A big acquisition, a 5G quandary and a brush up on your Shakespeare

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**The news round-up below originally appeared in our weekly newsletter (Friday 2nd February) and is sent direct to subscribers’ inbox each Friday. 

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“Ludicrous, therefore will probably happen”

1. Reef, er, madness?
Nokia has released details of a new chip – the ReefShark – that will underscore its 5G network products, from the radio to the core.

The main thrust of the announcement is that having dedicated silicon, purpose-built by Nokia, will give performance and power efficiency across the piece, from antennas to the radio basebands to the core. So how does the ReefShark do that?

Nokia told TMN: “Existing massive MIMO antenna designs generally employ discrete RF component parts, which are mechanical in nature. This tends to make them physically large and heavy. The Nokia RFIC mMIMO design uses highly integrated components, which reduce both weight and size, bringing benefits especially in dense-urban and megacity locations, which is where early 5G network roll-outs are likely to occur.”

On the radio units: “The current AirScale baseband module in mass volumes supports 28Gbps peak throughput. ReefShark chipset family with its higher silicon integration and power optimisation triples AirScale usable throughput to industry leading 84Gbps.”

Notably, the announcement was part of an overall architectural announcement in which Nokia underlined its end to end capabilities for 5G. This message was reinforced by CEO Suri on a quarterly results call in the week.

Dedicated chipsets and lectures on the benefits of buying withing an end-to-end structure are not exactly in line with the Open Network, interoperable, COTS equipment and software we were told 5G would be built upon.

2 Germany ports 5G test facilities
Meanwhile Nokia and Deutsche Telekom are opening a 5G test centre in Hamburg, with the Hamburg Port Authority, Deutsche Telekom and Nokia commissioning an 8000-hectare area within which to carry out key tests of various aspects of 5G functionality, including network slicing.

2b Also in Germany, Nokia is working with Vodafone to set up a 5G test area – or a “joint 5G innovation cluster” to give it its fancy name, in Munich. The “cluster” is part of a global agreement between the companies at Group level.

3 Viavi ends Cobham’s strange T&M journey
Regular TMN readers will know we track the test, optimisation and assurance convergence. Well the latest big deal in this market happened yesterday, with test company Viavi Solutions taking Cobham’s Wireless Test and Measurement business off its hands.

This deal included the sale of a business unit called AvComms (which concerns us less and is more focussed on the avionics and military field).

But prime in the deal is a shift of what was once Aeroflex’s T&M capabilities to Viavi. This will create a very large mobile and wireless test and measurement company indeed. The two Cobham test businesses together generated £170 million in the year ended 31 December 2017, and have been bought in a cash deal for £325 million.

The movement of Aeroflex to Cobham was always a strange fit in any case, and its smooshing together with the DAS business of Axell Wireless (also acquired by Cobham) was just as perplexing. That’s been proven by the fact that the DAS business will stay behind, at Cobham, for now.

So what does Viavi plan to do with the Cobham/Aeroflex/ AvComms assets, especially in terms of rationalising any portfolio overlaps? The company told TMN “not much – for now”.

Here’s a statement it provided to TMN: “There are no plans to make any significant changes to product lines immediately. VIAVI believes a majority of the portfolios of AvComm, Wireless and VIAVI are highly complementary.

“As in any such transaction, once the deal closes management and R&D of both companies will work together collaboratively to evaluate potential technology and product integration areas. These potential changes, if any, will be communicated as part of our product roadmap in a timely manner.”

4. A Puckish marketing message
AT&T said it’s first 5G device would be a “puck” which everyone decided meant a MiFi device. That’s because there won’t, obviously, be any mobile handsets on the market by the end of 2018. But AT&T needs to be first, for reasons.

Perhaps some help with the marketing programme can come from that other Puck:
I go, I go; look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow

5. Slip sliding away
KT released some details about its plans for 5G type experiences during the Olympic games starting next week. In a press conference in South Korea the operator said it would be hosting experience centres at stadia, with specially made tablets available for spectators to have a go on. They will be able to experience 360 live video, amongst other things. Ditto some virtual reality goggles. The 5G bus – a bus that will have a screen showing very hi def video – will be invitation only.

So although these games have attracted a lot of publicity, the overall experience will be along the lines of demo centres and taster sessions. That’s not to say the underlying technology isn’t impressive, of course, but it’s not the first true 5G event, is it?

6. Guardband NB-IoT

T-Mobile said it had transmitted test NB-IoT messages in the guardband of its LTE spectrum. It said the capability to keep NB-IoT traffic in guardbands would keep its “main” spectrum free for other uses. CTO Neville “Purple Nev” Ray said NB-IoT is already live with NB-IoT in Vegas with service scheduled across the nation by the middle of the year.

Verizon has also said it will use guardband spectrum for some NB-IoT workload.

7. Not gonna happen news
A leaked document from the US Government National Security Council showed that someone has been giving what they consider amounts to serious thought to a proposal to build a nationally-owned and operated network for 5G in the USA.

The sometimes sloppily written memo combined a mixture of industrial protectionism with technical illiteracy and national security paranoia (“dem Chinese”).

Fair play to those who took it seriously on its own terms, but the whole thing was and is a parcel of nonsense. Proposals included a single frequency (mid band) network built to American (not the Chinese dominated global) standards, secured by some sort of national firewall, whilst using “national security” to plough through all planning and consents. Meanwhile parallel 5G networks would go on ahead in all the other bands.

This would a) prevent the communists of China from exploiting their global 5G AI leadership to construct a social credit index for the world and b) resurrect the US wireless network equipment sector. Apparently a single frequency network built on standards that would not be replicable (and therefore saleable) anywhere else in the world, will somehow create enough sales to bring back my Motorola and Lucent of yesteryear.

Verdict: ludicrous. Therefore will probably happen.

One revealing note, though, was an appendix containing the revelation that the US carriers probably wouldn’t kick up too much fuss, and could be squared with the deal. Now why would the writer think that?

8. The MagicBox mullet
Sprint said it has sold 80,000 of its MagicBox LTE Relay units, and reckons that number will quickly reach 100,000. These are the small cell units that sit in a customer’s window, using macro network capacity as backhaul whilst operating as small cells to deliver signal indoors. They are not repeaters – ie units that merely repeat or amplify the macro signal. Instead they create a new, clean signal for indoors, whilst using the connection to a local macro tower rather like a WiFi router connects over copper or fibre to the internet. Think of them as the mullet of small cells: party at the RF front end, business at the backhaul.

Anyway, Sprint has experienced so much demand for these that it said its manufacturer Airspan was initially unable to cope with demand. That perhaps shows the actual state of Sprint’s network, but we’ll say no more about that.

The idea of a relay, by the way, may resurface as an early use for 5G. One thing relays need is the macrocell capacity to act as backhaul for the units. 5G will have lots of that. So we may see relays which deliver a 4G signal indoors, whilst connecting for backhaul over 5G.

9. An open OS – but for the actual white boxes themselves
Perhaps encouraged by the success (so far) of ONAP, A&T is sending another of its software projects into Open Source. This time it is its OS for actual white box elements in the network.

It is going to open source a project called the Disaggregated Network Operating System, or dNOS, hosted by The Linux Foundation.

AT&T says, ”We need an open and flexible operating system to take full advantage of open platforms, like white box routers and switches.”

“The ONAP platform is well on its way to being accepted as the global industry platform for SDN and NFV… But each individual device in the network needs its own operating system. That’s what the dNOS project does…. Just as the ONAP platform has become the open network operating system for the network cloud, the dNOS project aims to be the open operating system for white box.”

10. Standards completed for CBRS

The Wireless Innovation Forum has completed the ten standards comprising the baseline specifications for commercial operations within the 3.5 GHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band.

“The CBRS shared spectrum band has been made available in the US, offering 150MHz of spectrum in a continuous block. This spectrum will enable cost effective coverage and capacity expansion at large scale. Completion of detailed specifications of the CBRS Baseline Standards, while working with various contributors from multiple companies, is a monumental milestone achievement,” said Ricky Corker, Executive Vice President, Nokia

11 Ericsson messaging
Look at this from Ericsson. Look at it. Are you any the wiser at the end of it what changes Ericsson is making, and why?

This comment has nothing to do with its networks, technical and marketing teams, the capabilities of its staff in those departments, and so on and so on. All good people, in our experience.

But… Ericsson really, really needs to up its corporate comms messaging.