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.

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EU public WiFi program has met strong enthusiasm

The EU’s third round call for tenders to build public wifi networks has received over 11,000 applications in one day from municipalities across the Union.

The latest round of the WiFi4EU programme, which has 1,780 ‘vouchers’ to offer, was over-subscribed by more than six times during the one day window. More than 2,000 municipalities and municipality groups sent in their applications within two seconds of the opening of the call on 19 September, the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), the EU Commission’s executive agency in charge of implementing the WiFi4EUEU said in a statement. The winners would be selected on first-come first-served basis, but geographical distribution would also be considered. Each member state has a minimum guarantee of 15 vouchers and a maximum cap of 142.

WiFi4RU was designed to build free, high speed, and secure wifi connections to the internet in public spaces across the member states, for example in parks, squares, libraries, public buildings, for residents and visitors alike. The recipients of the ‘vouchers’, each of which is worth €15,000, will then choose their subcontractors to build the access network, not in duplication with other existing free public or private wifi networks. The municipalities should commit to provide free internet access for at least three years, including free from advertising.

The total budget for WiFi4EU is €120 million, which is handed out in batches. After the first two rounds of applications, which took place in November 2018 and April 2019, a total of 6,200 vouchers have been awarded, worth a total value of €93 million. With €26.7 million earmarked for the current round of applications, the budget is all but spent. However, the INEA announced there will be new opportunities to apply in 2020.

The public-funded free internet access will be welcomed by municipalities that receive large numbers of tourists, especially from outside the EU, to whom roaming charges would be high. It would also be good news for entrepreneurs or freelance workers that need to meet in small groups and work on their computers. Despite that 4G and even 5G connection is becoming more ubiquitous, very few computers, where heavy computing is being done, will be equipped with cellular connection in the near future. Public libraries, for example, would become ideal places for such meetings. It is already a common practice in places like Finland’s public libraries.

The programme will be a small negative for some ‘start-up incubators’, which are barely more than a place that leases a work desk and a high speed internet connection. It may even be a minor negative for places like the coffee shops, where many individual entrepreneurs would go for the internet connection, at the price of a coffee.

In 2016, the European Union published its digital vision, titled “Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – Towards a European Gigabit Society”, by which it aimed to achieve internet access downlink speeds for all European households of at least 100 Mbps. The current WiFi4EU program is a good complement for the out-of-home environment, despite that there is no speed guarantee.

Wi-Fi Alliance launches Wi-Fi 6 certification

If you want to make a device using the latest generation of wifi tech, and prove it’s legit, then you need this certification apparently.

It looks making a wifi connected device isn’t just as simple as whacking a wifi chip in it. The Wi-Fi Alliance says its certification programme ‘brings new features and capabilities that enable substantially greater overall Wi-Fi network performance in challenging environments with many connected devices such as stadiums, airports, and industrial parks.’

“Wi-Fi Certified 6 is ushering in a new era of wifi, building on wifi’s core characteristics to provide better performance in every environment for users, greater network capacity for service providers to improve coverage for their customers, and new opportunities for advanced applications,” said Edgar Figueroa, president and CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the first device to sport new, improved wifi and here’s some of the cool stuff that comes with the new tech, according to the announcement:

  • Orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA): effectively shares channels to increase network efficiency and lower latency for both uplink and downlink traffic in high demand environments
  • Multi-user multiple input multiple output (MU-MIMO): allows more downlink data to be transferred at once and enables an access point to transmit data to a larger number of devices concurrently
  • 160 MHz channels: increases bandwidth to deliver greater performance with low latency
  • Target wake time (TWT): significantly improves battery life in Wi-Fi devices, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices
  • 1024 quadrature amplitude modulation mode (1024-QAM): increases throughput in Wi-Fi devices by encoding more data in the same amount of spectrum
  • Transmit beamforming: enables higher data rates at a given range resulting in greater network capacity

In case you were still in any doubt about the excellence of Wi-Fi 6 and the need to participate in this certification programme, here are the obliging canned quotes from countless industry types.

“In addition to increased speed and capacity, Wi-Fi 6 will support the growing density of connected devices in the home, delivering lower latency, enhanced battery life, and better overall performance. Wi-Fi 6 helps guarantee that users get the most out of these new functionalities in complex environments where they cohabit with legacy devices will require smart management of the whole ecosystem. AirTies’ Smart Wi-Fi software and cloud-based management software will ensure that service providers maximize their investment in Wi-Fi 6 to meet the evolving needs of their customers. We look forward to supporting Wi-Fi Alliance and its new Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program.” – Metin Taskin, CTO of AirTies

“Wi-Fi is the primary connectivity method for billions of devices, users and things. We applaud Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program as it will provide users with confidence that their devices meet the highest standards for security and interoperability and that they will provide the best possible user experience. As device densities continue to climb, bandwidth needs continue to surge and sophisticated new security threats continue to emerge, it will be increasingly important for users to select devices that are certified to meet the market’s most exacting standards, so they can take advantage of the emerging, innovative, next-generation use cases that Wi-Fi 6 is enabling.” – Chuck Lukaszewski, vice president of wireless standards and strategy for Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company

“ASSIA’s mission is to develop technologies that improve reliability of wired and wireless network connections. ASSIA has built a large portfolio of wireless technologies that utilize Wi-Fi 6 today, and for Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 devices these ASSIA technologies bring significant gains in network performance as well as vendor neutral network management options. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 will help build a massive IoT ecosystem at a fraction of the cost of deploying licensed band equivalent systems. We look forward to being part of evolution during this exciting time!” – Tuncay Cil, Chief Strategy Officer, ASSIA

“With the growing number of connected personal and IoT devices pushing current Wi-Fi to its limits, Wi-Fi 6 ushers in a new era of networking performance, and the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program ensures users get the best home Wi-Fi experience out of this amazing new technology. As a pioneer of the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 router and a rapidly expanding ecosystem of Wi-Fi 6 network adapters, motherboards, laptops and mini PCs, we at ASUS believe Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 is the answer for multi-device households and are happy to see the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program from Wi-Fi Alliance is available now.” – said Tenglong Deng, General Manager, ASUS Networking and Wireless Devices Business Unit.

“Wi-Fi 6 is a game changer in unlicensed connectivity, offering consumers exactly what they are seeking – the fastest, most responsive and reliable Wi-Fi.” – JR Wilson, Vice President of Tower Strategy and Roaming, AT&T

“Wi-Fi 6 is a game changer for dense and congested environments, helping operators like Boingo facilitate a more seamless connected experience in large venues that include airports and stadiums. Higher data rates, better spectrum usage, and increased network capacity are among the standout features of Wi-Fi 6 and we’re excited to see the technology’s certification program take off.” – Dr. Derek Peterson, chief technology officer, Boingo

“Broadcom is thrilled to have three of our best-in-class devices included in the certification test bed for today’s official launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 — the BCM4375, BCM43698, and BCM43684. These Broadcom devices already power 10s of millions of Samsung Galaxy phones and routers around the world. Capable of supporting up to 160 MHz wide channels, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 devices offer consumers lower latency, better battery life and as yet unseen throughputs, all of which are critical for 5G services. As the full 6 GHz band is made available for unlicensed use – with multiple 160 MHz-wide channels — the Wi-Fi 6 consumer experience will be turbocharged for the gigabit home and AR/VR.” – Vijay Nagarajan, Vice President, Wireless Communications & Connectivity Division, Broadcom  

“Thanks to the work of Wi-Fi Alliance and the commitment of its members to interoperability, Wi-Fi has changed the world. Wi-Fi 6 represents a significant evolution of Wi-Fi, taking wireless connectivity to new heights and enabling new applications and use cases that will continue to shape the world we live in. As the rollout of Wi-Fi 6 accelerates, the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program will provide Cisco’s customers assurance that the network and user devices will interoperate as expected; maximizing the benefits for businesses, the economy and users – which is exactly what Wi-Fi has been doing for the last 20 years.” – Matt MacPherson, Wireless CTO, Cisco

“Our world is becoming increasingly hyper-connected, and what gets me really excited about Wi-Fi 6, beyond the huge improvements in capacity and performance is the support for 2.4 GHz band and the power consumption improvements. With Wi-Fi Alliance and the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 certification program, we can ensure peak performance for all devices with next generation WPA3 security, no matter the use case. Whether for a factory, a stadium, or an office building, Cisco Meraki customers can be confident that deploying a Wi-Fi 6 network will deliver a secure, simple and superlative experience.” – Jayanthi Srinivasan, Director of Product Management, Cisco Meraki

“Wi-Fi 6 will help us meet the demands of tomorrow’s connectivity, with increased speed delivered to numerous devices simultaneously. Offering lower latency, better range, higher capacity and improved battery life for devices, Wi-Fi 6 ushers in the next generation of the world’s predominant wireless networking technology. We believe that Wi-Fi 6 will open a vast number of new applications and possibilities for our business.” – Cole Reinwand, Comcast Cable Communications, XFINITY WiFi

“Ruckus has always been at the leading edge of new certified technologies from Wi-Fi Alliance, and we’re proud that our extensive collaboration with Wi-Fi Alliance has contributed to the successful launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6. By being one of the first to incorporate Wi-Fi 6 features, the Ruckus R750 access point is both among the first fully Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 products and a high-performance Wi-Fi 6 access point used in the Wi-Fi Alliance test bed for interoperability certification. We look forward to participating with Wi-Fi Alliance in this exciting next phase of Wi-Fi industry growth.” – Morgan Kurk, CTO at CommScope

“Cypress’ early Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 leadership underscores our commitment to market enablement with advanced automotive applications including BSS color mapping, support for scheduling, and high performance in congested environments. The high-data rates supported by Wi-Fi 6 will also enable efficient factory automation using over-the-air downloads on parallel manufacturing lines. Consumers will be able to enjoy uniform home-to-car experiences benefiting from robust, secure, and longer-range Wi-Fi 6 connections while maintaining backward-compatible Wi-Fi 5 IoT device connections already installed in their home networks.” – Brian Bedrosian, vice president of marketing, IoT Compute and Wireless Business Unit at Cypress

“Some hype is just noise — but some new technologies really do transform their market. By finally gaining a megaphone, Wi-Fi 6 is one of those technologies. In addition to providing added capacity and coverage to support more connected devices, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 access points have the potential to completely transform enterprises and end-user experiences, something Wi-Fi 6 compliant and Wi-Fi 6 compatible access points can never claim.” – Perry Correll, Director of Product Marketing, Extreme Networks

“Wi-Fi 6 incorporates many new technologies, such as OFDMA technology, which divides the WLAN channel into multiple narrower subchannels, reducing competition, backoff and network latency and improving network efficiency. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 guarantees the experience of these new technologies and continues to enhance the competitiveness and influence of Wi-Fi in the data transmission field.” – Joe Yu, Wireless Product director at H3C

“Wi-Fi 6 is a major step forward in the evolution of Wi-Fi. Not only does it bring higher maximum data rates, it also improves robustness in crowded Wi-Fi environments, creating a better user experience with a sustained level of performance for the user. In addition, Wi-Fi 6 brings significant benefits to new low-power markets such as IoT and wearables, enhancing the current Wi-Fi 5 products targeting these markets with improved power consumption, low data rates, and the addition of OFDMA to share spectrum efficiently.” – Richard Edgar, Senior Director of Product Management, Ensigma, Imagination Technologies

“Wi-Fi 6 is the greatest advancement to Wi-Fi in the last decade. Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 ensures that products across the industry will live up to the full potential and deliver user experiences promised by Wi-Fi 6. Intel is honored that our leadership solutions for both client PC/IoT and home routers/gateways were selected for the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 test bed.” – Eric McLaughlin, GM, Wireless Solutions Group, Intel Corp.

“Wi-Fi 6 has already taken center stage in serving public hotspots like coffee shops and sports arenas as well as residential customers, where high data rate and efficient access control among users are strongly demanded.” – Jaehyung Koo, Vice President, KT

“As a leader in delivering new Wi-Fi connections and experiences to consumers worldwide, NETGEAR is thrilled to see the advancement of the Wi-Fi 6 certification program. With a broad range of Wi-Fi 6 routers via our Nighthawk performance Wi-Fi line, and a mesh Wi-Fi 6 system joining the Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi family, NETGEAR is committed to improving the way people live through the connections we make.” – David Henry, senior vice president of Connected Home Products for NETGEAR

“Quantenna is committed to providing an exceptional Wi-Fi user experience and is actively involved in the development and standardization process of Wi-Fi 6. With Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6, consumers can easily identify and be assured that the devices they get include advanced capabilities for quality and interoperability. We look forward to certifying our products that enhance next generation Wi-Fi use cases.” – Irvind Ghai, vice president of Marketing, Quantenna Connectivity Solutions Division at ON Semiconductor

“Wi-Fi 6 is a key development that brings end-users a superior roaming experience. It is a milestone for this technology which offers improved connectivity, especially in dense areas of population and means an overall enhanced roaming capacity.” – Cedric Gonin, International Carriers, Orange

“At Qualcomm Technologies, we’ve been heavily supporting the global transition to Wi-Fi 6 for several years and are happy to be a part of Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program. Qualcomm Technologies has shown its commitment in Wi-Fi 6 on the strength of our dogged pursuit and investment in the full potential of the new standard. We are excited to see the Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program launching, as it’s yet another indicator of the broad industry readiness to further establish a fervent, growing ecosystem of Wi-Fi 6 networks and devices.” – Rahul Patel, senior vice president and general manager, connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“Samsung is excited for the official launch of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6. High speed 5G services need Wi-Fi 6 and so do consumers who want to seamlessly share the moments they create on their mobile devices. As a leading innovator in smartphone technology, we made this a reality when we launched the Samsung Galaxy S10 – the world’s first Wi-Fi 6 phone – earlier this year. Today, we are proud to officially announce that the Galaxy Note10 is the world’s first Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 smartphone.” – Inkang Song, VP and Head of Technology Strategy Group of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics

“The Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 program ensures that devices based on 802.11ax technology meet industry standards for interoperability and security, thereby delivering superior performance and better coverage to users experiencing Wi-Fi 6. In the meantime, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED 6 includes advanced features, which provide devices with features of peak performance and low latency in smart home or IoT scenarios, ensuring a fast, flexible and connected Wi-Fi ecosystem.” – John Yin, Marketing Manager, TP-Link

“Wi-Fi 6, as the newest generation of Wi-Fi technology, can bring users higher throughput, lower latency, lower power consumption, and also enhance network efficiency.  As an important member of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Xiaomi is committed to supporting Wi-Fi 6 technology in our applications, as well as engaging more deeply in Wi-Fi 6 certification, to bring our global users more and higher quality Wi-Fi 6 products.” Baoqiu Cui, Vice President of Xiaomi Corporation, Chairman of Technical Committee

Korea Telecom and Tessares claim 5G Low Latency Multi-Radio Access Technology first

The first commercial test of a 3GPP Release 16 technology designed to improve dynamic switching between 5G and wifi has been claimed by KT and Tessares.

The proper name for the tech is Access Traffic Steering, Switch and Splitting and the reason we care about it is that is could significantly improve the way devices choose and switch between cellular and wifi, depending on the circumstances. ATSSS was defined in collaboration with KT, Apple, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Cisco and is based on Multi-Path TCP technology, apparently. Here are a couple of diagrams from Tessares that explain the point of it further.

Tessares ATSS 1

Tessares ATSS 2

“ATSSS technology reduces the initial session setup time to achieve 5G ultra-low latency in a multi-radio context, resulting in a setup delay of less than half compared to previous approaches,” said the press release. KT and Tessares seem to be spearheading the development and standardization process.

“The success of this low latency multi-radio access technology test will allow customers to take advantage of existing LTE and Wi-Fi networks, as well as 5G, to enable wireless services at higher speed and quality.” said Sun-woo Lee, SVP of the KT Infra R&D Laboratory. “KT will continue to develop core 5G technologies to strengthen its R&D capabilities.”

“We are convinced that mobile Internet usage requires an efficient combination of all existing network assets such as WiFi, LTE and 5G,” said Denis Périquet, Tessares CEO. “We are delighted to have collaborated with KT, who is clearly leading the 5G race, to demonstrate the benefits of ATSSS.”

This technology presumably promises all kinds of wireless cleverness, but we’d be happy if all it achieved was to make devices smart enough to dynamically pick the best network available and make manually switching between them less fiddly than it currently is.

Qualcomm makes its Wi-Fi 6 move

Mobile chip giant Qualcomm wants a bigger piece of the wifi action and reckons the advent of the next generation of technology is a good opportunity to grab it.

At a recent event in San Francisco devoted entirely to Wi-Fi 6, Qualcomm launched a family of Wi-Fi 6 platforms branded the Networking Pro Series. There are four platforms, to be precise, named 1200, 800, 600, and 400, that are distinguished as follows:

qualcomm wifi 6 products

Qualcomm has been banging on about Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax as it was known before the Wi-Fi Alliance belatedly saw sense on nomenclature), for years, so this move is no great surprise. The big improvement isn’t so much about data rates but the number of devices a given router can support – i.e. capacity, as well as a bunch of other less obvious enhancements.

“Wi-Fi 6 is a transformational reimagining of how Wi-Fi works, a leap forward arriving alongside 5G and designed to accommodate the massive surge of connected devices,” said Nick Kucharewski, GM of wireless infrastructure and networking at Qualcomm. “The Qualcomm Networking Pro Series platforms raise the bar for the management of the ever-growing number of connected devices, the variation and complexity of those devices’ data needs, and the quality of the overall connectivity experiences they deliver.”

“The transformative nature of Wi-Fi 6 will have a deep impact across all categories of connected devices and environments,” said Edgar Figueroa, CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance. “We’re going to witness dynamic changes in Wi-Fi with the inclusion of advanced features in Wi-Fi 6 which will drive improved network capacity, better performance and increased speeds.”

As well as potentially helping it grab wifi router market share from the likes of Broadcom and Cisco, Qualcomm reckons its focus on Wi-Fi 6 can help it in other markets such as connected car and IoT. It could also do a lot to proliferate the mesh technology that Qualcomm has also been very keen to promote.

Boeing claims planes should be classed as indoors for connectivity

Aeronautical engineering firm Boeing has submitted a filing with the FCC arguing aircraft should be defined as indoor space to more easily permit the use of unlicensed spectrum.

The filing focuses around the use of 6 GHz unlicensed spectrum and the growing demand for in-flight connectivity. As you can imagine, delivering connectivity at almost 40,000 feet while travelling at 500 mph is somewhat of a complicated task, therefore Boeing is requesting more assistance from the FCC.

“On April 3, 2019, representative of The Boeing Company (“Boeing”) met with Commission staff to discuss the technical justifications for treating the inside of large commercial aircraft as being equivalent to indoor locations for purposes of the Commission’s rules for unlicensed devices operating in the 6 GHz band,” General Counsel Bruce Olcott wrote in the filing.

In-flight connectivity is one of the fastest growing trends in the digital era, with Deloitte predicting on billion passenger journeys, one quarter of the total, across 2018 were on aircraft equipped with gear to make the internet possible. It might still be expensive for passengers, but as momentum grows the price will certainly come down. In fact, Inmarsat predicts the in-flight connectivity market could be worth as much as $130 billion annually by 2035.

To continue this momentum, Boeing is now arguing the inside of aircraft should be technically defined as indoor locations to make unlicensed spectrum more accessible.

The argument from Boeing does sound quite logical and reasonable. The firm argues the fuselage of an aircraft provides radio signal attenuation levels, blocking the signal, of at least 17.3 dB on average in the frequency range of 6 GHz. This is effectively the same as many buildings, suggesting there will be little to no additional interference from using the spectrum.

Boeing also points out that the Federal Aviation Administration has banned the use of wireless communications below 10,000 feet. Therefore, any ground operations making use of the 6 GHz spectrum would have zero interference as the aircraft would be well out of range when at cruising speeds (38,000 feet).

When combining the remote locations of airports (for the most part) and the fuselage of an aircraft blocking any signal inside the plane, Boeing believes aircraft carriers should be permitted to offer wifi services on unlicensed 6 GHz spectrum while the plane is parked at airports and in flight.

The filing comes at a time where the FCC is considering rule changes for unlicensed spectrum in the 6 GHz band. Certain parties are supporting the idea, though AT&T and other telcos are resisting, suggesting broadband and satellite operations should remain under more stringent protection.

Back in October, the FCC Commissioners voting unanimously to expand the 6 GHz band to support next-generation wifi devices, 1,200 MHz of spectrum to be exact. Although there is risk of displacing existing devices, the FCC appears to expect minimal interference between prior and future devices, as wifi is most likely to operate indoors.

“…with the massive amount of wireless traffic that is off-loaded to wifi, opening up this wide swath of spectrum for unlicensed use could be a big boost to our nation’s 5G future,” Pai said in a statement following the decision.

Whether the FCC had in-flight connectivity as a usecase while they were drawing up these rules is uncertain, but it is certainly a trend which is worth addressing.

Spurs and HPE hope to show how stadium wifi should be done

The long-awaited new Tottenham Hotspur stadium hosts its first Premier League match today and fans might even be able to get on the wifi for once.

Stadium connectivity has long been a signature connectivity challenge, thanks mainly to the exceptionally high density of population. Despite numerous claimed advances in high capacity routers, base stations, etc, user experience in high density environments such as stadia, airports and conference venues etc has generally been rubbish.

In an attempt to address this Spurs teamed up with longtime sponsor HPE to get its Aruba arm involved in taking care of the connectivity in the new stadium. The company has kept pretty quiet since the partnership was announced a couple of years ago, but now that the doors are finally opening UK MD Marc Waters felt moved to blog on the matter.

“The ambition from Tottenham Hotspur could not have been greater,” he wrote. “To build the most technologically advanced stadium in the world with an unrivaled fan experience. Working together with a diverse set of partners they have achieved it. Aside from the lack of queues and incredible bottom filling pints of beer (oh yes), one of the first advances the fans will notice is the quality and availability of the free stadium Wi-Fi.

“Having been at Wembley recently to see Portsmouth win the EFL Trophy, I can confirm it can be challenging to get signal due to the sheer size of the crowd. At the new Spurs stadium we have installed HPE Aruba technology with 1,641 wifi access points to provide 100% wifi coverage. This delivers high density wifi coverage in the Bowl seating area thanks to an innovative “Pico cell” architecture with the wifi Access Points mounted under the seats to enable high performance connectivity to all 62,062 fans.”

That equates to one wifi node per 38 fans in a sold-out stadium, which seems like a decent ratio so long as the supporting infrastructure is up to scratch. It’s notable that Spurs has made very little noise about mobile networks, although all four UK MNOs apparently have connectivity there. If the wifi delivers and the user experience for getting onto it is acceptable (a big if) then why would you need to access your mobile network while you’re there?

That user experience will probably be dictated in part by the new app Spurs developed to accompany the new stadium, which also covers things like electronic ticketing, interactive stadium maps, etc. That will all rely on the wifi network too, so a lot is at stake with this HPE infrastructure. As Waters indicated Spurs wants its new stadium to be somewhere fans might want to hang around in long after the game is over and they won’t do so if they can’t use their phones.