Cisco’s OpenRoaming wifi tech to become open standard

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) intends to take over ownership and management of OpenRoaming as a global wireless industry standard.

Right now it’s a technology owned by Cisco and offered to its customers, presumably for a price, but it looks like Cisco has decided it can’t be bothered with the hassle anymore. OpenRoaming is designed to provide a network of wifi hotspots that present a single identity for the purpose of access. In other words, if it becomes ubiquitous then the days of having to muck around with awkward passwords and clunky login pages would be over.

The stated aim of the WBA is to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies and organizations to make the global wifi experience as seamless as possible, so this seems like a perfect fit. The aim will be to get as many wifi ecosystem stakeholders to buy into this technology in order to improve the global experience.

“OpenRoaming now becomes an open standard, creating a world where wifi users will be able to move seamlessly from one wifi network to another without re-registering or signing in,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “As a global wireless industry standard, WBA OpenRoaming will improve wifi services and availability, making life easier for users, and more efficient for the global mobile and wifi ecosystem.

“OpenRoaming is now open for business and I call on anyone with a wifi network, private or public, coffee shop or sports stadia or any other type of venue, to join our open ecosystem in order for the service they offer to their users to be automatic, secure, and interoperable, making their networks available to a wider audience.”

“There is considerable pull from the industry and our customers, both enterprise and service provider, to automate secure onboarding across multiple verticals,” said Matt MacPherson, Wireless CTO at Cisco. “We knew OpenRoaming would be a game-changing wireless technology, but the support from across the industry has even surpassed our expectations. OpenRoaming is vital to unlocking the potential of wireless communications. Cisco has been proud to lead the OpenRoaming efforts, but we believe strongly that the WBA is the right organization to steward, with neutrality and confidence, such an important industry initiative.”

Improved wifi user experience is long overdue. It doesn’t feel like it has evolved for decades and it’s an ongoing scandal that even telecoms events often fail to provide public wifi that can cope with more than a couple of people on it. We don’t know whether OpenRoaming is the answer, and even if it is it won’t solve the clunky interface problem by itself, but it does seem like a step in the right direction.

Wi-Fi 6E trials claim to show what a good idea wifi over 6 GHz band is

The Wireless Broadband Alliance is claiming that recent trials of Wi-Fi 6E over 6 GHz have delivered 5G-like performance.

Broadcom and Intel have been mucking about with the latest flavour of wifi during enterprise trials in San Jose, California. They have apparently hit 2 Gbps of throughput during those trials, as well as a consistent two-millisecond low-latency connection. Since the whole point of 5G is faster speeds at lower latencies, the obvious comparison is being made.

“Opening the 6 GHz spectrum will change the game for Wi-Fi 6 by delivering faster speeds, lower latency, and more reliable connectivity for a wide range of consumer and professional applications,” said Eric Mclaughlin GM of the Wireless Solutions Group at Intel. “Intel is committed to partnering with the industry to drive innovation and enable leadership connectivity experiences, and we look forward to bringing our Wi-Fi 6E products to Intel PC platforms that can harness the full benefits of the most advanced wifi technology available.”

“We are excited to enable real world trials conducted by the WBA that demonstrate the power of Wi-Fi 6E,” said Vijay Nagarajan, VP of Marketing at Broadcom. “Wi-Fi 6E will provide reliable high-throughput, low-latency wireless services by deploying Wi-Fi 6 technologies in the soon-to-be-unlicensed and uncongested 6 GHz band.”

“Wi-Fi 6 networks extended into the 6 GHz spectrum represent a multi-generational shift in wifi services and the user experience,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of the WBA. “This trial is an important step in the process of effectively demonstrating the benefits that wifi networks can deliver in the 6 GHz spectrum band. The Wi-Fi 6 standard and the 6 GHz spectrum in combination can play a powerful role to deliver advanced mobile services to consumers, business and industry.”

If you still doubt them, check out this table that shows how much throughput and how little latency you get from wifi at 6 GHz, compared to 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. It should be noted that only half the amount of spectrum was used by 5 GHz and an eighth the amount by 2.4 GHz in the table, but then again that’s sort of the point of higher frequency bands – there’s more of them.

One of the reasons the WBA and its members keep banging on about 6 GHz for wifi is because it doesn’t want it to be licenced for 5G and thus taken away from it. So much extra spectrum has been freed up for 5G that it seems only fair for wifi to get a bit more too.

BT finally unveils its reimagined TV proposition

The aggregator model has taken centre-stage at BT, leveraging its existing capabilities instead of trying to beat the content industry at its own game.

Under Gavin Patterson, BT tried to do something which almost looked impossible. It attempted to disrupt the content industry by not only owning the delivery model for content, but the content itself. It attempted to muscle into an established segment and compete with companies which were built for the content world. It was expensive, complicated and messy, and it failed spectacularly.

BT has not given up on content under new leadership, but it is taking a seemingly more pragmatic and strategic approach. Aside from its own content, Now TV will also be embedded in the BT interface, meaning that customers can now watch, pause, rewind and record premium Sky Entertainment and Sky Sports content. Customers will also be able to integrate Amazon Prime Video and Netflix onto their BT bill, while each element of the bundle can be scaled-up or -down month-by-month.

It is making best use of its assets, and it looks to be a comprehensive and sensible pillar of the convergence strategy.

“Life doesn’t stand still from month to month, so we don’t believe our customers’ TV should either. Our new range of TV packs bring together the best premium services, fully loaded with a wide range of award-winning shows, the best live sports in stunning 4K and the latest must-see films – all with the flexibility to change packs every month – with  quick and easy search to find what you want to watch,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division.

BT will ‘own’ some content, it still has the UEFA Champions League broadcast rights after all, but it is picking its battles. The BT TV proposition failed in years gone because it tried to go it alone, but without the broad range of content genres, it looked like a poor attempt to compete with the likes of Sky. In reality, it didn’t need to.

The telcos have a significant advantage over many content companies around the world; they have an existing and trusted billing relationship with the customer. According to the Ovum World Information Series, EE has 30.6 million mobile subscribers and BT has 9.1 million broadband customers. These relationships can be leveraged through the partnership model to realise new profits in a low-risk manner.

BT is in a position of strength. The streaming wars are raging, and the service providers will do almost anything to gain the attention of the consumer, as well as build credibility in the brand. By bundling services into the BT, the OTTs are leveraging the trust which the customer has in the telco billing relationship and gaining eyeballs on the service itself. All they have to do is offer BT a small slice of the profits.

This is the symbiotic relationship in practice. The OTTs gain traction with customers, while BT can complete the convergence objective in a low-risk manner through the aggregator model.

That said, it is somewhat of a retreat from its previous content ambitions.

“This well long overdue move feels like a last-ditch effort to be successful in TV,” said Paolo Pescatore, founder of PP Foresight.

“Aggregation is the holy grail. BT has done a superb job of introducing some novel features and bringing together key services all in one place. This will strongly resonate with users. However, it is unlikely to pose a considerable threat to Sky who in turn will be able to bundle BT Sport into its own packages. In the future expect this new TV platform to be bundled with BT Halo which will further strengthen its premium convergent offering.”

Convergence is a strategy which should be fully embraced by the BT business. Not only has it been proven in other European markets, see Orange in France and Spain, but the depth and breadth of BT’s assets should position it as a clear market leader. With mobile, broadband, public wifi hotspots and content tied into a single bill, as well as partnerships to bolster the experience, BT is heading down the right path. If it can start to build service products on top, such as security, this could start to look like a very competent digital business.

The issue which remains is one of price. The Halo bundle is one few can compete with, but if it is not priced correctly it will not be a success. This does seem to be the issue with the BT consumer business right now, it is pricing itself out of the competition. Convergence is attractive to customers when it is convenient and makes financial sense, but right now it doesn’t seem to.

BT is slowly heading in the right direction. It might have taken years, but it is slowly creating a proposition for the consumer which few should theoretically be able to compete with. If it can merge the business into a single brand and sort out the pricing of its products, it should recapture the market leader position.

Wi-Fi Alliance stakes its claim to the 6 GHz band

The 6 GHz band is expected to be made available in unlicensed form soon and the Wi-Fi Alliance thinks it’s a good fit for Wi-Fi 6.

While wifi most commonly uses the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, it’s always keen for more. With the advent of 5G and the auction of other higher frequency bands for mobile, especially the mid 3 GHz bands, wifi has increasingly come into direct competition with cellular for bandwidth. 5G seems to have a limitless appetite for such stuff, so the Wi-Fi Alliance seems to be planting its flag early for the 6 GHz band.

Specifically this takes the form of a sub-brand called Wi-Fi 6E, which will be used to designate devices that support connectivity over that frequency. The Alliance reckons regulators will offer up this band in unlicensed form fairly soon and it will represent a rare opportunity for the wifi ecosystem to expand its spectrum portfolio.

“6 GHz will help address the growing need for wifi spectrum capacity to ensure wifi users continue to receive the same great user experience with their devices,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “Wi-Fi Alliance is introducing Wi-Fi 6E now to ensure the industry aligns on common terminology, allowing wifi users to identify devices that support 6 GHz operation as the spectrum becomes available.”

“If the regulatory landscape permits, we expect companies to move forward aggressively with products that operate in 6 GHz because they understand the tremendous value brought to their customers by this portion of unlicensed spectrum,” said Phil Solis, Research Director at IDC. “If spectrum is made available early this year, we expect momentum of products that support operation in 6 GHz to ramp very quickly.”

The Alliance expects consumer routers to be the first to use 6 GHz, but its propagation characteristics are presumably pretty rubbish so you wouldn’t want to rely on that spectrum unless you were fairly close to the router and ideally in the same room. It could be handy for mesh wifi nodes though.

Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo create ‘Peer-to-Peer Transmission Alliance’

Three Chinese smartphone vendors have created a cross-brand alliance to enable wireless file transfer without needing the internet.

The tie-up between the three brands will ensure WiFi Direct is supported on all devices moving forward, effectively allowed smartphones to pair to enable the transfer of files, including photos, videos and music, without being online.

“This expansion of the Peer-to-Peer Transmission Alliance to global users all the more underlines Xiaomi’s longstanding commitment of bringing innovation to everyone,” said Chew Shou Zi, SVP of Xiaomi.

“By joining hands with Vivo and Oppo, two industry leaders that have a strong user base, we are expecting to benefit smartphone users globally. Xiaomi will continue to bring more strategic partnerships of this sort to our users and Mi Fans.”

The idea of WiFi Direct is relatively simple. Two compatible devices simply connect to each other, creating an ‘ad hoc network’ and cutting out the middle-man; the internet. Users can simply turn on the feature, select the desired device, before transferring whatever content they want. This could be useful down the pub, but equally when transferring documents to a printer or displaying a video on a TV screen.

This is not necessarily a new idea, but it is a useful one. Numerous companies, including Xiaomi, have introduced such features though they are contained within their own ecosystem. Xiaomi devices could link-up to other Xiaomi devices, though this alliance between the three OEMs is a positive step towards expanding the ecosystem and usefulness of the feature.

Wifi-6 goes toe-to-toe with 5G claims

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is championing the results of a wifi-6 trial with Mettis Aerospace as proof the technology can be a viable alternative to 5G.

Wifi has largely been ignored in recent months as the 5G euphoria hits deafening levels, though the WBA is keen to ensure this technology can grab a slice of the Industry 4.0 pie with this trial.

Taking place in the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands, the WBA has touted several use cases, including 4K streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory and augmented reality testing of machinery, suggesting speeds of 700 Mbps as well as latency below 6 ms.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of wifi-6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates.

“Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that wifi-6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If wifi-6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere.”

With mobile communications stealing much of the thunder in recent years, wifi has become an increasing unpopular technology during conference presentations. During a London event in recent weeks, Shell IT CTO & VP TaCIT Architecture Johan Krebbers suggested the team would not consider wifi as an option during Industry 4.0 trials due to the time and cost implications. According to Krebbers, it simply isn’t worth it.

That said, this trial might give decision-makers something new to think about.

“The wifi-6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, Head of IT at Mettis Aerospace.

“We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”

The WBA claims the trial proves wifi-6 is able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems. As part of the trial Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor, while Broadcom and Intel provided the chipsets.

While 5G is dominating all the headlines for the moment, wifi might still have a place in the industry for those companies who are more risk-adverse. Trials such as this might well provide confidence to those who avoid the unknown perils of 5G technologies.

Revenues are down, but BT looks ready to do battle

Total revenues and profits might have slipped slightly at BT, though it met expectations and it seems the business is lining-up its pieces for an assault on the UK market.

With the assets the telco has at its disposal, BT should dominate the market leaving the scraps for rivals to fight over, but this has not been the case. There have been some lavish spending sprees over the last few years, though the refreshed management is taking a more network-orientated approach as opposed to the ‘bells and whistles’ of the previous regime.

“BT delivered results in line with our expectations for the second quarter and first half of the year, and we remain on track to meet our outlook for the full year,” said CEO Philip Jansen.

“We’ve invested to strengthen our competitive position. We’ve accelerated our 5G and FTTP rollouts, introduced an enhanced range of product and service initiatives for both consumer and business segments, and announced price and technology commitments to deliver fair, predictable and competitive pricing for customers.”

Capital expenditure for the first six months of 2019 was £1.88 billion, up £225 million year-on-year, although this excludes the grants from the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme. Such increase should come as little surprise as the team has been enthusiastically shouting about 5G launches across the UK (now up to 20) as well as new homes which are being passed with fibre (23,000 per week) in pursuit of the Government’s lofty full-fibre goals.

In years gone, BT looked like a telco which was defined by its challenge to Sky in the content market, while few could recognise the synergies with EE. The BT of today looks very different, thrusting the connectivity assets to the centre of the business. With the convergence business model proving its worth in various European markets, see success at Orange for evidence, BT is taking inspiration.

With the fixed network in the UK, which is being aggressively fibred-up, 30 million mobile subscribers, five million wifi hotspots and a new TV proposition to be launched at some undefined point, the cross-selling opportunities are abundant should BT be able to nail the experience on the assets. This seems to be the focus of investments under Jansen, instead of going for the glamorous, the team is concentrating on delivering the core connectivity experience and then bundling on additional added-value options.

Across the business, the Average Revenue per Consumer (ARPC) for broadband remained relatively flat at £38.5 per month, while postpaid mobile decreased to £20.8, down 5.5% though as this has been attributed to new regulation and the SIM-only trends it is nothing too be too concerned about. Interestingly enough, the number of Revenue Generating Units (RGUs) per household has increased to 2.38. This is where the convergence strategy could make a very positive impact.

As a business model, convergence is more efficient and creates higher customer loyalty and NPS. Bundled at a suitable price-point, and it looks like a very attractive offer to steal subscriptions from rivals also. However, experience does have to be very high across the entire portfolio, hence the increased spend on the network over recent months.

This is where BT could be a very interesting business over the next couple of months. The ‘Halo’ converged products could attract interest, especially when the hotspots are bundled in also. Rivals might be able to compete with BT with a few bundles, but no-one can offer the same breadth across mobile, broadband, wifi and content. This is a massive advantage, and BT should be shouting and screaming.

We might have to wait a couple of months before the refreshed TV proposition is fully polished, but this is another reason why no-one should worry too much about the slipping revenues for H1. BT is still lining up the various pieces before an aggressive push with the full convergence offer. It has been suggested the TV proposition will not be ready until the new year.

With its assets, BT should be untouchable. It still has work to do on the fibre rollout, 5G deployment, finalising the TV offer, improving the wifi experience and aligning the BT and EE brands, but the ‘Halo’ converged offer could create some serious noise.

2019 First Half Financials
Total Revenue £11.467 billion (1%)
Profit before tax £1.333 billion n/m
Profit after tax £1.068 billion n/m
Basic earnings per share 10.8p 2%
Capital expenditure £1.882 billion 3%
Business units
Consumer £5.194 billion (1%)
Enterprise £3.055 billion (5%)
Global Services £2.196 billion (6%)
Openreach £2.356 billion n/m

n/m = not-meaningful

Qualcomm claims 30 5G fixed wireless access deal wins

5G has opened up a whole new channel for Qualcomm to flog its modems through and it seems to have got off to a decent start.

The company has announced that its X55 5G Modem-RF System has been bought by over 30 global OEMs to form part of fixed wireless access customer premises gear that they’ll start flogging sometime next year. The bandwidth promised by 5G makes fireless a viable alternative to fixed broadband in certain scenarios and it looks like that market is picking up.

Here are 34 companies that were prepared to admit they were making Qualcomm-powered FWA kit: Arcadyan, Askey, AVM, Casa Systems, Compal, Cradlepoint, Fibocom, FIH, Franklin, Gemtek, Gongjin, Gosuncn, Inseego, LG, Linksys, MeiG, Netgear, Nokia, Oppo, Panasonic, Quanta, Quectel, Sagemcom, Samsung, Sharp Corporation, Sercomm, Sierra Wireless, Sunsea, Technicolor, Telit, Wewins, Wingtech, WNC, and ZTE.

“The widespread adoption of our modem-to-antenna solution translates into enhanced fixed broadband services and additional opportunities to utilize 5G network infrastructure for broad coverage in urban, suburban and rural environments,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. “Due to the development ease of our integrated system and industry movement toward self-installed, plug-and-play CPE devices, we expect OEMs will be able to support fixed broadband deployments beginning in 2020.”

In related new Qualcomm has also unveiled a new reference design that integrates 5G and Wi-Fi 6 for all your FWA home gateway needs, claiming it’s a plug-and-play alternative to boring old fixed line broadband. They’ve whacked the X55 modem and the Networking Pro 1200 platform into one handy package that Qualcomm will be hoping companies such those listed above will build into their gear.

“This new home gateway reference design can help ISPs and broadband carriers deliver triple-play home internet to customers, including fiber-like high-speed data, television and phone services, all with support for hundreds of devices, in a high-performance single-box solution powered by the latest connectivity offerings from Qualcomm Technologies,” said Nick Kucharewski, GM of the Wireless Infrastructure and Networking Business unit at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm is showing all this shiny new FWA gear off at the Broadband World Forum event currently underway in Amsterdam. FWA has been a theme of the show for a little while, but this is probably the first year is has the potential to steal the limelight from fibre and that sort of thing. Having said that it’s still hard to see why anyone would opt for that when proper fibre was available.

Reflecting on 20 Years of Wi-Fi

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Francesca Greane, Content Lead for Broadband World Forum reflects on the past, present and future of Wi-Fi.

It’s been twenty years since Wireless Fidelity was invented and first released for consumers by the IEEE committee 802.11. In the decades since it is no understatement to say that the WLAN technology has revolutionised how individuals and society connect and operate.

Now, Wi-Fi is considered so essential to our daily life that it is viewed as a utility. It is the first thing that we ask for when visiting a friend’s house, and we even demand access when out in public. It is no question that connectivity will be further boosted by the imminent introduction of Wi-Fi 6, the latest iteration of the international standard which is designed to ease the limitations on the network inherent in IEEE 802.11ac by, among other things, connecting to multiple devices at a time.

But, how did we get to this point? Reflecting on it briefly, the history of Wi-Fi looks something like the below:

BBWF graphic

But what about the future? Where will this transformative technology head next? As we explore in our latest report, 802.11ax is Wi-Fi’s logical evolution. Unlike previous Wi-Fi standards this new version isn’t focused on purely boosting headline speeds but prioritises to manage the connectivity strain caused by the ever-increasing number of connected IoT devices and smart home gadgets.

One example is a computer powering an 8K resolution VR headset in the same room, wirelessly; something that will undoubtedly transform the gaming experience for individuals across the globe.

Then there’s the influence of the likes of 5G and artificial intelligence on Wi-Fi; it is clear that Wi-Fi will be integral to the fixed and mobile broadband experiences going forward. Indeed, Wi-Fi will increasingly be used for off-loading and even for backhaul, in the case of WiGig.

 

To discover the future of Wi-Fi, download our new report for free by clicking here.

 Want to stay ahead in the broadband industry? Discover the latest technology trends and solutions from leaders in the broadband universe with a free visitor ticket to Broadband World Forum (October 15-17, Amsterdam, The Netherlands). Your ticket gives you access to 25+ hours of content delivered by leading speakers, 150+ technology providers from Tier 1’s to start-ups in our expo hall and endless networking opportunities with the 4,100+ leaders in attendance. Click here to claim your free ticket.