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Cisco Data: No spectrum crunch in 2016 and unlikely in following years
Written by Dave Burstein   
Sunday, 26 February 2012 07:35
Cisco-VNI-Average-speedsConnection speeds will increase rapidly to 6 megabits. Mobile technology continues to improve at a fantastic rate. Speeds are going up incredibly rapidly despite a huge growth in traffic. Cisco’s VNI, the best public data, measured average U.S. connection speeds going from 596 kilobits in 2010 to 1.14 megabits in 2011 as smartphones and 3G took oer the market. They project average actual speeds of 1.71 in 2012, 2.48 in 2013, and 3.53 in 2014. By then, the strong majority of connections will be smartphones. 
    Although some speculate mobile will be hitting a wall because of spectrum pressure, Cisco sees continued rapid growth in 2015 to 4.92 megabits and in 2016 to 6.78 meg. If there were even a hint of a spectrum crunch in 2016, speed increases would be fading. Cisco’s projection of continued rapid speed increases in 2016 (the last year they project) implies they don’t expect spectrum to be a major limiting factor until well after 2016.
How AT&T got from 30-40% to 100%
Written by Dave Burstein   
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 21:26
Takeaway: wireless growth dropping. AT&T's CTO John Donovan announced that wireless data use on AT&T's network went up 100% in 2011 from 2010, contradicting his boss' comment that growth was 30-40%. Randall was using a figure for the growth in usage for an average iPhone user, although his context and statement read otherwise. I apologize for reporting the latter figure. It was fact-checked as well as confirmed in a prior investor comment from divisional CEO John Stankey, an ex-CTO. 
      The takeaway is that AT&T's mobile data growth rate is dropping dramatically and may well be below Cisco's 50% prediction for 2016. We're still in a one-time shift to everyone having smartphones, which is driving up growth rate but will inevitably fall away. AT&T's base was 57% smartphone at the beginning of this year so there's only limited room for higher smartphone take-up to drive up the numbers.
      Getting to 100% smartphone use evenly over three years would raise the 30-40% per user increase to 55-65% in total for 2102, a dramatic drop from 100%. Total growth would be 50-60% in 2013 and would continue dropping to 30-40% in total soon after. Machine connections would tend to raise that, but most M2M devices only use modest amounts of data.    
         AT&T is apparently also throwing in WiFi traffic to bring up the number. Tim Farrar notes "One factor appears to be that AT&T’s blog post is apparently obfuscating the issue by changing its definition from 'mobile data' (in March 2011) to 'wireless data' (in the current blog post). In other words, AT&T’s WiFi offloading (at Starbucks, Times Square, the Superbowl, etc.), which is helping to drastically reduce the growth of (on-network) 'mobile data' traffic, is presumably now included in their statistics." Randall was talking about current rates (is) while Donovan's new numbers go back 12 months (was). That's also part of the discrepancy. 
        Apples to apples, applying the new data point suggests  AT&T growth rates are down about 30% in the last 12 months. 
Cheap Chinese loans fueling Canadian competition
Written by Dave Burstein   
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 17:09
Interest rate < 5% at Public Mobile. Reserving spectrum for new entrants in the last auction brought down prices dramatically in  Canada. Public Mobile, Mobilicity, Wind and Quebecor-Videotron have jumped in. Prices are down something like 20% as a three company  cartel is fraying at the edges. Public Mobile finished 2011 with 199K subscribers, with net adds of 17K/33K/40K/45K the last four quarters  according to Merrill Lynch. France, Canada, almost all Europeans have set aside spectrum and effectively brought down prices.
    Public Mobile has been able to offer great prices partially because capital has been very inexpensive for a new company. Chinese manufacturer ZTE  is the primary supplier and with the Export-Import Bank of China is providing low cost financing. That allows them to offer plans from $19  through Walmart and expect profitability despite an ARPU of $27. 
    Vendor financing is back big time, with Alcatel, Nokia Siemens, and the Chinese financing customers in some parts of the world. Nokia and Ericsson are actually building networks in India at their own  expense and collecting a share of the revenue from the operator. Alcatel has been resisting financing but felt they had to offer it is  exit some important Asian markets. Sprint in the U.S. is believed to have been offered a very attractive deal, including financing, for  their LTE network. Government stepped in and blocked the deal, with some behind the scene pressures that probably broke the trade rules. 
    AT&T, with House Republican support, is is threatening to sabotage the U.S. auction to prevent similar in the U.S.
Divide to Conquer: 3 LTE iPhones not 1 model for the world
Written by Dave Burstein   
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 02:17
lte-frequency-fragmentationArticle retraction: I've learned that AT&T and Verizon are pressuring Apple to hardware lock the LTE iPhone to their networks. It's therefore incorrect to speak of "an" U.S. iPhone. Most likely, there will be several, each effectively unable to be used on other LTE networks. LTE phones require SAW filters and other RF components for each different frequency band. Based on engineering recommendations, I thought the U.S. LTE iPhone would cover 4 or 5 bands. While it's impractical to cover all 35 LTE bands in a small phone, small cheap components that cover 4 or 5 bands would cover most of U.S. LTE. It's cheaper to have a single model.
  But I hear - unconfirmed - that the Big 2 want to make it impossible to, for example, use the phone you get from Verizon later on on T-Mobile or Sprint's network.
   Unbreakable phones are obviously anti-competitive but I doubt JG will do anything about this. Rather than the 3 phones the original article expected, there will be more models locked to carriers by frequency.
A World iPhone? Fuggedaboutit. There will be separate versions for Asia, Europe & U.S.. Each will work as 3G iPhones while visiting other parts of the world. 3GPP defines 25 different frequency bands to fit the spectrum owned by carriers in different countries, with different bands chosen by each country/carrier. 
    A world iPhone would be a half-inch or more longer than a regional model. For each of 10-15 bands, the phone would require saw filters and other passives. It would be bigger, heavier and a battery hog.Neither Steve Jobs nor Tim Cook would accept that choice. 
    Verizon is using 700 MHz; Deutsche Telekom 800; AT&T 850; Sweden 900; Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom 1800, and TeliaSonera 2600. Much of the spectrum coming to the European market will be around 900 MHz. Japan uses 1500 MHz and 2300 MHz. The U.S. is looking at 1900 and others. 
ifixit_iPhone_teardown    Hundred of engineers worldwide are working to reduce the size of the passive components and combine them into efficient modules. Software defined radios are still too large and power hungry. Barring a virtual miracle, no appropriate multi-band technology will be ready for the first iPhone due near the end of 2012. Few expect that to change for years. 
    Apple as usual is mum on the subject.  
Correction: Per AT&T CTO, wireless growth did not fall to 30-40%
Written by Dave Burstein   
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 19:11
Donovan now says 2011 growth was 100%. Update: CEO Stephenson apparently presented as total wireless demand a figure for the increased usage by an existing iPhone owner, per leak to WSJ. Original: I'm withdrawing my story about AT&T wireless growth falling to 30-40%, which was based on a statement by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and factchecked with AT&T twice. It corresponded to another statement to investors from divisional CEO John Stankey, a former CTO. However, CTO John Donovan in a new posting writes "the year-end numbers show a doubling of wireless data traffic from 2010 to 2011." There is no plausible way traffic could have doubled in 2011 and the growth rate dropped to 30-40% in January of 2012. Donovan works directly with the traffic figures, so presumably has them right. The CEO story had been covered repeatedly by other media, so presumably they didn't issue the correction without careful checking.
     CEOs make mistakes, even on the intensely checked financial calls. I apologize for my error. Interestingly, Donovan also refers to the Cisco VNI study, which predicts U.S. wireless data growth will fall by half but not for several years.
AT&T's Randall & Stankey: Wireless data growth half the FCC prediction  (Withdrawn)
Written by Dave Burstein
Friday, 27 January 2012 14:01
40%, not 92%-120% “Data consumption right now is growing 40% a year,” John Stankey of AT&T told investors and his CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed on the investor call That’s far less than the 92% predicted by Cisco’s VNI model or the FCC’s 120% to 2012 and 90% to 2013 figure in the “spectrum crunch” analysis. 
(Withdrawn) AT&T's Randall & Stankey: Wireless data growth half the FCC prediction
Written by Dave Burstein   
Friday, 27 January 2012 14:01
40%, not 92%-120%  “Data consumption right now is growing 40% a year,” John Stankey of AT&T told investors and his CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed on the investor call   That’s far less than the 92% predicted by Cisco’s VNI model or the FCC’s 120% to 2012 and 90% to 2013 figure in the “spectrum crunch” analysis. AT&T is easily a third of the U.S. mobile Internet and growing market share; there’s no reason to think the result will be very different when we have data from others. 
    With growth rates less than half of the predictions, a data-driven FCC and Congress has no reason to rush to bad policy. Wireless technology is rapidly moving to sharing spectrum, whether in-building small cells, WiFi, White Spaces, Shared RAN or tools of what the engineers are calling hetnets - heterogenous networks. The last thing policymakers should do is tie up more spectrum for exclusive use; shared spectrum often yields three to ten times as much capacity. 
 Bad compromises on the video spectrum are unnecessary because plenty of spectrum is unused. That includes the 20 MHz that M2Z would be building out today if Julius hadn’t blocked them; the 20 MHz the cable companies are sitting on and want to sell to Verizon; and the 30 MHz or so Stankey identifies as fallow at AT&T. 
    40% growth is still substantial, but wireless technology is improving at a breathtaking pace. LTE has about 10x the capacity of 2.5G and 4x the capacity of 3G. LTE Advanced, deploying beginning 2013 at Verizon, is designed for 10x the capacity of LTE. Putting more spectrum to use would be great, but let’s do it right. 
Wireless speeds are actually going up dramatically, with AT&T delivering 2-5 megabits to most of the country and Verizon’s LTE delivering 5-12 megabits to 2/3rds of the population. Verizon is ahead of schedule to bring 5 megabits+ to 92% of the country in 2013 and 96-98% in 2015-2016. AT&T and Sprint have raised capex to catch up. 80%+ of the U.S. will have a 5 megabit offering in 2013-2014, 90%+ by 2015 or sooner. That’s without any additional spectrum.
    Today’s wireless networks are designed to be shared: towers, WiFi, White Spaces, DAS and small cells all working together. The best engineers in the world are working on RAN sharing, SON, hetnets, 8x8 MIMO and techniques I’m writing about in my next book, Gigabit Wireless. AT&T in fact is one of the world leaders in DAS, WiFi and femtos and behind the scenes a key thought leader. There’s wonderfully exciting stuff I’ll be doing my best to translate for non-engineers. 
    Takeaway: The future is sharing the airwaves so let’s get the policy right.  
Lightsquared Lawsuit: On the law and the facts, chance of $billions
Written by Dave Burstein   
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:52
Never did interfere with GPS band. Phil Falcone may lose another $3B, but he's a loudmouth and no one feels sorry. His only obvious recourse is a $20B lawsuit against the FCC for denying him the legal use of his licensed spectrum. An independent engineer I respect evaluated Lightsquared's technology and concluded they've effectively prevented any interference with signals in the GPS band. 
    The problem was defective GPS receivers that didn't filter out signals in other bands, Most of them were sold after 2005, when the FCC suggested they would allow broadband signals in adjacent bands. Brendon Sasso has the facts straight "Testing showed that LightSquared's signal did not bleed into the GPS band. Instead, the problem was that GPS receivers were too sensitive to filter out LightSquared's powerful cell towers operating on nearby frequencies." 
     There's 40 MHz of spectrum of someone else's spectrum that the GPS industry is demanding be dedicated to an unofficial "guard band" because they didn't put some inexpensive filters in their gear. Lightsquared offered to leave 3/4ths of the spectrum fallow and cut power in half on the remainder, which would have protected the vast majority of devices in use. Julius still thinks getting more spectrum out is critical but lost on this one. Verizon and AT&T are cheering because they don't want any spectrum at all for anyone else.
    There's nothing in law or FCC regulations requiring a new guard band but Larry Strickling forced Genachowski to leave the spectrum fallow. While the press kept reporting "Lightsquared interferes with GPS," the FCC engineers knew otherwise and had recommended putting the spectrum to use. FCC lawyers knew their legal position would be very tricky to defend if they denied the petition. 
      The wasted spectrum is enough to replicate Verizon's LTE network, for now the finest network in the world. 
500 Insiders answer key mobile questions
Written by Dave Burstein   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 02:00
Yes to small cells, maybe to landline data substitution, chaos on bandplans. The industry is moving on from towers to small cells, more than 61% of 500 industry executives agree in an Informa study. Only 14% disagree, the balance are unsure. Free Mobile is pulling down the French prices partly because their "bottoms-up" network featuring femtos and WiFi is much cheaper to run. For Britain's regulator OFCOM, Simon Saunders has just done a study calculating small cells cut in half the cost of rural deployments. Almost all the engineers directly involved in designing networks having been moving away from towers and the 3GPP standards since at least 2009 have focused on small cell deployments. Policymakers are starting to understanding that sharing spectrum, including WiFi, often yields 3-10 times as much capacity. Monopoly spectrum bands are increasingly obsolescent.
     LTE_versus_fixec_informa Some people will forget DSL and cable and go mobile only for data. LTE is delivering 5-12 megabits pretty consistently, faster than much DSL. That includes most of Africa, India, and Indonesia where landlines are few. In developed coutries, it's still unclear whether only a few (5-10%) will forego landline data, an important segment (?10-25%) or even more. 2 gigabyte wireless caps limit you to an hour a week of decent video, but some people only need email, Facebook, and occasional web searches. 17% of the Informa sample thought "LTE will heavily substitute fixed broadband." 25% believe "LTE will substitute fixed broadband in only limited segments." The balance are in between. Even limited substitution means little if any landline broadband growth in the developed world. Some countries, including Italy last quarter, actually went negative. 
     62% of the industry expects more consolidation. Only 15% think we'll see more competition. Nearly all regulators are basing their plans on competition increasing; if the industry is right, they will continue to fail. Networks have enormous economies of scale and it's hard to launch against them.
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