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Published 05 December 2017 in Research
Tags: 5G, fixed wireless, UK Enterprise Broadband Index, Ofcom

Dr John Naylon, CTO and founder, CBNL

CBNL was recently joined by leading experts in the field of 5G for a roundtable chaired by Emeka Obiodu (Strategy Director at the GSMA) to explore the status and future of UK enterprise broadband. 

With me on the panel were: Jonathan Dann (Managing Director of Telecom Research at RBC Capital Markets), Mischa Dohler (Professor of Wireless Communications at King’s College London) and Nick Lane (Chief Analyst at Mobilesquared).

Meeting in London, we discussed today’s connectivity landscape, the evolution of operator business models, and the role of new technology in the evolving pre-5G ecosystem. 

Supplementing the panel was the announcement of the ‘UK Enterprise Broadband Index.’ 

The survey, commissioned by CBNL, revealed that all UK businesses have experienced some issues with poor broadband services in the last two years. 

The most significant of these pertain to slow, or slower-than-advertised, broadband speeds, and substantial periods of network downtime. 

However, more than half of these businesses have not acted on these problems, instead choosing to remain with the same broadband provider.

With 89% of companies stating they would consider moving to wireless broadband, the research highlights the changing market perceptions towards this technology. 

In all likelihood, this is driven by the universal reliance of people upon mobile broadband, and their generally good experiences with it.

This striking statistic, and others within the index, provided a framework for a discussion of the current challenges facing the UK enterprise broadband market. 

The very high acceptance of wireless technology highlights the potential for disruptive wireless service providers to reconcile the digital divide and shape the future of connectivity.

The market status of UK enterprise broadband

The burgeoning demand for increased connectivity in the UK and the simultaneous acceptance of poor connectivity was a paradox my co-panelists unanimously acknowledged, and most had experienced directly.

This anecdotal evidence is supported by CBNL’s survey, which indicated that whilst 83% of businesses surveyed said that their connectivity requirements were being met by their broadband provider, 47% admit they are not receiving the broadband speeds advertised, 35% have been negatively impacted by slow broadband speeds, and 34% have experienced significant periods of downtime. 

With penetration of fixed wireless in the UK below many comparable regions of the globe, it’s plausible that a lack of exposure to alternative broadband solutions is contributing to the UK market’s acceptance of poor connectivity. 

To facilitate economic growth, the UK should seek to augment the range of technologies available to consumers with an emphasis on scalable solutions which can effectively meet growing demand.

The evolution of operator business models

Quickly moving from problem to opportunity, we proceeded to discuss the market opportunities for disruptive carriers seeking to leverage alternative solutions, such as fixed wireless.

Despite businesses looking for faster and more reliable broadband, when asked why they were opting to remain with their current provider, 32% of survey participants said they wanted to avoid disruption. 

Reflecting on this, Nick Lane commented: 

“The rapid deployment of fixed wireless solutions will be fundamental to improving the connectivity ecosystem, and as such needs to be a key focus for investment.”

“Operators leveraging these wireless solutions for enterprise can also benefit from their efficiency to build a more attractive business case to meet consumer demand, which at times is outpacing the capabilities of some of today’s legacy broadband services.”

Significant advances in millimetre wave have also meant that modern high-capacity wireless technologies have a clear path to quickly scale networks to multi-gigabit speeds, a capability that appears increasingly attractive for under-served UK businesses.

With such a clear and attractive business case, fixed wireless is presenting operators with a lucrative prospect for investment and establishing itself as a vital part of a diversified connectivity ecosystem.

New technology and the future of UK connectivity

Looking to the future, it is clear that recent advances in wireless sit alongside a significant market opportunity for operators.

Although fixed wireless is not as prevalent in the UK as fixed line, there was no dispute amongst us that the market’s perceptions of new technology is growing warmer. 

Underpinning this, the CBNL Enterprise Broadband Index revealed that 89% of businesses would consider moving to wireless services if the speed and reliability was comparable to, or greater than, their existing broadband.

Ofcom’s recent call for inputs to inform their programme of work to make millimeter wave spectrum bands available for 5G is also a significant indication of the value of high-capacity wireless in the UK market.

Increasing availability of millimetre wave, such as the 26GHz band, will be vital to unlock investment in enterprise broadband, allowing operators to benefit from the full potential of high band spectrum and catalyse the regeneration of a more diverse marketplace.

With the potential of these new technologies uncapped, panellist opinion was unified in its agreement that wireless innovation can bridge the gaps in the UK broadband market and pave the way for the next generation of connectivity.

Published 20 February 2017 in Backhaul
Tags: 5G, fixed wireless, UK

Dr John Naylon, CTO and founder, CBNL

Ofcom has set out its timeline for spectrum allocation and anticipated deployment of 5G, which is an enormous step forwards in accelerating the next generation of connectivity in the UK.

According to the plans, the UK is expected to see pre-commercial networks as close as 2018, ahead of a 2020 launch.

The proposal outlines plans to utilise 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz, which are already cleared by public sector organisations, and will be auctioned later in 2017.

Spectrum in the 26GHz band will also play a pivotal role, with Ofcom launching a consultation process for this in the second half of 2017.

26GHz undoubtedly holds huge potential to provide bandwidth far in excess of today’s typical “fibre broadband” speeds that many homes and businesses receive.

As a result, we’re likely to see 5G fixed wireless emerge as the first 5G use case in the near term, followed by a wealth of new and exciting 5G use cases, including automotive, IoT and mobility.

This model closely follows the US market, where the FCC recently opened up vast amounts of flexible use, high frequency spectrum in the 28, 37 and 39GHz bands as part of its 5G Spectrum Frontiers proposal.

Over the last year, we’ve already seen many thousands of homes and businesses in the US receiving 100Mbps+ pre-5G fixed wireless services through adjacent bands to 26GHz.

Ofcom are adopting a highly progressive strategy, allowing operators to combine the complementary properties of both low and high band spectrum.

The superfast carrier-grade bandwidth of 26GHz is coupled with the wider coverage of 3.5GHz, creating a harmonised strategy to offer a more economically feasible strategy to connect the many homes and business across the UK that still don’t receive adequate broadband services.

As we have seen in recent news, there are many businesses, even in large cities like London, that can’t get timely access to the connectivity needed for modern commerce.

This move therefore holds enormous promise to provide a significant boost to the UK economy.

With the wireless technology already in place to utilise these frequencies, UK mobile operators and ISPs are perfectly placed to deliver an immediate uplift in connectivity to their customers once this spectrum becomes available.

 

Just one week to go until MWC...

If you are interesting in finding out more, I'll be speaking at the 5G Beyond the Hype: Value And Building Blocks seminar at Mobile World Congress a week today (16.00, 27 February, Hall 4 Auditorium 4).

We will also have a live demonstration of our VectaStar solution on display at CBNL’s booth in Hall 5 (5H27) during the show

For more information on booking a meeting with CBNL, visit our event page.

I hope to see you there.

 
Published 05 November 2015 in Backhaul, Events
Tags: AfricaCom, digital dividend, tower sharing, Backhaul, LTE

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

One of the pleasures of attending AfricaCom is gaining insight into the most recent innovations in network architecture, and particularly in understanding how the business case for a mobile network can be improved by technical innovation.

The macroscopic telecoms environment features exponentially growing customer demand for data, delivered within a flat-to-declining ARPU envelope. 

This is particularly the case in Africa, and is driving a number of phenomena in all parts of the modern mobile network.

One example is tower sharing, whereby operators can reduce their capex and opex by amortising the costs of infrastructure across their combined subscriber bases.

Another example is the use of so-called ‘digital dividend’ ex-broadcast spectrum at 700 and 800MHz to create LTE coverage across wide areas more cost effectively. 

The physical propagation characteristics of these low frequencies mean that a given LTE base station can provide coverage to a larger radius. 

In turn, that means more subscribers are served by a single base station.

These approaches help in delivering services more cost effectively because they both increase the degree to which infrastructure is shared amongst subscribers. 

The neat part is that this increased sharing does not compromise the user experience in any way. 

This is because users’ data demands in mobile networks are statistically mutually asynchronous. 

In other words, it doesn’t matter how many other subs might use a given set of network resources throughout the day, only the number using those resources at a precise instant.

In the backhaul segment of the network, another example of a technology which can enhance network ROI is PMP microwave. 

Just as in the previous two examples, PMP microwave increases the amount of sharing of infrastructure that occurs. 

In this case, a single hub radio and its RF channel is time-division multiplexed amongst amongst multiple 3G or LTE base stations, avoiding the need for dedicated hub backhaul hardware for each base station. 

Again, because of the statistical asynchrony of backhaul requirements, there is no difference in the service delivered to the base station or end user. 

Using efficient technology in this way can create TCO savings of nearly 50% for the backhaul network.

African mobile operators are world leaders in adopting all three approaches described above, and in making a virtue of the necessity to do so. 

Because the growth in data demand shows no sign of abating, creating a relentless need to deliver more bits for the same cost, these techniques are becoming increasingly relevant in all regions of the world.

As in previous years, the CBNL executive team will be attending AfricaCom 2015 and look forward to meeting our customers and media from across the continent.

If you are attending AfricaCom and would like to meet us at the event, please email Chris Wright, CBNL’s Marketing Director, at cwright@cbnl.com who will be happy to schedule a meeting for you at the CBNL suite. 

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

With just under two weeks until Small Cell World kicks off, the industry is gearing up to see the latest and greatest small cell technologies and hear from operators on their deployment strategies.

Despite news earlier this year that over ten million small cells have been shipped, the industry is still very much in the early stages of outdoor, ‘urban’ small cells.

Backhaul will be central to every small cell network. As a result, operators’ decisions on backhaul technology will prove critical to their success.

Although close to their macro counterparts, small cells have somewhat different backhaul requirements which Infonetics recently summarised as: “Operators continue to look for smaller form factor, lower power, and lower cost backhaul equipment to help them drive forward the business case”.

These challenges bring into sharp focus the need for operators to create a compelling business case and a highly effective deployment strategy for small cell investment.

Operators are therefore turning to established carrier-grade wireless technologies for small cell backhaul, to deliver the high capacity services that are in such high demand by customers across their networks.

Key to a strong business case is a fast time to market and the ability to integrate small cell backhaul with existing macro networks.

This integration provides an incrementally low-cost means of adding small cells to the network and is the focus of the presentation I’ll be giving on the backhaul track at Small Cell World (14:40 on Wednesday 1 June for those that may be attending).

By removing the perceived need to deploy a wholly new, untried, backhaul solution for small cells, existing macro infrastructure can be leveraged, eliminating operators’ number one barrier to small cell deployment.

This is likely to see tried and tested backhaul become highly attractive to operators compared to completely new solutions.

We believe this to be so important that it played a key role in the development of our own PMP microwave small cell backhaul solution.

VectaStar Metro 600 small cell backhaul platformOur latest VectaStar Metro 600 small cell backhaul platform offers operators seamless macro integration, providing a field-proven business case and the ability to deliver up to 600Mb/s backhaul to each small cell.

PMP microwave saves valuable spectrum and equipment by aggregating backhaul traffic from multiple nodes to a single hub location.

By reducing hardware installs, operators are provided with a very quick time to market and total cost of ownership savings of up to 54% compared to fiber or point-to-point.

The underlying maturity of microwave backhaul has the added benefit of providing operators with a field-proven technology which is tried and tested the world over.

I look forward to exploring this further at the event and discussing our technology first hand with customers at our stand. I hope to see you there.

Dr John Naylon, Chief Technology Officer, CBNL

At first it doesn’t seem like modern transmission technology and accommodation booking would have many similarities!

In the abstract, however, they do share one key characteristic: the ability to dynamically reallocate resources according to demand.

In a PMP system the resources are units of time (of the order of microseconds) on a radio frequency carrier; in Airbnb the resources are units of time (in days this time) of occupancy of a room or apartment.

Why do we want to allocate resources dynamically in these two cases?

The answer is that we wish to increase the utilisation of the underlying asset: the RF carrier in the PMP case, and the room or apartment in the Airbnb case.

In a PMP system, if one link in a sector is instantaneously using less capacity than its “fair share”, then the system can reallocate those resources to another link that may have excess demand at that instant.

Likewise, if I am on holiday for two weeks, and so not using my apartment, then I may choose to rent it out while I am away.

In both cases, a resource that would have been idle - carrying no traffic, or sitting empty - is now utilised beneficially.

More importantly, this is not just a theoretical plus, but also translates into a financial benefit.

In the Airbnb case, the owner of the asset has extra income to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the asset. 

In the PMP case, overall spectrum requirements to carry a given volume of data across numerous links are reduced, and so is the financial cost of renting that spectrum from the regulator (we cover this reduction in much more detail here).

It’s this financial benefit that is driving the adoption of PMP, and also the uptake of platforms like Airbnb.

The same underlying characteristic is common to a number of other platforms and technologies; for instance Uber (like Airbnb dealing with physical resources), cloud computing and server virtualisation (like us dealing with intangible resources).

Incidentally, here at CBNL we often use Airbnb to meet our business travel needs, and we’ve stayed in some great and colourful places as a result!