Progress in automatic use of Cellular and Wi-Fi

June 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The greatly-needed ability to seamlessly use Wi-Fi (when available) from your smartphone or tablet took a big step forward to reality this week when Apple announced that they will support the Wi-Fi Hostpot 2.0 standard in iOS 7. What does that mean? Apple devices updated to iOS 7 will allow your mobile Service Provider to let your device securely use selected Wi-Fi hotspots, which can mean lower costs and higher throughput for you.

Hotspot 2.0 delivers the critical features that Service Providers and their Subscribers want:

  • Automatic (no user action required, transparent operation)
  • Secure (user data is safe, as is your subscriber identity)
  • Interoperable (works with existing 3G/4G cellular networks)

Mobile Operators have been working hard to enable their subscribers to “roam” onto Wi-Fi when available, to offload the cellular network (reducing costs). The standard that they have developed is called Wi-Fi Hotspot 2.0 (kinda rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?). Like any new service, to deliver it you need support of devices as well as the network. Since nearly all smartphones and tablets are delivered by Apple (iOS) and Google (Android), we must have those vendors support the standard. Now Apple will deliver in the Fall of 2013 with iOS 7, and we expect the next version of Android, Key Lime Pie, will similarly support the standard by YE2013.

With this support, we can expect Operators to start to deliver seamless roaming using Wi-Fi in-country and internationally, which can bring big benefits to you.


MIT “breakthrough” does *not* solve Spectrum Crunch

October 23, 2012 at 11:59 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The MIT breakthrough (originally reported in Technology Review, and breathlessly at Fierce Wireless as “MIT Researchers may have solved the Spectrum Crunch“”) appears to be an improvement using Forward Error Correction (to avoid retransmissions), but that does not “Solve the Spectrum Crunch” for cellular systems since the capacity needed (global mobile Internet traffic) doubles each year–so lots of help is needed to satisfy demand, including more spectrum. Further, 3G (GSM UMTS, CDMA 1x EV-DO)and 4G (LTE) cellular data transmissions *schedule* access to data channels (unlike Wi-Fi, which uses CSMA-CD, a coordinated free-for-all), so there is less efficiency to be gained in reducing retransmissions. Sure, in Wi-Fi,  all Hosts collide for a shared channel (and retransmit). I can see that this might significantly improve the effective bandwidth on a heavily loaded Wi-Fi network, but it’s not a silver bullet for capacity on a cellular network.

For more useful news on challenge of satisfying exponential demand for mobile data and real solutions needed to solve the Spectrum Crunch, I strongly recommend QUALCOMM’s excellent series “The 1000x Challenge” at www.qualcomm/com/1000x and my coverage on this challenge at

How to satisfy our exponential demand for Mobile Internet?

August 29, 2012 at 10:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Check out the excellent road map from Qualcomm, “1000X Mobile Data Challenge,” that explains how we can keep up with the exponentially demand for Mobile Internet. Since the introduction of the iPhone, we’ve seen consumer use exploding, with no end in sight. Globally, we observe that each year requires that we deliver 2X the data capacity than the previous year.

But you say, “1,000X capacity?! Really!!?” Actually, yes. Here’s why:

Q: Starting with a capacity of 1, and if you double that each year, then how many years until you reach 100? How many more years until you reach 1,000?

A: 6 years to reach 100, and another 4 years to reach 1,000.

So, at this rate of growth, we’ll reach 1,000 mobile Internet capacity in a decade

So check out the QUALCOMM webinar series to understand some of the techniques that we can use to satisfy this demand. If you’re going to be around for another decade, you’ll find it a worthwhile perspective. The first webinar in the series overviews the problem and solutions, and is available for replay at “The 100x Mobile Data Challenge.”

P.S. This reminds me of the fable of the Inventor of the Chessboard and his Reward. When the Inventor was asked by the delighted Ruler to name his reward, he asked for a single grain of rice on the first square, two grains on the second, four on the third square, …  On the 64th square of the chessboard there would be 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (263) grains of rice!

The Future of Network Interconnection

June 30, 2012 at 8:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Although all networks have used the Public (Circuit-Switched) Telephony Network as the default method of interconnection, networks are rapidly migrating to use a general-purpose, IP eXchange, the IPX. Connecting IP networks via a native, IP eXchange, will bring many benefits: lower cost, more features, and better quality of voice.

To share how networks are evolving in their method of interconnection, I prepared the following presentation for the graduate Telecom program at CU Boulder, Boulder. My thanks to my friend and colleague, Tom Schwengler, for inviting me to guest lecture in his Wireless Networking class, to share these recent developments. I hope that you enjoy this material and invite you to contact me with questions or comments:
The Future of InterNetworking

How to: Reduce Your Mobile Data Costs, when Traveling Internationally (Part 2)

April 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Mobile Internet use can be 1,000X more expensive
when traveling internationally!

Internet access is extremely useful when traveling, especially to assist in your choice of activities while on the go, but the cost is exorbitantly high … so let’s discuss simple ways to dramatically reduce your data cost, when roaming internationally.

PROBLEM: Int’l Data can be Shockingly Expensive ($1,000 per week)

Using Mobile Internet services while traveling internationally can be a large, unexpected expense–exceeding the cost of your trip–unless you plan ahead. Most international travelers report receiving a shockingly high bill (“Bill Shock”), due to the unexpectedly high charges for using mobile data when traveling. How expensive? Easily in three or even four figures for a week of travel! Why? Because Operators are currently charging very high rates for the privilege of using data internationally (Mobile Operators are probably assuming that most of those travelers are business travelers, who will corporately accept this as a cost of doing business, with few of these business travelers ever being aware of the size of their mobile bill. This pricing model is so lucrative that, at present, there is little incentive to lower costs to encourage greater use–lowering prices reduces profit, as the increased traffic does not make up for the lost revenue from lowered price.). To protect consumers, many regulatory bodies are moving to limit the maximum roaming charge to $50, unless the subscriber authorizes further charges (led by the European Union).

Q: What can you do for $40,000?
A: Download a movie when traveling internationally!

To allow you to affordably maintain in contact with friends and colleagues, take advantage of location-based services, and more, you may wish to consider the options for using data when traveling internationally. To avoid breaking your budget, let’s plan ahead and avoid unpleasant surprises.

If your needs are modest, and limited to making and receiving a few calls and text messages, then the least costly solution for international travel is using a GSM phone and purchasing PrePaid service locally. I’ve written a basic article that goes into the process and options in more detail. However, many people seek more than making phone calls when traveling, and desire to take advantage of many Internet-based resources (just as they do during a typical day).

SOLUTION: Your Options to Reduce the Cost of Data

To maintain Internet connectivity during your travel, the least expensive way to go is Wi-Fi, which allows you to make free calls and messages from your phone, as well as all the regular benefits of Internet connectivity (such as searching for nearby locations to dine/visit). You can access Wi-Fi from your smartphone, and connect regularly at free Wi-Fi locations (hotels, cafes), but a more reliable solution is to purchase a brief subscription to use Wi-Fi for your trip, allowing you access to a large network of Wi-Fi access points.

Inexpensive Data plans (in order of increasing cost):

  1. Free Wi-Fi (FREE, but can be hard to find in many markets)
    To find a hotspot that is nearby, or free, try JiWire or another global Wi-Fi finder, available as an app for your Android or iPhone smartphone, or online.
  2. Wi-Fi purchase for hour/day, where available for a fee
    ($5 for an Hour or more for a Day Pass)
  3. Wi-Fi Subscription for your trip (from mobile Operator that serves where you will be visiting, such as Orange, or from Boingo at $8/month for global smartphone use, or $59/month for up to four mobile devices, providing unlimited data use at over 500,000 hotspot locations)
  4. PrePaid data plan from local mobile Operator that serves where you will be visiting—either a single country or multiple countries—from $3/day for your smartphone, or $12/day for a high-capacity plan (with USB dongle) for your laptop. Prices are lowest for use within a single country. For your smartphone, the 3 (UK) “All in One 15” plan offers unlimited data, 300 minutes of talk and 3,000 texts for £15. For a laptop, the Vodafone (UK) 3G Internet dongle plan with 2 GB is £15. If you are traveling among multiple countries, try using a mobile operator that serves all of the countries that you will be visiting. Vodafone and Telefonica have excellent European coverage with a single, prepaid plan. For example, the Vodafone Data Traveller plan provides 25 MB per day for £2 (or 25 MB per day for a month for £10) across 38 countries in their Europe Zone. For a laptop, you can use 100 MB per day for £8 in their Europe Zone. Basically, you purchase pre-paid service in the country/countries you are visiting, at the lowest, local rates. Read my article for details.
  5. Bring a Hot Spot with you for $15/day, from XCom Global (as recommended by Tom Samiljan in “When in Roam.” and recommended in a recent review by PC Magazine). This is a great option for someone that plans to use a lot of data from laptop, smartphone, tablet or a combination of devices. A smaller USB stick for your laptop is also available. Even lower-cost solutions can be had when roaming into the U.S., from start-up services offering up to 500 MB of “free” data use from FreedomPop and NetZero Wireless, with modest charges for  increased monthly usage ($10 per GB). With these services, you carry a device that creates a personal Wi-Fi network (“MiFi”) that you and others can use (while the device connect to the Internet via a wide-area wireless network). The downside of the U.S. services (based on WiMAX) is that you can not use their service in as many locations as a mature, cellular network, that offers nearly ubiquitous service.
  6. PrePaid, Global Roaming data plan from your current mobile Operator ($2/MB, starting at $25 a month for 50MB in selected countries, otherwise default rate of up to $20/MB. You can revise these plans instantly if, for example, you wish to increase the amount of data you are purchasing at discount.  Warning: Charging based on usage can be hard to track and can result in unexpectedly high charges! This feature, alone, can reduce your roaming costs 90%, and will avoid a three- or four-figure roaming bill. With judicious use of Wi-Fi (see options 1, 2 and 3), you can trim down your data roaming charges into something reasonable.
  7. Active International Travel discount feature, to reduce the cost of Data/SMS/Voice for your postpaid mobile data plan from your current Operator. By planning ahead, you can activate a feature (for a small charge) that will significantly reduce your cost of data when roaming. When you return from your travels, remove this feature to eliminate the monthly charge.
  8. Current data plan, from your current Operator ($20/MB, Warning: This default option can result in bills over $1,000).

Free Calls & Texts from your (Wi-Fi or Cellular) Data connection

You can also make voice calls, text and IM from your low-cost data connection. From your smartphone (or laptop), you can use Skype (or other VoIP clients) to make free or nearly free international calls (Skype lets you call other Skype members Free, but charges you a very low fee for International calls) and texts. So that you are ready to go anywhere you find Wi-Fi: before you travel, install the Skype “App” (client) on your smartphone, and fund it with a few dollars.

If you are a T-Mobile customer, they have a great Wi-Fi solution that lets you make you make calls over Wi-Fi, using your existing mobile number, with calls to the U.S. using your plan minutes (no extra charge for international Long Distance). This option is fully described in my article, “Free Mobile Calls over Wi-Fi.”

Mobile Internet is useful when you travel, like having an expert!

When you travel, you are less likely to know how to get around, which are the best activities, and where is the best food. So it can be incredibly helpful to have a guide handy to tell you where you are, with recommendations for activities and meals. These services cleverly use your mobile phone’s location to map out the area, and attractions. These location-based services are useful at home, but can save you a lot of time (e.g., travel directions, including public transportation) and ensure that you get what you want out of your travel. You can use your smartphone to access all of these services when you need them … but these service require a mobile internet connection which can be very costly!

Read Part 1: Purchase service locally, at Lowest Rates

For a step by step review of the basics of reducing your mobile phone service, when traveling, please read my article “Reducing your Mobile Phone Bill when traveling.”

How will Mobile Operators use Wi-Fi: First Offload, then Roaming

March 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Just like the early days of delivering any network, the initial focus is to (1) Build your network for your subscribers, in your defined market, and then (2) Broaden your footprint, by establish a large roaming footprint. (It can be argued if this is the correct order, since you can successfully be a Service Provider without building your own network, but this is definitely the order that you choose once you decide to build your own network.)

As Mobile Operators extend their networks to include Wi-Fi, they are initially (1) Building in-market Wi-Fi for “Data Offload”, and then they will establish (2) Roaming, to get more benefit where they have not (yet) built it.

Wi-Fi Data Offload   –>  Wi-Fi Roaming
In market                       Out of market

Most Operators are rushing to Build, and then the focus will then be to Roam.

Wi-Fi’s bright future: Works like Cellular, Works with Cellular

March 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Q: Do you ever notice when your mobile phone “roams” into other cellular networks? No? Good!
Imagine Wi-Fi working the same way, as a seamless extension of your cellular service.

Seamless Cellular + Wi-Fi will become the norm. You may be already enjoying this, if you are served by one of the leading Operators that have been delivering this, in advance of industry standards. In the U.S., if you have an iPhone from AT&T, you have been enjoying the automatic use of over 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots for years without ever thinking about it. In Japan, KDDI delivered a similar solution in 2011 with their metro Wi-Fi networks complimenting their cellular service. KDDI’s “au Wi-Fi SPOT Service” gives Subscribers “Instant On, No-Touch Access” with over 100,000 hotspots planned throughout Japan.

Now that the industry has collaborated to create a standard to make Wi-Fi a seamless extension of your cellular service, it will be rapidly adopted by many Operators. The initial standards are ready, and products are already being delivered (from handsets to Wi-Fi networks to inter-carrier roaming services to Mobile networks). Cisco already has delivered compliant products to Operators (see “Cisco Next-Generation Hotspot Technology Delivers Seamless Mobile Experiences“), including a successful Trial with PCCW in 2011 (see “PCCW mobile Becomes World’s First Operator to Successfully Complete Commercial Next Generation Wi-Fi Hotspot Trial“).

Multiple organizations have collaborated to deliver Cellular roaming onto Wi-Fi: Where the device connects to the Wi-Fi network, the technical standards are produced by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and they refer to these features as “Hotspot 2.0”, while the business networking solutions are produced by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, and and they refer to these features as “Next Generation Hotspot.” To coordinate this solution with the mobile networks, the WBA is working with the GSM Association to incorporate the standards into their reference documents.

Wi-Fi Grows Up, an looks like Cellular

Here’s how Wi-Fi is growing up to deliver the same, seamless use that you enjoy on cellular networks: (for more, see Sue Rudd’s recent report, “WiFi Hotspots will be Small Cells in Mobile Broadband Networks by 2015” and a summary can be downloaded here)

This will give Subscribers all the benefits of Wi-Fi plus the ease of use of Cellular.

Q: Will I pay more to use Wi-Fi?
A: No. You will not pay more to use Wi-Fi within your own country/market. Currently, Operators are not charging subscribers for use of Wi-Fi, as it is not a separate subscription or feature, but a benefit available to all data users. Operators see this is a competitive advantage, to draw users to their networks, since Subscribers have increasing desired that Operators provide this service. Subscribers have been manually connecting to Wi-Fi, and relish the automated use of Wi-Fi (ADD reference to Movidia study).

Q: Can I use Wi-Fi to reduce the cost of International Roaming?
A: Yes. Initially, Wi-Fi is being deployed as an extension of the cellular coverage in your market (“Data Offload”). Subsequently, Operators will make roaming deals to enable you to similarly use Wi-Fi when you travel internationally, which should make using data far less costly.

Wi-Fi is our Primary Wireless network

March 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Wi-Fi is our primary network for connecting laptops, smartphones and tablets. You might be surprised to realize that Wi-Fi carries far more traffic than all 3G and 4G mobile networks combined, and will continue to do so in the future. Although mobile networks provides us with an umbrella of coverage, we tend to consume data when we are stationary, and typically Wi-Fi is available as our preferred choice of connection. Even as mobile networks expand their wide-area data capacity, Wi-Fi will expand its role as a compliment to cellular.

Wi-Fi is our Primary wireless connection to the Internet [Cisco VNI

Why? It is more efficient for us to use a nearby radio connection than one far away. Accordingly, it is more efficient for us to connect to a Local Area Network (Wi-Fi) than a Wide Area Network (3G or 4G Cellular). Mobile Operators increasingly speak of moving the network “closer to you,” and Wi-Fi is usually just a few meters away, which is nearly optimal. Mobile Operators want to deliver the best service to you, and so they are working to deliver small cells closer to you, and to take advantage of Wi-Fi (where it is available) that is even closer to you. Think about how much you use Wi-Fi today–in the house, in the office–and consider how much more traffic is carried over Wi-Fi than cellular. Why? Cost and Speed.

Although cellular is the ubiquitous network that we can (nearly) always count on, Wi-Fi is the preferred network that we use to carry our network through the Fixed Internet. Although Wi-Fi had humble beginnings (see reminiscing about the early move by Steve Jobs to introduce Wi-Fi into Apple laptops) to replace Ethernet cables, it has become our default network.

Of the different ways that we can connect to the Internet, Wi-Fi will carry an increasing percentage of mobile data: 50% more than Cellular in 2015 [per Juniper forecast]. Femtocells, in contrast, are not expected to play a large role. In fact, Wi-Fi will be the primary way for us to connect to the Internet, exceeding wired (Ethernet) connections (Cisco estimates that Wi-Fi is the leading connection in 2015, according to their annual VNI study).

In 2015, Wi-Fi will still carry more data  traffic than Cellular [Nitin Bhas, Juniper Research

The original role of the femtocell, as “home base station,” has not been found as attractive as expected, especially due to interference with other cells that use the same spectrum. Subsequently, the femtocell technology has been repurposed into small cells (the Femto Forum renamed themselves as the Small Cell Forumthis February). Accordingly, the amount of traffic carrier by Femtocells is modest (although Small Cells are increasingly important and counted in the traffic carried by the Cellular network).

Wi-Fi will grow as a compliment to cellular Mobile networks, as Wi-Fi matures and acquires the best attributes of cellular: automatic, seamless, and secure (see “Wi-Fi, as easy to use as 3G mobile data“). Mobile Network Operators now recognize and embrace Wi-Fi for its benefits: Cost, Capacity, Coverage, Customer Experience. Mobile Operators particularly value Wi-Fi for its low Cost and high Capacity, as Mobile networks are simply unable to keep up with the demand (Capacity), and Operators are challenged to maintain the profitability as Revenue (for a unit of data) is falling faster than Cost (as Sue Rudd, of Strategy Analytics, has expertly deduced and illustrated), which reduces and eventually threatens profitability. Wi-Fi will help Operators to reduce their cost, and maintain the profitability of Mobile Internet for cellular operators

Mobile Operator revenues diminishing, what to do?

March 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Unfortunately for many mobile Operators, their revenues are shrinking: Classic voice is commoditized, and Text has become a diminished, all-you-can eat charge. Analysis forecasts that mobile revenues in Western Europe will not increase until 2014, Analysis forecasts (see figure, illustrating negative growth rates forecast). The US market is similarly seeing mobile revenues decrease (see figure, illustrating reducing Voice and Test ARPU, with growing Data ARPU). The challenge is to increase data revenues, quickly.

Retail revenues shrinking in EU

Retail revenues declining in U.S.

Q: What to do to boost revenues?
A: Make mobile data services mainstream (“Crossing the Chasm”). Also, enhance the value of existing services, to bring in new customers.

Taking data services mainstream

Mobile broadband data is being used by a fraction of the subscriber base, with a lot of growth available. Subscribers are overwhelmingly buying smartphones, but many do not subscribe to a mobile data plan. AT&T notes that “56 percent of all smartphone subscribers are on tiered data plans” [4Q2011 Earnings summary]. Adoption of mobile broadband is less than 50% of the subscriber base in developed countries. Growth rates for adoption of mobile data are moderate (20% more data subscribers in Europe, YoY growth), undoubtedly owing to the poor economy. Mobile data is on the verge of becoming a mainstream service, and Operators urgently need to make it easy for new users to get on board.

As an example of making data a mainstream service, T-Mobile (US) is doing a great job of making data services affordable. To encourage new users to “Try it, you’ll like it,” they build a little data into every plan. Also, they allow subscribers to use it at affordable rates without committing to a contract–removing hurdles to the use of mobile data, and making it easy for new users to add this service without breaking the piggy bank. Further, you are not penalized if you use more than you planned: “T-Mobile is the only nation-wide network with overage-free mobile broadband plans.” And you can use all of your services FREE over Wi-Fi (“Wi-Fi Calling”), so that if you have Wi-Fi, you have service, anywhere on the planet. Voice, text, video, e-mail … all free over Wi-Fi.

Enhancing the value of existing services

Orange is enhancing their existing voice service with an offering that should bring in new subs: HD Voice. Since Orange is leading the pack with HD Voice, and the service delivers enhanced voice when both parties have an HD-compatible phone, then once someone experiences this service, they will want all of their friends and family to have the service, too … causing them to flock to Orange. If HD Voice were to be made available on the iPhone 5, say, it could create a surge of influential customers that (a) quickly enjoy the service with a large percentage of others, and then (b) evangelize the benefits of the service to others.

Similarly, other Operators are working to add Presence info to your Address Book and communications apps. Imagine how much more efficient you would be in communicating on your mobile device if you knew whether your friend was Available or Busy, or whether they preferred that you contact them via IM/Text/Voice/Video. Several, leading Operators are delivering RCS (Rich Communication Suite) services to the market, and plan to succeed in making your communications easier and more fun. The benefits could be similar to the example of HD Voice, above: bringing in more subscribers to your enhanced offerings of classic, mobile services.

Know Who’s Calling … before you answer

March 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Calling Name is becoming available for mobile phones, finally!

Although wireline subscribers loved Calling Name,
mobile subscribers never received the feature … until recently.

Mobile Operators are now delivering the most valuable wireline telephone feature, ever: Calling Name. Most mobile subscribers want this feature [Forrester]. Recently, T-Mobile has been offering it, and others are quickly adding it as an option. Fortunately, it is not necessary to get a new phone–just ask for it! Conveniently, your service provider may include it, for free trial use, in your new phone. After a couple of weeks of trying the service for free, you are presented with the option of keeping the service.

How is Calling Name an improvement?
Today, when someone calls you, your mobile phone receives the calling number (303 555 1212), and so you are burdened with determining who this number belongs to, and whether you want to answer the call … while the phone is ringing. A name will be displayed only if you have this number stored in your phone’s Address Book. Calling Name informs you of the caller, and also lets your phone display any additional information (e.g., “Mom”) that you may have form this number in your Address Book.

Calling number (current operation)

Calling number and Name displayed













* Subscriber revenues from Calling Name were greater than any other feature, due to the broad appeal to the Called person to choose when they wish to take an incoming call. We all wish to use our limited time wisely, it seems, so Calling Name appealed to everyone, independent of household income. At its peak (in the late 1990s), most homes in the U.S. subscribed to this service, at around $6/month (at $72/year/household x 100M Households, we’re talking $7,000,000,000 per year in the U.S. market, alone). Call Waiting, Three-way calling, Voice Mail … they all paled to Calling Name.

Having helped to deliver these innovative features to wireline subscribers (I worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories, when AT&T was a monopoly), it’s exciting to see the benefits of Calling Name (a.k.a. Caller ID) becoming available to a new generation of mobile subscribers!

T-Mobile "Name ID" delivers the Caller's Name (not just the number)

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