G next-generation core (NGC) network and operates independently of 4G. However, it will take time to roll out 5G networks, and 5G NR will rely heavily on the 4G infrastructure to maintain connectivity as 5G devices travel through the network.

Devices need validation for one or multiple deployment options. Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA) and 5G NR dual connectivity (EN-DC) also require testing. With the addition of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) and multiple carrier aggregation combinations across various operating bands, this equates to more than 1,000 UE test cases.

Figure 2Figure 2. 5G NR deployment options.

A common hardware platform that scales across frequency ranges and UE conformance tests — including RF, RRM, and protocol — provides the scalability needed to maximize 5G test case validation coverage.

Standardization on a common platform provides additional benefits. Leveraging test platforms across the workflow enables 5G designers to resolve and validate issues early in the design phase. Using the same test platform in pre-conformance and conformance testing will reduce issues and speed up test times (Figure 3). 

Figure 3 Figure 3. Using the same test platform across a device workflow.

Tip number four – stay current on 5G NR standards. Preparing for the next phase of 5G NR is critical. While Release 15 was approved back in June 2018, conformance testing for various use cases and network deployment options are still work in progress. Carrier aggregation, FR2, and RRM test cases are far from 100 percent complete. 

Release 16 originally was to be release in March of this year. 2020. However, circumstances forced a postponement. It was pushed out to June 2020, then released a couple of weeks ago.

It will continue with 5G NR optimization, new use cases, and identifies new types of services, devices, deployment models, and spectrum bands. There is an emphasis on URLLC enhancements for industrial IoT, utilization of unlicensed bands, cellular V2X, UE positioning, and power efficiency. As the standard continues to evolve, test solutions need to support higher frequencies, wider bandwidths, and new physical layer features.

Future-proof investments in test equipment that can evolve as the standards change. Consider how quickly the test vendor can provide software releases to update to the latest test cases. 

As standards evolve to higher frequencies and wider bandwidths, scaling the test hardware is a physical limitation. One strategy is to purchase or lease test equipment that has broader coverage initially. Another approach is to use test equipment that easily scales as the requirements change.


These four tips for 5G conformance testing can help to ensure 5G products are deployed successfully and on time. While testing to minimum requirements will ensure that products pass conformance testing, test solutions and methods will need to continue to evolve as the standards do. Therefore, careful selection of test equipment is essential — an emphasis on flexible and common test platforms with enough performance and capabilities to address 5G’s most challenging test scenarios — is foundational to success in the 5G era.

Dylan McGrath Dylan McGrath is a veteran technology journalist and former editor in chief of EE Times. He is now a senior industry solutions manager at Keysight Technologies.
5G mmWave

The Challenge of mmWave Isolator Design

mmWave spectrum promises much. But it is not without challenges, particularly in component design.

As 5G becomes more and more mainstream new challenges arise, especially in the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, that changes the status quo of typical design metrics. One of the major issue design engineers face, as they try to utilize the higher frequencies of the mmWave spectrum, is with isolators.

This part of the RF spectrum is critical for the future of wireless technologies like autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, 5G and onto 6G, as well as a host of other products. There simply is not enough room at the lower frequencies to handle the bandwidth required of next-gen wireless products, but moving into the higher, millimeter wave spectrum means dealing with a major issue – that of standing waves.

At lower frequencies, isolators are used to solve this problem, but as you move up the spectrum traditional isolators kill the signal, frustrating engineers who then have to try and tune out the problem manually.

It does not take a crystal ball to know where the future of wireless is heading. With inexhaustible demand driven by 5G, 6G and beyond, ultra-high-definition video, autonomous driving cars, security applications, and IoT, the sky is the limit for utilizing the higher ends of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum.

Meeting this demand requires products capable of capitalizing on the mmWave bands which presently cover the frequencies between 30 GHz to 500 GHz. However, these higher frequencies present a significant problem that design engineers must address – standing waves. Without control, these unwanted waves can attenuate power output, distort the digital information on the carrier, and, in extreme cases, damage internal components.

To counteract the problem of standing waves at lower microwave frequencies, engineers rely on Faraday rotation isolators – more commonly referred to simply as isolators. At their very basic level, an isolator is a two-port, input and output, component that allows EM signals to pass in one direction but absorbs them in the opposite direction. However, traditional isolators fall short at the higher frequencies required for next-generation wireless applications.

A big part of the problem is that the first isolators were designed more than a half-century ago, with very few modifications since the original concept. With recent advancements, however, companies at the cutting edge of mmWave technologies are gaining the ability to launch products that operate optimally at stratospheric frequencies.

“The new series of waveguide isolators have been a key enabling technology for VDI, and a large advance from what was previously available,” says Jeffrey Hesler, Ph.D., CTO of Virginia Diodes, Inc.

“The compact size, extremely low insertion loss, and the wide bandwidth have allowed us to use isolators in a wider variety of systems than was previously possible. This had led to significant improvements in key system performance metrics such as source power and sensitivity,” says Hesler.

By understanding these advancements in each of the five properties of isolator functionality, designers can better harness isolators to improve their mmWave products.

High Isolation

Isolation is a measure of how much of the signal traveling in the reverse direction passes back through the isolator. Because isolators are intended to prevent, or minimize, this from happening, the higher the isolation, the better. “The issue that mmWave system designers face is impedance mismatches and the resulting reflections between components,” states David Porterfield, Founder, and CEO of Micro Harmonics Corporation (MHC).

“In mmWave systems, the distance between components is often more than a wavelength, putting reflected signals out of phase,” continues Porterfield. “The out-of-phase reflected signal can perturb the operating point of the upstream component. As you sweep frequencies, the phase changes and you get nulls, dips, and degraded performance. However, when you insert an isolator between components, the reflected signal gets absorbed and the problem goes away.”

The highest possible isolation occurs when the reverse wave is rotated exactly 45 degrees into the plane of the isolator’s resistive layer. Isolation can degrade by as much as 10 dB when the signal rotation is off by just 1 degree.

“The only way to confirm such precision is to fully characterize each isolator on a vector network analyzer,” says Porterfield. “This validates total compliance, as opposed to just spot-checking at a couple of frequencies in the band, continues Porterfield.”

Low Insertion Loss

While isolation is the namesake of these components, the suppression of the reverse wave cannot come at the expense of attenuating the forward, input signal. Insertion loss is a measure of how much loss a signal incurs as it passes through the isolator in the forward direction.

For traditional style isolators, insertion loss is low in the lower microwave bands. However, at the higher mmWave frequencies the loss becomes increasingly problematic. For instance, in the WR-10 band (75-110 GHz) the insertion loss can exceed 3 dB, meaning half of the signal power is lost. In the WR-5.1 band (140 -220 GHz) the loss climbs to more than 5 dB. Because of high losses, traditional isolators are often precluded for use in mmWave systems.

“A designer’s main fear is that the isolator will significantly degrade the strength of the final output,” continues Porterfield. “It can be frustrating for engineers to try and tune the standing waves out of each system, usually with limited success. Many of the alternate methods used are narrow band in nature, so that the solution may work well only over an insufficiently narrow band of frequencies.”

Faraday rotation isolators operate by using ferrite discs to rotate the signal. However, the traditional method to manufacturer them has been to use ferrites that are substantially longer than the minimum required length and then tune the magnetic bias field to achieve optimal performance. This delivers good isolation but, at a much higher insertion loss.

Porterfield points out a two-fold problem with this workaround. First, there is more of the lossy ferrite in the signal path, and second, the ferrite loss parameter increases at lower magnetization levels.

To minimize loss, it is essential that the ferrite length be reduced as much as possible. The design developed for NASA saturates the ferrite with a strong magnetic bias field, which allows for the shortest possible length of ferrite to achieve the ideal 45 degrees of rotation. This lowers the insertion loss to less than 1 dB at 75-110 GHz and only 2 dB at 220-330 GHz.

“The extension of isolator technology above 220 GHz is an impressive technical feat, and a key technology that enables the delivery of accurate measurements with higher sensitivity than we were previously able to achieve,” notes VDI’s Hesler.

Low Port Reflection

A good isolator must also have low port reflections. Voltage Standing Wave Ratio (VSWR) is a measure of the reflections at the input and output ports. A good range at mmWave frequencies is 1.5:1 or less; 1:1 equals no reflection.

The importance of low port reflections is often overlooked. An isolator with high port reflections creates an alternate set of standing waves. The adjacent components are still adversely impacted by out-of-phase signals reflected back into their ports. High isolation and low insertion loss are of little value if the port reflections are large.

High Power Rating

Power in the reverse traveling signal is absorbed in the isolator, resulting in heat. The more heat it can handle, the higher the power rating. Historically, high heat was not an issue as there was little power available at mmWave frequencies. However, as higher power sources become available, the importance of power ratings increases. To handle the problem of high heat loads, some newer isolators are already incorporating diamond heat sinks into their design. Diamond is the ultimate thermal conductor, approaching 2200 W/m•K (watts per meter-Kelvin), more than five times higher than copper. Diamond effectively channels heat from the resistive layer in the isolator to the metal waveguide block, and thus lowers operating temperatures for improved reliability.

Small Footprint

Minimizing the size and weight of mmWave components is especially important in today’s wireless applications. “A standard traditional-style isolator in the WR-10 band is about 3 inches long, with a cylindrical section in the center that’s about 1.3 inches in diameter,” observes Porterfield. “But the newest design shapes are rectangular and can be as small as 0.75 inches per side and 0.45 inches thick.” The same technology used to reduce insertion loss – utilizing the shortest possible length of ferrite – also partially accounts for the reduction in footprint.


In addition to the five critical characteristics, other properties of modern isolators improve their utility at mmWave frequencies. Wide bandwidth for instance. Standard waveguide bands typically extend to 40 percent on either side of the center frequency. Newer, high-performing isolators operate over extended bandwidths exceeding 50 percent from the center frequency, giving designers greater freedom to build more bandwidth into their systems.

Going forward, as technologies advance, isolators will be able to operate in cryogenic conditions. This is a significant achievement because a traditional isolator designed for room-temperature operation will perform poorly when cooled. Such advances, and others, will greatly aid the design of these extremely high frequencies and bring them into the realm of 5G.

David Rizzo Dr. Dave Rizzo is a Phoenix-based freelance writer with over 25 years of experience writing about microwave and RF technologies, design engineering, and electronics.

The Benefits of 5G Timing

A “timely” Q & A with Piyush Sevalia, Executive Vice President, Marketing, SiTime

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Piyush Sevalia, Executive Vice President, Marketing, SiTime, and discuss one of the major challenges of 5G – precision timing.

Since 5G is going to have much tighter bound for some of its platforms, such as ultra-low latency, and dynamic spectrum sharing, the timing requirements will be much more stringent than with previous editions of “G.”

As well, other platforms such as the Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX), autonomous vehicles, location technologies, and such will also require tighter specs. And, on top of that is the densification issues, which, for no other reason than billions of devices chattering over wireless links.

So, let us see how MEMS will play a significant role in the design of timing requirements.

Ernest: How are MEMS oscillators advantageous over traditional oscillators?

Sevalia: MEMS oscillators have several advantages over traditional quartz oscillators. In the presence of dynamic environmental stressors such as vibration, shock, and rapid temperature changes, which all 5G equipment will be subject. MEMS oscillators outperform quartz oscillators by up to 30 times.

Other advantages include:

  • Have 20 times better vibration immunity than quartz
  • Have 4 times better frequency slope (dF/dT) than quartz
  • Suffer no micro-phase-jumps, reducing the number of dropped calls
  • Are 30 times more reliable than quartz, minimizing truck rolls
  • Have temp ratings up to 125° C

MEMS oscillators are well poised to be the clock source of choice for the many upcoming 5G designs scheduled to roll into use in the next few years.

Ernest: What are the key factors driving growth of MEMS timing?

Sevalia: MEMS timing solutions are siliconizing the timing industry. As we have seen several times, semiconductor technology always wins when it replaces incumbent technology because it offers new benefits (digital cameras replace film cameras, and offer the benefit of easy sharing, large storage. MEMS gyroscopes replace large mechanical devices and offer the benefits of size).

The electronics market will be driven by the growth in new markets such as 5G, self-driving cars, and IoT. These new markets will require new features, which can be provided only by precision MEMS timing technology. We are seeing engineers adopting MEMS timing technology rapidly.

For example, in 5G, there will be 10-50 times more radios deployed closer to the customer, compared to 4G. These radios will be subject to environmental stressors, and MEMS timing technology helps to ensure that the network is always available.

Ernest: What are the areas where MEMS timing is finding the greatest demand?

Sevalia: There will be three sources of timing in a 5G system. The primary source is the network itself, using the IEEE 1588 standard for receiving timing, along with SyncE that synchronizes timing, over Ethernet. However, if the network goes down, then you cannot get timing from the network. The backup is GNSS, which provides a pulse per second.

This is not very precise, but it is useful. If the equipment is somewhere without a strong GNSS signal, operators will need to keep the system going with a local timing signal, until the network comes back up.

Therefore, a very important role of timing is that of the local holdover clock – a locally derived clock that keeps going until the primary source(s) of timing (network or Global Navigation Satellite System — GNSS) return. It is like a flywheel that keeps spinning for a while even when it is not being actively driven. That calls for a very stable clock source, with none of the “activity dips” and sudden frequency jumps exhibited by quartz oscillators.

Ernest: What are the technical advancements of, for example, your company’s MEMS timing?

Sevalia: Our MEMS timing products are based on a game-changing MEMS, and analog, technologies that are revolutionizing the timing market by offering cutting-edge features, including 30 times higher performance and reliability, and 35 percent smaller in footprint.

These oscillators are all programmable, resulting in tens of millions of part numbers that are optimized for each customer’s exact need. MEMS resonators, for example, offer semiconductor customers the ability to integrate all timing into the processor/SoC.

The resonator (MEMS) is a holistically optimized, mixed-signal CMOS, with system-level integration that delivers the best possible system performance. This approach is very different from what is on the market today. Most products, typically, outsource one or more of these functions. Our MEMS technology is built on single-crystal silicon, which is one of the most predictable elements, and enables consistently high quality with short lead times.

Ernest: With 5G, do you find 5G timing is a big challenge for designers?

Sevalia: Take already-tight 4G timing, make it 10 times tighter, and then put equipment in locations where it did not go before and where it is now subject to many environmental disturbers. That is 5G in a nutshell; and it raises a number of challenges for any local clock source.

The first challenge is vibration. With more radios in more places, like on telephone poles, street lamps, and traffic lights, you will have more equipment in tough environments. Imagine when a heavy truck drives by and rattles everything nearby. The timing source must be more or less immune to such vibration.

Quartz oscillators can be easily rattled, and they go out of specification, potentially for as long as the vibration continues. That can be minutes for a long freight train nearby, or even longer on a windy day. MEMS oscillators, by contrast, simply will not go out of spec due to vibration.

Another challenge is external environments. 5G equipment will be placed in every conceivable environment. That means that some equipment will get exceedingly hot; others will operate under very cold conditions. The same equipment in, say, a dry area like New Delhi may have to handle extreme temperatures in the summer and in the winter. And, because fans are prone to failure, designers are trying to leave them out, meaning 5G equipment will not have cooling built-in.

Keeping timing accurate under all temperatures is extremely tough. But keeping the network up is essential. That means that even under extreme temperature conditions, the network has to keep going. High-performance MEMS oscillators can operate cleanly up to 125° C with extremely high stability, making them the clock source of choice for these applications.

Following on the external environment comes rapid temperature shifts. With the massive data processing that happens inside a radio, the ambient temperature can change by 20° C in minutes. That places a further strain on the clock source since it is exposed to sharp temperature gradients as things heat up or cool down.

Quartz has a hard time dealing with rapid temperature changes. The frequency can jump by hundreds of ppb (parts per billion), going way out of spec, and then take minutes to recover the desired frequency. MEMS timing devices, by contrast, have no problem keeping up with such rapid temperature changes, as they are designed to perform well in these environments.

Ernest: How are the newest, or latest product platforms addressing this challenge?

Sevalia: Take for example, one of our top products. It is a game-changing timing solution for the 5G infrastructure. Right now, it is the only programmable OCXO in the industry and is designed for 5G equipment that can be deployed anywhere, in any environment.

In 5G deployment, equipment is located closer to the customer and is subject to more thermal shock, vibration, high temperature and humidity. To reliably deliver the speed and services of 5G, a new approach to timing was required. Cutting-edge OCXOs have 20 times higher dynamic performance than legacy quartz OCXOs.

The trick is to design MEMS to solve critical timing challenges for 5G infrastructure, enabling new services such as network slicing, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and M2M communications, and new performance benchmarks in the $1.5 billion telecom and networking timing market.

MEMS timing devices are 10 times more immune to thermal shock, 20 times more immune to vibration, and 75 percent smaller. They provide unprecedented ease-of-use, reduce design complexity, and accelerate time to revenue. Unlike quartz OCXOs, these next-generation devices do not need protective components and have no placement or airflow restrictions.

The goal is to have MEMS precision products designed into 5G networks where timing and synchronization are essential to the entire system – from the backhaul to the fronthaul. Remember, 5G radios will cover several hundreds of meters, while 4G radios cover several kilometers. Hence, 5G equipment will be deployed in denser uncontrolled environments such as on buildings, street lamps, traffic lights, etc., and the electronics will be subject to harsh environmental stressors such as vibration, shock, high temperature, and rapid temperature change. If timing is not reliable, mission-critical services will be shut down.

The same need for reliability and dynamic performance is driving the use of MEMS timing solutions in automotive, where systems operate in challenging environments – ADAS computing, camera sensors, and precision GNSS. Automation is accelerating the use of timing devices in vehicles, which currently use 30 to 50 timing devices in today’s models. Future models will quickly scale that number up.

In Mobile-IoT applications, miniaturized products, which are 35 percent smaller than typical solutions, are used in smartphones, portable medical devices, fitness trackers, and many other systems that require small size, low-power, and reliable timing. In addition, these devices will require low-power and 10-year battery life.

Ernest: What is the road ahead for silicon-based MEMS oscillators?

Sevalia: MEMS timing solutions bring unique benefits that are not offered by traditional timing solutions. In particular, the 5G and communications, automotive, and IoT markets will greatly benefit from the size, reliability, and performance of MEMS timing solutions.

In networking and communications, timing and synchronization is essential to the entire system. The resiliency of MEMS timing provides unfailing performance that is critical for the deployment of 5G as it rolls out into less controlled, harsher environments. The same need for reliability and dynamic performance is driving the growing use of MEMS resonators in automotive, where systems must operate dependably in challenging conditions. In IoT, MEMS timing provides small size, low weight, and low power.

The semiconductor industry has one of the highest rates of innovation in any industry. MEMS timing takes advantage of these fast rates of innovation to deliver unique solutions that solve unique problems for customers. At this time, there are no real technological barriers to innovation in MEMS timing, and it is expected that the pace of innovation will continue in the form of new products.

Thank you Piyush, for bringing us up to date on this emerging segment.

Piyush Sevalia, Executive Vice President, Marketing, SiTime. Piyush joined SiTime in 2008 to pursue the vision of transforming the $6 billion timing industry. At SiTime, Piyush and his team are responsible for helping SiTime create and launch the industry’s best timing products. Since 2008, Piyush has helped grow SiTime from a pre-revenue startup to a fast-growing industry. Previously, Piyush was the VP of Marketing at Ikanos Communications where he was a key member of the team that drove Ikanos to success and a public offering. He launched his career at Cypress Semiconductor in applications engineering and marketing, where he defined and launched several category-leading products that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Piyush earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Bombay and the University of Michigan respectively, and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.
Case Study

One of the World's Largest Municipal Gigabit Wireless Access Networks is in Jerusalem

Jerusalem known worldwide as the Holy City, is also one of the most innovative high-tech cities in Israel. This is evidenced by a new, municipal “Gigabit Wireless Access” (GWA) network, which is enabling residents and tourists to enjoy high-speed Internet access in public spaces, government buildings and educational institutions.

Adopting a cost-effective, multi-service approach, Jerusalem’s new wireless broadband infrastructure will also serve thousands of security, traffic control and parking management cameras at speeds ranging from hundreds of megabits to 10 Gigabits (10 Gbps).

As in other cities around the world, GWA is needed to bring smart-city services everywhere in Jerusalem, as fiber optic deployment throughout the city is very limited. A GWA network is a more expedient solution as the addition of new fiber optic lines would involve lengthy and expensive trenching work, vehicular traffic disruption, and an overall nuisance for local residents.

Furthermore, laying fiber optics in Jerusalem poses special challenges due to numerous historical sites in the city and the fact that Jerusalem is a city built on rock, That would require more costly trenching equipment and drastically prolong the installation process.

Jerusalem is an ancient city filled with historic sites and careful planning is required to avoid harm to antiquities — Eitan Barzilai "Jerusalem is an ancient city filled with historic sites and careful planning is required to avoid harm to antiquities,” said Eitan Barzilai, the Municipality Head of Technological Development. “Therefore, we looked at a wireless network to speed up the process. We first thought our hilly topography would be an obstacle to wireless due to line of sight issues. However, using tools such as Simplex 3D modeling in order to determine the best access points to municipal assets such as streetlights, high-rise buildings, and water towers, we were able to transform the elevation differences into an advantage."

Therefore, the municipality's objective became to construct a unified wireless network while leveraging its assets to serve as inter-connection points above the ground.

Further, as the private network must provide the same speed and bandwidth as fiber optic cables, they soon realized that the only scalable option was to utilize the widest and open to all millimeter wave (mmWave) bands at 60 GHz (V-Band) and 70/80 GHZ (E-Band).

These frequencies enable what is known in the industry as “wireless fiber,” as they are uncongested, more readily accessible (e.g., as compared to 5 GHz) and the available spectrum offering predictable net capacities as high a 10 Gbps.

The city of Jerusalem selected SMBIT, the leading integrator in Israel, for the design, construction, and operation of unified services smart city networks, to coordinate this project. SMBIT selected the mmWave network equipment from Siklu.

The GWA network consists of hundreds of connections, which will provide a variety of services all over the city. The network being constructed in two layers: a core redundant ring offering speeds of 5-10 Gbps with inter-hop ranges of up to 10 km, and a street-level access layer ranging from hundreds of Mbps to 2 Gbps.

The network currently structured based on point-to-point connections and will expand soon with a point-to-multipoint (P2MP) configuration, as soon as the 60 GHz band will become available by local MOC.

Siklu’s mmWave solutions offer a range of additional advantages: unprecedented immunity to interference and hacking, and exceptionally high re-use capability, which achieved thanks to the narrow transmission beams ("pencil beams"). The pencil beams also mean exceptionally low radiation – so low in fact, that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has exempted the entire network’s mmWave components from the OPEX hungry common annual radiation survey.

Th initial trial involved creating a core multi-gig network branch from a municipal building to the high-rise Crowne Plaza Hotel in the city center, with small form-factor E-band radios.

Besides fast connectivity, the switch built into the radios also provided power over Ethernet (PoE) to multiple 4K, HD cameras and Cisco WiFi access-points at central areas in town, including Saker Park, Ma-Hane Yehuda Market, and Independence Park.

After the successful field trial, the project got underway with the construction of a core network and connection of 30 educational institutions in the eastern part of the city.

In the feasibility check for upgrading our communications infrastructure, we found that the cost of leasing high-speed lines from an operator would constitute the most substantial part of our initial investment and ongoing costs — Eitan Barzilai "In the feasibility check for upgrading our communications infrastructure, we found that the cost of leasing high-speed lines from an operator would constitute the most substantial part of our initial investment and ongoing costs,” said Mr. Barzilai. 

“After a proof of concept experiment for operating our own network using mmWave technology, we realized this is a groundbreaking solution. Compared to the alternative, we have at least ten times the available bandwidth and we can now consolidate all of our fixed communications services onto a unified network infrastructure. This will result in an expected savings of 80 percent, in terms of ongoing operating costs.”

Between the forward-thinking planners in the city of Jerusalem, and the advanced products developed by Siklu, Jerusalem offers some of the best wireless connectivity in the world.

For more information contact Siklu.com.
5G Special Report

The Five Myths of 5G

Misconceptions holding vack the 5G market, and the facts you need to know.

5G Is Here. Now What?

The first 5G commercial services have now been launched in several major regions across the world, including the United States, Europe, South Korea, and Japan, with large-scale deployments to follow in 2020 and 2021. These early 5G deployments are specifically designed for either Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) or Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA), essentially targeting consumer applications. In commercial terms, the first-generation 5G networks are designed to provide a business continuity to existing LTE networks, with the sole value proposition being to extend the network capacity and performance through higher bandwidth and low latency.

However, this seems to contradict the early vision framed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in its IMT2020 recommendations, which promote 5G as a high-performance, ultra-reliable, and future-proof network capable of accommodating the needs of multiple use cases across various industries, not just addressing business opportunities presented by the consumer market. Today, the telecommunications industry is struggling to translate this vision into real commercial opportunities, partly because of the realization that 5G is a much bigger animal than anticipated. In fact, deploying a single 5G network that can address all requirements and pain points in several industry verticals is a very difficult mission to achieve. This goal is even more difficult to realize given the fact that the foundation of this network is based on infrastructure initially designed to service the consumer market.

This situation has created huge confusion around the way 5G should be implemented and positioned, how the standards bodies should work with key industry verticals to address their requirements, and what role Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) and their technology suppliers will play in spurring a new Business-to-Business (B2B) developer ecosystem focused on enterprise use cases. This whitepaper highlights five key myths surrounding 5G’s value proposition and business opportunities. It will help you distinguish between myths and it will elaborate on the value propositions that are necessary to unlock business opportunities in the enterprise verticals.

Myth #1: 5G Is All About Bandwidth And Latency

Many industry players and observers are portraying 5G as a superior technology solely because it can provide abundant network capacity, much higher bandwidth, and lower latency compared to previous generation technologies, including Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and its evolution paths. Technology suppliers and MSPs are currently obsessed with tracking and benchmarking the performance of their early 5G networks against their competitors, with “My network is better than yours” becoming the marketing norm supporting the launch of early 5G networks. Yes, these networks can indeed deliver a peak bandwidth around 3X better than previous generation networks and a latency up to 2X lower, but this is true only when they are deployed over mmWave spectrum, large carrier channels, or in outdoor conditions. Although this is promising, bear in mind that the average performance delivered to the end user is, by no means, close to the peak performance of the 5G network.

The average performance depends on many other parameters, including the network channel conditions, outdoor/indoor operations, or the user density per cell. So, if 5G is just about performance enhancement, why not focus on upgrading LTE technology, which still has a lot to offer in term of performance compared to exiting commercial LTE networks? Would that not provide MSPs with a better option for business continuity and an easier network migration path than deploying 5G? Would the LTE upgrade path not allow for more optimized capital expenditures spending, similar support to higher bandwidth applications, and easier upgrade of subscribers to premium service/data plans?

Reality: The industry has not even scratched the surface of 5G’s capabilities. The technology has a lot more to offer than just network performance enhancement, and 5G is more than just an access technology. Instead, it should be seen as a transformation tool capable of supporting flexible implementation scenarios across licensed and unlicensed spectrum and across public and private networks.

5G networks are highly scalable and can solve various existing pain points across multiple industries, as well as address completely new use cases and applications otherwise not possible with existing networks. 5G is about reacting to the market demand in a timely fashion by enabling new services to be launched in a matter of days, not months or even years, it is the case with today’s existing networks. 5G is about extending the capabilities of macrocells and small cells beyond connectivity, and transforming them into intelligent computing hubs capable of bringing smart services close to the end user. 5G is about accelerating many other technologies and business models, helping them achieve their full potential and capturing brand new business opportunities. These are the assets the industry should focus on to unlock new business opportunities across the entire value chain.

Takeaway: Any successful 5G deployment strategy should center around business processes that 5G could support, pain points it could solve, and new business opportunities it could unlock for technology implementers. It should not center uniquely around higher bandwidth and lower latency of the network. To take full advantage of the potential of 5G, strategies and marketing rhetoric must extend beyond pigeonholing the technology as a pure connectivity play.

Myth #2: Consumer Revenues Will Be Enough To Justify 5G Rollouts

Driven by the interest of MSPs and some of their technology suppliers, early 5G implementations were designed to fit the needs of the consumer market. The idea was to harvest the low-hanging fruit provided by the consumer market and then gradually extend the network capabilities to tap into new business opportunities, notably in the enterprise market. MSPs have every hope that 5G will help them reduce the cost per Gigabyte (GB) of bandwidth and improve the Average Revenue per User (ARPU) compared to existing access technologies.

However, 5G is expected to be much more expensive compared to its predecessors. This is due to the network densification it requires and the addition of a great number of new functions, both at the core and the access sides of the network. As a result, the implementation and democratization of 5G will come at very high costs, notably Operational Expenditures (OPEX), which are already increasing at a very alarming pace. The question now is what incremental consumer ARPU 5G will create and whether this will be enough to produce 5G Return on Investment (ROI).

Reality: Early estimates from ABI Research indicate that if MSPs rely on consumers only to justify their investments in 5G rollouts, it could take up to 15 years to realize any ROI. It becomes self-evident that industrial telcos could potentially become the new cash cow for securing 5G ROI. Indeed, 5G is positioned to be a major component of enterprise digital transformation and a reliable wireless communication platform that could create trillions in economic value across many enterprise verticals. However, as things stand and how they are planned by MSPs, 5G commercial implementations for enterprise applications are far from optimized, unable to accelerate the enterprise digital transformation and unlock new business opportunities in this environment. Network architecture flexibility, interoperability with legacy operation processes, cost effectiveness, network determinism, security, and reliability will be equally important for the enterprise as providing bigger pipes—a value proposition that resonates well within the consumer market, but is unlikely to attract industrial verticals.

Takeaway: The telco industry should be more realistic when it comes to the goals of 5G. It is wishful thinking that the implementation they have initially designed for the consumer market could also serve the enterprise verticals. Building a “Swiss Army knife” 5G network capable of accommodating the needs of multiple markets and industries is a big fantasy of MSPs, which is unlikely to materialize mainly because it is based on a “build it and they will come” approach.

Myth #3: 5G Is The Only Connectivity Technology Needed For Enterprise Verticals

5G is being positioned as a “network of networks” that will encompass public and private components, licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and even expand beyond cellular, to satellite communications. The telco industry has somewhat designed 5G as a technology that will complement, or even replace, several other competing communication technologies.

This is, in fact, built into the standard: 5G includes eMBB, Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC), and Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) use cases. The first use case on this list, eMBB, builds on previous cellular generations, while URLLC can enable Time Sensitive Networks (TSNs), and can replace proprietary protocols and even Industrial Ethernet. mMTC is positioned to unify cellular IoT technologies into one system and introduce connectivity for millions of different types of IoT devices. In theory and according to its specification, 5G will enable connectivity that ranges from low power, low data rates, to ultra-high bandwidth and low latency, all under one system.

Reality: From a pragmatic viewpoint, 5G will be another component in a patchwork of communication technologies and will certainly add unique value. However, it will not be the “network of networks” the telco industry is currently discussing. Enterprise verticals—just like the telco industry—have their own established supply chains and families of communication technologies. Enterprise vertical end users prefer “function over form,” focusing on practical requirements, rather than insisting on standardized technologies. It is true that 5G can introduce a more cost-effective base (especially for chipsets and devices), but this will only materialize when enterprise verticals establish a critical mass for 5G and, in turn, economies of scale. This may not happen, especially in the first 5 years of 5G, when the telco supply chain adapts to the requirements of enterprise verticals. This may also mean that 5G will miss the enterprise digitization wave that is currently sweeping many markets, especially if the telco community does not act immediately. Telco operators and the infrastructure supply chain must build enterprise vertical expertise and partner with specialists when it is not necessary to organically grow this expertise internally.

Takeaway: 5G will only be one component of the enterprise vertical technology stack, and larger than connectivity only if the telco value chain builds expertise for each vertical separately.

Myth #4: The 5G Supply Chain Will Remain Linear And Controlled By Established Players

The 5G supply chain is proceeding on a linear development curve, where established vendors are currently expanding their existing products and services with 5G functionality and are starting to define enterprise vertical use cases and applications.

The very same companies that developed and deployed 2G, 3G, and 4G are now cooperating in standardization bodies and through enterprise vertical partnerships to create new functionality in 5G that will address enterprise vertical requirements. The modus operandi in the telecoms supply chain remains unchanged; infrastructure vendors will likely deploy and manage the infrastructure, while either they, or the telco operator community will create enterprise vertical services and monetize them.

At the same time, the telco supply chain remains a global market where telco operators, and in the future, enterprise vertical end users, will be able to choose best of breed from a plethora of technology suppliers.

Reality: Current development of 5G is focusing on consumer use cases, while the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), is just starting to understand enterprise vertical use cases, define specifications, and, consequently, determine what will be needed from the telco network. However, the B2B opportunity will require a much broader development effort and it will not be possible for vendors or operators to be directly involved in all activities. What the 5G industry needs is a platform economy, where network effects will create exponential value, but there is no significant effort or capital being spent on evolving 5G to an application platform, rather than a connectivity technology.

Moreover, geopolitical issues are restricting vendor footprints, which will create a smaller value chain and restrict development value within individual regions. This will likely fragment the application development ecosystem and restrict value for developers who will aim for a global B2B footprint.

Takeaway: The supply chain will need to evolve to include third party B2B application developers. At the same time, telco service providers will need to become platform enablers rather than just connectivity providers.

Myth #5: Telco Standardization Can Extend Its Reach To Enterprise Vertical Use Cases

The mobile telecommunications ecosystem, including the standardization bodies supporting it, have largely focused their efforts on building specification frameworks to support MSPs’ interests in the consumer market. Contrary to previous generation networks that have targeted the consumer market, 5G is unique in the sense that it will be the first “G” to widen the scope to address the needs of many industry verticals.

The very same standardization and regulatory bodies that have played a central role in specifying and designing the framework of previous generation networks are currently attempting to address the enterprise vertical opportunity. They are liaising with new industry consortia and associations to define requirements on one enterprise vertical at a time, and in time, these requirements will translate to telco-specific technical specifications.

Reality: There are many questions when it comes to how 5G should be standardized and under what governance model it should evolve, provided the scope and the objectives of a 5G network for enterprise verticals are incredibly large and complex. The key questions that need to be addressed to make sure 5G is standardized in a way that could address the needs of all industry verticals are:

  • Can existing standardization frameworks, initially designed for the consumer market, be extended to also address enterprise verticals?
  • Do existing standardization body structures and organizations need to change the way they are organized and operate to address new and heterogeneous requirements from the fast-evolving enterprise markets?
  • How likely are these new changes to impact the cadence of telco standards release specifications?
  • What new players with interest in various industry verticals should influence the existing standardization bodies?
  • Who will be the winners and losers throughout this transformation?

Takeaway: The standardization and regulatory bodies of 5G need to take a fresh look at the way 5G should be standardized and handled if the industry wants to take advantage of the multi-trillion-dollar business opportunities promised by the enterprise. These organizations need to go back to the drawing board and redesign appropriate strategies for industry verticals, rather than relying on progressive extensions to legacy standards. These changes need to factor in the imminent heterogeneity of 5G implementations, combining public and private networks, licensed and unlicensed spectrums, or various slices addressing multiple use-case requirements.

Takeaways and Recommendations

Fundamental network architectural changes need to occur in order to capitalize on the trillions of dollars of economic value promised by 5G. Cooperation between key stakeholders, including technology implementers, governments, and regulatory bodies across various industries, needs to be part of the 5G governance model. This governance should move away from the current “build it and they will come” approach MSPs and their technology suppliers are promoting today and should instead be driven by enterprise requirements, with the end goal of designing a network flexible and agile enough to solve current and future pain points across various industries.

MSPs and their technology partners need to move their business and operation processes away from just expanding network capacity, with increased performance being the sole value proposition. This value proposition may be enough to offer augmented experiences to consumers. However, this is far from enough to attract new audiences, notably the enterprise verticals that are generally more pragmatic. This audience is looking for technologies that could help them effectively optimize their business processes and increase their productivity, efficiency, security, and safety. They are looking to deploy networks agile enough to dynamically fit their current and future requirements, simple enough to integrate with their existing legacy technologies, and reliable enough to enable them to guarantee deterministic and consistent operations.

5G standardization bodies need to deeply integrate industrial verticals as essential contributors to their processes and allow them to influence the roadmap of 5G specifications. If they continue to rely on antiquated notions to protect their current interests and legacy businesses, they will be at serious risk of missing the enterprise digitization wave currently in progress across many verticals and will remain pure connectivity providers with no new business opportunities. There are many misconceptions about 5G, both within the market itself and within the companies that will need to make use of the technology.

Andrew Zignani

As Principal Analyst for ABI Research’s Strategic Technologies team, Andrew Zignani conducts research into the rapidly changing wireless connectivity market, with a particular emphasis on market forecasts and qualitative insight covering Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 802.15.4, NFC, HaLow, WiGig, and other emerging wireless standards and protocols. Andrew also writes reports on the technological evolution and long-term prospects for wireless connectivity technologies, particularly as they increasingly target new verticals across the IoT. For more information about subscribing to ABI’s Research Services as well as Industrial and Custom Solutions, visionaries can contact us at +1.516.624.2500 in the Americas, +44.203.326.0140 in Europe, +65.6592.0290 in Asia-Pacific or visit www.abiresearch.com.

5G Concealment Thought Leader Forum

How Concealing Small Cell Sites Will Reduce Time-to-Deployment and Simplify the Installation and Upgrade of 5G Sites

To meet coverage requirements in urban areas, 5G mmWave network deployment will depend, to a large extent, on small cell sites located on street poles. Several options exist to combine and conceal the 5G/4G electronics, power, and connectivity on new, or existing, lighting poles create a small cell site. Through scalable manufacturing, testing and fast turnaround times, these options can reduce time-to-deployment and simplify installation.

Small Cell Poles Will Form the Backbone in Dense Urban Environments

Small cell pole To make 5G wireless services a reality, it is anticipated that small cell sites using mmWave radios will be widely installed to provide sufficient coverage. Their higher frequencies exhibit increased propagation loss that limits inter-site distances (ISD) to roughly one tenth of a mile. So, 5G small cell sites must be lower to the ground and in closer proximity to one another than previous wireless generations.

As a result, in dense, high-volume urban areas, 5G small cell sites will become prevalent across busy city streets, historic sites and neighbourhoods, co-existing with lighting poles and other street furniture. To avoid cluttering up these urban areas, carriers, tower companies and municipalities are recognizing that street lighting poles are obvious platforms for 5G small cell sites. However, 5G small cell site solutions need to balance the needs of both service providers and municipalities.

Integrated Small Cell Lighting Poles Form Complete 5G Site

As 5G services proliferate, integrated 5G small cell poles are expected to become a common element in the urban landscape. They need to fit in seamlessly with the rest of the architecture, public spaces and pedestrian right of ways. Because each city has its own history, challenges, ordinances and aspirations, integrated poles will need to be easily adapted to different designs yet be based on a standard product for streamlined customization and manufacturing.

Crucially, integrated poles should combine and conceal all the elements needed for a complete 5G small cell site. The Raycap integrated small cell pole, as an example, can integrate AC- or DC-powered 5G mmWave and 4G radios, AC disconnect functions with surge protection for safety and long life, as well as fiber management and connectivity enclosures.

Integrated small cell lighting poles Most integrated small cell poles mount the 4G/5G antennas or radios at the top of the pole to optimize performance and make concealment easier. The overriding characteristic of pole toppers should be flexibility in configuration, so the radios can be positioned optimally (and eventually upgraded) depending on the needs of that particular site. Importantly, the pole manufacturer must be able to provide a concealment material that does not interfere with the 5G mmWave signals. To meet required coverage patterns, multi-tenant siting and future upgrades, the pole topper should have a uniform form factor that can host different brands of 5G radios, as well as be backwards compatible with lower frequency bands. With unique mounting options, the form factor can support different orientations of the radios, radios on different levels, on top of one another or back-to-back.

Enclosures on Existing Poles and Buildings Provide Flexible Deployment

When a new, integrated pole with a pole topper is not an option, carriers and municipalities can use a small cell enclosure solution to mount the 5G small cell on an existing pole. Carriers and cities can balance performance needs with aesthetic standards through the use of custom-made mounts, shrouds and enclosures to conceal or partially conceal equipment on existing metal or wooden poles. Some engineered solutions can also integrate concealment materials and surge protection devices, to deliver complete solutions for custom shrouds, street furniture and electrical protection of network infrastructure equipment. Carriers and municipalities can have these enclosures customized to blend in with existing environments, seamlessly.

For those areas where lighting poles do not provide adequate coverage, it is straightforward to mount and conceal 5G small cell sites on buildings, monuments, signs, and other elements of the urban cityscape. Advanced enclosures are available to conceal entire sites and seamlessly blend in with the color or texture of existing infrastructure.

Concealment Options are Critical to Streamline Review and Deployment

With one or more small cell sites destined for virtually every block, municipalities are rightly concerned about the aesthetic implications. Fortunately, there are now materials that can cover 5G radios with, very little or, no impact on performance.

New materials ae now available that meet the needs of 5G bandwidth, and gigabit speeds, while minimizing dB loss. They have been tested and approved for use at the mmWave frequencies commonly used for 5G networks. In addition, they are entirely backwards compatible with widely used frequencies for 4G and earlier technologies.

Rapid Time for Deployment Calls for Integrated Small Cell Poles

According to the CTIA trade group, small cell sites will skyrocket from 86,000 in 2018 to over 800,000 by 2026. As a result, high quality, scalable manufacturing will be critical to meeting this demand.

Crucially, integrated small cell poles answer a related challenge of 5G site infrastructure: rapid time to deployment. They can be engineered as a standard product line and then quickly customized for a particular need.

Furthermore, integrated small cell poles can be manufactured, assembled and tested at a factory under controlled conditions. This means they will arrive at a site with cabling, radios, and power and fiber equipment ready to go. All that is needed for installation is to affix the pole on the foundation, then hook up the feed lines for power and fiber. This is much faster than hiring field crews to install electrical components and run cabling on site.

Multiple Deployment Options are Available for Carriers and Municipalities

It is still early, but solutions are emerging to help carriers, utilities and municipalities work together and move ahead with 5G policies and installations. In particular, choices for situating small cell sites on street lighting poles will assure municipalities of favourable aesthetics and fast installation.

At a macro level, pole toppers, enclosures and other concealment solutions give carriers and municipalities multiple choices and a wide range of flexibility to solve specific site characteristics. This ultimately will help benefit all stakeholders in streamlining and speeding up the deployment of 5G services.

Apostolis Sotiriou Dr. Apostolis Sotiriou is the AVP Telecom Sales, Raycap Inc. Apostolis is a graduate of the Aristotle Technical University in Telecommunications. He received his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens and received Executive Business Training at Harvard Business School. Before joining Raycap, he worked as a technical engineer for Cosmote Mobile Communications.
5G Thought Leader Forum

5G Fixed Wireless Access: More of a Challenge Than a Complement to Fixed Broadband

5G fixed wireless access will not conquer the fire world, but its flexible investment profile could cause it some real pain.

Operators tend to think about 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) in one of two ways: as a complementary technology, useful only where fibred or cable is uneconomical, or as a challenger technology, good enough to exploit deficiencies in existing fixed broadband supply and pricing.

These business models are quite unalike, and they depend on local factors. That makes assessing the addressable market for FWA complex. This comment accompanies Analysys Mason's recently published report, 5G fixed wireless access: the market opportunity for operators and vendors, which assesses the opportunity for both models in 60 countries.

People Misunderstand Each Other When Talking About FWA

At a conference of Norwegian operators where I spoke this month, the dominant view was the first. This is unsurprising: Norway has 59 percent FTTP coverage, 82 percent to 100 Mbps coverage, and it has just one, small, mobile-only player. The view was that 5G FWA offers the possibility of reaching customers that would not otherwise be reachable, but no more; it does not weaken the FTTP business.

Marianna Kramarikova Operators in less fibre-rich markets than Norway have a different take on the matter. Dave Dyson, CEO of Hutchison 3G UK (Three) recently said "certainly in a significant majority of the country, I strongly believe 5G can offer a good enough home broadband experience for people to effectively ditch their copper or fibre connection".

In either case is anyone really talking about 5G fully replacing the fixed networks: it is more a matter of degree. Our study suggests that the market opportunity is for about 20 to 30 percent of broadband connections in developed economies by 2023, higher in emerging ones. That is an addressable market of 290 million static locations. We forecast that the challenger opportunity will be about twice as large as the complementary opportunity.

Wholesale FTTP and Self-supply 5G FWA Costs are Nicely Balanced

The cost and logistical difficulties of large-scale FTTP rollouts mean that large retail broadband players will increasingly have to buy in some of their connectivity. Few will do it all themselves. So, the pivotal question is: "What is the economic trade-off between self-supply 5G FWA and wholesale FTTP/cable?" A further important question is how to allocate the cost of 5G FWA against 5G mobile. In our report, we suggest that per-subscriber self-provision costs of 5G FWA and typical wholesale FTTP access costs are nicely balanced, but an operator could easily pivot one way or the other because there are so many variables.

Early 5G is a Platform for Further Investment in Capacity

It is early days, but 5G FWA currently looks somewhat uncompelling from a purely performance perspective. Mid band variants are marketed with speeds no faster than FTTC-type copper solutions (100 Mbps), and even Verizon's initial mmWave roll out looks as if it has severe limitations in reach, although it doubtless can and will get better.

Hence, those that see 5G FWA purely as a complement tend to roll their eyes and ask what relevance it has in a fibre-rich world. The answer is that it could easily be a price-play, especially where the fixed wholesale layer is weak. Consumers do not automatically buy the best, and with a compelling price and service offering (or rather lack of unwanted service offering) boosted by the novel cachet of '5G', they might start to do so, especially if they have not traded up from DSL.

I have argued elsewhere that the capacity angle to 5G tends to get overshadowed by – sometimes incompatible — longer-term thinking centered on new use cases and service-based slicing. The operators that emphasize this brave new world are usually the largest, with deep investment in FTTP or cable. Mobile-only operators often see it differently, and they see the potential immediate, more old-world, benefits of 5G as a capacity play. Dave Dyson again: "[With 4G] operators can compete on speed, but not capacity. The capacity part of 5G is the true revolution."

The 5G FWA service might not initially attract many customers, and MNOs will still be wary about impairing mobile performance despite the massive headroom afforded by 5G. But starting with a smallish, price-sensitive customer base, 5G FWA can – perhaps more than 5G mobile – be a platform for further investment, and that is where fixed and mobile investment profiles completely diverge.

Two Radically Different Investment Patterns Will Emerge

FTTP investment is "spend big and win big". It raises high barriers to competition, and if faced with price competition network owners can adjust, knowing that they will win in the end even if payback is postponed. Norway provides an extreme example: break-even capex on FTTP networks is about NOK kr25,000 (USD $3,000) per premises and networks get a quasi-monopoly 70 percent+ conversion rate. Few operators can afford that kind of money, or expect that kind of result, but the principle is always the same.

5G is quite unlike this. When licenses are acquired, investment can be incremental. An MNO can boost capacity and even add further small cells where they are needed in quite a tactical manner: a just-in-time, analytics-based, approach that does just enough to keep customers happy and win some churn. It is more difficult to be tactical with FTTP.

These two approaches are reflected in larger capex trends. In our operator capex analysis, we do not see a sudden spike in mobile capex caused by 5G; it will rather be a slow accretion. FTTP can be a mighty chunk of capex for some operators, but it is one-off and eventually dwindles to maintenance and infrequent optical line terminal (OLT) upgrades that are small change compared to the costs of the passive network.

5G FWA Will Not Conquer the World, But it Could Cause Fixed Operators Some Pain

It is willful blindness for those fixed operators that are still facing years/decades of investment in FTTP to say that 5G is inferior to what they have planned and therefore unthreatening (although they might still have to use it for otherwise hard-to-reach areas). It may even be a bit blinkered of those fixed operators with gigabit-capable networks in place to ignore the potential challenge of 5G FWA price-plays whose customer segmentation is willingness to spend, not geography. Wireless will probably never conquer wireline broadband, The long-term total cost of ownership (TCO) and lifetime-value of FTTP look very compelling, and FTTP is without doubt the superior solution for fixed locations. However, challenger 5G FWA could nevertheless creep up stealthily and cause real pain.

Rupert WoodRupert Wood is the lead analyst for our Operator Investment Strategies, Network Traffic and Spectrum research programs. His research covers the following areas: the evolution of operators’ investment priorities; operator business structures; business models for FTTx and convergence; fixed broadband technology; the economic impact of digital transformation; capex forecasting; and network traffic forecasting. He has extensive experience of advising senior management on strategic issues. Rupert has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Lecturer before joining Analysys Mason.
Business Thought Leader Forum

Why is RCS Poised to Thrive in 2020 and Beyond?

2019 was a big year for RCS - 2020 is showing similar promise. For the uninitiated, RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. It is an attempt to standardize enhanced messaging, similar to over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp and iMessage. Furthermore, it is trying to replace SMS.

While SMS still dominates application-to-person (A2P) messaging at the moment, OTT is expected to surpass SMS, by volume, in the near future.

After toiling around in relative obscurity for 12 years, the GSMA’s adopted protocol has finally started to see some movement. Google and Samsung formed a partnership that essentially marked the official arrival of RCS, with Google continuing to accelerate the availability of person-to-person RCS by releasing the feature on Android Messages for users in the United States.

Now, Android users in the U.S., using Android Messages as their default messaging app, can enjoy the RCS experience on their devices. Wireless operators in the U.S. have also announced a joint venture, named the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), to drive a robust business-to-consumer ecosystem and drive adoption of RCS. They plan to launch this service in 2020.

RCS continues to expand its footprint. It is now available on 84 operator networks worldwide, with 353 million global monthly active users, and 1.4 billion addressable users.

While this may not seem all that groundbreaking on a P2P level, it provides a very interesting opportunity for businesses looking to use RCS for communication use cases. In addition, RCS is also already extremely popular. Seventy-four percent of consumers have noted that they would be more likely to engage with brands over RCS as opposed to SMS.

That is fairly compelling data, as we all know that increased customer engagement leads to increased value of a user over the entire customer cycle.

But why this obsession with making sure RCS catches on? As RCS is hardware agnostic, we are angling toward a world where it could be the dominant OTT service.

WeChat and WhatsApp tends to have larger dedicated users outside of America. Similarly, iMessage only works on iOS, and even though Apple has not yet adopted the protocol, they could in the near future.

In 2020 we will see businesses start to leverage RCS for a variety of communication purposes, even using some of the built-in chat bot AI to trim support costs.

But quite frankly, RCS is a marketer’s dream. With 23 billion messages being sent daily, brands are looking to take a tried and true marketing tactic such as A2P communications and leverage it for extreme financial gain, For RCS (or the companies providing it), any business that aims to have direct communication with its customers is a potential client.

Many of the reasons businesses are so excited about RCS are the same reasons that create end-user excitement. RCS supports photo, video, gif files, carousel, chat bot, audio messages and suggested replies.

An SMS marketing message is restricted to 160 characters of text (without being split, which leads to more problems), whereas RCS has endless potential as a tool to drive engagement. In a post-SMS world, brands could send logos, emojis and multimedia messages that give their user more information, displayed attractively.

The classic example seen floating around the Internet is a plane ticket. With RCS, a company can send a branded ticket with flight time, gate number, real-time updates and even in-app functionality that allows users to change seats or cancel a flight.

Businesses that have already started using RCS have seen that it has returned 14 times higher engagement rates. In a world where engagement drives revenue, it is easy to see why RCS is primed to have a massive year in 2020 and beyond.

RCS is already here, but it grows stronger and more popular every day as more carriers and devices accommodate this emerging technology. Brands are enthusiastic about it, users are excited about it, and it is a home run for the future of communication.

RCS is still in its infancy as a protocol, but in 2020 (accounting for COVID-19) I predict we will see it go mainstream. For those already using SMS for marketing, the switch to RCS will be relatively seamless.

And, if you are a business owner that wants to connect with your users in a rich, secure and engaging way while also generating an impressive ROI…RCS is your answer.

Vince Oh Vince Oh is the Director of Product Management for TeleSign. He is a Mobile and Security industry veteran with over 15 years of experience in product management, sales, and account management responsible for managing large-scale consumer and B2B2C products and services working with the top internet and mobile brands in the world.

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