“The Emperors New Clothes”


“Professor rules out 5G-plans” :)

I was recently interviewed by the Swedish Tech journal “Ny Teknik”  about my thoughts on that several operators are claiming that they will be launching commercial “5G” services in 2017 and 2018. Behind the tabloids “War has begun”-style headlines, my answer can be summarized by the title of the this post. Of course there will be trials and test with some of the new 5G tech components in the next few years to come, but deployment of infrastructure at a commercial scale of something that deserve the name 5G before 2020 – come on!  Even for the new radio interface (which per se provides moderate performance improvements), there isn’t even a standard set yet!

Been there, done that – same in 3G and 4G. There are always players that feel that they need to be first in the “newG” party and end up finding that the party hasn’t started yet. So theycook something up – mostly marketing but with little technical substance and call it “5G”.  The market actors are of course free to do what they want, but this type of behaviour has three significant downsides to the industry that eventually also hurts the “too-early movers”:

  • You instill expectations at the customers that you cannot meet (until maybe many years later) – create a lasting feeling of disappointment. “First impressions last”, unfortunately
  • You push vendors to throw some tech components (e.g. using a prototype og the new 5G radio interface) on the market in haste before they have been standardized.  Even if these are to be used for “niche application”  (e.g.  Verizons  planned Gbit/s fixed wireless broadband to homes products), they may “stick” and it becomes more difficult to correct deficiencies in the standard when there are already volume products on the market.
  • Other operators enter a wait-and-see mode.  “Oh, 5G is your around the corner, why should we buy LTE/4G ? Let’s wait and see”. This could bring the industry to a still-stand. Achieving much, much more capacity with LTE/4G and WiFi in a cost-efficient way is perfectly feasible, and the vast majority of the “connected society” and “Internet of Things” applications are best tackled by LTE and its low-power cousins (LTE-M and NB-LTE) which are about to hit the market now.

5G will come and provide significant improvements in several domains – and yes there need to be trials and demos to validate the new technology. Meanwhile in the commercial domain, lets hope that most market players keep their cool and focus on solving their customers need with the technology that keeps coming,  instead of being caugth up in some kind of wild race up the Everest. The top may be a cold and lonely place …

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Now we know the cost of 5G – and how much spectrum is needed!

In a recent report published by the European Commission the cost and societal benefits of a future deployment are estimated.  The report comes to the conclusion that 56B€ is the cost of deploying a 5G infrastructure and that this will create 2.3 million jobs and at least 60.5B€ in societal gain by 2025(!). Amazing result, while most of us are still trying to assess what 5G actually will mean, what parts will be just a straight-forward evolution of 4G/LTE and what is the relation to evolved Wi-Fi.  In any case first standards for a new radio interface are not settled until maybe next year. But that’s not all – in the report we learn that even in the most favorable scenario there is at least 15-20 GHz of spectrum needed to make 5G happen – clearly a showstopper.  How on earth is it possible for 150 5G-PPP experts to come to all these strange and seemingly precise conclusions?

Well, as usual the “devil” is in 5g-mobile-tvthe assumptions you make. In the report, the performance and spectrum limiting application for 5G is that thousands of viewers are watching 4K/UHD-TV in their cars on every mile the motorway. As this is realized by a macro-cellular system and not by a dense infrastructure at the roadside, of course we end up with a system with moderate cost, but with outrageous spectrum requirements.  Wait a minute – mobile TV as a “killer app” – doesn’t that sound familiar ? Do we really need a new 5G  radio interface to make this happen ? And how will 50 Mb/s to cars in the motorway contribute to  create millions of jobs in Europe ?

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From M2M Communications to Internet of Things – a workshop

Valencia, 37°C in September; PIMRC 2016 got it right for the summer enthusiasts, but that didn’t stop us from having a great workshop on IoT-related topics.

We had two keynotes, the first one by Magnus Frodigh (Research Area Director, Wireless Access Networks, Ericsson) on 5G Machine-Type Communication technologies; the focus was on the double effort to provide connectivity to (1) low-cost mMTC, with some NB-IoT modules expected to reach as low as 5USD per unit, and (2) mission-critical communications, which still is a growing research area for 5G.

The second keynote speaker was Preben Mogensen (Professor at Aalborg University and Principal Engineer at Nokia – Bell Labs) on the IoT evolution towards 5G; an excellent overview of mMTC, Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC), V2X and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)—all of them in the context of 5G.

mMTC in 5G is having undivided opinions: not much to be done here; for massive, low-cost devices the answer is somewhere else. 5G work is looking into control and mission critical scenarios. Even for V2X, 4G technologies can cover baseline requirements. One slide that caught my attention was about the interference problems that might be generated when covering drones with cellular technologies: basically, as drones go up, the inference increases since the line of sight probability and the line of sight radius increases, effectively having more interfering neighbours in LOS… is this a new dimension to considering in near-future network deployments?

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AP-S/URSI 2016 – Nerds in Paradise!

I am an antenna nerd! I am the kind of guy for whom the pure thought of solving Helmoltz equation in spherical coordinates make me happy! There are however not so many of us left, so in order not to get completely extinct, we set up a cunning plan to make our community bigger:

“Let’s arrange conferences in really nice places and let everybody who submits a paper be accepted”!

This year’s IEEE Antenna and Propagation Symposium was no exception: held in the exotic Waldorf Astoria resort in Fajardo in Puerto Rico, the conference hosted more than 1500 oral and poster presentation, a handful of invited speeches, visits to Arecibo and a dozen short courses

You may suggest that it is bad for science with conferences that accepts almost any paper and does not maintain the highest possible scientific standard (all papers are still peer reviewed tough)? I think it is the opposite: in contrast to the MTT and COMSOC societies, APS every year allows hundreds of young students come to a scientific meeting within their chosen field, to get to present papers, listen to and meet with all the world leading experts, and be inspired to do research! This is the way to ensure the future of our nerdy business!

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VTC 2016 Spring – a skeptical view…

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the VTC 2016 Spring event in Nanjing China http://www.ieeevtc.org/vtc2016spring/. I had not been to a VTC meeting since 2008 so my expectations were high!

However, in contrast to the city of Nanjing, the former Chinese capital with a history of more than 5000 years, there was not much to be excited about at the conference. To be honest I believe that IEEE and VTC needs to think about how to select papers in the future.

My criticism is based on three observations:

  1. Minute technical contributions
  2. Unawareness of previously published results
  3. Unawareness of existing technology

1. In engineering academic research is mainly about producing graduates – not technical results. However, it would be good if papers at least had something to contribute to the industry.

One example: at this conference there were 9 sessions about MIMO, in total 45 papers. I could be mistaken but as far as I understand, no one presented any measurements. Instead they present simulations based on assumptions that I, in several cases, am very skeptical to, e.g. perfect CSI…

2. Reading through the list of references, I find that in most of the papers, no reference is older than 5 years and very rarely is any reference to any study conducted outside the authors own lab. Maybe it is because my own 1997 paper on beamforming was completely missing, but I do beleive that there has been some work done particularly on multiple antennas allready some 20 years ago..

3. After sitting through numerous technical sessions presenting irrelevant results related to non realistic scenarios, my expectations were high for the Panels! How wrong I was:

In the “High Mobility Communications” Panel, the panellists discussed connectivity to high speed trains and showed a most remarkable ignorance regarding technologies and suppliers of curent systems in us in Europe, Middle East, North and South America.

I do hope that it will take less than 8 years before I participate in VTC again! Hopefully, I will then be able to report something exciting!


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Johannesberg Summit 2016

As usual, you can follow all talks live in May 10 -11  here!


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Towards cashless society

The 4th Cashless Society Roundtable took place in Copenhagen, on 7-8 of April 2016. This year the event was hosted by the Department of IT Management at Copenhagen Business School (CBS).

The event participants mainly represented academic researchers in the field of mobile payment services. However, several presentations were given by industry represenatives (e.g. Nets and Danske Bank).

It also needs to be mentioned that the majority of participants were from Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland). And these countries can illustrate the process how the society becomes cashless.  For this reason, not surprisingly, that the event started with a presentation “Sweden as a Cashless Society” by Niklas Arvidsson (KTH, Indek). This was an overview of Swedish way towards cashless society and analysis of reasons that caused this process. Then Stefan Henningsson (CBS) discussed how banks try to meet new challendes in his pesentation “Open API at Saxo Bank”.

The next section was dedicated to the discussion of legal issues and regulation of mobile payments and financial markets by a Danny Gozman (a researcher from Great Britain). A representative of Danske Bank presented their concerns about forthcoming Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2) and challenges that it may cause.

A separate session was dedicated to the discussion of Bitcoin and blockchain. Academic researchers from Finland presented their approach to study of Bitcoin. And a master student of CBS presented interesting findings of his research how media in two countries (USA and Sweden) presents Bitcoin and blockchain.

Nets presented their input in the development of MobilePay – the most successful mobile payment service in Denmark.

Some more researchers touched upon mobile payment services in Scandinavia.

  • Jan Markendahl (KTH, ICT) spoke about changes and transformations of previously successful SMS ticketing service in Sweden. Due to different regulatory and market reasons this service has almost disappeared.
  • Håkan Klaes Alm (University of Borås) was speaking about payments used at points of sales and attitudes of users to these services in Sweden.
  • I presented a comparison of competition strategies of NFC-based mobile payment service providers in Sweden and Lithuania.
  • Kalina Staykova (CBS) presented a research framework for analysis of mobile payment platforms using examples of MobilePay (Denmark) and Pingit (GB) services.
  • Finally, Ben Eaton (CBS) spoke about evolution of electronic ID in the Scandinavia.

To sum up, the amount of cash in-use in Scandinavia is decreasing. The most common ways of payments are bank cards and mobile payment solutions. Some merchants refuse to accept cash already today. However, when people are asked what they think about cash they respond that cash must remain available, that cash is a humin right, and that they want to have cash even if they do not use it.

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5G on the way

5G has been a rather hot research topic for a while and this trend stays unchanged or even gains more momentum in Globecom 2015 in San Diego. Indeed, there were 4 tutorials dedicated to 5G and a couple more related topics like green network, fog network, full duplex, quantum communications, etc. There’are also several workshops for 5G and many more technical 5G symposiums. Meanwhile, there’re also growing focuses on IoT, indoor networks, caching, etc.

Commercialization of technologies is getting faster and faster than ever, even results from fundamental research. It is not clear who is leading, academia or industry. Those who discover something first and commercialize fast will earn huge returns quickly. For example, in the presentation, “indoor mm-Wave Channel Measurements: Comparative Study of 2.9 GHz and 29 GHz”, Qualcomm reported similar measured channel properties of 2.9 GHz and 29 GHz in indoor environment and is still trying to figure out why! But measurement is measurement! Theory always need to be corrected to follow facts. If the reported results are true and may even be universal for a broad band of spectrum, a lot will have to be changed.

Peiliang and I presented our recent research results on “‘Area Spectral and Energy Efficiency Analysis of Cellular Networks with Cell DTX'”. The research on the SE and EE of the overall network has always been a challenging area because of its complexity in analysis and non-concavity from interference terms.
However we successfully obtained the network spectral efficiency and energy efficiency as functions of network traffic load.
It is shown that the network spectral efficiency increases monotonically in traffic load, while the optimal network energy efficiency depends on the ratio of the sleep-mode power consumption to the active-mode power consumption of base stations. If the ratio is larger than a certain threshold, the network energy efficiency increases monotonically with network traffic load and is maximized when the network is fully loaded. What’s more, the power ratio threshold depends solely on the wireless channel propagation, i.e. path loss exponent
α. For example, the ratio is 56% for α = 4, indicating that in this propagation environment, if the sleep power consumption is more than 56% of the active mode power consumption, the network should be always fully loaded to maximize network energy efficiency, as sleeping won’t save you much. Otherwise, there is an optimal load that the network should work on so that the energy efficiency is maximized.

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Does it get any Smarter? Let 5G decide on that!!!

A Smart City is often defined as an innovative city that uses ICT and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operations and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects . The question then would be what is the role of ICT in this “smartization” process?

[Source: Smart Cities Council India]

[Source: Smart Cities Council India]

In this sense, what is commonly asked from ICT is typically a “supernatural” platform that does many things like sensing, connecting machines, collecting data, making smart decisions, and commanding back the machines. Considering 5G as the paradigm shift in ICT that is supposed to enable many things, such as Smart Cities, this system should then include many high technical requirements that are highly integrative with other industries.

But wait!!!!
Who are we talking about here? It seems like it is forgotten that ICT is not a person but it is a system of systems. So shouldn’t cities expect these needs from ICT representatives? What I mean here is those companies who are “making” ICT; e.g. MNOs, Vendors, and Service providers. So let’s ask these entities to “smartize” the solutions.

At the same time, it is a challenge to convince the Telecom actors to take the Red Pill! The advanced 4G,  sorry the 5G is just around the corner and we should keep in mind that 5G and ICT will only play the enabler-support role for making Smart Cities happen and not much more; so would the telecom actors.

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Is the “Sharing Economy” already dead?

It seemsBosch-18V-DDB181-Drill-Driver that the idea of sharing a household item that you do not need that often, say a power drill, a power washer or a ladder with your neighbor is something that everyone intuitively understands and want’s, but unlike sucesses like Uber and Airbnb,  businesses based on this type of sharing has a hard time taking off.  In an article on Fastcompany.com, writer Sarah Kessler provides an interesting analysis .  One key reason is probably  the fierce competition on the web by vendors of equipment and the hazzle to physically retrieve the gear :  “For a drill, which by the way now costs $30, and you can get it on Amazon Now …, is it really worth your time to trek potentially 25 minutes to go get something that you spent $15 to use for the day, and then have to trek back? For most people on the sharing platforms, the answer was no.

Time is obviously money also for the private person.

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