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Top 50 of 2017, Part 1: Millimeter wave, LTE call flow, Title II and more

Editors note: This week we’ll take a look back at the 50 stories that drew the highest level of engagement from our RCR Wireless News community. 

What is millimeter wave and how does it fit into 5G?

Millimeter wave spectrum is the band of spectrum between 30 GHz and 300 GHz. Wedged between microwave and infrared waves, this spectrum can be used for high-speed wireless communications as seen with the latest 802.11ad Wi-Fi standard (operating at 60 GHz). It is being considered by standards organization, the Federal Communications Commission and researchers as the way to bring “5G” into the future by allocating more bandwidth to deliver faster, higher-quality video, and multimedia content and services.

We need higher frequency spectrum to accommodate the increases in data usage, and one of the greatest and most important uses of millimeter waves is in transmitting large amounts of data. Today, mm wave frequencies are being utilized for applications such as streaming high-resolution video indoors. Traditionally, these higher frequencies were not strong enough for outdoor broadband applications due to high propagation loss and susceptibility to blockage from buildings as well as absorption from rain drops. These problems make millimeter wave difficult for mobile broadband.

 Has T-Mobile surpassed AT&T and Verizon as No. 1?

Back in January, quarterly results from the nation’s three largest wireless operators it’s that one of them is not like the other. That one would be T-Mobile US, which continues to be laser-focused on gaining as many new smartphone customers as possible. The others would be Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, which while still saying they are interested in those high-valued “traditional” wireless customers appear to be more focused on just about anything else.

Quick overview: T-Mobile US added significantly more new smartphone connections during the final three months of last year – and for the whole year for that matter – than its larger rivals. And it wasn’t even close. Sure, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility did manage to attract new connections to their networks, but the real growth has come from channels that typically do not produce the sort of monthly revenue it would seem to be needed to power a full-fledged wireless network.

Now, in somewhat condemning what Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility are doing, it needs to be noted that both are still raking in billions upon billions of dollars offering up services their customers can’t seem to get enough of using technology that 20 years ago would have seemed to be 100 years into the future.

LTE attach procedure call flow

The LTE attach procedure call flow is a subject that may seem hard to understand. So let’s break it down. How does the LTE attach procedure call flow work?

Well first, the UE needs to register with the network to receive services that require registration. This registration is known as the network attachment. IP connectivity for UE is enabled after establishing a default EPS bearer during the network attachment procedure. Attach procedure may trigger one or multiple Dedicated Bearer Establishment procedures to establish dedicated EPS bearer for that UE.

During the LTE Initial Attach procedure, the Mobile Equipment Identity is obtained from the UE. The MME operator may check the Mobile Equipment Identity with EIR. In roaming situations, the MME should pass the ME Identity to the HSS, and, if a PGW outside of the VPLMN (Visited PLMN), should pass the ME Identity to the PGW. Click here for a 26-step guide to LTE attach procedure call flow. 

AT&T: Throttling, ‘filtered service’ allowed under Title II

Last week the FCC reversed Obama-era regulations that applied Title II utility-style regulations to internet service providers, but earlier this year, AT&T made the case for throttling and service filtering under the former regulations.

Contrary to most expectations of what the so-called “net neutrality” rules permit Internet service providers to do or not do in terms of prioritizing or blocking content, an AT&T executive said that court interpretations of Title II regulations appear to allow ISPs to slow down or block certain content or traffic types — so long as they are upfront with customers about it. Hank Hulquist, AT&T’s VP of federal regulatory, proffered that view in a post on the company’s policy blog. The company has strongly opposed net neutrality rules.

“In the past, supporters of Title II often alleged that without reclassification, ISPs would be free to block unpopular opinions or viewpoints that they disagreed with,” Hulquist wrote. “In the understanding of the D.C. Circuit panel majority, it seems that the Title II order does not touch such practices as long as an ISP clearly discloses its blocking plans to customers.”

Hultquist cites Judges Sri Srinivasan and David S. Tatel opinion that “the net neutrality rule applies only to ‘those broadband providers who hold themselves out as neutral, indiscriminate conduits’ to any content of a subscriber’s own choosing,” and then notes that the judges added, “the rule does not apply to an ISP holding itself out as providing something other than a neutral, indiscriminate pathway – i.e., an ISP making sufficiently clear that it provides a filtered service involving the ISP’s exercise of editorial discretion.”

HSPA or LTE? That is the Question

There actually are not many questions when it comes to the HSPA LTE debacle. The answer is clear, Long Term Evolution (LTE) won. Upgrading to LTE technology is part of the natural upgrade process. But, how do they differ? Let’s dig deeper into the HSPA or LTE conversation.

HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) is a widely deployed and widely popular mobile broadband technology within the GSM family of technologies. HSPA encompasses both HSDPA (3GPP Release 5) and HSUPA (3GPP Release 6) technologies, when they are deployed on a network. HSPA Evolved (also known as HSPA+ in 3GPP Release 7 and beyond) is also part of the HSPA technology and extends an operator’s investment in the network before the next step to 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE, or 3GPP Release 8 and beyond).  HSPA builds upon third generation (3G) UMTS/WCDMA.

LTE is the next logical step when it comes to wireless network evolution. It is the new standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals. Based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies, LTE will provide increased capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.The standard was developed by the 3GPP, specified in its Release 8 document series, with minor enhancements described in Release 9.

HSPA and LTE are not on completely different sides of the spectrum, actually. HSPA+ or Evolved High Speed Packet Access, in fact, has speeds comparable to the newer LTE networks. According to AndroidAuthority, downlink speeds are comparable between the two. On the other hand, LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is considered a “true” 4G network. Theoretical speeds boast downlink speeds of 300Mbps and uploads of 75Mbps. “LTE, which is an IP-based system, is a complete redesign and simplification of 3G network architecture resulting in a marked reduction in transfer latency. Because of this, LTE is not compatible with 2G and 3G networks and thus, functions on an entirely different wireless spectrum. Unfortunately, this means that erecting an LTE network requires it to be built from the ground up. This is one of the main factors behind the delayed launch of  complete 4G LTE networks.”

How to become a tower climber: pay, benefits and schedule

Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a tower climber. What are the hours and pay? What are the benefits like? Will I be traveling much? Those are the questions we explore in this second part of our ‘how to be a tower climber’ series. Information was gathered from sources at Global Recruiters of Blackhawk, Verticom, TelForce Group, and working tower climbers.

Flexibility is the name of the game in the tower climber profession. If you’re looking for a set 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday sort of gig, you should probably look elsewhere. Workdays can start early or end late, ranging from 8 – 10 hours and sometimes longer. Some climbers will be out on assignment for weeks at a time. Some report only being home one week between working 6 – 8 week shifts traveling between sites far from home. So if you enjoy travel and being outdoors, then this could be a great job for you.

Travel is usually associated with a tower climber gig, but it really depends on what kind of work you will be doing. If it’s work for a carrier, then expect around 80% of your time traveling across a very wide territory. If you’re climbing broadcast towers, it’s a little less at 50% travel, and if you just do local maintenance and repair, then 20% travel is all that is required. Because there’s so much travel, remember that having a valid driver’s license is a necessity.

The big bold preface before discussing pay and benefits is that it depends on many factors, including which company you work for, the region of the country, experience, certifications, and the type of work you’ve been hired to do. So keep in mind these are range, estimations, and general industry practice, but your experience may vary.

Remember those long hours mentioned previously? The good thing is that most offer 1.5x pay for overtime and some even offer 2x pay for Sundays. Geography plays a huge part in starting pay. For many regions in the country tower climbers start between $30k – $35k, but in areas with a much higher cost of living, such as New York or Los Angeles, it could be two times that.

LTE Network Architecture Diagram

Wireless operators are rapidly expanding their LTE networks to take advantage of additional efficiency, lower latency and the ability to handle ever-increasing data traffic. RCR Wireless presents a collection of LTE network architecture diagrams.

The core technologies have moved from circuit-switching to the all-IP evolved packet core (moving left to right). Meanwhile, access has evolved from TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) to OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) as the need for higher data speeds and volumes as increased.

Previous generations of technology relied on a “hub and spoke” design where traffic from all base stations (NodeB) was sent to the Radio Network Controller (RNC). The diagram illustrates that in LTE, the enhanced nodes (eNodeB) have direct connectivity with each other (known as x2 traffic) that enable peer-to-peer applications without reaching deep into the network.

Click here for a look at various LTE network architecture diagrams. 

LTE MMEA Core Connector for LTE

The main component of the SAE architecture is the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). Mobility Management Entity (MME) plays an important role in LTE EPC architecture. In fact, MME is the main signaling node in the EPC. According to LTE University, LTE MME is responsible for initiating paging and authentication of the mobile device. MME retains location information at the tracking area level for each user and then selects the appropriate gateway during the initial registration process. MME connects to the evolved node b (eNB) through the S1-MME interface and connects to S-GW through the S11 interface. Multiple MMEs can be grouped together in a pool to meet increasing signaling load in the network. MME also plays a vital part in handover signaling between LTE and 2G/3G networks.

MME is the main control node in the LTE access network and breaks down MME’s critical functions and interfaces as follows:

  • Network Access Control: MME manages authentication and authorization for the UE. It also facilitates UE access to the network to gain IP connectivity.
  • Radio Resource Management: MME works with the HSS and the RAN to decide the appropriate radio resource management strategy (RRM) that can be UE-specific.
  • Mobility Management: One of the most complex functions MME performs. Providing seamless inter-working has multiple use cases such as Inter-eNB and Inter-RAT, among others. The use cases become more complex depending on a change in MME, S-GW, P-GW or inter-working across other wireless networks.
  • Roaming Management: MME supports outbound and inbound roaming subscribers from other LTE/EPC systems and legacy networks.
  • UE Reach-ability: MME manages communication with the UE and HSS to provide UE reach-ability and activity-related information.
  • Tracking Area Management: Allocates and reallocates a tracking area identity list to the UE.
  • Lawful Intercept: Since MME manages the control plane of the network, MME can provide the whereabouts of a UE to a law enforcement monitoring facility.
  • Load Balancing Between S-GWs: Directs UEs entering an S-GW pool area to an appropriate S-GW. This achieves load balancing between S-GWs.

What is a smart building and how can it benefit you?

A smart building is any structure that uses automated processes to automatically control the building’s operations including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems. A smart building uses sensors, actuators and microchips, in order to collect data and manage it according to a business’ functions and services. This infrastructure helps owners, operators and facility managers improve asset reliability and performance, which reduces energy use, optimizes how space is used and minimizes the environmental impact of buildings.

Buildings that aren’t “connected” are the same buildings they were decades ago. They have provided the essentials: shelter, temperature control and safety at the same efficiency level for years. But newer buildings, or older structures that have been converted to smart buildings, are constantly changing. They are living organisms connected to a network with intelligent and adaptable software.

At the most fundamental level, smart buildings make occupants more productive with lighting, thermal comfort, air quality, physical security, sanitation and more at lower costs and environmental impact than buildings that are not connected.

Smart office buildings, health care facilities, hospitals, educational facilities, stadiums and many other types of smart buildings exist around the world. Navigant Research estimates that the smart building technology market will generate global revenue of $8.5 billion in 2020, up from $4.7 billion in 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15.9% over the forecast period. Click here for more.

Understanding network slicing, a key technology for 5G

Telecommunication vendors and mobile operators are taking the necessary steps in order to get ready for 2020, the year commercial “5G” networks are expected to become a reality. But the industry consensus is that 5G networks will be much more than just new radio access as these future networks will be an integration of cross-domain networks.

5G systems are expected to be built in a way to enable logical network slices, which will allow telecom operators to provide networks on an as-a-service basis and meet the wide range of use cases that the 2020 timeframe is expected to demand. In a single 5G system, network slicing technology can provide connectivity for smart meters with a network slice that connects “internet of things” devices with a high availability and high reliability data-only service, with a given latency, data rate and security level. At the same time, the technology can provide another network slice with very high throughput, high data speeds and low latency for an augmented reality service.

With network slicing technology, a single physical network can be partitioned into multiple virtual networks allowing the operator to offer optimal support for different types of services for different types of customer segments. The key benefit of network slicing technology is it enables operators to provide networks on an as-a-service basis, which enhances operational efficiency while reducing time-to-market for new services.

Network slicing can support customized connectivity designed to benefit many industries by offering a smarter way to segment the network to support particular services or business segments. With this technology, slices can be optimized by myriad characteristics including latency or bandwidth requirements. Since the slices of the network are isolated from each other in the control and user planes, the user experience of the network slice will be the same as if it was a physically separate network.

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Sean focuses on multiple subject areas including 5G, Open RAN, hybrid cloud, edge computing, and Industry 4.0. He also hosts Arden Media's podcast Will 5G Change the World? Prior to his work at RCR, Sean studied journalism and literature at the University of Mississippi then spent six years based in Key West, Florida, working as a reporter for the Miami Herald Media Company. He currently lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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