With geolocation, mobile operators can find, determine and provide the exact location of a mobile phone (user) on their network. Geolocation is used in a variety of applications like troubleshooting and analytics, and opens up a whole range of possibilities for data monetization. In an interview with Telecom Review, Vicent Soler, EVP CTO Spain - Advanced RAN Studies, Astellia, talked about the importance of geolocation and its benefits.
Can you provide some concrete use cases of how network engineers can benefit from geolocation?
With geolocation, operators can have massive coverage maps and thereby it becomes much easier to identify any area with coverage holes, congestion or dropped calls. This allows network engineers to become much more efficient because they can focus network deployment and troubleshooting activities on these specific areas. Subsequently, this will have a concrete and positive impact on the subscriber experience.
Another relevant benefit of geolocation information for network engineers is that it helps accelerate the introduction of new technologies. It can help them, for instance, to identify where there is a high concentration of VoLTE capable mobile phones in the network in order to reinforce 4G coverage in these areas to ensure an optimal VoLTE experience.
At the moment operators are looking for solutions to offload the traffic from the macro cells. In this case, having information about where subscribers are located is very useful to define the right position to deploy new small cells.
Can geolocation information reduce the need for drive tests?
Yes, definitely. This is clearly one of the main benefits that geolocation brings to operators. By actively using geolocation information operators can save a lot of money. From Astellia's experience, we have seen that operators can reduce up to 90 percent of their investments in drive tests. A drive test is very costly because it is a manual procedure - you have to send a team into the field to launch measurements at each location. Additionally, drive tests can only generate a dozen of tests and therefore do not reflect the whole customer experience. They do not provide historical data and data is not available instantaneously. Furthermore, drive tests are often inefficient at reproducing an issue reported by a subscriber since the tests are performed outdoors. However, 70 percent of voice calls and 80 percent of data sessions occur indoors. So, in contrast to geolocation, drive tests do not provide a complete view of the customer experience.
How can geolocation information enrich customer experience management (CEM)?
Geolocation information increases customer care efficiency. By positioning failed calls on a map and analyzing subscriber mobility during a call, customer care agents will better understand a complaining subscriber and can bring a solution more quickly, not only to the complaining customer but also to all the subscribers in that area.
Each element that provides additional information on the customer, provides a better knowledge of that customer and hence insights to improve their experience. Valuable subscriber mobility information can be used to geolocate high revenue generating areas (roamers, VoLTE subscribers, fleets, etc.), determine the customer experience of these hot spots and avoid potential loss of revenues due to a bad functioning network in these areas.
How does geolocation data contribute to new revenue generation?
With the current internet of things (IoT) revolution, asset tracking is becoming a revenue generating and value-added service offered by operators to their enterprise customers. So being able to provide massive geolocation of low-cost IoT devices without costly GPS functionality is a clear competitive differentiator.
Marketing can exploit geolocation data to create additional revenues by, for instance, engaging with a customer accessing a predefined area. Some examples of use cases are location-based advertising, analysis of population flows for road traffic information, helping shopping malls understand where their customers are coming from and the time they are spending at their premises, etc.
What makes Astellia's geolocation solution unique?
First of all, Astellia's solution offers the best-in-class geolocation accuracy. Its algorithm is based on trilateration, minimization of drive tests (MDT) and includes machine learning evolution. It goes much further than providing a visibility at cell level; it gives a precision as near as 100m and with an evolution to less than 50 m with our latest innovations. It allows operators to distinguish indoor and outdoor communications and characterize static vs subscribers in motion, all while preserving individual customer privacy.
Through its 3D geolocation feature, the solution can represent on a map distinct quality of service (QoS) and quality of experience (QoE) for each floor of a building. Astellia's massive geolocation solution provides geolocated QoE of popular apps such as video (YouTube) and social media (Facebook). This allows engineers to adapt capacity for high-trafficking value-generating areas.
Astellia's awarded solution gives a real-time, end-to-end vision (RAN to Core) of the network, 24x7, for 100 percent of the calls. It is the first solution on the market to geolocate IoT devices on LoRA networks. This future-proof solution is completely virtualized and big data ready, and is already adopted by several major operator groups such as Telefonica to better optimize their network and improve the customer experience.
Nokia and UAE GCAA, have entered into a strategic collaboration to drive the development of an end-to-end UAS ecosystem that will make the UAE the first country in the world to allow the operation of drones by both businesses and government agencies in a safe, secure and managed environment.
The project is part of an initiative by the GCAA to make Dubai one of the world's smartest cities by 2017, and will allow Dubai government security network operator Nedaa to develop a next generation network for mission-critical and smart city services within the GCAA regulatory framework.
At the heart of this new ecosystem will be Nokia's UAV Traffic Management (UTM) concept, which is being developed to manage drones in and around cities, and coordinate their interactions with people, manned aircraft and an increasingly diverse array of connected objects.
The Nokia UTM system will provide capabilities such as automated flight permissions, no-fly zone control and beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) that are critical for the safe operation of UAVs in densely populated urban areas. The ecosystem will also serve as a testing ground for various applications of drone technology, which can be explored in a safe and controlled environment.
"The UAE is committed to making Dubai the smartest city in the world, and UAVs are expected to play a critical role in this process by supporting a wide variety of smart city services," said Bernard Najm, head of the Middle East Market Unit at Nokia. "This collaboration with the GCAA, the first of its kind in the world, gives us a unique and extensive test bed where we can trial and refine our UAV Traffic Management system, and shape the future of UAV management overall. This is an exciting opportunity that builds on our strong relationship with the UAE to help facilitate its smart city journey."
Drones are quickly emerging as important tools for businesses and governments alike, providing substantial benefits such as infrastructure monitoring and maintenance, public safety applications, logistics and transport and many more. The GCAA has launched this initiative so businesses and local government can take advantage of these benefits, making the city smarter while minimizing any hazards that UAVs may present.
Nokia's UTM concept combines its expertise in 4G LTE and leadership in developing 5G and Mobile Edge Computing and related services - including managing the Network Operations Center, planning and optimizing the network for UTM connectivity and integrating UTM to other application platforms - to provide a platform that can support the extreme low latency and exceptional reliability and resiliency needed to manage UAV traffic. The system will be able to monitor airspace and flight paths, and share data between UAVs, operators and air traffic controllers and establish no-fly zones that can be continually refreshed with the latest data.
5G subscription uptake will commence in 2020 and is expected to be faster than 4G. The development of 5G is being driven by new use cases that will impact both consumers and industries. New applications and use cases anticipated for 5G include safe, self-driving cars, remote controlled robots, haptic feedback-enabled drones and fixed wireless access - rivalling fiber capacity - for residential homes. As a result, mobile operators are today planning for their 5G future.
Ericsson is already working with more than 20 leading mobile operators worldwide on 5G networking and use cases, including 5G field trials in 2016. To facilitate rapid evolution of 5G access networks and the successful adoption of 5G services, Ericsson has announced 5G Plug-Ins, which are software-driven innovations that bring essential 5G technology concepts to today’s cellular networks.
5G applications and use cases will leverage existing networks
LTE will continue to expand and evolve, addressing both an increased number of subscribers and their growing demands for extreme app coverage for data and video, as well as new low power wide area (LPWA) applications for the Internet of Things (IoT). In 2019, LTE will be the dominant mobile access technology globally and will reach a total of 4.3 billion subscriptions by the end of 2021.
In parallel, the development of 5G will encompass an evolution of today's radio access technologies and the addition of new, globally standardized technologies, often in higher frequencies. These higher frequencies have a shorter transmission range than current cellular networks and are prone to attenuation from foliage and weather-related factors, which can impact performance and reliability. However, the key success factor in 5G will not only be effectively leveraging these new spectrum bands, but also ensuring that the "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" when it comes to combining LTE with new radio access technologies.
This is where Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins come in. Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins are software-driven innovations supported by the Ericsson Radio System, and are specifically focused on capabilities that operators can leverage within current networks to facilitate their evolution to 5G.
Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins are available for operator trials starting in 2016 and will be available for commercial networks starting in 2017.
The 5G ecosystem
5G will impact the entire mobile network and associated ecosystem, from devices to radio access to the mobile core and into the cloud. Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins are designed for the radio access network and leverage the technology innovations enabled by the award-winning Ericsson 5G Radio Test Bed and Ericsson 5G Radio Prototypes already deployed and in field trials in Japan, South Korea, the US and Sweden. Ericsson 5G Radio Prototypes have already achieved peak downlink throughput of more than 25Gbps.
The 2016 Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast reported that global mobile data traffic already grew a total of 74 percent in 2015. It had reached 3.7 exabytes per month at the end of 2015, which is a figure up from the 2.1 exabytes per month at the end of 2014. This shows that mobile data technology has been growing consistently and has escalated 4000-fold over the past 10 years.
The expansion of mobile data traffic can be somewhat attributed to the continuous rollout of LTE globally. In fact, in the CVNI report, it was on an upward trend. It stated that fourth generation (4G) traffic accounts for 47 percent of mobile data traffic. 3G connections represent 34 percent of mobile connections and 43 percent of traffic. The report also stated that 4G connections generate six times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.
Aside from the increasing footprint of LTE, there are more and more devices going online. Smartphones remain the top contributor on the device side, but tablets, phablets and other devices are making headway to the online space, particularly with those trendy wearable devices.
In 2015, the average amount of traffic per smartphone was 929 MB per month compared to 648 MB per month for the same period the year before, according to Cisco. They reported that 97 million wearable devices in 2015 generated 15 petabytes of the monthly traffic globally. This traffic is very significant given the young age of patrons embracing the wearable industry. Most wearables that connect through a network that is dedicated to 3G or tethered through a smartphone, have limited connectivity and capabilities.
This is about to change. There are recent development in their respective chipsets and the opportunity for the device to jump right into LTE networks is now possible. Plus, in the next few months, it will have the "always-on" capability.
The idea for these devices to automatically connect to a network is not new. The concept of the internet of things (IoT) and how it relates to wearables and embedded connectivity are inter-dependent. In the absence of technology to support the enigmatic concept, the currently-available ones have to adjust and fit in to what is required to be an IoT device.
Given the advancement in IoT, particularly in the wearable manufacturing ecosystem, any set-backs should soon be fixed. Qualcomm has announced that it will bring LTE connectivity to wearables with its new Wear platform. The leading chipmaker mentioned that with the entry of the new Snapdragon Wear platform in the market, it will drive the development of sleek wearables that offer long battery life, such as smartwatches, smartbands and smartglasses. It will power the devices sufficiently to connect and transfer data over the internet rather being dependent on a smartphone for connection.
Chipmaker describes the new chip as more fitting for the wearable segment given its specification that is smaller in size, about 30 percent smaller than the popular Snapdragon 400. Moreover, it has lower power consumption, 25 percent lower power than the Snapdragon 400 across both tethered and connected use cases that allow devices to have longer battery life. The feature has smarter sensors with integrated, ultra-low power sensor hub. Snapdragon Wear 2100 enables richer algorithms with greater accuracy than the Snapdragon 400. The“always-connected, next generation of LTE modem with integrated GNSS, along with low power WiFi and Bluetooth, delivers an always-connected experience.
However, power of the chip cannot stand on its own; it has to sit right in the heart of a device. One of the pioneers in wearable technologies is LG. According to David Yoon, vice president, Wearables, LG Electronics, LG and Qualcomm Technologies have led the wearable technology space with close collaboration over the last two years and have launched multiple smartwatches and kid's watches."
Qualcomm Technologies Snapdragon processors already power the majority of Android Wear smartwatches. In fact, Qualcomm Technologies noted that their technologies are used in 65 wearable devices across 30 countries, while 50 more are expected to launch later this year.
There are other companies bringing wearable devices into the LTE space. Ericsson, Sony Mobile and SK Telecom are continuously testing and trialing new devices and network innovations to support the secure and ubiquitous LTE network connectivity for lower cost and using reduced-power IoT devices.
Park Jin-hyo, senior vice president and head of Network R&D Center, SK Telecom, confirmed that they are working with Ericsson and Sony Mobile to trial both mobile network technologies and new IoT devices that would improve their customer's lives both at home and work. These tests and trials reflect their commitment to establish a stronger IoT ecosystem not only in South Korea, but globally.
Last year, one of China's leading handset makers, Huawei, launched a 4.5G Smartband at an event in London. The company boasts next generation 4.5G connectivity and has announced that it will be commercially available this year. The firm also revealed that, like most wearables, the Huawei 4.5G Smartband will be capable of tracking a wearer's fitness level and heart rate, and will be able to pair with other IoT devices, such as smart thermostats and energy readers. The device will use an LTE-M chip made by Neul, following its acquisition of the startup last year. The new chip will be able to support up to 100K per cell connections via LTE-M, which is 100 times that of 4G. This is something to look forward to in the wearable space!
As these wearable devices enter the LTE space and advance, perhaps this will be the year when we can empower these devices to function as professed with the concept of the internet of things. By providing autonomy and accelerated connectivity, the potential of wearables will be met.