Tag Archive for: 5G

A 5G phone call to an ordinary smartphone in a cellular dead zone was demonstrated by AST SpaceMobile which has achieved a significant milestone with its Blue Walker 3 test satellite. Here are the key points regarding this development:

  1. Successful 5G Phone Call: AST SpaceMobile’s Blue Walker 3 test satellite, which has been in orbit for a year, successfully relayed a 5G phone call to a Samsung Galaxy S22 smartphone in a cellular dead zone near Hana, Hawaii. The call connected an engineer in Hawaii with another engineer in Spain for nearly two minutes.
  2. Improved Download Speeds: In addition to the 5G phone call, AST SpaceMobile reported improved download speeds compared to previous tests. Download rates reached around 14 megabits per second, surpassing the 10 Mbps speeds recorded over 4G in June. This indicates progress in enhancing satellite-based connectivity.
  3. Launch Plans: AST SpaceMobile plans to launch its first five commercial satellites, known as Block 1 BlueBird, to low Earth orbit (LEO) early next year on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. These satellites are expected to provide intermittent connectivity for initial device-monitoring services.
  4. Global 5G Service: The company is seeking funds to develop more powerful BlueBird satellites that would enable a global 5G service, extending connectivity beyond terrestrial cell towers. To achieve global coverage, AST SpaceMobile envisions deploying around 90 BlueBird satellites.
  5. Spectrum and Regulation: The 5G tests conducted by AST SpaceMobile used wireless spectrum from AT&T, and the company is in the process of seeking permission to lease terrestrial frequencies from AT&T on a commercial basis in the United States. The company, like other direct-to-device players, is also awaiting a regulatory framework from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to govern the emerging industry.

AST SpaceMobile‘s successful 5G phone call via satellite represents a significant step toward enabling global 5G connectivity, particularly in areas with limited terrestrial infrastructure. The company’s plans for launching additional satellites and regulatory developments will play a crucial role in realizing this vision of ubiquitous connectivity.

The direct-to-device market, which involves satellite-based communication services delivered directly to consumer devices, is seeing divergent opinions on its growth potential. Here are key points regarding this market and the differing views presented:

  1. Market Overview: The direct-to-device market involves providing satellite-based communication services directly to consumer devices, such as smartphones, without the need for specialized equipment like satellite phones. Companies like Lynk Global, AST SpaceMobile, Globalstar, and Iridium Communications are active players in this space.
  2. Lynk’s Optimistic Outlook: Charles Miller, the CEO of Lynk Global, suggested that the direct-to-device market could achieve annual revenues of $1 billion in less than five years. Lynk currently operates with a small constellation of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) spacecraft and focuses on services like text messaging and emergency alerts.
  3. Iridium’s Conservative View: Suzi McBride, the Chief Operating Officer of Iridium Communications, took a more cautious stance, estimating that it would “take a good 10 years” for the market to reach the $1 billion annual revenue milestone. Iridium has a long history of providing satellite communications to specialized handsets.
  4. Diverse Approaches: Various satellite operators are taking different approaches to tap into the direct-to-device market. Some are leveraging their existing infrastructure and spectrum, while others are planning large-scale satellite constellations designed specifically for this purpose.
  5. Market Dynamics: The growth of the direct-to-device market depends on several factors, including the development of user-friendly devices, regulatory frameworks, consumer adoption, and competition from terrestrial networks, especially in densely populated areas.

In summary, the direct-to-device satellite communication market is characterized by diverse strategies and differing views on its growth trajectory. While some are optimistic about rapid expansion, others take a more cautious and longer-term perspective. The market’s evolution will likely be influenced by a range of factors, including technological advancements, regulatory decisions, and competitive dynamics.

Narrowband IoT or NB-IoT is now on a great way to becoming the first technology to bridge the worlds of Telecom and Satcom. But will this limit standard 5G NTN services to be IoT-related only, until we move on to future releases? Unlikely, since recent development and analysis indicate that NB-IoT will also be capable of supporting other features – such as texting, voice communication and multicast firmware updates.

The satellite industry is moving from traditional user cases towards IoT-oriented solutions, and as thousands of new satellites are launched into space, this tendency will gain momentum.

This next generation of satellite constellations based on 5G architecture will not only create solid growth in the satellite industry, but also play a new and vital role in the implementation of future 5G cellular networks.

These networks will effortlessly encompass hard-to-cover user locations such as airplanes, ocean-going ships, and long-distance train routes, in addition to remote, sparsely populated areas of the world where the roll-out of terrestrial networks until now has been far too expensive for the given business cases.

As such, satellite technology is the most cost-effective extension of terrestrial networks, and the 3GPP organization is currently taking great strides towards a proper integration of satellite and terrestrial networks based on 5G standards.

With the 3GPP release 17 in which NB-IoT connectivity will be expanded into space, mobile user cases oriented towards coverage of remote areas have become one of the main applications that can be deployed. Built on the 3GPP standards for 5G, NB-IoT is a secure, low-power, wide-area data network technology. It provides both system and spectral efficiency and can support connected device battery life of up to ten years across many user cases.

Thoroughly integrating 5G NB IoT with the 3GPP standard is crucial as this provides a guarantee that the technology will be available in any country, worldwide. In fact, NB-IoT (and LTE-M) are the only standards that 3GPP plans to support for LPWA user cases.

The power and flexibility of future NB-IoT networks will lead to the deployment of new, innovative solutions previously unsupportable – and even unimagined. With that in mind, let’s examine some of the NB-IoT user cases enabled by satellite technology.

For years, commercial satellite communication has primarily been limited to the support of emergency services in special scenarios. Previously, satellite communications required the use of expensive satellite phones, but now, phone manufacturers are teaming up with the satellite industry to bring texting features via satellite connectivity directly to consumer smartphones.

The texting feature is currently being presented as a way to send emergency messages, for example when hiking in mountain areas, sailing offshore or in case of accidents in other remote areas.

Another simple and effective way to communicate when every second counts, is the emergency push-to-talk feature that satellite-based NB-IoT also offers. In situations where a terrestrial network is out of reach, this feature enables people to take turns in conversations via different devices – even ordinary smartphones via satellite in remote areas.

Historically, push-to-talk has often been the norm in fields such as public safety, security, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. It is a popular technology because it is easy to activate, allowing the operator to focus on the job at hand.

There is a massive requirement for digitization which promises to revolutionize a wide range of uses in rural, remote, or inaccessible areas. Whether it’s an emergency, mission-critical situation or simple sensor surveillance, NB-IoT makes it possible to establish automatic or manual push-to-talk communication channels creating new user experiences.

Software updates have become a key part of our connected day-to-day lives. It usually requires no more than a touch of a button to keep apps on our smartphones up to date. But in other cases, updating is not that simple.

Modern cars are increasingly evolving into smartphones on wheels, and they consist of a multitude of components that sometimes require software updates, which is a very time-consuming task if carried out manually at workshops using data cables.

Not only is this a costly affair for the manufacturer, it’s also time-consuming and frustrating for car owners. And this problem stretches far beyond the car industry. Just think of all the offshore wind farms in remote areas at sea. Manual updates would be most inefficient in these scenarios. A far easier alternative is wirelessly transmitted firmware updates via NB-IoT.

T-Mobile Completes Merger with Sprint to Create the New T-Mobile, led by Mike Sievert.

T-Mobile completed its merger with Sprint Corporation, the wireless company announced Wednesday. The new combined parent company T-Mobile US, Inc., will operate under the name T-Mobile.

The new T-Mobile has pledged to deliver a nationwide 5G network, providing 5G to 99% of the U.S. population within six years, with average 5G speeds in excess of 100 Mbps. The company also plans to cover 90% of Americans who live in rural parts of the country with average 5G speeds of 50 Mbps, which the company claims is up to two times faster than average broadband.

With the close of the merger, Mike Sievert became CEO of T-Mobile, replacing John Legere.

“During this extraordinary time, it has become abundantly clear how vital a strong and reliable network is to the world we live in. The New T-Mobile’s commitment to delivering a transformative broad and deep nationwide 5G network is more important and more needed than ever and what we are building is mission-critical for consumers,” Sievert said. “With this powerful network, the New T-Mobile will deliver real choice and value to wireless and home broadband customers.”

The merger, which the FCC approved in November 2019, paves the way for Dish Network to acquire Sprint’s prepaid assets, part of a deal Dish made with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in order to appease antitrust concerns about the merger. Dish plans to acquire Boost Mobile, and the Sprint-branded prepaid service; 14 MHz of Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz spectrum; and access the new T-Mobile network for seven years, including the ability to serve Dish customers between T-Mobile’s nationwide network and Dish’s new independent 5G broadband network.

In July 2019, Dish entered the market as a fourth wireless carrier, and committed to the FCC that the company will deploy a facilities-based 5G broadband network capable of serving 70% of the U.S. population by June 2023.

It’s fair to say that most of the wireless industry guessed wrong on Charlie Ergen’s plans for 5G. That group includes your humble narrator. We had plenty of hints as to what was the truth — that Ergen was building the fourth largest wireless carrier in the United States with an independent 5G offering and the full support of carriers Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). The Dish on Ergen’s 5G Masterstroke

Back in May 2018, Ergen laid out his exact plans in front of hundreds of people gathered in a Charlotte Convention Center ballroom. “We’re one of the few companies that can think long-term, and so, we’re confident about 5G,” said Ergen, sitting five feet away from former FCC Commissioner Rob McDowell, and about 20 feet away from current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “We’re going to build a 5G network to support all of the future IoT (Internet-of Things) applications we’ve been talking about and it’s going to cost $10 billion or more.”

Ergen continued: “One of the things I think we’re pretty good at is partnering with people who know more than we do. Many people in this room already know that we have signed some national lease agreements with tower companies. We’re now permitting and designing that RF network.” The Dish on Ergen’s 5G Masterstroke

With the blessing of the DoJ and FCC, Dish committed to launch a 5G broadband network capable of serving 70 percent of the U.S. population by June 2023. To do so, it will adjust its spectrum licenses, and give Sprint approximately $5 billion to acquire its prepaid businesses and customers, including Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, 14 Megahertz (MHz) of Sprint’s nationwide 800 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile, looking to merge with Sprint, will give Dish access to its network for seven years, including the ability to serve DISH customers between T-Mobile’s nationwide network and Dish’s new independent 5G broadband network.

To get the DoJ’s blessing, Dish had to agree to some conditions on how it sells its 600 MHz spectrum, for which it holds 486 different licenses. According to the agreement, Dish can’t sell its 600 MHz spectrum for six years without approval from the FCC or DoJ. “Some of that [600 MHz] spectrum is fallow today, and we’ll likely lease some of that to the new T-Mobile network. T-Mobile took a very aggressive stance on that, so the DoJ is requiring both companies to use good faith efforts to lease capacity based on market needs. The elimination of the uncertainty at the FCC was also a big deal, in that we can enter the marketplace in the short period of time and start to gain return our investment.”

Despite the complex nature of the three-way trade, The Wall Street Journal reported that the three partners took three weeks to assemble the deal. For Ergen, however, the announcement was the culmination of more than 20 years of work and $21 billion in spectrum investments intended to transform Dish into a connectivity company. If all goes as planned, Dish — a legacy satellite company — will be credited with launching the United States’ first standalone 5G broadband network.

“We’re entering this market with just over nine million subscribers, so we’re not building the retail side of this business from scratch. We’re also acquiring a very competitive seven-year Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) deal with T-Mobile. We get the Sprint spectrum and the provision on the new T-Mobile network, which obviously is going to become an even better network as they build out,” says Ergen. “More importantly, we get to build our own network out, which allows us to build on a market-by-market basis, which is materially different than we envisioned where we believed we had to build the whole network across the entire country at one time.” The Dish on Ergen’s 5G Masterstroke

In working with the FCC to acquire the proper licenses, Ergen explains that while Dish and the regulatory agency initially hit some bumps regarding where the operator would build, and the flexible use licenses of Narrowband (NB) IoT network to meet its build out requirements, the two parties are now more in alignment and bonded by a mission to see a real 5G mobile broadband network built and launched in the United States.

“I know where the FCC wants to go, where I want to go, and where the [Trump] administration and Congress wants to go with 5G,” says Ergen. As a result, our NB-IoT resources will be redeployed in the short-term for the 5G network. The MVNO deal with T-Mobile allows us to use their nationwide NB-IoT that’s already built out. So, there is no reason to duplicate that network, particularly with some non-standard frequencies. We still plan to spend about $10 billion to build our network and we’re still going to need help. But our initial costs will actually be less than we had envisioned short-term. As a result, our OpEx should be less than we had ultimately envisioned.”

By “needed help,” Ergen explains that he will be looking for partners to provide backhaul, cell towers, mobile edge computing, hardware, software, distribution, and marketing. He’ll also need more money — and we’ll get to that in a moment.