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Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group

Ray Le Maistre
9/15/2006
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Seven of the world's biggest wireless carriers have formed an "initiative" called Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) to "provide a coherent view of what the operator community is going to require in the decade beyond 2010." (See Carriers Form NGMN.)

China Mobile Communications Corp. , KPN Mobile , NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile International AG , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) are the founding members that plan to spell out to wireless technology suppliers what's needed after HSPA (high-speed packet access) and CDMA EVDO, the current 3G technologies being deployed.

But with standards bodies such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) , and industry bodies like the GSM Association (GSMA) and CDMA Development Group (CDG) already well known and established, why the need for a new body?

Steve Falk, VP for global standards at Sprint Nextel, says the "primary feeling among the carriers is that, with 2G and 3G, the operators hadn't spoken early enough and with as focused a vision as they might have done. We work very closely with the standards and other industry bodies but thought it would be useful to have some guidelines and principles."

He says it will help the carriers focus on their needs but also help their suppliers. "It will save time and resources at the vendors. Instead of chasing a disparate group of technologies, they can focus on a smaller group."

So which technologies will NGMN be focused on? Nortel Networks Ltd. , for example, said recently it is going to focus its 4G developments on WiMax, LTE (long term evolution), and EV-DO Revision C. (See Zafirovski: We'll Get 4G Right.)

Falk says the group "is technology neutral. We are creating a set of guidelines instead of technology choices. In selecting WiMax, Sprint used the guidelines and principles" laid out in the NGMN's white paper, "Next Generation Mobile Networks Beyond HSPA & EVDO version 2.1," which the organization is distributing on a request basis.

So what are the main criteria laid out in the NGMN's vision? Falk says the technology must be based on "open IPR [intellectual property rights] and must be all IP," and that there are a number of other guidelines related to issues such as performance and interoperability.

The NGMN is hoping for more members. "We've had a gratifying expression of interest from other carriers and from about 20 to 30 vendors with regards to joining," says Falk. He said the group decided to start with a manageable number to get the initiative up and running and get the white paper edited. "It's very early days in the process. We expect the number of operator members to expand.

"I haven't participated in any discussions with operators who declined to join," says Falk.

And what about the GSM Association? How does it feel about some of its high-profile members forming an alternative industry group? "We see it as a positive," says Association spokesman Mark Smith. "The operators are looking at the future, and we're very supportive of this. We're looking forward to working with the group."

Heavy Reading senior analyst Patrick Donegan says he can see why the group has been formed, and says there's a chance it could be effective.

“The GSM Association does a lot of valuable work. However, on the standards side of things, it is limited in its effectiveness because of the highly consensual approach it has to take in representing the interests of its 663 members," says Donegan. "The NGMN group believes it can be more effective in wielding a stick amongst the vendors in steering the industry’s technology roadmap.

"The acid test of its effectiveness will be how the individual member carriers behave and vote in the standards and other industry bodies. If most of the time the individual carrier members align with the NGMN group they're part of, then the vendors will take the NGMN group seriously, and it may prove effective. If they don’t, then the vendors will spot it straight away and proceed with business as usual."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:40:47 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
Well, didnGÇÖt the operators initiate 3GPP? Look how that ended up.

Why would 4G (what an awful term) turn out any different.

3GGÇÖs not so bad GÇô have you tried using it?

The market isnGÇÖt making anywhere near optimal use of the capacity 3G provides at the moment.

The cost/complexity of the next-gen of systems is daunting. And for what return?
materialgirl
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materialgirl,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:40:47 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
How bad can things get for 3G? These guys are so anxious to move on, they are even bypassing standards bodies. The NG wish-list highlights what they dislike about 3G.
yhza
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yhza,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:40:40 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
" The cost/complexity of the next-gen of systems is daunting."

I have to disagree. As someone who is currently deploying a M-WiMax network, I can see the cost savings very clearly. Both network units and handsets prices are looking very good, and vendors have just started.

And the network couldn't be any simpler. Yes, there are still some issues when it comes to voice and roaming, but I see no reason why it can't be solved within the next year or two.
zwixard
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zwixard,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:40:39 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
The cost/complexity part on 3G is very high. With WiMAX, one flat network can provide both voice and data services.

We need a wireless access network based on pure IP that can INTER-WORK with our Wi-Fi access points at home. I know some people who already have designs to solve WiMAX voice and roaming issues. The natural force of pursuing lowest cost will result in WiMAX taking over the wide area wireless access technology sector.
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:40:38 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
IGÇÖm no 3G fanboy. Just acknowledging whatGÇÖs available and getting deployed on a large scale.

I think this group has something other than WiMax in mind GÇô otherwise thereGÇÖd be no point to it. WiMax is a step along that road.

Flat IP is obviously nice, ItGÇÖs well acknowledged that 3G is over-complex with RNCs and such.

YhzaGǪ would love hear more about where and why youGÇÖre deploying mobile WiMax (brown@lightreading.com, in confidence).
zwixard
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zwixard,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:40:37 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
"
Flat IP is obviously nice, ItGÇÖs well acknowledged that 3G is over-complex with RNCs and such.
"

Flat IP is non-mobile. 3G mobility is based on 2G and a significant portion of the complexity in the cellular network is for mobility.

Mobile WiMAX standard, IEEE 802.16e, defines how a device can be "hardware mobile" in the physical and MAC layers. This 4G group can very well define how to achieve "software mobile" for WiMAX.
materialgirl
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materialgirl,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:40:36 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
Dear Gabriel:
3G is dead precicely because it is complex and costly, and for what? What "must have" app has shown up on those pricey networks that justifies this cost? Even Blackberry e-mail works on older networks.
The biggest payback I have heard of so far is how more voice channels can be put over the air.
3G may be "nice", but is it "worth it"? Seems not.
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:40:34 AM
re: Carriers Form 4G Pressure Group
Well thatGÇÖs kind of my point.

If the one app that people seem to want (Blackberry) works over 2G, and we have 3G as well, do we really need 4G?

The complexity referred to in next-gen systems is on the radio itself -- as you get closer to ShannonGÇÖs limit, the more complex and costly it is.

The app that really needs 4G better come with some new battery technology as well.

Also, whatever the technology arguments, the cost of these networks is in the sites, the civil works, equipment volumes, and so on. Oh, and the spectrum.
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