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AST & Science's SpaceMobile to Beam 4G / 5G Directly to Devices

Rakuten and Vodafone have become the lead investors in a venture to extend mobile coverage to more people and devices across the planet, using the first mobile broadband network that will be broadcast from space. The venture also has other investors includeing American Tower; Cisneros; Samsung NEXT; and founder Abel Avellan. A Japanese news site reported that Rakuten will be the biggest investor.

Rakuten has already said that they want to provide 100% geographic (not population based, which is easier) coverage in Japan. This point was emphasized by Rakuten Mobile's CTO Tareq Amin in a recently released video.

Vodafone's press release also mentioned some of the reasons they have invested in AST:

Branded SpaceMobile, the low-Earth-orbit (LEO), low-latency satellite network from AST & Science will be the first in the world to connect directly to standard smartphones. The company holds an extensive patent and IP portfolio for its ground and space technologies.

AST & Science…
Recent posts

5G Indoor Precise Positioning

3GPP Release-16 contains enhancements for indoor and outdoor positioning techniques. One such enhancement combines multiple roundtrip time (multi-RTT) and angle of arrival (AoA) for more accurate wide-area outdoor positioning use cases.

Another important new capability that is coming with 3GPP Rel-16 is enhanced 5G positioning to benefit a wide range of new vertical use cases. Staying with the theme of industrial IoT in an indoor environment, this live over-the-air demonstration showcases how 5G can provide sub-meter 3D positioning for various applications, such as asset tracking and AGV control, utilizing multiple transmission points to measure time difference of arrival. The followinglive over-the-air video demonstrates multiple indoor small cells providing sub-meter 3D positioning for 5G industrial IoT applications such as asset tracking and AGV control:

5G positioning opens doors to many new use cases including industrial IoT and private networks. The following picture from Qualco…

Basic and Differentiated 5G Connectivity for Enterprises

One of the 5G differentiators that has been touted for a long time is its ability to offer different QoS to each user and each slice. In practice we have yet to see this granularity in the commercial networks as this requires Standalone 5G networks that are yet to roll out. This has not discouraged any operator or vendor in producing any concept videos to prepare the end users that change is coming.
I have talked about 5G consumer uses cases here, 5G enterprise use cases here and looked at real life enterprise 5G use cases in China here. The 5G Guide produced by GSMA talks about how operators will be able start offering differentiated 5G Connectivity for enterprises as opposed to basic connectivity. There is also the option to offer 'Beyond Connectivity' and 'Managed Solutions'. While in this post, I want to really only look at Basic vs Differentiated connectivity, I will look at the other two as well for completion.

The following is from 'The 5G Guide':

While …

Integrated Access and Backhauling (IAB) - Today and Tomorrow

I wrote a detailed blog on The 3G4G Blog late last year about what IAB is and what will be available this year as part of Release-16 and what enhancements are planned as part of Release-17. It's available here.

In the Ericsson Technology Review last month, there is a short section on IAB which is reproduced below for anyone wishing to dig deep into this topic:
IAB provides an alternative to fiber backhaul by extending NR to support wireless backhaul. As a result, it is possible to use NR for a wireless link from central locations to distributed cell sites and between cell sites. This can simplify the deployment of small cells, for example, and be useful for temporary deployments for special events or emergency situations. IAB can be used in any frequency band in which NR can operate. However, it is anticipated that mm-wave spectrum will be the most relevant spectrum for the backhaul link. Furthermore, the access link may either operate in the same frequency band as the backhaul li…

State of Global Cellular Connectivity in 2019 and 2025

GSMA published their global Mobile Economy report recently. While there were not many surprises for me as I have used it over the years for various presentations and reports, others may be a bit surprised, especially with all the hype around 5G. Before we jump into the numbers, the chart that caught my eye is as shown above.

Coverage gap is easy to understand because these are the people / areas that have no coverage. The usage gap defines people who are in a region covered by some or the other technology but are not connected. There could be various factors in play because of affordability or no need, etc.

The report states that there were 8.0 billion cellular connections (excluding IoT) in 2019 and this will increase to 8.8 billion by 2025. Looking at the mobile connections worldwide, we see that in 2025, there will still be around 5% of the users using 2G (mainly GSM) technology. While this may sound like a small number, this is still roughly 440 millions users worldwide. 18% of t…

Loon and Terrestrial LTE can Co-exist

In our last post we looked at how Telstra and Ericsson have increased the distance of LTE cell from 100 km to 200 km. If you compare that to Google Loon or other HAPS that fly at 20 km above earth (details here), it should be an easy task. This is what Signals Research Group investigated as part of their report which is available here officially or on LinkedIn here, unofficially (or officially as well). Fierce Wireless has a good summary of this report here and extract reproduced below:

Based on a study of Loon’s network in Peru, Signals Research Group (SRG) found that Loon has a “modest” detrimental impact on the existing terrestrial LTE network while improving coverage in areas where terrestrial LTE coverage doesn’t exist. It’s pretty much the same impact one would get from any cell site being introduced in the same area.

Any time a new cell site gets deployed in an LTE network, it will generate at least some interference with adjacent cells, and Loon, whose balloons fly more than 60…

Telstra and Ericsson double LTE range

Australian operator Telstra and vendor Ericsson have announced that they have successfully managed to increase the range of an LTE cell from 100 km to 200 km. The announcement is available on Telstra exchange here and on Ericsson's website here.

No technical details are available and the range assumption would be that while the existing cells can cover up to 100 km radius, the enhancement would increase the radius up to 200 km.

Picture source: Exploroz
Telstra blog states:

Until now, global wireless 4G standards have managed to achieve a range of only 100km from the cell. While that’s still impressive, we’re always looking to push our network capabilities further for our customers. Working with our partner Ericsson, we have deployed a solution that enables standard 4G phones to work at a distance up to 200km from the mobile base station.

We recently completed an extended call using one of our sites at Mount Dowe, east of Narrabri in New South Wales, Australia. Further testing and re…

OneWeb has Global Connectivity Ambitions

OneWeb is hoping to start providing service this year. Their launches seem to be on schedule with another 34 satellites planned to be launched soon. In a press release back in September they stated:

OneWeb, whose goal is to connect everyone everywhere, today announced the details of its Arctic high-speed, low-latency internet service. OneWeb will deliver 375 Gbps of capacity above the 60th parallel North. With service starting in 2020, there will be enough capacity to give fiber-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic.

The dense, flexible coverage of OneWeb’s polar-orbiting satellites coupled with its high-speed service and low latency capabilities will provide a superior connectivity experience to the 48% of the Arctic currently without broadband coverage. In fact, OneWeb most recently proved its system’s capabilities through HD video streaming tests last month with its first six satellites that showcased extreme lo…

HAPSMobile and Loon Partner for Stratosphere-Based LTE Communications Solution

Original images on HAPSMobile Website.
Earlier this month, Alphabet’s Loon LLC (“Loon”) and SoftBank Corp.’s HAPSMobile Inc. (“HAPSMobile”) announced they successfully developed a communications payload for HAPSMobile’s HAWK30, a solar-powered unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that flies in the stratosphere. The press release states:

The initiative to design and develop the communications payload for the HAWK30 follows an announcement last April between Loon and HAPSMobile where the companies formed a strategic relationship. The partnership grew out of a joint recognition of the untapped potential of the stratosphere to enhance the connectivity ecosystem and bring more people, places, and things online.

Since the April 2019 announcement, technical teams from Loon and HAPSMobile worked together to adapt the payload technology already used on Loon’s stratospheric balloons for the HAWK30. The effort leveraged Loon’s expertise in building communications payloads that are capable of enduring th…

Extreme Long Range Communications for Deep Rural Coverage

NGMN published a whitepaper quietly, like all of their other publications, on the topic of affordable Voice and Data Services for sparsely populated areas, such as Sub-Sahara Africa, but also for higher ARPU markets with wide rural areas, such as North Canada. In many countries there is an obligation on operators providing a minimum level of coverage geographically, rather than population based only. Along with the stick, operators are looking for a carrot to justify their spend on bringing rural connectivity.

The following is an extract from the paper available here [PDF]:

The purpose of the NGMN’s Extreme Long Range Communications for Deep Rural Coverage program is to explore the challenge of addressing rural markets and to create industry momentum around long range communications solutions that are suitable for offering Internet access to rural populations who are underserved today.

A number of options exists for operators to provide coverage; these are:

i. Extending the range of the…