Questions I would ask AT&T October 1, 2015 11:04
What percentage of your sites are you converting to RRH (remote radio head) technology?
RRH technology takes radios that typically have been at ground level and places them on the towers behind the antennas. The RRH technology is useful in providing better coverage for the higher frequency spectrum. For AT&T, RRH technology would help mitigate the coverage differential between 700MHz and PCS, 700MHz and AWS, and 700MHz and WCS. If low band coverage (700MHz) were represented by a quarter, and mid band coverage (PCS) by a dime; moving the PCS channel to RRH technology would make the PCS coverage grow to the size of a nickel. This would allow AT&T to have similar capacity across a larger amount of their coverage.
Are you using RRH technology only for your high band spectrum or all spectrum except low band?
Applying RRH technology to low band spectrum in rural areas would fill in coverage holes but increasing coverage in urban areas with RRH technology would increase interference.
What percentage of your customers have a device that will operate on 700 MHz (band 17), AWS (band 4), and WCS (band 30)?
The iPhone 6s has an available version that supports the WCS band, but since not all of AT&T’s customers have a phone that supports their entire LTE spectrum, network coverage and capacity enhancements will not be experienced by the entire user base.
How much back haul capacity do you provide to each cell site for each 10 MHz of LTE spectrum?
To prevent back haul from being a bottleneck, 225 Mbps should be provided for each 10 MHz of spectrum (75Mbps per sector).
What is your average monthly back haul cost per cell site ($/Mbps)?
Site back haul costs would surprise many in the analyst community. When sites only supported voice calls, site leases (land and tower) dominated the operations expense. With the move to data, the site lease (average $1500/mo) is dominated by the back haul lease ($8000/mo). This becomes more painful as you consider the need for doubling data capacity which could then double your site back haul expense.
Will Rural America get a 3rd National Wireless Provider? July 16, 2014 11:18The news yesterday that T-Mobile and Sprint are forming a Joint Venture to buy 600MHz Broadcast Incentive Auction spectrum shows a shift in the way that both Sprint and T-Mobile look at the places that aren't in non-Top 100 markets, along Interstates, or along US Highway routes.
Will the T-Mobile/Sprint JV use this low band spectrum to fill out the areas that they rely on partners (primarly AT&T and Sprint) to provide their coverage?
Virtually all of T-Mobile's recently acquired 700MHz A band spectrum is in large cities (see my post from 11/2013) and Sprint has been reluctant to add towers in rural areas to utilized the 7MHz of low band SMR spectrum that they are using elsewhere for their Spark service.
T-Mobile has signaled with the FCC that they are concerned about reasonable roaming rates and Sprint is clearly in the same position with Verizon, needing Verizon's coverage to offer true nationwide coverage. On the other side of the coin, T-Mobile indicates that they already cover 96% of the US population, leaving about 12.5 million POPs to be covered with this new low band spectrum.
For both T-Mobile and Sprint a build out in these uncovered areas would reduce their risk of of significant rate increases or roaming service elimination with Verizon and AT&T, but these towers would be much less efficient than towers elsewhere in their collective networks. Obviously they would share the deployment costs and operating cost, but with these towers would have serve a low number of POPS (population)/Tower which is a standard industry metric on capital efficiency for deployed towers.
How would this affect Sprint's recent regional partners?
Sprint Regional Partners
Building out this spectrum would put Sprint in direct competition with these recent formed partners. These regional partners may also participate in the auction acquiring more spectrum. Each of these partners only needs low band spectrum for wide area coverage, and there are ample amounts of mid-band (PCS/AWS) spectrum in these areas for these regional partners to uses as capacity grows.
National Carrier LTE Channels - Top 100 CMA Markets March 3, 2014 22:32
National Carrier Spectrum Holdings - Top 100 CMA Markets February 22, 2014 15:07AllNet Labs is now offering a monthly spectrum report summarizing the spectrum holdings for the National Carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile). To develop this report, AllNet Labs takes the spectrum outputs at a county level from its Spectrum Analysis Tooland applies a county population weighting before averaging all of the counties within a Cellular Market Area (CMA). Data is available for all 733 CMA markets, but the standard report is formatted for the 100 most populated CMA markets. This report is delivered as an Excel spreadsheet, with both summary and detailed views. In the summary view (Figure 1), only the total spectrum holdings for each carrier are displayed.
LTE Band Class Updates November 19, 2013 13:49As I was completing my research for an upcoming blog on LTE Carrier Aggregation, I found that my previous LTE Band Class reference sheet was missing some of the more recent Band Class updates, so I decided to share my new reference document with a few comments.
FDD Band Classes:
The first notable band class addition in Band 30. This band class creates a definition for FDD operation in the WCS (2.3GHz) band which was previously defined only for TDD operation.
The next two band classes are not new, but I previously skipped over these band classes because I didn't fully understand their frequency breaks.
Previously I thought this was a specific band for Sprint IDEN operation that is adjacent to the cellular band. This is the band where Sprint is placing their 2nd LTE channel (5 MHz) and a CDMA channel (1.23 MHz). Looking at the frequencies in detail, the band class covers the IDEN spectrum and the adjacent cellular spectrum.
This is similar to Sprint's Band 25 which includes all of the PCS band plus their G block spectrum (but not the H block).
So you would think that all of the North American carriers could standardize to Band 25 for PCS operation and Band 26 for Cellular. Using the latest iPhone 5s LTE band support,
Verizon St Louis Spectrum Purchase, Carrier Aggregation, and Competitive Landscape November 6, 2013 09:26
Effect of WiFi Off-loading October 18, 2013 14:59For the past month I have been examining the effect of WiFi off-loading based upon my usage habits. To do this leave WiFi turned off so my phone only receives data service from a commercial carrier network. This was not a simple task because the Smartphone network optimizer will continue to request to have WiFi turned on and whenever you are using location services (Google+) not having WiFi provides a notification "to improve you location, please turn on WiFi".
My typical monthly data usage averages around 1.3 GB per month with WiFi enabled. I travel infrequently and have WiFi both at home and work. I think it is important to note that my work WiFi doesn't block YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, or WatchESPN, but I typically use a WiFi only tablet for music streaming or the watching a major sporting event e.g The America's Cup or the MBL playoffs.
In the month of September, I ran 5.7 GB of data in what I consider to be a typical work month. What this equates to is 3.4 GB of data that was off-loaded from the carrier network to the WiFi network for which I also pay. Another way to look at it is that my carrier only sees 1/3 of my usage.
Using some of the wholesale data rates that have been thrown around in the trade press, $5/GB; the cost to support my data usage through a WiFi Off-loading provider would be $17/month. If I am paying my carrier $30/month for my data usage and they pay a Wi-Fi off-loading provider $17/month, they only end up with $13/month to offset their operational expenses (site leases, backhaul costs, employees...)
When you consider the "true" smartphone usage and where the majority of that traffic is handled today, it is clear why cellular carriers have been reluctant to purchase wholesale access to data or a WiFi off-loading partner.
Check back next month. After my billing period closed, I spent the weekend out of town, so streaming two college football games on Saturday (Dish Anywhere) and 1 NFL game on Sunday will all be part of my October usage. With just 9 days on my billing cycle, I have already consumed 3.3 GB.
Verizon's AWS Deployments October 16, 2013 11:00With the news that Verizon is beginning to turn up some of their AWS spectrum with LTE, I will examine the spectrum available for those LTE deployments in the Top 5 CMAs with the Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool.
In Los Angeles, I would expect Verizon to be deploying a 10 MHz LTE channel until AT&T has shifted its LTE usage of this AWS channel to it "new" 700MHz B band holding.
At this point Verizon is limited to 2 - 10x10 channels or 146 Mbps throughout the Los Angeles CMA.
In Chicago, Verizon holds a 20x20 AWS channel.
This combined with Verizon's 700 MHz C-band (10x10) channel will provide 223 Mbps throughout the Chicago CMA.
In Detroit, Verizon can again form a 20x20 AWS channel.
In the Detroit CMA, Verizon can achieve a metro through put of 223 Mbps.
LTE Band Class Graphical Reference June 27, 2013 09:56With AT&T's announcement that they are meeting some challenges related to testing operation between LTE Band Class 29 and Band Classes 2 and 4, I figured that many readers would appreciate a reference map for how these band classes relate to the US mobile radio and satellite spectrum bands.
All of these screenshots are from the AllNet Labs Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool, where we display and provide analysis tools related to spectrum ownership for all of the US mobile radio and satellite spectrum bands for all 50 states and US territories. AllNet Labs Spectrum Ownership Analysis Tool
In the images below, the band classes are color coded Gray for Uplink Spectrum, Yellow for Downlink Spectrum, and Blue for Spectrum supporting Time Division Duplex.
LTE Carrier Aggregation - What's Going On... February 13, 2013 17:35Recently I reviewed the 3GPP Standards site to check in on the status of LTE Carrier Aggregation. I found a gold mine of information.
First a few definitions: Carrier Aggregation allows a wireless carrier to band together different blocks of their spectrum to form a larger pipe for LTE. This can be accomplished in two ways: Inter-band and Intra-band.
Inter-band combines spectrum from two different bands. The spectrum in each band to be combined must be contiguous within that band. Intra-band combines spectrum from two non-contiguous areas of the same band.
Here is a link to an article from 3GPP that explains Carrier Aggregation.
Below is a table summarizing the relevant 3GPP working group descriptions for Carrier Aggregation.
First of all, the current network release for all carriers is Release 9. T-Mobile, Sprint, and Clearwire have announced that they are deploying Release 9 equipment that is software up-gradable to Release 10 (LTE Advance). From the chart, it does not appear that there are any carrier configurations planned until Release 11. Release 10 appears to be a late 2013 commercial appearance and Release 11 will likely be very late 2014 or mid-2015. For Carrier Aggregation to work it must be enabled and configured at the cell site base station and a compatible handset must be available. The handsets will transmit and receive their LTE data on two different spectrum bands for the Inter-band solution. All handsets currently only operate in one mode, 700MHz, Cellular, PCS, AWS, or 2.5GHz.
Highlights by Carrier:
Canada: Rogers Wireless will have support for inter-band aggregation between their AWS spectrum and the paired blocks of 2.5GHz spectrum.
AT&T: Inter-band support in Release 11 for their Cellular and 700MHz spectrum, inter-band support to combine their AWS and Cellular spectrum, as well as configuration to support combining their PCS and 700MHz spectrum. All of the 700MHz band plans only include their 700B/C holdings. No 700MHz inter-operability.
USCellular: Inter-band support in Release 11 for Cellular and 700MHz (A/B/C). No support for PCS or AWS spectrum combinations
Clearwire: Intra-band support for the entire 2.5GHz band. China Mobile is also supporting this with an inter-band aggregation between 2.5GHz and their TDD 1.9GHz spectrum.
Sprint: Support in Release 12 for combining (intra-band)their holding across the PCS spectrum, including their G spectrum but not the un-auctioned H spectrum. No band support for their iDEN band or the 2.5GHz band.
T-Mobile: Support in Release 12 for intra-band in the AWS band and inter-band between AWS and PCS.
Verizon: Ericsson appears to be supporting Verizon's need to combine (inter-band) between AWS and 700MHz C. Not support for Verizon's Cellular or PCS holdings.
Dish: Release 12 support to combine their S band (AWS4) spectrum (inter-band) with the 700 MHz E holdings. This is the only aggregation scenerio for the US that combines FDD operation (AWS4) with TDD operation (700MHz E).
Carrier Plans for VoLTE February 12, 2013 15:56In listening to the wireless carrier earnings calls for 4Q2012, many of the analysts are interested in the timing for offering VoLTE. VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE, in other words, Carrier VoIP. It is unclear whether the carriers are looking at this as a launch of a handset supporting only VoLTE or whether it is essentially a dual-mode handset providing VoLTE where the quality is acceptable and traditional 2G or 3G voice everywhere else.
There is no doubt that 4G speeds enable VoLTE and all of the other VoIP over-the-top (OTT) providers like Skype, OOMA, and GoogleTalk. Carriers will have the ability to better control their customer experience with their VoLTE service since they can change the QOS settings because they can identify the data as a voice call.
I believe that Verizon has essentially stamped a date for their networks being 100% VoLTE for voice as the same 2021 data for shutting down CDMA. This is a reason time frame for networks to mature so they are capable of supporting VoIP seamlessly across the carriers footprint.
A key consideration that is not openly discussed, is the fact that the traditional wireless carriers that began as wireless voice providers have only overlaid their 4G data networks on top of a network that was originally designed for voice. This is important because capacity is impacted differently on a voice network than a data network. A voice user, whether 100ft or 4 miles from a site, essentially consumes the same amount of voice capacity. A data user, 100ft from the site, is capable of transmitting his data with a high efficient data modulation scheme, which reduces the capacity burden on the cell site. A user, 4 miles from the site, will receive his data using a more robust modulation scheme with a significant cost to the site's capacity. In this example the first user transmits his data on a train that has 64 cars for data, while the user 4 miles from the site only has 4 cars to carry his data.
AT&T Carrier Aggregation - Band 5 and Band 17 December 14, 2012 10:47Posted during the 3GPP RAN Meeting on Dec 4-7, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.
Customer Requirements for LTE Advanced Carrier Aggregation for Band 5 and Band 17. This appears to be supporting AT&T's need to aggregate carriers between their 700MHz (Band 17) and the Cellular band (Band 5). No mention of including the redefined WCS band. Could this be a sign that AT&T's growth plan for LTE will be to grow into the cellular spectrum first, and then to the WCS spectrum?
T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom Capital Markets Day 2012) December 7, 2012 14:55There were several interesting details that came out of the Deutsche Telekom Capital Markets Day 2012. The primary announcement concerned T-Mobile USA being blessed with the ability to sell the iPhone. T-Mobile's new CEO, John Legere indicated that it will have a dramatically different experience than the other iPhone on the market. In addition T-Mobile will sell it unsubsidized, although they will offer financing plans. This should continue to drive T-Mobile's Cost Per Gross Add (CPGA) down, although they didn't disclose if this only affects their iPhone retail business or potentially all of their retail. This is a dramatic step which eliminate the primary issue that I have had with the subsidy pricing model. I have a problem with paying the same monthly rate for my smartphone if I am out of contract as the guy that who just got a new device. With T-Mobile's plan the true cost of upgrading will be carried by the customer, with the expectation of lower monthly rates.
Above is a restatement of the testing data from PC Magazine which T-Mobile released. It is interesting to note how far their speeds have fallen from their early announcements in late 2010 concerning the HSPA+ network. It is also worth noting that they compared AT&T's LTE network. You can again see the loading effect on the network. AT&T's Chicago network was launched September 2011 so it has been loading for over a year reflecting the slower speeds. AT&T's complete New York and San Francisco networks are much newer, launching September 2012, thus carrying less traffic. I am curious why T-Mobile did not chose to compare themselves to AT&T's 4G (HSPA+) network.
From a LTE network build perspective, this was the first time I have heard clearly that T-Mobile is deploying tower top electronics. It is interesting that they state that they are the first carrier in North America to broadly deploy radio-integrated antennas. Clearwire was the first carrier to deploy tower top base stations, followed by Sprint with their Network Vision project. T-Mobile is playing up the fact that their radios are some how integrated into the antenna. Not really an earth shattering announcement. From a technology perspective, deploying the tower top base stations will fill in coverage holes and improve data speeds so it is a good move. In addition, these base stations will be Release 10 capable, meaning a software update will move these radio from the LTE features to the LTE Advance features.
- Current 4G Network covers 225 million POPs
- Release 10 Equipment being deployed to 37,000 cell sites
- T-Mobile and MetroPCS: Migration not Integration
- With MetroPCS Spectrum Position across Top 25 service areas is improved by 21%
- Planning to shutdown 10,000 macro sites from MetroPCS
- Retain and integrate 1,000 MetroPCS sites
- Operating MetroPCS Markets
- San Francisco
- New York
- Florida (except panhandle)
- MetroPCS brand will increase coverage from 105MPOPs to more than 280MPOPs.