|antimyopia from Seybold's 3G today- Vol.3 Issue 1|
The 3G World Congress: A Synopsis
The conference was well attended and during the meetings it was clear that there are different views of the 3G future in different regions of the world. However, there is a near-common vision that today’s 3G technologies will evolve over time and will continue to be a lynch pin of where the industry is heading. Following is a general recap of what is going on in the world of 3G based on my meetings.
The 3G World Congress is run by IIR and is supported by the three most active 3G trade associations: CDMA Development Group (CDG), UMTS Forum and TD-SCDMA Forum. There are a number of commercial sponsors as well, but the fact that all three of the organizations that represent vendors developing and selling 3G hardware and software and network operators is a sign that 3G is not as much about the technology as it is about how wireless customers can use the technology.
When I returned to Japan and Hong Kong last November, the buzz was about enhancements to our 3G networks and what, in Japan, is being called Super 3G or Ultra 3G.
The 3G World Congress is a truly global conference. It is still small, but it draws industry insiders from all over the world. It is a great place to gain an understanding of what is occurring in other parts of the world, what elements are considered to be important next steps toward true 3G ubiquity and how different parts of the world view the growth of 3G and the evolution of what Japan is calling Super 3G (NTT DoCoMo) and Ultra 3G (KDDI).
The number of 3G networks that went live during 2005 increased and more networks continued to build out coverage. The number of new 3G-capable devices is growing and their prices are falling.
3G networks and customers are growing in number, but just as important, 3G networks built to cover major population areas are being extended beyond their initial foot print. For example, KDDI stated in a recent meeting that by the end of 2006 its CDMA2000 1xEV-DO footprint will be equal to 99% of its existing CDMA2000 1X footprint. NTT DoCoMo, KDDI’s chief competitor in Japan, already has more than 20 million 3G subscribers and is also investing heavily in its WCDMA or FOMA 3G network. Today, T-Mobile in Germany and the U.K. provides UMTS 3G coverage to more than 60% of the population of these countries and is continuing an aggressive network build-out.
While such activity centers around today’s 3G networks and their capabilities, there is also a tremendous amount of thought being given to moving from a voice or data model as we have today to a world where we will become accustomed to wireless devices capable of delivering both voice and data services using of a multitude of technologies resident in the devices, with a variety of services available for concurrent use (see the next article on Dr. Paul Jacobs’ keynote speech).
This show and all of the meetings I had in Japan had similar themes, focusing on what is available today, how network operators are enticing customers to move from their 2G networks to their 3G networks and what the short-term future holds.
I came away with the idea that beyond 3G there is a vision of Super 3G or Ultra 3G, which, in addition to evolving today’s 3G technologies, supports bandwidths larger than 5 MHz, adds smarter and more efficient IP-based back-end infrastructure and additional one-way or two-way airlinks to provide further capabilities. The intended results are increased downlink and uplink rates, improved spectral efficiency and lower latency, while still maintaining full mobility and support for existing 3G networks. This vision is based on handsets becoming capable of handling many different communications links and technologies, providing all of these services simultaneously, or concurrently.
Both NTT DoCoMo’s Super 3G and KDDI’s Ultra 3G are based on the belief that the 3G airlink and its future enhancements will be the primary and most widely used full mobility technology, but that over time other airlinks such as Wi-Fi and perhaps other point-to-point or multipoint technologies will be fully integrated into these networks as they are converted to an all-IP or IMS infrastructure. The idea is to provide the best possible airlink to customers no matter where they happen to be and to match the capabilities of voice and data services over the appropriate airlink.
The 3GPP has formed a study group to determine the Long Term Evolution (LTE) for WCDMA (UMTS) radio access networks and system architectures. Core LTE specifications are expected to be standardized sometime in 2007. Super 3G and LTE visions are currently very similar and many in the industry now view these terms as synonymous.
KDDI stated in a recent meeting that by the end of 2006 its CDMA2000 1xEV-DO footprint will be equal to 99% of its existing CDMA2000 1X footprint.
The back-end buzzword for this vision is “IMS” (Internet MultiMedia Subsystems). At the 3G World Congress, many companies were talking about their work in this area with a variety ideas being put forth, varying timetables being discussed and much interest in how 3G wireless and a super intelligent back-end system can enhance the functionality of what can be delivered today.
IMS or IP to the core was a hot topic, and while operators I talked with in Japan and Hong Kong, including some from Europe, Asia and down under, are convinced that IMS or some flavor of IP is in their future—even if they don’t know exactly how far into the future. Many of the discussions are about how to move to IP when you already have back-end systems that cost a lot of money and have many years of life left in them. However, they realize some form of IP will be required in order to move toward realization of the vision of ubiquity and being able to mix and match wired and wireless services.
As I have said before, 3G is not about the technology used to deliver voice and data services, it is about the services that can be delivered because of the technology. Third-generation networks offer some real advantages to network operators and their customers, and it doesn’t matter which technology is used to deliver these services. The 3G World Congress brought this point home loud and clear. Everywhere you looked on the show floor and during many of the sessions, the discussions were not as much about the technology that makes up 3G networks as how to provide the types of applications and services that will attract the greatest number of customers to these networks.
While there was a real focus and understanding about this fact at the Congress, there was also hype about technologies. The usual stuff: Which 3G technology is better? Which one will win? What about emerging technologies such as WiMAX? The questions about flavors of 3G and what is next, however, were not coming from within the industry but rather from press representatives attending the event, mostly the European press. The U.S. and Asian press that have watched two flavors of 3G technology being deployed in multiple countries seem to understand that there does not have to be a “winner” or a “loser,” and that in countries such as the United States, Japan, Korea, China and elsewhere, the two main 3G technology families will continue to be deployed and both will remain important.
However, in fairness to the European press, they live in a world where there is only one solution for 2G, 2.5G and now 3G. There are, today, no options and no opportunities to see two competing networks going head to head for customers. Europe is different from many other parts of the world where multiple technologies have been deployed. There is no right or wrong 3G technology, only different technologies that provide 3G voice and data services.
Customers don’t care what technology they are using, WCDMA (UMTS) or CDMA2000 1xEV-DO. What they do care about are the new capabilities made possible by these networks. In fact, in Japan, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Vodafone Japan are offering similar services including music downloads, video downloads, 3D games and a number of location-based services. I found it interesting that none of these reporters or European analysts were aware that there are four times as many CDMA2000 3G customers than WCDMA (UMTS) customers. When I mentioned this to them they could not believe it is true. It is, and this can be verified on the 3GToday Web site.
One of the hottest topics in Japan and at the show in Hong Kong was the coming of Mobile TV, either on existing networks or off the network employing one-way digital services such as DVB-H, MediaFLO and others. Many of the network players are in trials and/or deployment though there are still questions surrounding how the services will be deployed and used.
Some network operators are planning to offer full TV-like shows, including commercials, while others are not sure a 30-minute TV show will be viewed in its entirety. There is limited market research for Mobile TV. We are venturing into an area the industry believes has a viable market though still largely unproven. I talked to one vendor that will be building a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) directly into the phone so content can be saved into the phone’s memory or written off to a removable memory source.
Interest is high, and the belief is that Mobile TV, in all its forms, will be the next big area of convergence in wireless.
Still, interest is high, and the belief is that Mobile TV, in all its forms, will be the next big area of convergence in wireless. This may be true. Most of our wireless device activity is based on what we previously did only at home or in the office. Wireless has given us the opportunity to cut the wires and talk, access the Internet and send and receive email almost wherever we happen to be.
Mobile music fits into the same category and there is a consensus among the network operators I interviewed that the issue with music downloads is not the technology, bandwidth or data speeds at this point but that Apple has set the price for music at $0.99 for each song. Apple makes very little on the music itself but makes a lot on the iPODs.
There is limited margin when it comes to wireless devices. Most are subsidized by network operators so there is no profit to offset the cost of the music. Therefore, music pricing has to be higher if the wireless industry is to make money selling downloads. Sprint launched its download service in the fourth quarter of 2005 and is charging $2.50 per song. Meanwhile, Verizon is launching its own music download service in conjunction with Microsoft this month. Verizon’s pricing is more aggressive — customers pay $1.99 per song if they download directly to their phone or $0.99 if they download to their PCs and move the songs over to their wireless handset using a USB cable. Others such as the MVNO AMP’d are meeting the Apple iPod pricing of $0.99 per song. Music downloads are either available or will be soon in Japan and other countries.
The questions I asked, and for which there are no easy answers, were: “What price do you have to charge for music downloads in order to make money on the music?” and, “If the price is twice or more what Apple charges, how many of your customers will purchase music from you?” The responses varied depending on region, but the bottom line is that no one knows. They all plan to try to determine what their customers will pay for this service while mobile.
Articles that will be released following this one will delve into a number of these topics in more detail and provide additional insight into a number of the network operators’ plans for their 3G future. I believe that the most important speech at the Congress was by Dr. Paul Jacobs (see next article). Dr. Jacobs was able to quickly and easily define the vision for 3G going forward and pointed out that for the first time in wireless history, a 3G network will not be simply a wireless network that is used for voice and data services; it will evolve into the core of our business and personal communications systems and services.
There is a lot of talk about what is beyond 3G, what 4G is and when it will arrive. These questions are based on an assumption that there is always another “G” after the one currently being deployed. Perhaps we need to take a new look at this premise and see that there is a lot of evolution left in the 3G airlinks and that we will move away from having to select our communications medium to a place where the communications medium is chosen for us depending on where we are and what we need or want to accomplish at any given point in time.
Dr. Jacobs, Elder Statesman and Visionary
The keynote speech at the recent 3G World Congress held in Hong Kong was delivered by Dr. Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm. With this speech, he established himself as the elder statesman of the 3G industry and articulated a vision for 3G that is sharp and crisp as well as exciting.
Today, there are 170+ 3G networks in commercial operation with more than 225 million subscribers in 75 countries. Over the last twelve months, 33 wireless device vendors announced more than 150 new devices and there is a vast amount of content available including audio and video downloads, interactive games and serious business applications.
But this is just the beginning. 3G is not simply the next generation of wireless voice and data services, although today it might be construed by some as merely the logical extension of 1G and 2G networks and devices. However, 3G is shaping up as a lot more than cell sites and devices. It will be the foundation for many voice and data services as well as the lynch pin around which other technologies will be integrated into total communications solutions.
Before Dr. Jacobs took us on his trip toward the year MMX (2010), he commented that the wireless community has a great opportunity ahead of it. “We have this shift from voice to data services and the opportunities that we see to create new services are really tremendous, but we’re also in a time where there are a few fights going on in the industry too, and it’s a little unfortunate that we’re diverting some of our time and effort on those things.” He went on to say that instead of fighting over the pie we have today, the industry should work together and focus on growing the size of the pie.
Wireless doesn’t equate to the VHS vs. BetaMax battle of years ago where only one would win.
Dr. Jacobs pointed out that this is a great industry and in-fighting and sniping is destructive to the entire industry. He was not talking about competitors fighting over customers; he was talking about technology advocates who believe their technology will win in the long run. Wireless doesn’t equate to the VHS vs. BetaMax battle of years ago where only one would win. Wireless technologies can be blended in wireless devices. We have seen this with CDMA2000-Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/GPS devices and WCDMA(UMTS)-GSM/GPRS devices. Soon there will be many more options for wireless devices.
We should not lose sight of the fact that customers do not care which technology is used to provide the airlink or the backend that enables their devices. They care about what they can accomplish with the devices, how easy they are to use and the quality of the experience. I think those who listened to Dr. Jacobs’ comments and vision of the future were receptive and realize he is right. We are heading into exciting times. We have the capabilities to put an amazing amount of technology into handheld wireless devices and are working toward providing services that customers will want and, most importantly, pay for.
He then shared his vision of an exciting journey on our way to 2010 when individual technologies will become part of a bigger picture of convergence. Today’s 3G networks are about sequential use of voice and data, but we are heading toward a world where we will employ different technologies simultaneously, or concurrently.
The Year MMX
Today’s 3G networks provide voice and data services and many 3G wireless devices have built-ins such as Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi. These wireless devices packed with technologies are designed to be used with voice and data, but not simultaneously. This will change, and that was the focus of Dr. Jacobs’ roadmap to 2010.
The most dramatic changes will come as we move toward a time when wireless devices will provide multiple, simultaneous links and a new back-end infrastructure will provide a set of wireless capabilities never seen before. These will change the way customers view and use wireless devices.
Dr. Jacobs cited examples of what can be done today, such as completing a voice call with a Bluetooth hands-free device, and then moved on to the next steps, which include more simultaneous links and wireless devices evolving with more capabilities as standard features.
The next evolution of 3G devices will include simultaneous voice and data services along with GPS location-based services. This wave of devices will enable people in the field to simultaneously hold a phone conversation, download and review data pertinent to their next task and view a map with audible turn-by-turn directions. These devices will also become interactive entertainment devices, e.g., a phone equipped with Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology, a one-way, OFDM-based broadband multicast service that provides access to multiple channels of video and audio content.
"Convergence requires Concurrence—that is, as we add simultaneous capabilities to our wireless devices, we will see the wireless device of the future become the focal point for not only our voice communications but many other services we use on a daily basis."
-- Paul Jacobs, CEO, Qualcomm
While MediaFLO will not be the only technology used to off-load high-end and high-resolution content from the wireless networks, it provides an illustration of how the evolution of networks and devices will enable a variety of advanced services. 3G devices will be used at home for such activities as transmitting a multiplayer 3D game to a large screen using Wi-Fi while holding a real-time voice conversation with other players.
We are quickly approaching a world in which 3G wireless devices will be capable of maintaining multiple communications links using a variety of technologies, thus changing the way we use them. This phenomenon is called “concurrence.” Dr. Jacobs said, “What that implies is a greater level of integration between the different airlinks and the different functionality that goes into the device, and that’s, to me, where the vision of this industry needs to head as we move out towards 2010.”
Reviewing the roadmap for CDMA2000 1xEV-DO and MediaFLO, Dr. Jacobs broadened his vision to include UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA, calling it “DMMX” (DO for the year MMX) and “HMMX” for HSDPA/HSUPA and beyond.
For mobile voice and data, this includes VoIP (Voice over IP), multiplayer on-line gaming, push-to-talk services, video telephone, voice and music on demand. Portable devices that will be used for more data-intensive applications and enterprise applications start with high-rate EV-DO using a single or multiple DO channel. The next steps are adding mobile multicast using a technology such as MedaFLO to provide cost-effective media delivery to mobile devices and then complementary airlinks including GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
The EV-DO roadmap includes Rev. A and B and devices supporting these standards will also support Multilink eXtensions to key complementary airlinks. This same vision holds true for the UMTS world where HSDPA/HSUPA extensions to UMTS are being developed and deployed along with device capabilities for Multilink eXtensions. It doesn’t matter which flavor of 3G is being deployed; this vision follows the same roadmap, arriving at 2010 with the same level of convergence.
The Right Technologies for the Right Service
We can begin doing some very exciting things as voice moves to VoIP. Since voice will be data and voice and data will be mixed and matched, we will have many interesting choices. Dr. Jacobs’ vision includes, understandably, not only the ability to provide convergence and concurrent (simultaneous) use of multiple voice and data feeds from different networks, but the ability to provide any number of links that can offer separate simultaneous services. Services will run over unicast, multicast, the cellular band and broadcast and a variety of links may run simultaneously. Data accessed via the cellular network could be intermingled with data from the broadcast network. There are also complementary airlinks. We will use various technologies—GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi—to communicate with other devices around us and use the phone as the “hub of your life, your digital life.”
The DMMX roadmap takes us out to at least the year 2010. Over time, the data speeds increase and the convergence of these networks is provided both within the wireless devices we will be using and the network back-end services.
As can be seen on the wireless roadmap slide above, this multi-pronged approach is based on two wide-area technologies—wide-area multiple access (unicast) and wide-area multicast—and the 802.11 family of local-area technologies. A mixture of CDMA and OFDM airlinks appear on this roadmap, giving a precise picture of where we are heading with 3G and into Ultra or Super 3G. (Qualcomm is referring to this as DMMX, which reflects DO and its evolution and performance enhancements that are standard-compliant and do not require changes to the existing standards.)
The WCDMA (UMTS) roadmap is basically the same, but multi-carrier technologies have not been included because WCDMA requires more bandwidth than CDMA (5 MHz per carrier as opposed to 1.25 MHz per carrier). With multi-carrier technology, several CDMA2000 1xEV-DO carriers can be combined and the aggregate of the data speeds (up to 70+ Mbps) provides for fast, bursty data services. Dr. Jacobs’ commented that all of these complementary airlinks go together and work independent of the airlink underneath. The airlink will become less important and we know customers don’t care about this “stuff.” We need to make the process seamless and, according to Moore’s Law, that will happen by integrating more capabilities into the chipsets.
Turning to Airlink Improvements
Switching gears, Dr. Jacobs then described another part of the DMMX initiative, the use of diversity antennas (dual or multiple antennas) on the wireless devices, and equalizer and interference cancellation techniques that will increase data rates within a bandwidth and increase the number of voice calls that can be handled over a given CDMA carrier. With receive diversity, it is possible to again double the number of voice calls on a CDMA2000 1X or 1xEV-DO carrier and increase data rates. Receive diversity is backward-compatible with existing CDMA technologies and does not require new standards.
With multi-carrier technology, several CDMA2000 1xEV-DO carriers can be combined and the aggregate of the data speeds (up to 70+ Mbps) provides for fast, bursty data services.
Qualcomm has developed a technology to add receive diversity to cell sectors as well using four receive antennas at the cell sites to increase sector capacity. It does not change network topology and it can be installed on only those cell sites with capacity constraints. The combination of handset and cell site receive diversity is a powerful tool that will be beneficial to network operators.
Qualcomm is also working on 4GV (fourth-generation vocoder), providing network capacity benefits without sacrificing voice quality. It can also be used for VoIP.
Recapping the advancements, Dr. Jacobs said that as we put all these pieces together, we’re continuing to increase data rates and peak data rates. Peak rates aren’t as important as sector capacity until you’re trying to market something. You can put all the bands together for a peak data rate, but is it economical to do so? Network operators will have to decide, but the point is it can be done.
Similarly, with VoIP, 4X receive diversity, pilot interference cancellation and 4GV, speeds can be increased to 50 times the speed of analog. Not long ago, we looked forward to 10 or 20 times.
These enhancements to 3G networks will be matched with impressive enhancements on the device side. Next-generation processors will include a Scorpion core that will run at speeds in excess of 1 GHz while drawing less power than similar processors running around 600 MHz. This additional power will be required as more airlinks and applications are embedded into wireless devices. Dr. Jacobs’ convergence platform shows an impressive line-up of services, display capabilities and processor speeds that will enable all of these features and applications.
Dr. Jacobs explained that M also stands for multi-networks in which data is seamlessly intermixed while customers see a single user interface. Differentiated services will come over a generic transmission from a broadcast network, so multi-networks enables differentiation for operators.
Back to the Elder Statesman
After Dr. Jacobs shared his vision, he observed that the business model for the wireless industry, and for Qualcomm, had led to intense competition and rapid declines in handset prices. CDMA vs. GSM is an example of the manifestation of this competition. Today, the average selling price of CDMA and GSM phones in many markets is on a par (excluding Korea and Japan) though CDMA prices have dropped more substantially in a shorter period of time and with only a quarter of the volume.
While it is too early to track similar price decreases in the WCDMA market, he believes it is on track to follow the same curve downward just as quickly. Today there is a wider range of participants in the WCDMA market and that is causing handset prices to fall rapidly.
Dr. Jacobs directly addressed the in-fighting within the industry over royalty rates. Everyone likes to complain about royalty rates, but the fact is they should be thought of as aggregated R&D for a large number of companies making it possible for them to participate in this market.
At a time when the industry needs a vision for the future of 3G networks and devices and there is still in-fighting because so many believe there can only be one winner, Dr. Jacobs’ comments were well received. The fact is that convergence, as outlined by Dr. Jacobs, promises a solid growth path for both flavors of 3G CDMA well into the future. Last year, talk was about 4G networks and services, but with the vision and on-going work to expand 3G CDMA and WCDMA capabilities, it is clear that many of the promises of 4G are being realized in 3G: more airlinks will be built into devices with the “smarts” to select the appropriate network for the task; there will be faster, less power-consuming processors; and better screens and features in our devices.
Similarly, with VoIP, 4X receive diversity, pilot interference cancellation and 4GV, speeds can be increased to 50 times the speed of analog. Not long ago, we looked forward to 10 or 20 times.
Networks will have increased capacity, new technologies will enable off-loading video and other data-intensive applications and we will mix and match activities on our devices with one-way networks such as MediaFLO with data and voice over traditional wireless networks. We will see the introduction of these capabilities and more over the next four years. It is an ambitious vision, but we are well on our way toward its fruition.
Just as important as his vision for the CDMA/WCDMA community, Dr. Jacobs clearly emerged as the elder statesman for the industry. His willingness to call the industry to task for in-fighting and discord is commendable. Even more commendable, he called for the industry to work together for the benefit of the entire industry—grow the wireless pie, don’t fight over pieces of today’s pie.
This keynote speech was one of the most important speeches in recent history. The industry needed to hear what Dr. Jacobs had to say, and it needed to hear that there is, indeed, a vision for 3G. This vision should give network operators investing heavily in 3G networks and services the confidence to continue down the 3G path regardless of the flavor of the technology.
Andrew M. Seybold