Globecom 2016: Presentation of Latest 5G Technologies and Remaining Issues

IEEE Globecom 2016 in a glance:

The 59th annual IEEE Global Communications Conference was held in Washington DC, from 5-7th of December 2016. It was interesting for me to see so many researchers which I had seen them before only at the end of journal papers.

Our contribution:

I (with my colleagues Istiak, Vorvait, Ciceck, and Guowang) are here to present our latest research works. On 5th of December, I presented the following paper: Battery Lifetime-Aware Base Station Sleeping Control with M2M/H2H Coexistence, which you can download it from here and the presentation file from here.

I also attended the tutorial on –Wireless Communications and Networking with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles  – which was offered by Walid Saad and Mehdi Bennis. You can find more information about the this topic here.

It is worth noting that almost in almost half of the technical sessions, the presented results and techniques were related to IoT, either aiming at solving the scalability issues or energy efficiency issues. Unfortunately, in most presented works on energy efficiency for IoT, they were trying to do something to decrease the required transmit power, e.g. by sending a drone to a  region in order to decrease the required transmit power from 4 mW to 2 mW. The ones who have attended  my Lic seminar know what is wrong here! Most IoT devices want to send a few bits not MBytes of data, and hence, increasing signaling and waiting time for the arrival of UAV are much more dangerous for battery lifetime than the required transmission power. In some sessions, I tried to feedback the authors about this issue based on our contributions.

Some points from the conference:

  1. Vahid Tarokh, Professor in Harvard, in the keynote session gave a talk on using new models for big data processing coming from a massive number of IoT devices. The interested reader may refer to here for more information. I searched his works and found here that he has a pending grant for this topic and from his initial results in the GC2016, it seems that this topic will be important in near future.
  2. Similar to our works on techno-ecomonic topics, I found a group in France have worked on an interesting topic, which might be of interest of techno-economic researchers in our group. They have modeled cost for deployment of sensors, replacement of batteries by workers, and cost for wireless power transfer, and etc., to find when the CAPEX will be less than OPEX. They found that for dense machine deployment, e.g. the inter-distance is less than 3 meters, it is worth to use wireless power transfer. You may refer to their paper here.
  3. From my point of view, at least a tutorial on techno-economic topics was missing in this conference. Almost all people who I offered them the newly posted paper by Jens [1] became interested in the topic. I hope to see more contribution from CoS in the next events.


  1. Jens Zander, Beyond the Ultra-Dense Barrier – Paradigm shifts on the road beyond 1000x wireless capacity, submitted to IEEE Communications Magazine, 2016





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Revenue sharing – the beginning of the end of the neutral internet ?

internetAmsterdam based russian mobile operator Vimpelcom announced recently that the are embarking on a new path where instead of charging their subscribers for data plans, the content providers would foot the bill. This comes at a time when a debate on “zero rating” (“toll-free services”, “sponsored connectivity”) is already in full swing.  “Zero-rating” is the practice of letting ordinary subscribers with regular data plans, access certain content, e.g. social media, music streaming, etc. for “free”, i.e. without letting this consumption affect the monthly “GB-bucket”. European Regulators and proponents of net neutrality already here see a problem, that by giving the paying content providers preferential access, there is concern it may put the vast number of other services (including the competitors of the paying content providers) at a disadvantage by providing less bandwidth and poorer service.  It is easy to understand the MNO:s – this is there way out of the low-end “bitpipe-provision swamp”.  The proponents claim that this is nothing new, the MNO:s have been providing QoS -enhancements to paying content provider already in the past (e.g. online-gaming and video streaming services).  The “jury is still out” in the EU-commission and in regulatory circles, if in fac zero-rating is compatible with net neutrality.

Vimpelcom now takes this concept to a higher level. Instead of selling data and voice calls the plan is to offer a single, app-based platform where users can communicate for free. Instead the MNO will revenue share through partnerships with recognized Internet names, such as Uber. In addition Vimpelcom wants to mine client data to target new services, e-g. location and user behaviour based services.  Vimpelcom has been testing a zero-rated mobile voice, video and text messaging app, Veon, together with regular subscriptions, but the step to free subscription still seems quite significant.

“Rather than depending on shrinking monthly access fees from its customers, Vimpelcom covets the higher growth that comes from competing for a bigger share of the $200-$300 per month a consumer can spend on Internet services on their phones – on things like transport, music or meal delivery”, Reuters tech-writers  Anthony Deutsch and Eric Auchard conclude.  Even though this probably is a wise move in the long run and gaining a  “first-mover” advantage, an  abrupt change of business model is still seems to be a high risky endeavor.

Is this a blow to net neutrality or the “open” internet ?  Well,  it depends.  Looking at the analogy of physical transports we have had this situation for a long time.  We can either pay for having packages containing goods sent to using the mail service, or we can go to a store and buy those goods. In the latter case the transportation of the goods to the store will be included in the price of the merchandise.  Here we have neutrality, the price or availability of the mail service is not affected by the transport of goods to the store. There is capacity enough on roads and rail and the two modes of transport do not really need to compete for resources.  In the case of your internet connection the situation may be different. The paying content providers may let the operators reserve a large fraction of the bandwidth for their high-quality services, which means that their current and future competitors will have less bandwidth and less chances of providing competing services. In particular this is a problem for resource-demanding services, like high quality video that may consume a significant part of the bandwidth provided to the end-user. The more bandwidth the user has access to (e.g. fiber to the home), the less of a problem this will be.
Current regulation and EU-directives talk about that net neutrality should be preserved but give no clear and quantitative answer here, unfortunately. How large part of the bandwith can be sponsored ? When will it affect the quality of “free services”.  Do I have to pay a separate fee for these service (like in the post office example), creating a two-tier internet ?

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Licentiate Defense on: Energy Efficient Machine-Type Communications over Cellular Networks


On 2th of December, I will present my thesis on “Energy Efficient Machine-Type Communications over Cellular Networks: A Battery Lifetime-Aware Cellular Network Design Framework”. You are most welcome to join us.

Presentation: 2016-12-02, Sal B, Electrum, KTH, Kista Campus, Kista, 10:00

Opponent: Cedomir Stefanovic, Associate professor, Aalborg University,

Supervisors: Guowang Miao, Associate professor; and Jens Zander, Professor


Abstract: here

Full-text: here


Amin Azari

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“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 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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