UK telco EE has unveiled plans to deliver mobile and wireless broadband connectivity to internet blackspots via drones and helium balloons.
The company noted that its ‘air mast’ solution will be able to bolster 4G data services in rural locations, at major events, or in areas where natural disasters, such as flooding, have damaged traditional infrastructure.
EE CEO Marc Allera said that customers would be able to request a balloon with a mobile signal to hover over a certain area, providing them with an ‘on demand’ data service.
Dubbed ‘Helikites’ the sites will include a base station and antennae tethered to helium balloons. EE hopes to launch the first Helikite balloons later this year.
Drone technology is also under development to support the Helikite solution, it will not be introduced for the next year or two.
“I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect. We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand”, said Allera.
The idea is that an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb,
“We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies,” he added.
The company also provided details on a fleet of rapid response vehicles (RRVs) which will be used to provide 4G connectivity to police, fire and ambulance services under a contract with the Emergency Services Network (ESN). At least to start with, Helikites are not expected to be used in the ESN programme.
EE is currently upgrading over 100 sites to 4G every week as part of its aim to reach 92 percent geographic coverage in the UK over the course of 2017. The company is also rolling out an additional 3,000 sites using low 800MHz spectrum to be able to reach further distances in rural areas and improve indoor coverage.
Britain’s 4G mobile phone coverage is worse than that in Albania, Panama, Peru and Romania, with users able to connect in barely half the time.
The National Infrastructure Commission said the UK was being held back by poor mobile phone connectivity, as it called for an end to “digital deserts” in places that should have adequate signals such as rail routes, roads and city centres.
Countries including the US and Japan already have data volumes four to five higher than the UK, the report found.
The commission said the government must now ensure that the next generation of 5G spectrum face the same problems
In a list of recommendations, it argued there should be a new dedicated cabinet minister in charge of the UK’s digital future, ensuring mobile connectivity is competitive with the rest of the world.
It called for ministers and Ofcom, the media regulator, to work together to ensure a set of standards known as a universal service obligation no later than 2025.
Grant Shapps, the former Tory chairman who now leads the British Infrastructure Group of MPs, called the report a wakeup call for the government, as he accused it of being too willing to listen to the excuses of mobile phone operators about poor signal.
“This confirms what we have been saying for a long time. Over the years, ministers have been far too easy on the glib promises given by the telecoms providers and I think that has been combined with ineffective and weak regulation from Ofcom,” Shapps said.
India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani has launched a free 4G LTE network which will offer unlimited free voice calls forever to anyone who signs up for its services.
Ambani’s outfit Reliance Jio is claiming to offer the cheapest 4G LTE data rates in the world when it launches in three days’ time.
Jio’s network is being touted as the largest 4G LTE deployment anywhere in the world, Ambani said, adding that the network is also “future proof” with baked in support for upcoming 5G and 6G network technologies. It covers 18,000 Indian cities and over 200,000 remote areas. The company aims to extend the coverage to 90 percent of India’s population by next year.
“India and Indians cannot afford to be left behind. The era of paying for voice calls is ending,” he added.
Jio is offering the country’s 1.3 billion people free voice calls and data tariffs starting at 1GB of data at Rs 50 (75 cents).
The move will be kick in the nadgers for India’s biggest carriers — Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, which still make most of their revenues from voice calls. Voice calls on Airtel, for instance, still account for nearly two-thirds of its mobile revenues. While Airtel projects its share of data revenues will increase, Jio’s offer to give free voice calls has gotta hurt.
Swedish firm Ericsson and US firm Apple have ended a dispute after the former accused the latter of breaching its patents.
Ericsson had alleged that Apple breached patents on iPads and iPhones for 2G and 4G connectivity.
Apple hasn’t said how much it has paid Ericsson to stop suing it but will pay an initial amount and then pay it royalties for the next seven years.
Ericsson said it was very pleased that the niggles had come to an end and will work closely with Apple to develop new technologies.
Ericsson took legal action in Apple in several countries and, as usual, Apple retailiated by suing Ericsson.
That’s how these sort of disputes work in the technology industry, with lawyers doing particularly well out of the bickering.
A High Court judge ruled today that a set of patents owned by a company called Unwired Planet were infringed by a number of manufacturers.
Huawei and Samsung were sued by Unwired Planet and Judge Colin Birss ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, assessing that both companies breached patents.
Unwired is in possession of over 2,000 patents formerly owned by Ericsson and the judge said its patents were an integral part of 4G networks.
According to Bloomberg, Unwired had also sued Google, but that case was settled out of court.
It’s not known whether Huawei or Samsung will battle against the verdict.
Regulator Ofcom said today that next year there will be an auction for high capacity spectrum used by the military.
The spectrum is being made available by the Ministry of Defence after the UK government made it plain it wants to free the airwaves for civil use.
The auction will of 190MHz of high capacity spectrum in two bands – 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz. Ofcom said these are well suited for high speed mobile broadband services and equivalent to three quarters of the spectrum released by Ofcom in the 2013 4G auction.
Ofcom is setting reserve prices of £70 million for the spectrum.
The regulator said there won’t be a cap on the amounts that bidders can buy with large blocks supporting very fast download speeds, paving the way for a future 5G standard.
Most smartphones from major manufacturers including Samsung and Apple are already compatible with the 2.3GHz spectrum, while the 3.4GHz band is being used for 4G wireless broadband in six countries including the UK.
While Volkswagen is in deep water worldwide because it tampered with energy efficiency software, the car industry as a whole is leading the way implementing the internet of things (IoT).
ABI Research said that by 2020, there will be $60 billion worth of global telematics and “infotainment” service revenues.
But the surprising thing is that it will be 3G and not 4G networks that will be the primary connection technology.
4G won’t come into its own until after 2020, according to research director Dan Shey.
He said that there will be exceptions to the general rule that vertical markets are slow to implement the latest technology – with the US, Korea and Japan implementing 4G but even then that won’t happen until 2019 or 2019.
By 2020, vendors including Ericsson, Verizon, Wireless Car and Airbiquity will grab the lion’s share of the market.
The car industry will also shift into a cloud based approach to connect everything up.
ABI believes the IoT will be powered by open source hardware reference designs and third party mobile integration, putting pressure on existing vendors like Harman and Bosch to radically shift their design models.
LTE protocols being developed will pose complement existing public safety networks and that market alone will be worth $5 billion by 2020.
That’s according to ABI Research, which said that existing safety protocols like TETRA and P25 are well established because they are so stable.
But LTE vendors are working with both TETRA and P25 vendors to introduce LTE (4G) capabilities.
ABI said that since Release 10, 3GPP has included enhancements which improve the mission critical features of LTE.
LTE-Relay extends network coverage while LTE-Direct lets public safety devices create direct point-to-point communication without needing a base station.
Release 13 of 3GPP will standardise indoor positioning and push to talk capabilities.
A number of vendors is working together to show the advantages of a single unified broadband and narrowband system, with Motorola, Ericsson, Harris and Nokia working together.
ABI believes that the first markets to have a fully working public safety network will be the USA, the UK and South Korea.
A survey performed by IHS said that the world is slowly moving to true 4G, but the path of telecommunications is still far from smooth.
Stephane Teral, research director for mobile said “the 4G experience is still far from consistent and is falling short of expectations.
She said that the debate over 5G is being accompanied by “fanfare, hype and confusion, but little substance about what it is exactly and what it is not. For now the mindset is still locked into mobile broadband as we know it with LTE, so it’s good that the ITU has just stepped in to define 5G in its brand new IMT-2020”.
She said Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia are the top LTE (4G) equipment manufacturers. And commercial voice over LTE (VoLTE) will ramp in volume this year and next year.
And although vendors are talking about 4G network functions virtualisation migration, Teral said that won’t happen very fast because most LTE networks are new, and mobile operators simply aren’t ready to migrate.
A report from Gartner estimates that mobile data traffic worldwide will hit 52 million terabytes (TB) this year and it’s only set to grow more.
The rise this year will be 59 percent more than 2014, and analysts estimate that by 2018 traffic level will hit 173 million TB.
Jessica Ekholm, a research director at Gartner should set alarm bells ringing in the ear of communication services providers, which need to re-think their data caps.
She said: “Mobile data traffic is soaring worldwide, more than tripling by 2018. New, fast mobile data connections (3G and 4G) will grow more slowly, from 3.8 billion in 2015 to 5.1 billion in 2018, as users switch from slower 2G connections and consume more mobile data.”
She said that Gartner had surveyed 1,000 smartphone users in Germany and another 1,000 in the USA. German people are less likely to watch videos compared to cellular networks because of the data caps.
And the German people mostly waited to download apps or look at content when they were in a wi-fi zone. Just over a third of Americans do that, largely because the US data plans were more flexible.
Families with children are mostly responsible for mobile video usage, helped by providers offering shared data plans the reason.