Leading Lights 2018 Finalists: Most Innovative Mobile/Wireless Product or Service

Innovation in the wireless industry, even putting aside 5G, is at a high-point at the moment. From blazing Gigabit LTE, to a small cell with wireless backhaul built-in, to a mapping service designed to make driving safer, there were plenty of innovative developments represented in this year's entries.

Our shortlist includes products and services from CommScope Inc. , NetComm (ASX: NTC), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), Reliance Jio Infocomm , SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S).

The winners of all 24 Leading Lights awards and the three Women in Comms awards, as well as the identities of this year's Light Reading Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the fantabulous Leading Lights dinner/party, which will be held during the evening of Monday, May 14, at the Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas, following a day of pre-BCE workshops. Then, the morning after the awards party, the doors open to this year's Big Communications Event (BCE) at the Austin Convention Center.

You're invited to attend Light Reading’s Big Communications Event -- the ONE event that delivers fresh perspective on the rapid transformation of the telecom industry and the road ahead. We'll see you May 14-16 in Austin -- communications service providers get in free!

To find out which companies were shortlisted across all of this year's Leading Lights categories, please check out Leading Lights 2018: The Finalists and Congrats to 2018's WiC Leading Lights Finalists.

So, here are the shortlisted entries:

CommScope -- Era
CommScope's Era brings digitized Centralized-RAN (C-RAN) concepts to the distributed antenna (DAS) market, allowing operators and building owners to deploy in-building coverage with less cost and space required. The Era system supports a Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) for disaggregating radio and baseband functions at existing C-RAN hubs, while the system can also share connections over installed fiber.

Era supports current 4G LTE connections now, but with software support for multiple input and output (MIMO) antennas, the technology can also build a path to bringing 5G indoors.

NetComm Wireless -- Intelligent Fixed Wireless Access (IFWA-6xx)
Interest in fixed wireless services in the US -- and beyond -- is as high as it has been in at least 20 years. So it makes sense that NetComm Wireless has introduced an outdoor device that supports 4G Gigabit (Cat 16) LTE connections for fixed wireless services.

The company says its gear will allow network operators to bring fiber-like broadband and triple-play services to customers in areas that lack fixed-line infrastructure. It will also support 3.5GHz shared spectrum services in the US -- anticipated at the end of year with the opening of the CBRS band.

Qualcomm Technologies -- Snapdragon X24 LTE Modem
Qualcomm says the X24 Category 20 LTE modem can support downloads of up to 2 Gbit/s, squeezing serious performance out of the 4G technology for smartphones. It does this by utilizing up to 7 aggregated channels of 4G bandwidth for maximum bandwidth and supporting a 4x4 MIMO antenna array.

Users are unlikely to be able to access those kind of data rates on a loaded network. Nonetheless, supporting the fastest LTE connections possible will still be important in the early 5G age, as users will still use LTE for many, many data sessions.

Reliance Jio Infocomm -- WiFi Access Point Solution
How do you deploy large-scale WiFi access across a country like India, at an acceptable cost? Reliance Jio says the answer is a low-cost access point, combined with a cloud-based management system.

RJio says it has separated hardware and software functions with its WiFi Access Point Solution. This allows it to select hardware from any manufacturer and work with component suppliers to keep costs down.

Meanwhile, the operator has eschewed a controller-based management system for its system. It uses software implemented in a virtualized environment on white-box servers at the data center, to allow it to scale deployments.

SK Telecom -- T map x NUGU
SK Telecom is bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the ease of a voice-driven digital assistant to its popular domestic T-Map service. SKT is gearing up for more and more connected cars on the road, as T-Map x NUGU allows drivers to set and change directions without looking away from the road.

The assistant can also alert users to parking spaces and nearby gas stations and update users with real-time traffic information.

Sprint & Airspan Networks -- Magic Box
Sprint styles its "Magic Box" small cell -- developed by Airspan -- as the world's first all-wireless small cell. This is because the box can connect to 2.5GHz macrocells -- at a range of up to 6 miles -- to backhaul the device, without the need for a wired connection, while also providing extended coverage inside a user's home and beyond.

The box also has self-optimizing network (SON) software onboard, which allows it to be a good neighbor with other radio signals and avoid network interference. Sprint has also tested the small cell as a way of boosting coverage in the wake of natural disasters.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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