In-Building Coverage

Executive Summary

Less than 5% of commercial buildings have In-Building Wireless (IBW) solution installation.  Without In-Building wireless installation, property managers, owners, and builders are missing an opportunity to increase profits through attracting modern, mobility-favoring tenants. The easiest way for a property to miss out on revenue is to lose tenants to turnover, or worse, not to get them in the first place. To get them in the door, your property must be well-maintained in your tenants’ eyes, and your operations staff must be able to work efficiently throughout your property to make this happen. These needs hinge on mobile connectivity, an area in which many properties are lacking. You already provide utilities (water, energy) and amenities (parking, workout facilities), but you may not be aware of In-Building Wireless, a compelling way to attract and retain tenants in our technology-centric era.

With 5G for IBW, new forward looking architecture and solutions are getting developed which will integrate/support emerging IoT applications and smart solutions better. So, IBW solution options must be evaluated with forward looking requirements and proper lifecycle management & tenant support that improves property values with improved customer experience.

Why In-Building wireless?

Poor cellular reception affects everyone. With the growing demand for faster speeds, degraded voice and media quality, increased demand IoT (Internet of Things) devices, having quality cellular service at all times is an absolute requirement for work efficiency and satisfaction:

  • Are people complaining about poor cellular coverage indoors?
  • Does it hamper workflow & productivity?
  • Are people getting near a window or going outside to make a call?
  • Are these liability issues (such as no signal in an elevator or stairwell)?
  • Use of cell-phone in poor indoor coverage has higher health affects as cell-phone has to work harder to transmit its signal to cell-tower

In a survey of business tenants, two-thirds claimed it would be a major challenge to survive without wireless connectivity. If a business is lacking coverage and can’t survive in their current workspace, they have two options: find a new space to lease or pressure the owner to fix the problem.

Market studies have exposed a driving need for improving In-Building Wireless(IBW) communications, noting that:

  • Mobile traffic has increased massively and will continue to grow
  • 80% of all data funneled to mobile devices is being consumed indoors, and
  • more than half of large U.S. offices have noticeably poor indoor cellular reception

Most properties are not exempt from the problem of poor IBW coverage. Three out of four enterprise tenants reported that employees had to move around the building or go outside to find good reception. With an IBW system, your tenants can be more productive (voice calls & email), more engaged (video collaboration & instant messaging), more efficient (building automation), more entertained (Netflix & Facebook), and safer (911 & public safety).

Poor wireless coverage can be extremely inefficient for building operations staff when they need to work in traditionally poor coverage spaces, like a basement, stairwell, or interior room.

Benefits of In-Building Wireless solution:

In-Building wireless (IBW) system is a growing solution for many businesses to improve their wireless communication infrastructure. It provides augmented & ubiquitous network coverage for all mobile devices. It remedies the causes & problems of poor In-Building cellular service. Whether in an urban or rural area, getting poor signal because of cell tower distance or building material, IBW systems provide constant, reliable network coverage with no interruption to work, entertainment, and/or emergencies.

IBW systems are scalable, able to serve small commercial buildings & SMBs (small medium businesses) to large venues such as stadiums, airports, and convention centers.

  • Better property values
  • Better reputation by customers (Starbucks-WiFi is known to attract more business) and competitors
  • Better efficiency – real-time control and monitoring. Enabled real-time smart building control and monitoring. Changes in building construction standards including more green building technology. AR/VR applications, better shopping experience, improved office work-flows, Real-time applications
  • More federal & local public safety requirements
  • BYOD & Multi-Tenant solution
  • Better Security & Surveillance – smart security cameras (face recognition)
  • Improved Voice and Media experience – better quality video & voice

Who is responsible for In-Building coverage?

Unfortunately, it is often unclear who exactly is responsible for improving indoor connectivity. Most building professionals place the responsibility on the mobile network operators to solve the problem, but in most cases, it is the property owner’s responsibility to deal with this issue.

For property owners, there are several common roadblocks to implementing an IBW system (1):

  • The cost of the network,
  • The complexity of the technology, and
  • A lack of skilled workers to manage the system

The Mobile Network Operator (MNO)

Mobile Network Operators, also known as wireless carriers (think Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) have all paid substantial FCC license fees for exclusive access to and control of specific radio spectrum in a given geography. Because of this ownership, carriers require any IBW system to be approved and retransmission of their spectrum authorized prior to connection to their mobile network.

Obtaining this approval involves knowing the right carrier personnel and processes; therefore, when pursuing the implementation of a carrier-involved IBW system, it’s best to engage an experienced supplier with established MNO relationships.

One-MNO IBW Vs multi-MNO IBW installation is an important cost and strategic factor that needs to be decided by building owners. Multi-tenant buildings requiring BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) device support should consider multi-MNO indoor coverage solutions. Shopping malls, Airports, Stadiums, Hotels, Office buildings are good examples of such installations.

Whom to contact for IBW efforts?

There are multiple factors to consider in deciding whom to contact for IBW efforts. There is no one-size fits all IBW solution unfortunately.  Also IBW-solution should not be considered in isolation. It needs to be considered in broader context on “5G in Enterprise” strategy and planning.  With 5G, Enterprise is going to deal with Wireless in three broad dimensions:

  • Enterprise Mobility Strategy – Is it BYOD (bring your own device) or single carrier
  • Enterprise-IoT strategy – What IoT, AR/VR and real-time monitoring and control requirements do you have?
  • In-Building Wireless coverage – First step is to study relative signal strength of each Mobile Network in building and evaluate “gaps” based on what is needed Vs current status

Based on overall smart-building & 5G strategy for Enterprise/building-owner, IBW-solution must be developed. One-MNO or Multi-MNO IBW-solution is another consideration. Whenever BYOD needs to be supported, it is important to choose multi-MNO solution for IBW. Also, city regulatory requirements, especially public-safety requirements, must also be considered.

Based on vertical segments, considerations for IBW could be different:

  Vertical Vendor Relationship & Funding Model
1 Industrial Neutral-Host  / MNO / Private-LTE Vendor MNO-funding can be explored if MNO option is used as a vendor. Need to look at comprehensive IIoT solution with IBW as one component.

Enterprise-funded Neutral-Host for Multi-MNO solution or private-LTE vendor for CBRS or Multifire based Private-LTE+WiFi can be considered.

2 Ports, Airports, Sports & Convention Center MNO MNO may be interested in signing agreement in deploying MNO-paid IBW solution. Building owner must consider future IoT applications and IBW solution requirements as well.
3 Retail Neutral-Host Neutral-Host vendor should be asked to do assessment and then contact all MNOs for IBW solution support, relationship and funding.  Deployment can be best achieved as Managed-IBW Services agreement with Neutral-Host vendor. Must consider Smart IoT Apps, AR/VR together with IBW. Tenant Services and rules for additional wireless capability must be managed
4 Office-Building Neutral-Host One-MNO or Multi-MNO depending on single-tenant Vs multi-tenant criteria and Building Owner ROI can be considered; Rental value improvement with better IBW, Tenant Services and rules to manage RF-interference must be managed. Comprehensive plan of IoT applications requirements and IBW solution requirements must be considered.
5 Health-Care & Hospitals Neutral-Host Multi-MNO preferably. Funded by Enterprise with minimal expectation of funding by MNO. Deploy as managed-IBW services with multi-year contract and performance definitions.  Comprehensive plan for IoT-application requirements and IBW solution requirements must be considered.
6 Oil & Gas MNO + Neutral-Host Oil & Gas assets are typically geographically dispersed. Given this situation, MNO partnership is desirable for geographically distributed assets. For In-Building assets, it may be desirable to use private-LTE network or Neutral-Host solution. Comprehensive plan with proper consideration for IoT applications must be considered together with IBW solution effort.
7 Education Neutral-Host Large Universities (like NYU or Stanford) want to have good In-Building Wireless coverage along with good WiFi solution. Multi-MNO solution is desirable. Interest of MNO in these opportunities could vary. They may be interested in partial funding. Managed-IBW service model is desirable. Comprehensive plan for IoT applications and IBW solution must be considered instead of separate efforts.
8 Government Neutral-Host or MNOs For public safety, AT&T (FirstNet) will be used. It is likely that other MNOs may offer lucrative terms for IBW solution.  Some Govt business may consider Neutral-Host companies for managed services. Comprehensive plan must be created for IoT-applications, Mobility requirements and IBW solution
9 Defense Private-LTE and Neutral-Host A lot of defense bases are much like cities and require multi-MNO solution for personal traffic and private-LTE for official traffic. Comprehensive plan of IoT-applications and IBW solution requirements must be considered.
10 Transport, Logistics, Automobiles Multi-MNO, Relay, Neutral-Host Connected-Car is a very large business opportunity for every MNO. Each MNO wants “exclusive” relationship. However best option is to develop multi-MNO capability, preferably via Neutral-Host type services company

 IBW Coverage

 It’s important to understand where connectivity is needed within your property, since the entire building may not require coverage from all carriers. A simple assessment survey performed by a reputable integrator can give you an idea of the current baseline coverage your property receives from surrounding outdoor cell sites and what it would take to fill in any holes in coverage.

For Wi-Fi services, installation of equipment is relatively simple because the building owner has complete control of the system, meaning no outside approvals are necessary. However, complexity enters the equation when:

  • Each tenant provides their own Wi-Fi coverage— bringing poor signal quality due to RF interference, or
  • The property owner installs one shared Wi-Fi system—bringing complexity in creating secure, segmented, and controlled connections for each tenant.

Wireless Coverage Rating system (WCRS)

A standard way to rating indoor wireless coverage will help a lot in marketing and monetization of IBW investments.  As an example – WCRS-rating will help hotels in marketing the quality of their wireless coverage and attract more customers with potentially higher room rents.

 Steps for IBW deployment

Step-1:  IBW requirements assessment

How do you know if In-Building Wireless is a good fit for your building needs and what is needed to get this implemented?

As a first step of improving In-Building wireless coverage, building owner needs to perform “professional” In-Building Wireless coverage assessment.

New Building – For new-buildings, this step can be skipped and go directly to IBW planning effort.

Existing Buildings – First step is to hire a professional firm for In-Building assessment. There is no one-size fits all type of solution for In-Building Wireless services even in same vertical market.  A lot depends on location of building as well. In our view, every commercial building should be rated for In-Building coverage through some sort of a color-scheme per MNO. We provide this service to our customers at a very competitive price.  If Enterprise has multiple building in many cities, city-level planning for IBW-solution assessment is recommended. In-Building assessment should, also, cover recommendation for achieving good In-Building Coverage and cost estimate for different options.

Mobilestack offers IBW assessment services to building owners. Contact us for more details.

Step-2: IBW Solution Planning

New Building – For new buildings, this needs to be done as part of construction planning much like electricity plan is developed even if In-Building wireless solution is deployed much later. By doing it as part of construction planning, re-work after construction for In-Building wiring, power and cable installation cost is minimized making IBW-solution cheaper to deploy or/and scale.  Installation of In-Building data/optical fiber wiring after building construction is costly.  Comprehensive smart- building,  IoT application requirements, data cabling plan, Edge Solution requirements and IBW solution requirements must be considered as a roadmap. This will avoid any significant future re-work which may be costly to implement.

Existing Building – Detailed planning of IBW solution is needed including funding options, role of MNOs, performance expectations after deployed solution and pricing options for building owner. Also, planning proposal should include life-cycle management, rules for tenants to avoid RF-interference, upgrade options as new IoT applications are added by building owner.  MNO partial funding options and support must also be considered as part of this IBW solution planning.

Mobilestack offers IBW planning services to building owners. Contact us for more details.

Step-3:  IBW Build Phase

In this phase, In-Building Wireless solution is deployed as per approved IBW-plan in step-2 above.  Before Vs after IBW-deployment wireless coverage and customer experience impacts must be measured to ensure that IBW solution is meeting its objectives.  One important benefit of In-Building solution deployment is improvement in real-time application such as voice calls, video calls and, in future, AR/VR solution experience instead of just data-throughput benefit which is often used for measurements. Another important experience improvement parameter is better support for cellular connection density.  More device or people at one location or room should be able to use cellular services simultaneously. Again this KPI is often ignored by many vendors and must be counted.

Mobilestack offers IBW deployment and managed services to building owners. Contact us for more details.

Step-4: IBW Monitoring and Control

IBW solution is not build & forgets type of solution deployment.  Continuous monitoring and control of In-Building coverage & network-security must be followed.

Ongoing IBW network monitoring and management can come in several different ways. To gain MNO’s trust and confidence will be hard for building owner or its technical staff. Best option is to use managed services to continuously monitor and manage IBW solution. Alternatively, monitoring can be done by building owner and out-source control & management function as managed services preferably to same company who has deployed IBW solution.

Mobilestack offers IBW monitoring and managed services to building owners. Contact us for more details.

Step-5: IBW solution lifecycle management

IBW solution must be deployed in a way that it is easy to update, scale and modify. Future looking deployments that are compliant to newer technology and industry interfaces is better instead of adopting older IBW technology which will become obsolete quickly and affect future growth or value improvements. In Wireless industry, technology obsolescence rate is very high and new technology is developed every 6 to 8 years. Rate of evolution is going to become faster as IBW-solution becomes software-only solution using re-configurable future-proof hardware.

Upgrade path to adoption new technology faster should be important and provide better TCO in long-term. TCO considerations Vs future upgrade requirements must be in proper balance.

New innovative business models for lifecycle management and upgrades are developing for IBW-solution using newer technologies. This will make IBW-managed services offered at predictable monthly cost for a long period of time possible instead of cost + services pricing model.

Mobilestack offers IBW lifecycle and managed services to building owners. We take care of all hardware and software changes without any change in monthly cost. Contact us for more details.

IBW Solution Options

In-building wireless comes in a few different flavors, but the goal remains the same: wirelessly connect tenants, guests, and other building occupants to the network services and software applications that they want and need. Whether it’s in an apartment building, commercial office building, hotel, healthcare facility, school, mall, or public building, everyone now depends on reliable mobile connectivity where they work, live, learn, shop, and play.

Active DAS

Active DAS provides boosted 4G LTE cellular coverage for buildings. Active DAS works by directly connecting to carrier networks. Digital signal feed from operator is carried through fiber optic to maintain signal integrity regardless of cable run and coverage area.

Active DAS is best-in-class in terms of signal boosting and coverage range. Mobilestack can facilitate this connection management between operator and building owner. Since Mobile Operator wants control on digital feed that is provided for In-Building coverage instead of giving up control to building owner, Operators prefer a relationship with neutral host managed service provider.  Given Mobilestack’s domain expertise in RAN products and trusted relationship with Mobile Operator, we can offer IBW managed services to building owners and partner with Mobile Operator (MNO) for digital feed and its management by working closely with MNO’s RAN operational management team.

New digital feed interface standards are getting developed as part of industry-forum efforts. It is likely that Active-DAS could become cheaper in future as solution migrates to commodity future-proof hardware supporting Active-DAS as software-only solution working closely with MNO’s Base-Band processing unit (RAN-BBUs).

Passive DAS

Passive DAS is a signal amplifier or booster which picks-up weak signal from outside the building (preferably best location outside building) to amplify and distribute indoors as-is. This is a simple device and cost-effective option. For small buildings, this may be a reasonable option to consider. This solution is a single-MNO solution suitable for smaller capacity buildings.

However, for large buildings with future requirements of smart-building and IoT-applications or AR/VR support, this solution will not be a good fit.

Public Safety requirements can also be addressed using this kind of solution.

Cell Relay

Cell relay node (RN) concept was introduced in 3GPP release 10 to solve performance issues like the reduced data rate, the weaker signal and the higher interference encountered on the radio coverage edges by expending the covered zone and increasing the capacities of the radio coverage both indoor and outdoor at a lower cost. RN is connected to a macro eNodeB (basestation in LTE) called Donor eNodeB (DeNB) using a radio interface.  For a Donor eNB, the relay node appears as a UE. By creating its own coverage zone, the RN appears as a eNB to the UEs. LTE-A relay node, are designed to be low cost and lower power nodes which can be easily and quickly deployed when needed. If Mobile Operator supports RN-technology then this is a good choice to improve indoor coverage rapidly at lower cost.

This solution may work for boosting operator’s signal for public-safety applications and portable MNO-signal booster inside buildings.

New innovative solutions using cell-relay technology are getting developed for future use & installation in transport system, railways & autos to boost / convert MNO-signal and provide better coverage to passengers.

Small Cell

Enterprise small cell can be deployed to achieve high capacity as well as expand coverage, enabling the voice and data solutions that businesses rely on. The enterprise cell is LTE-enabled and ideal for mid-sized locations. It is effective in hotspots with crowds of people such as shopping malls and especially enterprise. Indoor coverage and capacity expansions are simplified by our Small Cells’ ‘plug & play’ design.

Small cell technology is evolving rapidly with 5G. If carriers can agree on sharing a common base station and/or neutral spectrum, there’s potential for massive growth.

IBW for Public Safety

In an emergency event, fire fighters, police, and paramedics require access to a public safety wireless network and this access requirement does not stop at your building’s front door.

Through adoption or amendments of national or international Fire Codes, many jurisdictions require public safety IBW assessments and/or mandate that In-Building emergency responder Radio Enhancement Systems (RES) be installed in select new or renovated buildings as a prequalification to a certificate of occupancy.

Commercial real estate professionals need to make sure their architect or general contractor considers the need for RES. The building owner is responsible for the RES cost and can contact a wireless systems integrator to guide them through the process.

Enterprise Cellular-IoT Challenges – How to manage

Executive Summary

Wireless connection is becoming a default option for connected everything. Cellular-IoT is becoming part of company products and services. Multi-MNO support is even more crucial in these use-cases and cost of MNO support problems will be even higher. Enterprise Edge solution with multi-MNO support is a good solution to solve these problems. Decision makers need to evaluate, build and deploy solution after very careful planning and assessment phase in which consultants can be used to help create IoT solution which meets requirements and flexibility to evolve as technology evolves rapidly. After IoT-project evaluation and planning is complete, Enterprise should execute on project implementation and operational phases with well-defined deliverable and operational efficiency.

Introduction

Although much media attention is focused on consumer products, some of the most exciting IoT innovations have occurred within the business sector, where the combination of sensor data and sophisticated analytical algorithms have allowed companies to streamline business processes, increase productivity, and develop leading-edge products. IoT faces much uncertainty related to regulatory developments, customer demand, and technological advances. For enterprise IoT, many questions also remain about its utility and impact, since most companies are still in the early stages of implementation. To date, they have only achieved modest, incremental benefits from their enterprise IoT programs.

Enterprise IoT could produce the greatest benefits in manufacturing and service operations

For service operations, respondents believed that enterprise IoT would produce the most value in three areas: diagnostics and prognostics, predictive maintenance, and monitoring and inspection. In manufacturing, the top use cases were resource and process optimization (for instance, improving yield, throughput, or energy consumption), asset utilization, and quality management. Telematics is another market that is evolving very fast to add more and more functionality using cellular-IoT and try to build multi-MNO solution.  Wearables are adding cellular connectivity. Refer to another article – Ten steps of adding LTE to a Wearable which outlines challenges of adding cellular connectivity and MNO-relationship aspects.  Mistakes in managing MNO-relationship can prove to be costly as this affects customer experience and device returns as faulty device even when device is working correctly and problem is in device-activation for cellular connection.

In next 5 years, every person in developed counties (including USA) will be using at-least 5 to 8 cellular-IoT devices in their car, wearables, home security, home automation and predictive maintenance type use-cases.  Growth is explosive with technology evolving very fast. Hence, experts help should be used to avoid costly mistakes in new device launches.  Enterprise is best advised to add consulting experts as part of their team to make sure cellular-IoT lifecycles issues are properly covered at product strategy, planning, implementation and operational stages of products.

Cellular-IoT Strategy and Planning

Enterprise Wireless should ideally be approached at the drawing board with a forward-thinking, well-educated and robust strategy that aligns with the fundamental goals of the entire business.

While this in itself is a challenge for Enterprise leaders, they must ensure that the senior executives of the organization are fully bought-in to their mobile strategy, and that there is a positive mind-set towards the transformative nature of such technologies upheld throughout.

Beyond these core aspects of introducing mobility into an organization, the strategic vision also needs to answer the diverse range of questions presented by such a fragmented and vast marketplace which is constantly evolving.

Enterprise faces many cellular-IoT issues while adding it as part of Enterprise IoT solution and products. Some of the Enterprise Cellular-IoT issues are as follows:

  • Device on-boarding for cellular-IoT as different MNOs have different device on-boarding processes
  • Device-activation issues (and associated customer returns)
  • How to maintain Enterprise Security for traffic going across MNO
  • Avoid dependence of one MNO and ability to use multiple MNO options
  • Optimize roaming cost
  • Subscription Management to adapt to local country or region
  • Deal with MNOs based on device location country / area of installation / usage
  • Fraud, Misuse of cellular-IoT devices, High unexplained subscriber traffic
  • Direct connection from Enterprise to MNO
  • AI, Analytics
  • MNO relationship management

Alot of these issues are beyond the scope of what a single MNO can solve and often Enterprise does not have the skills to manage it on their own. Most MNOs want exclusive relationship with an Enterprise which is not a desirable long-term strategic option for Enterprise. So how to bridge this enterprise-MNO relationship gap to make everyone happy?

One option to bridge the Enterprise to MNO gap is to use Managed MNO Services to manage Enterprise to MNO relationship and development of multi-MNO solution. Many industry verticals require special solutions which are not available from MNOs for their cellular-IoT requirements. For example- eSIM technology was created by Telematics Industry (as a whole) partnering with GSMA to solve MNO-mobility issues as vehicles change ownership or country of usage.

To navigate these challenging processes and essentially reach the strategic goals that Enterprise-IoT should be pointing towards, enterprises should seek help and guidance from experienced partners and solution providers when devising their mobile strategies, and trust the expertise at their disposal.

IoT Security

IoT Security is extremely important. Without IoT security, Solution will not be deployed regardless of business value that it creates. IoT security framework needs to be considered as an end-to-end solution which makes sure that no vulnerable access or link can be exploited. Security must be designed in a way that system usability is not compromised. This is not an east art to master. Many people look at security only for the pieces that they are responsible for and not contribute actively for overall security. Security is a collaborative and team effort from special people who focus on security aspect only. In some cases, over engineering is done in the name of security without considering the need of it and grows cost of project. So, this is a balancing act as well.

One example of IoT security worth considering is – Hackers who try to move sim-card out of device (thing such as utility meter or vending machine)  and use it for illegal purpose.  Detection of fraud at the end of month could be too late for fraud cases because Enterprise is liable for all the traffic & it may be too late to act on SIM-cards & subscriptions that are used in fraud. It is desirable to get “near” real-time traffic feedback of such hacking activity to stop it in a timely manner without incurring huge-cost which is a pass-through from MNO perspective.

Other IoT security example – Hacker network may try to act like MNO to try and connect to device and extract data. Creating a hacker network locally is becoming easier by the day. 3GPP and other standards forum try to plug security holes. However, for high value targets, high-value hacker option is not impossible.

Enterprise Edge connected directly to MNO-network provides additional mobile security as connection via Internet is avoided.  With SD-WAN connections being available, direct connection from Enterprise to MNO has become a lot easier. Some MNOs offer additional Enterprise Private Network services for directly connected Enterprise which can be of great help in keeping Enterprise-traffic completely private.

No solution is completely fool-proof. The best option for security is to design it in a way that it is hard for attacker to attack at very high cost and security solution is dynamic enough to detect and eliminate any attack in a timely manner. Also, continuous security monitoring and update is necessary to keep solution up-to-date and stay ahead in this cat & mouse game.

Enterprise Edge + Cloud

Edge Compute is an essential part of architecture and design that is needed to enable scalable architecture for massive IoT deployment or when data generated from IoT device is significantly large or time-sensitive for processing.

MNOs are also deploying Edge Compute Infrastructure for similar reasons.  Public Cloud vendors are also adding Edge Compute Infrastructure as part of their product offering. Every market maker is pitching their edge-compute Infrastructure option to be the best option for Enterprise.  However, no one has a proven solution yet and market is evolving rapidly. Edge Client-support is needed for MNO-based Edge-Compute to enable smooth separation between Edge-Compute functions and Core-Network functions. For this reason alone, Edge-support for Smartphone / user-devices may evolve differently from Edge-support for IoT devices.

In our view, Enterprise should take a step-back and evaluate option at long-term strategic level.  Edge-Compute requirements can be analyzed for two different Enterprise use-case categories:

  • IoT added as part of company products in an industry vertical such as smart-industry, home-security, Telematics / transport, Drones & Wearables
  • Enterprise branch office Edge-Compute Solution hosting devices from multiple vendors

Enterprise strategy, requirements and architecture shall be vastly different for two use-cases categories identified above.

Most IoT enabled products are proprietary and there is very little focus on creating industry standards. Most of the products using IoT today are consumer products by large market makers such as Apple, Samsung and others who have the market power to push proprietary solution to replicate Apple’s success with smartphones. For Telematics and Drones, MNO traffic management and device management creates challenging issues. MNOs want exclusive relationship for many of these vertical market players as each car manufacturer (for example) can potentially add several million customers for each MNO. In our view, as a long-term strategy, Telematics industry businesses should invest heavily in creating a multi-MNO solution at continent-scale and hire mobile consultants (like us) to build a mobile center of excellence as their strategic product differentiation asset. Similarly, Drones and other industry verticals can be analyzed separately as each of these use-cases are unique. Each vertical market shall evolve separately and each market is going to grow significantly in future. Mobilestack can offer expertise in development of Edge Compute solution for our clients at strategic, planning, implementation and operational level to help Enterprise develop such solutions.

For second use-case, Enterprise will use multiple vendors as part of Multi-Tenant Edge Compute within building or local geographic area. A good example of this is hospitals. Integration of several proprietary solutions will be hard and make market penetration of such products very low. Again, Health care-industry level efforts are needed to develop an edge-compute infrastructure which is application-vendor neural, open and secure. This will also require industry-standards and open-source solutions that can be used as part of Edge-Compute infrastructure. Industry forum is required to drive such objectives. Effort is needed to develop such solutions asap. This problem is too big for any Enterprise to solve.

Cloud providers are trying to solve this in their own proprietary manner to specifically grow their own Cloud business. In our view, some big Enterprise should work together to create MNO-neutral and Cloud service provider (CSP)-neutral platform which can allow deployment of multi-tenant applicants from different vendors. The good news is that MNOs want a similar platform available at bigger scale for their own solution. Open Source forums are also striving for similar goals. It is early stage for these solutions. Active participation of Enterprise customers is needed to steer these solutions in the right direction.

To mitigate Fraud risks, Enterprise needs to monitor & analyze “traffic usage pattern” as most operators do consolidated billing across all Enterprise subscribers on a monthly basis.  Enterprise-Edge can play a huge role in providing near real-time traffic analysis on a per subscription basis to identify fraud in a timely manner and save operational cost.

Multi-MNO Solution – Pros & Cons

No MNO wants Enterprise to develop Multi-MNO solution. What does the Enterprise want? Not many Enterprise stake-holders have clarity on this. In our view, a lot depends on business and scale of IoT devices that are going to be deployed. For small-cap or mid-cap businesses developing IoT solution, access to a consolidator type solution is beneficial and developed as community with the help of mobile experts like Mobilestack Inc. VCs need to consider investments in such options after community requirements and business case is established.

For large cap businesses developing IoT based products or services, development of multi-MNO global solution should be part of strategically important. Telematics manufactures is a very big example to learn from.  Car manufacturers (such as GM and Ford) have been using cellular-IoT in a car as part of safety security diagnostics (SSD) solution for many years and there are many lessons that can be learnt from these experiences.

Many MNOs are developing global connectivity solutions to cater to these large Enterprise requirements in the hope of getting exclusive relationship from large cap businesses. MNOs are also willing to offer deep discounts to make get exclusive contracts and weaken Enterprise business cases for development of multi-MNO solution.

Multi-MNO solution has many advantages for large / Global IoT deployments. Long term cost advantages, future proof solution, ability to overcome MNO merger, technology upgrade or coverage issues, faster time-to-market using new technology features or new wireless technology, mergers etc are examples of benefits of using multi-MNO solution.

However, development of multi-MNO solution poses significant challenges as well. For initial product launch with faster time-to-market considerations, it may be harder to justify multi-MNO solution which is likely to take longer to implement.  Development of multi-MNO solution requires significant wireless product development experience which is not the focus of businesses in vertical markets except Telecom MNOs or Cable providers. In our view, multi-MNO solution is going to be different for different market verticals. Industry forums in different market verticals should work together to create an architecture, design and reference implementation that can be used by all businesses in an industry vertical with minor tweaks for differentiation. This could be developed as community funded program which is managed by mobile industry experts.

Enterprise needs to engage with mobile experts to help navigate this complex requirement and Mobilestack can help. Ask us for more details.

E-SIM – needed or not?

E-SIM solution was initially developed by Telematics industry forum working together with GSMA to solve subscription management issue as vehicles are sold or moved across country and continental boundaries or due to customer preference changes.  This technology was later adopted for smartphones and Wearables as part of broader GSMA effort to meet device manufacturer’s request and interest.  In a way, this is a good example of how good technology solution is created to serve pressing market needs.

E-SIM solution was specifically designed to enable change of MNO subscription over-the-air. Obviously, this solution is needed only when Enterprise mobile /IoT solution is using multiple-MNOs. This option can also be considered if Enterprise wants to support multiple-MNOs in future.  Many MNOs support e-SIM solution today.  E-SIM solution can also be considered as part of future-proofing of Enterprise solution

Enterprise needs to consider this feature based on use-case requirements and mobile strategy. Since technology is new, inter-MNO transfer has its challenges for smooth execution. However, technology is improving rapidly and likely to remove operational challenges soon.

Enterprise needs to engage with mobile experts to help navigate this complex requirement and Mobilestack can help. Ask us for more details.

MNO Relationship Management

MNO relationship management refers to Enterprise IT application integration with MNO’s subscription management and billing solution. This is an important operational piece which is used for device management, customer on-boarding, subscriber management, device activation and localization of Enterprise devices.  Good integration of Enterprise application with MNO’s IT subscriber management portal is very important. In our experience, both, MNO and Enterprise shall equally benefit in making this integration work smoothly.  Since MNOs main focus is on Consumer side, their Enterprise IT-solutions are still evolving and may not be as smooth for Enterprise device on-boarding and activation. Similarly, there can be other issues such as understanding gaps of how MNOs portal / subscriber management works, Enterprise Application issues which can contribute to bad end-user experience and higher %age of customer returns. Easily, this can prove to be very costly for Enterprise or/and MNO. Periodic operational review between Enterprise and MNO is also recommended to mitigate these risks.  Through testing of such procedures should also be done.  This testing should include several geographic locations (including roaming locations) to ensure that device activation and customer on-boarding works well across full geographic scope of Enterprise product launch. Good knowledge of MNO’s IT and network is also necessary to ensure that full testing is completed. Good operational level relationship with well-defined escalation procedures should also be created to ensure that end-user issues can be solved in a timely manner. Refer to another article “Ten steps of adding LTE to a Wearable” to understand lifecycle issues of launching a product with cellular connectivity.

Enterprise-MNO relationship has many pain-points despite best efforts of Enterprise and MNO to make this marriage successful. So, what is the best option to make this marriage work? Use a marriage counselor – introducing Managed MNO Services for Enterprise. Mobilestack Inc can offer Managed MNO services to eliminate such pain-point. Ask us for more details.

Instead of trying DIY option with costly mistakes and pain-points for MNOs as well as Enterprise productivity, Enterprise is better off hiring Managed MNO Services as part of in-house expertise & knowledge to use best practices of working with MNOs for Mobile connectivity Solution using Plan, Build, Operate model to ensure best result.

Conclusion

Enterprise cellular-IoT will bring a number of challenging decisions for business leaders to make, as well as difficulties with the complexities of development and implementation. To address these Enterprise-IoT challenges, Telecom/Carrier center of Excellence, in partnership with mobile consulting experts, should be created within enterprise with measurable results and ROI objectives.

It is clear from the exploration of the challenges featured within this report that proper strategy and planning is needed to ensure good results during build and operational phase of such projects. There is still plenty of confusion within the market caused by the pace at which technology evolves, but this fragmented landscape is not something that enterprises should have to deal with on their own.

In order to overcome these challenges, senior decision makers should be prepared to take risks, embracing the failures which will inevitably occur as learning opportunities rather than backwards steps, and perhaps most importantly they need to be brave with their investments in Enterprise-IoT Solutions and Services.

Mobilestack Inc is an expert in Mobile and Wireless technology and available to help in proper planning and project implementation of Enterprise cellular-IoT / Edge solution projects. Contact us for more details.

Mobilestack Inc offers free initial consulting to better understand value proposition of hiring Mobilestack Inc for Enterprise cellular-IoT connectivity projects

Would you like to learn more about how we can help clients in solving Enterprise Cellular-IoT and MNO-relationship pain-points? Contact us for more details.

Top Enterprise-Mobility Challenges: How to Tackle

Executive summary

Enterprise move to Mobile Platform is a necessity with wireless connection becoming a default option for connecting everything. Enterprise Cellular Connectivity requirement is growing in many different ways. However, adding cellular connectivity as part of Enterprise IT, mobile strategy and products have a lot of challenges and pain points that senior decision makers must weigh against the benefits, in order to achieve ROI, productivity and new revenue / products objectives.

This causes many difficulties for the leadership of enterprise IT and product development departments to combat, but Cellular Connectivity & value-added services is a necessary component of gaining advantages over competitors both as an employer, and a business, in the modern world.

1.  Mobile strategy & planning

Mobile technology can no longer be ignored as a key component of how people go about their daily lives in the modern world, and every organization should be attempting to build an understanding of how to leverage it to improve their business.

Enterprise is adopting Mobile & Cellular technology in many different ways.  Mobile office is becoming essential part of every enterprise and Enterprise-IT is looking for best ways to maintain security with high-level of connectivity to ensure business agility and productivity. The de-facto method of connectivity has become Wireless Connectivity.

Enterprise Wireless should ideally be approached at the drawing board with a forward-thinking, well-educated and robust strategy that aligns with the fundamental goals of the entire business.

While this in itself is a challenge for Enterprise leaders, they must ensure that the senior executives of the organization are fully bought-in to their mobile strategy, and that there is a positive mind-set towards the transformative nature of such technologies upheld throughout.

Beyond these core aspects of introducing mobility into an organization, the strategic vision also needs to answer the diverse range of questions presented by such a fragmented and vast marketplace which is constantly evolving.

CIOs will typically place mobility high in their IT priorities, but mobility is no where near high enough in terms of IT budgets, which is a mistake being made by a large number of organizations. IT leaders have been talking about mobile technology in terms of strategy for some time now, but levels of investment and resulting implementations are still not driving the necessary business transformation.

To navigate these challenging processes and essentially reach the universal goals that mobile technology should be pointing towards, enterprises should seek help and guidance from experienced partners and solution providers when devising their mobile strategies, and trust the expertise at their disposal.

Firstly, a mobile strategy should not aim to look too far into the future, because change within the marketplace happens so fast, organizations need to have a dynamic strategy which focuses on present opportunities and considers scalability. Furthermore, failure to involve all the right stakeholders and lines of business when mapping out a strategy will hinder mobility from re-defining mission-critical workflows and processes.

One increasingly popular method of nurturing this universal engagement throughout an organization is by establishing a Mobile Centre of Excellence, which brings together representation of all business units with industry experts and maximises the use of the most relevant expertise for all aspects of enterprise mobility.

Although this is traditionally a larger enterprise initiative, it is a concept which can be useful for leveraging existing IT capabilities, helping to define standards, provide better educated decision making for vendor selection, and guide other important steps within the strategy.

This can facilitate the governance to become mobile first, saving time, money and risk for the organization.

It is then critical to understand that mobility is a conduit for business innovation, and can deliver immeasurable improvements to enterprises that implement such technologies with a sufficient strategy in place. The companies that have taken the biggest leaps towards success with mobility, and towards becoming truly mobile-first, have often been cited as those with higher tolerances for failure.

Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of when investing in mobility, and subsequently deploying complex mobile solutions throughout a business, is that it is ok to fail, but those failures must be used to learn and to move forward more successfully in future.

This will help the organization overcome any fear factor related to the decision to invest in mobility, presenting the opportunity to maximise the potential of their implementations.

2.  Migration to Cloud + Mobile

Migration to Cloud (public or Private or Hybrid) is a growing trend considered by Enterprise as part of operational efficiency. As Enterprise applications are moved to Cloud, it is a good idea to consider a cloud choice which is best suited for migration to Mobile as one combined effort or future effort depending on Enterprise priority. However, factors to facilitate migration to Mobile must be considered during planning stage for migration to Cloud project.

This can involve making the decision between re-architecting existing applications for a mobile setting, or investing in developing new applications for specific use cases, as well as optimising all mobile systems within an organization to provide enhanced productivity and efficiency for the workforce.

3. Expected Mobile User Experience

When introducing mobile technology into workflows, the main objective is developing a working environment on a mobile device that allows employees to do the same work they can do at their desk, from virtually any location at any time.

However, the main challenge which underlines the strategic decision to mobilize within a business is to encourage and achieve user adoption of these apps, by delivering an intuitive and satisfying mobile experience.

Without a positive user experience, mobile apps will not be used to their full potential, and if apps are not fully adopted by employees, an organization will never gain the return on their investment that they planned for.

When stated in this way, it becomes clear just how important user experience is to the success of mobility deployments throughout an enterprise. It is all too frequent that IT departments overlook the experience their employees will encounter when working in a mobile setting, and as a result they settle for the average.

It is vital to ensure that shortcuts are never being taken in this area, otherwise employee satisfaction will not be achieved, and neither will a strong ROI. As per Gartner, most popular web-application should be selected for migration to Mobile platform first to get strong ROI.

Once Mobile user experience for application is well defined, enterprises can dedicate the necessary level of investment into ensuring that their chance of user adoption is maximised, focusing on the quality of user experience as a high priority in terms of development resources and costs. Working with the right partners to advise, build, deploy and manage effective enterprise applications is essential to overcome difficulties achieving ROI and reaping the desired rewards with mobility.

4. Mobile Security

Concurrently, the aforementioned influx of devices causing management and security concerns within the enterprise is part of a wider spectrum of challenges related to the protection of corporate information and data.

There are, without doubt, a myriad of difficulties which arise from the ever-changing mobile landscape when attempting to instill the adequate security measures, and this area is the number one priority for many senior enterprise mobility practitioners.

Firstly, the appropriate authentication needs to be in place within all mobile channels, with access to the corporate network controlled at the correct levels. This will also involve the management of separate user identities in certain cases. Enterprise applications must then be secured to prevent data leakage when being used on personal devices.

Unfortunately for enterprises, employees themselves are also an enormous risk to security, especially when operating on mobile devices. Email and file sharing habits, accompanied by the use of unauthorised apps and similar hazardous behaviour will often raise concerns among IT leaders.

With all these issues to comprehend, it is then crucial to maintain the efficiency of these protected mobile channels to prevent the security measures from hindering employee productivity or satisfaction levels.

Security will remain a persistent and prominent issue in the mobile space, so organizations cannot be hesitant and wait for a miracle solution to solve the challenges for them. Unlike other aspects of mobility, security is a constant across industry, business size and use case, and it is absolutely essential for any organization to ensure the sufficient measures are taken to secure corporate data regardless of the mobile initiative.

IT leaders should be prepared to trial security strategies and learn from their mistakes, investing the necessary resources in order to ensure they do not suffer from a severe breach or attack.

There are many diverse and agile solutions available in the current market, many of which are now focusing heavily on applications and data, which can help solve these security issues for enterprises, with complex and meticulous capabilities. No matter what solutions are implemented, IT leaders need to consistently encourage the correct use of the highest quality mobile security tools available, throughout the entire enterprise and across all lines of business.

To truly cover the needs of a secure mobile strategy, organizations will want to nurture a multi-layered approach that can prevent threats against their sensitive and valuable information. They should authenticate their enterprise applications, reinforce this with some form of agile device management solution, and then ensure their wider corporate networks are also equipped with measures of protection.

5. Multi-MNO Support – Pros & Cons

Enterprise wants to use multiple MNOs for company business, products and services. However, MNO wants exclusive relationship with Enterprise. Enterprise relationship with MNO is not always a smooth experience despite best effort of MNO and Enterprise to make this marriage successful.

95% of organizations allow employee owned devices to be used for work purpose. Cellular connectivity is getting added as part of company products and services and support of all MNOs for company business and services is critical. This is in fundamental conflict with MNO-mission of building exclusive relationships with Enterprise businesses.

How to best support multiple MNOs for Enterprise business? It is not easy. Each MNO has different way of working with enterprise.  Adding each MNO as part of Enterprise relationship has a cost and pain-points which has to be analyzed for benefits.

Much like cloud development, using MNO infrastructure for cellular connection is proprietary and effort is needed to integrate every new MNO as part of Enterprise IT and product configuration. This is where hiring an expert to help in development of multi-MNO support and mobile strategy development is important and cost-effective instead of trying to Do-It-Yourself (DIY).

Therefore, Enterprise IT and product development decision makers should look at MNO-support options very carefully and strive for multi-MNO support as strategic shift. In long run, multi-MNO support is always desirable and keeps Enterprise-IT and product development adopt to best connectivity options as cellular technology evolves or MNO business changes (such as MNO merger or late adoption of new technology).

Employee Mobility for work has following options:

  • Separate business mobile device Vs personal device
  • Use personal device for business purpose – BYOD

Both options have pros and cons.  BYOD requires multi-MNO support by Enterprise-IT. Separate business device allows company to choose one operator and extend / support only one MNO for corporate assets.

6. Mobile Application Strategy

Balancing security with usability, to enable productivity for users within large corporate IT networks, is a challenge which naturally serves the key step of enterprise mobile strategies, which is developing and deploying mobile applications.

Within this critical process, there are many decisions which must be made that can be extremely challenging for IT leaders if they are not fully equipped with the necessary resources or expertise.

This can include deciding whether to develop apps in-house, or finding the right partners to work with when outsourcing development, imploring a BYOT approach, code-less development, HTML5, native apps, and even hybrid, custom or cloud-based apps.

These issues are compounded by cost of development, customization, testing, successful deployment, and as previously mentioned, adoption of the enterprise applications. All of these aspects will be challenging in specific ways based on the industry verticals that enterprises operate in, as well as the types of devices, operating systems and also use cases that the apps must be compatible with.

Once apps are deployed throughout the organization, it is then important that they can be properly hosted and maintained under the necessary amount of control by the IT department. Designing apps without considering their full lifecycle and the related support is a significant weakness in the opinion of David Krebs, Executive Vice President, VDC Research; another Enterprise Mobility Exchange Advisory Council mainstay. Understanding the lifecycle of apps is a crucial component of the process, and many organizations don’t think from the standpoint of how their mobile deployments will need to be upgraded, which in turn becomes a pain point down the road.

At the core of all of these issues, the question enterprises must be able to answer when devising their strategy is what functionalities and requirements they need to satisfy with their mobile apps. Once it is understood, the route to take in terms of development will appear to be clearer and more straight-forward.

There is also a significant opportunity in custom development for mobile enterprises, and that is commonly met through internal development or third-party solution providers, with more and more standardization occurring in terms of reducing the time spent on development, and the task of then integrating and deploying those apps.

Whichever option is taken in this area by organizations, it is critical to make these decisions at the beginning of the process, and understand exactly what is needed from the apps to ensure the decision is the correct one. When budgeting for both the time and costs of the development, enterprises should weigh up the pros and cons, considering all the tools available.

As long as the security, the maintenance and the usability of the applications are built into the development strategy, the investment will be justified by the adoption among the workforce.

Conclusion

Due to its highly transformative nature, enterprise mobility will always bring with it a number of challenging decisions for business leaders to make, as well as difficulties with the complexities of development and implementation. To tackle migration to mobile platform challenges, Enterprise center of Excellence, in partnership with mobile consulting experts, should be created within enterprise with measurable results and ROI objectives.

It is clear from the exploration of the six challenges featured within this report that there is a great deal of crossover between the diverse areas of enterprise mobility within an organization, which makes it even more important to ensure the approach to mobility, and the solutions that are implemented in doing so, are fully understood and leveraged correctly. There is still plenty of confusion within the market caused by the pace at which technology evolves, but this fragmented landscape is not something that enterprises should have to deal with on their own.

In order to overcome these challenges, senior decision makers should be prepared to take risks, embracing the failures which will inevitably occur as learning opportunities rather than backwards steps, and perhaps most importantly they need to be brave with their investments in the mobile productivity solutions available.

Mobilestack Inc is an expert in Mobile and Wireless technology and available to help navigate this complex transformation to Mobile or Mobile + Cloud. We offer free webinars on this topic for education purpose and enable Enterprise to take more educated decisions in the marketplace.  Join us for free webinars.

Mobilestack Inc also offers free initial consulting to better understand value proposition of hiring Mobilestack for Enterprise Mobility consulting & engineering services.

Contact Mobilestack Inc for Enterprise Mobility Consulting packages which will help in providing regular updates on challenges of Enterprise Mobility strategy, Migration to Mobile+Cloud, Mobile Security and Multi-MNO relationship aspects.

Managed MNO Services for Enterprise

Enterprise relationship with MNO is not always a smooth experience despite best effort of MNO and Enterprise to make this marriage successful.  So, what are the best option to make this marriage work. Use a marriage counselor – introducing Managed MNO Services for Enterprise. Instead of trying DIY option with costly mistakes and pain-points for MNOs as well as Enterprise productivity, Enterprise is better off hiring Managed MNO Services as part of in-house expertise & knowledge to use best practices of working with MNOs for Mobile connectivity Solution using Plan, Build and Operate model to ensure best result.

Mobile Enterprise is becoming business critical. Enterprise is adopting Mobile & Cellular technology in many different ways.  Mobile office is becoming essential part of every enterprise and Enterprise-IT is looking for best ways to maintain security with high-level of connectivity to ensure business agility and productivity. The de facto method of connectivity has become Wireless Connectivity.

In many cases, Wireless connectivity is added as part of Enterprise Products and Services. Next generation of products are adding wireless connectivity to solve customer pain-points such as product maintenance or develop new services that are important for business growth.

Yet, wireless connectivity solution is not easy. Enterprise faces many cellular connectivity issues. Some use-cases of Enterprise Cellular Connectivity issues are captured in my article / blog titled – Ten steps of adding LTE to a Wearable. Some of the Enterprise Cellular connectivity issues are as follows:

  • Device on-boarding for cellular connectivity as different MNOs have different device on-boarding processes
  • Device-activation issues (and associated customer returns)
  • How to maintain Enterprise Security for traffic going across MNO
  • Avoid dependence of one MNO and ability to use multiple MNO options
  • Optimize roaming cost
  • Subscription Management to adapt to local country or region
  • Deal with MNOs based on device location country / area of installation / usage
  • Fraud, Misuse of cellular connection, High unexplained subscriber traffic
  • Direct connection from Enterprise to MNO
  • AI, Analytics
  • MNO relationship management

Alot of these issues are beyond the scope of what a single MNO can solve and Enterprise often do not have the skills to manage it on their own. Most MNOs want exclusive relationship with an Enterprise which is not the most cost effective solution for Enterprise. So how to bridge this enterprise to mobile network gap to make everyone happy? 

Best option to bridge the Enterprise to MNO gap is to use Managed MNO Services to manage Enterprise to MNO relationships. Many industry verticals require special solutions which are not available from MNOs to best match their cellular connectivity requirements. For example- eSIM technology was created by Telematics Industry (as a whole) partnering with GSMA to solve MNO-mobility issues as vehicles change ownership or country of usage.

Mobilestack Inc offers Managed MNO Services for Enterprise to build Cellular connectivity solution that is the best fit for Enterprise and implemented with smoother operational efficiency. These services are offered as flexible build-to-suit package for Enterprise Requirements.  Please contact Mobilestack Inc for more details about managed MNO services or email directly to pgupta at Mobilestack dot com.

City Planning for 5G

City and County administrations are struggling to deal with 5G related development and regulatory issues. However, Wireless development issues can no longer be ignored as non-essential / adhoc functions of the City administration. 5G needs urgent attention within City regulatory & development planning departments to prepare for a 5G future. Smart City development work is also part of City Planning for 5G.

5G Wireless policy / regulatory / development framework is needed for following 5G activities:

  1. City Planning Procedures and Policy for Small Cell deployment

    City / County Planning needs to better understanding FCC-18–133 order that was recently passed at federal level and what does this mean for City Planning. How to best create a balance between Public concerns, City Control on Policy & Planning and MNOs demand for 5G Small Cell deployment which is going to grow significantly starting this year and accelerate in 2020 and beyond. We have deep understanding of Wireless & 5G technologies and can be used as subject matter expert to advise City in these matters.

  2. Wireless Permitting

    Wireless deployment is going to grow at public places, Street Furniture and In-Building deployment. What can be done to facilitate In-building Wireless deployments specially as new technology of CBRS and WiFi Wireless deployments is going to grow? This issue is more urgent for deployment of wireless in public places and commercial structures.

  3. Public-Private Partnership

    City can use 5G as new revenue opportunity and create City Furniture, Street Planning & Infrastructure development that can generate extra revenue for City with very little cost. Refer our blog post on Public-Private partnership which covers different ways in which City can help in development of Wireless and what is best policy / strategy to engage in this opportunity. In our view, exclusive contracts with certain MNO (which has been done by few cities) is not the right strategy as it creates unfair advantage for them. This is likely to cause future lawsuits. Cities role is to create level-playing field for all MNOs and this role is new for Cities to play. We can help in creating City’s policy to help create a level-playing field for different MNO’s deployment instead of signing exclusive contracts with certain MNO.

  4. Smart City

    Wireless is playing a crucial role in Smart City Planning and development of smart city initiatives particularly for public parking, Traffic Monitoring, Traffic Cameras, Public Safety and City IoT deployments.

Mobilestack Inc is a 5G Consulting firm engaged with many City, County, State and Country level policy making for Wireless & 5G deployment.
Please connect with Mobilestack Inc to discuss these topics in detail and help create proper City Planning framework for 5G deployment. I can be contacted by email — pgupta at mobilestack dot com.

Ten steps of adding LTE to a Wearable?

Adding LTE to a Wearable is not as easy as adding Bluetooth to a Wearable. Mobilestack Inc has deep experience in adding cellular technology to a Wearable and launching it in a carrier network. In this article, I want to outline steps for adding LTE / CAT-M / NB-IoT or legacy 2G / 3G wireless technology to a Wearable.

Adding a cellular modem to a wearable is a very different wireless design lifecycle Vs Bluetooth integration into Wearable. In a way, Cellular Modem enabled Wearable is a completely separate category of device Vs Bluetooth enabled device. Bluetooth enabled Wearable design is limited to hardware and software engineering effort to make it work with smartphone application that is optimized to reduce battery consumption as much as possible without compromising on user experience. WiFi connectivity solution is little more complex Vs Bluetooth because of new WiFi-6 design for IoT devices or WiFi AP-setting for wearable device. Still, this is not as complex as adding cellular connectivity solution to a wearable.

Adding LTE to Wearable has many product dimensions and life-cycle steps. Steps involved from idea to launch for adding LTE to a Wearable device are as follows:

Step-1: Product Requirements Definition:

Requirements definition needs to capture answer of following questions:

What is the main business objective of adding LTE to Wearables? What if LTE / CAT-M / NB-IoT coverage is not available at a given location – Is there a need to support 3G/2G as fallback option? Target market? Engage with mobile operators in target market for Wearable support and develop business case for operator support and technical requirements. New device features such as device management requirements, SIM Vs eSIM, Firmware update, Device security, Supply chain impacts, Number sharing, Voice Support, Text Message support are good examples of device requirements that must be considered.

Mobilestack Inc is very familiar with details of device requirements and pros/cons of different features that must be planned for IoT device development.

Step-2: Wireless Technology Choices

Based on device requirements, Wireless Technology choices must be made.

Band support:- Which RF bands are supported by target device. It is not feasible to add all RF bands and device OEM may be required to pick and choose. This choice will define the global footprint in which OEM device will potentially work. In other areas (not supported by RF-bands of Wearable), only Bluetooth or WiFi will work and Cellular modem has to be disabled.

Wireless Technology Choice – There are few options to be considered: LTE-Only, LTE/3G/2G, CAT-M Only, CAT-M / NB-IoT, CAT-M / 3G, NB-IOT/3G, CAT-M/NB-IoT/3G etc.

SIM technology and form-factor choice – One major decision is SIM Vs eSIM. How about SIM-Swap support? What SIM form-factor is best suited – such as Industrial grade embedded, Commercial-grade Embedded SIM or Removable SIM?

Mobilestack Inc has deep expertise in wireless technology choices and we can help customers in this step.

Step-3: Planning

Detailed planning is needed including discussion with all stakeholders- Sales, Supply Chain, Vendors, Mobile Operators as Partners, Engineering, Product Management and Operational teams that will be involved in any new wireless device development, launch, sales and operational processes. New testing and device activation work-flows have to be worked out to create expectation alignment of all stakeholders.

Mobilestack Inc can help customers in planning this project to ensure the success and eliminate cost-overrun due to bad planning.

Step-4: Supply Chain impact and Vendor Selection

By adding Cellular Wireless connectivity, new vendors for wireless module and SIM-card are added as part of supply chain. Also, operator certified Wireless Module + SIM-card must be tested (on operator network or stand-alone) before it is added to a target device. Since most of this supply chain process is done off-shore, there are challenges in achieving smooth process for this step.

There are ways to solve this issue and Mobilestack Inc can help.

Step-5: Product Design

This has two components i.e. Hardware design and software design

Hardware design – Main design considerations are: Antenna Placement, Battery Power Management, Wireless Module integration, SIM-card placement, Battery capacity augmentation

Software design – Power management, always best connected Solution switching between Bluetooth and Cellular, One number solution for Voice, messaging services, Firmware update (FOTA), Device Activation / change in ownership aspects, eSIM / SIM-Management aspects, future-proofing of solution to enable eSIM later-on, User Interface impacts.

Customer experience should be painless and simple for using and activating wearable device. Usability factor will drive customer adoption. Bad usability or complex device activation process will create customer returns of a good working device. This should be considered as key performance indicator of device success among others.

Mobilestack Inc has deep expertise in Wireless Design and Engineering services.

Step-6: Development

Execute on Wireless design identified in step-5 above. Development should use agile development process with measurable progress and DevOps development model for frequent integration testing.

Mobilestack Inc offers cost-effective Wireless Connectivity Design and Development Services to achieve faster time-to-market for our customers.

Step-7: Testing

System level testing must be done after development is completed with focus on automation as much as possible. Also, field testing must be included as part of this testing in which device is tested at multiple different locations with specific focus on edge cases such as roaming (specially new device activation in roaming), coverage edge of 4G and 3G etc. Mobile Operator resources can be used for field device testing.

Mobilestack Inc has expertise in creating test-plans (or advice customers on test-planning) and actual testing of wireless devices.

Step-8: Device Certification

In this step, device is submitted to different device certification centers that are approved by Mobile Operators including any in-house device testing by Mobile Operator. Not all operators require in-house device certification testing. So, as part of device planning step, Device certification plan must be developed and executed as part of this step. Before device launch, as part of pre-launch testing, Mobile Operator requires test-devices in large number for internal testing by different stakeholders including network operation team and regional / nation-side device sales and marketing channels.

Step-9: Device On-boarding process

For launch, Operator defined device on-boarding process must be followed. This includes submission of millions of manufactured devices identity (IMEI) and SIM-card identity (ICCID) details of devices (going on future sale) to Operator for proper provisioning or device on-boarding. It is best to integrate this process as part of supply chain of Device Manufacturing process. In the case of e-SIM based development, this process will be slightly different.

Mobilestack Inc can help navigate this process for our customers.

Step-10: Launch

Congratulations for reaching on the finish-line. First few days of launch should be spent in a device launch war room to help operators and all different sales channel trouble-shooting and support. This is the most rewarding phase of project and smooth launch will help elevate device OEMs image in the marketplace.

After a month of launch, Device OEM can do a project post-mortem analysis to identify lessons learnt during this journey for future improvements. Smooth device launch and good customer reviews help in building Device OEM’s brand equity. All efforts must be made to make launch successful in a timely manner specially around Nov-Dec timeframe when alot of OEMs are trying to launch their device and Mobile Operators are always very busy.

Contact us

Please reach out to contact at Mobilestack.com for any feedback, comments or questions. Fill up the contact form.

5G Infrastructure Pillers for Network Densification

5G race has already started. There is talk of USA vs Pacific (China / Japan / S. Korea) competition for this race. What is needed to deploy 5G quickly to win the race?

Until now, Mobile Operators have grown their network independently. All USA Mobile Operators have their own assets for end-to-end solution with very little network sharing or roaming using other MNO’s network within USA. Given the Network densification requirements, this deployment model is not scale-able.

Cost of network densification is huge and not supported by business case of new revenue generation potential as of now. Given this situation, what are the best 5G Infrastructure Pillers for Densification? I have presented my ideas in this article to start a public debate / discussion for public-private partnership that will help in 5G network densification at a reasonable cost.

Pubic Private Partnership

Several key Public Private Partnership (PPP) 5G infrastructure initiatives can be created to help in 5G network densification. Examples are:

Fiber in the ground

In my view, this is a national strategic asset in which US federal / state governments invest to create digital highways much like physical highways system. This digital asset should be available at very reasonable cost to all stakeholders as part of OPEN Digital Highway Access mechanisms.

Fiber infrastructure is a “shared” strategic asset which can be offered to private partners and operators at very low cost with equal, fair, easy access rules without much bureaucracy involved in getting access. This can be called as “building strategic national asset initiative”. Some of this nation-wide IP-network capacity can also be used for defense, public-safety, rural, Smart City and Government IP-network requirements.

Street Furniture access

It is not feasible to develop separate street furniture locations for each operators with independent fiber infrastructure for each of them. One operator with leadership in Street Furniture access or bigger fiber infrastructure will create “unfair long-term advantage” for that specific Operator and erode revenue opportunities for other operators or smaller ISPs.

There is a need to create fair and equal access rule to Government and street assets that encourage network sharing. Creating separate street furniture access for each operator is not a scale-able and economically feasible option. So, fair and equitable rules for shared site access of street furniture managed by Govt / state / city administration at break-even cost is needed.

Three Pillers of 5G

Create regulatory policy and private-public partnership for deployment of following three pillers of 5G infrastructure building blocks:

  • Smart Building

Every building can have multi-MNO neutral-host and private 5G network deployment build on 5G network architecture principles of virtualization, Hardware-software separation, Network-slicing to ensure low cost in-building solution development and operational models.

  • Smart City

5G plays a key role in building Smart City Infrastructure. Develop new regulatory policies with new investments in Retail, Roads, Utiliities, Public-safety and city-level applications that can be replicated across many cities in a consistent manner.

  • Smart Transport

    Smart Transport 5G deployment and operational models must be developed with an objective of 5-year execution plan using Public-Private Partnership investment models. Every car, truck and public vehicle can deploy a 5G hotspot or relay devices for public / private network access, connected car applications and eventually autonomous applications as a long term plan.

Conclusion

These three 5G deployment pillers with Public Private Partnership will create GDP growth that is projected from 5G investments. Without concrete action plan for 5G investments to create GDP growth, this potential will not be achieved.

Private ownership should be encourages where-ever possible. However, fair and equitable Physical Resources access policy is needed to make sure that unfair advantage is not created for a specific operator via long-term agreements of exclusive use for any public physical resource.

5G in India – Need to create new Public Private Partnership Projects

5G race has already started. There is talk of USA vs Pacific (China / Japan / S. Korea) competition for this race. Where does India stand in this race?

India wants to lead in 5G race and created a regulatory policy framework to encourage investments. Is this enough to lead in 5G race? What other initiatives can be started to help lead in 5G race? In recent budget, 5G research funding was approved. This funding is used to buy 5G equipment as “import” vs self-reliance initiatives to build 5G infrastructure. In this article, I present few ideas to help India in 5G race outlined below:

R&D effort

Research and Development (including 240 Crores available) should be used to make India self-reliant. This money should be used as “seed capital” of IITs working closely with industry (or startups via open proposal mechanisms) to create sel-reliance in 5G infrastructure equipment development. Focus should be in development of new research and development initiative that can be commertialized in 2-3 years max with large private operator sponsorship and interest to deploy Indian 5G Equipment. Actively participate in ensuring that projects are successful.

Pubic Private Partnership

Several key Public Private Partnership (PPP) 5G infrastructure initiatives can be created to help in Indian 5G race. Examples are:

Fiber in the ground

Indian Government invest in building national-wide fiber and IP-network which can be offered to private partners and operators at very low cost with equal, fair, easy access rules without much bureaucracy involved in getting access. This can be called as “building strategic national asset initiative”. Some of this nation-wide IP-network capacity can also be used for defense, public-safety, rural, Smart City and Government IP-network requirements.

Street Furniture access

Create fair and equal access rule to Government and street assets that encourage network sharing. Creating separate street furniture access for each operator is not a scale-able and economically feasible option. So, fair and equitable rules for shared site access of street furniture managed by Govt / state / city administration at break-even cost is needed.

Three pillers of 5G

Create regulatory policy and private-public partnership for deployment of following three pillers of 5G infrastructure building blocks:

  • Smart Building

    Every building can have multi-MNO neutral-host and private 5G network deployment build on 5G network architecture principles of virtualization, Hardware-software separation, Network-slicing to ensure low cost in-building solution development and operational models.

  • Smart City

    – 5G plays a key role in building Smart City Infrastructure. Develop new regulatory policies with new investments in Retail, Roads, Utiliities, Public-safety and city-level applications that can be replicated across many cities in a consistent manner.

  • Smart Transport

    Railways and Roads 5G deployment and operational models must be developed with an objective of 5-year execution plan using Public-Private Partnership investment models. Every car and public vehicle can deploy a 5G hotspot or relay devices for public / private network access, connected car applications and eventually autonomous applications as a long term plan.

Conclusion

These three 5G deployment pillers with Public Private Partnership will create $1.4 trillian dollar GDP growth that is projected from 5G investments. Without concrete action plan for 5G investments to create GDP growth, this potential will not be achieved.

Indian policy makers have a choice today. Create an execution plan for 5G growth and investment OR miss out on the 5G race.

Mobilestack Inc can help build these policy initiatives for broader public good. Please contact us if needed to help develop 5G execution strategy for India.

5G Products from Mobilestack Inc

Mobilestack 5G Products using future-proof Hardware

Introduction

Future Proof 5G products are needed to reduce network cost with faster upgradability.  Hardware-Software separation provides cost efficient 4G/5G Network Equipment cost model that is desperately needed to reduce “total cost of ownership” for deploying 4G / 5G service. Mobilestack Inc provide 5G RAN software running on future-proof radio-network hardware.

RAN Hardware – Software separation

Given that MNOs margins are getting squeezed, Mobilestack wants to give complete ownership and independence to MNOs for RAN Hardware that is based on open hardware standards similar to “Open Compute Project” from facebook which help reduce cost of datacenter hardware by 50%. As of now, XRAN is considered to be the main focus for OPEN-RAN strategy.  However, I doubt that XRAN option is a good one because same vendor solution at BBU (RAN Base-Band Unit)  and RRU (RAN Remote UNIT) will always perform better.  No incumbent RAN vendors (such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei and other) want to give-up control on RAN-HW. If MNOs want to change the direction of this industry then they need to spend in new RAN startups like Mobilestack who are committed to support this architecture as part of their core mission and product strategy.

In my view, it is time to place bets on RAN Hardware Neutrality.  If we fail to adopt this strategy in 5G then it may be too late to do it in the future.  Mobilestack is not a hardware company, but we are willing to work with MNOs as a consultant to help them define this future and build open RAN HW ecosystem.

Small Cell 

Small cell is a major part of Network densification.  50% to 70% of small cell CAPEX is in “installation”. As number of small cells grows to millions in a network deployment, small cell hardware replacement is simply not an option.  This is the problem that we need to solve. The solution is to use future proof small cell “commodity” hardware that allows in-field upgrade from 4G to 5G. Commodity HW is the key differentiator here to create a very low cost small cell solution.

Use of future-proof hardware for small cell is business critical. Given that small cell is going to be deployed in millions of locations, hardware replacement cost will be huge and roll-out of new features requiring hardware upgrade will be extremely slow.

Relay Cell

5G relay cells are going to be deployed much like Verizon 5G service today which provide WiFi / 4G LTE inside the building or as local network and use 5G link to the macro / micro / small cell as backhaul.

Use of commodity RAN HW is business critical for this use-case as well. Today, Verizon has used “proprietary HW” with a critical need to upgrade when 3GPP compliant 5G Relay cell is available. Now, consider huge cost of this hardware replacement for Verizon which can be avoided if future-proof Relay-Cell hardware is used with customer replaceable parts for custom hardware if required.

Private LTE Network

Private LTE network create local private LTE network which can be used in many different vertical market use-cases in which “network delay and network coverage” is a huge consideration such as Hospitals, Hotels, Convention centers, Airports, Ports, Industrial complex or Oil & Gas markets.

Again, in these markets, use of commodity hardware and being able to use same hardware for future wireless upgrades will reduce “total cost of ownership” and encourage adoption. Mobilestack Inc is targeting these markets and invite customers to engage with us for trial / PoC demos.

Critical LTE Network

In recent CA fires and other natural disasters such as Puerto Rico,  restoration of Wireless Network is “mission critical” for public safety services and rescue operations.  Every second counts in these restoration efforts to provide help where it is needed and identify / locate people that need help.

This best option in these situations is to provide a portable LTE-solution that can be mounted on public safety vehicles / backpacks (such as fire trucks, Ambulances, FEMA resources) that can be connected to serve any operator's mobile phone / SIM-card.

Mobilestack Inc has developed a portable 3G/LTE-network solution (future upgradable to support 5G as well) to serve these critical needs. We invite customers to contact us for a trial / PoC demo.

Mobilestack Products

MobileStack Product Chart

Mobilestack Inc is creating 5G Products with focus on Hardware-Software separation and use commodity hardware to build 5G products and services. With main focus on Hardware-Software separation is the core differentiation for Mobilestack 5G products.

Customers from many vertical markets can leverage Mobilestack Inc products. We invite customer to contact us for details of our products and services with a trial, PoC as a start.

Demo Architecture

Our demo setup architecture is described in a diagram below:

 

Figure – Demo-Setup

Current Mobilestack Inc effort and prototype demo is available on YouTube at:

This demo proves feasibility of creating a future-proof radio-network solution. Instead of PC, for higher capacity requirements, Open Compute Platform (OCP) hardware can be used to run multiple instances of BBU. Intel is also creating Network Edge Virtualization (NEV) platform which is also a candidate hardware platform of higher capacity vBBU solution.

 

Collaborative Mobile Edge Computing in 5G Networks

Mobile applications are adopted and growing for every industry and market segment such as entertainment, business, education, health care, social networking, etc. Increased wireless application adoption is creating growth in mobile data traffic. As a result, Mobile data traffic is predicted to continue doubling each year. To keep up with these surging demands, network operators have to spend enormous efforts to improve users’ experience, while keeping a healthy revenue growth. To overcome the limitations of current Radio Access Networks (RANs), the two emerging paradigms have been proposed:

(i) Cloud Radio Access Network (C-RAN), which aims at the centralization of Base Station (BS) functions via virtualization

(ii) Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), which proposes to empower the network edge.

While the two technologies propose to move computing capabilities to different direction (to the cloud versus to the edge), they are complementary and each has a unique position in the 5G ecosystem.

Fig-1 Mobile Edge Computing

As depicted in Fig. 1, MEC servers are implemented directly at the BSs using generic-computing platform, allowing the execution of applications in close proximity to end users. With this position, MEC can help fulfill the stringent low-latency requirement of 5G networks. Additionally, MEC offers various network improvements, including: (i) optimization of mobile resources by hosting compute-intensive applications at the network edge, (ii) pre-processing of large data before sending it (or some extracted features) to the cloud, and (iii) context-aware services with the help of RAN information such as cell load, user location, and allocated bandwidth. Although MEC principle also aligns with the concept of fog computing and the two are often referred to interchangeably, they slightly differ from each other. While fog computing is a general term that opposes with cloud computing in bringing the processing and storage resources to the lower layers, MEC specifically aims at extending these capabilities to the edge of the RAN with a new function splitting and a new interface between the BSs and upper layer. Fog computing is most commonly seen in enterprise-owned gateway devices whereas MEC infrastructure is implemented and owned by the network operators.
Fueled with the potential capabilities of MEC, we propose a real-time context-aware collaboration framework that lies at the edge of the cellular network and works side-by-side with the underlying communication network. In particular, we aim at exploring the synergies among connected entities in the MEC network to form a heterogeneous computing and storage resource pool. To illustrate the benefits and applicability of MEC collaboration in 5G networks, we present three usecases including mobile-edge orchestration, collaborative video caching and processing, and multi-layer interference cancellation. These initial target scenarios can be used as the basis for the formulation of a number of specific applications.

CASE STUDY: COLLABORATIVE VIDEO CACHING AND PROCESSING

Mobile video streaming traffic is predicted to account for 72% of the overall mobile data traffic by 2019, posing immense pressure on network operators. To overcome this challenge, edge caching has been recognized as a promising solution, by which popular videos are cached in the BSs or access points so that demands from users to the same content can be accommodated easily without duplicate transmission from remote servers. This approach helps substantially reduce backhaul usage and content access delay. While content caching and delivery techniques in wireless networks have been deployed extensively, existing approaches rarely exploit the synergy of caching and computing at the cache nodes. Due to the limited cache storage at individual BSs, the cache hit rate is still moderate.

With the emergence of MEC, it is possible to not only perform edge caching but also edge processing with artificial intelligence. Our approach will leverage edge processing capability to improve caching performance/efficiency. Such joint caching, processing and artificial intelligence solution will trade off  storage and computing resources with backhaul bandwidth consumption, which directly translates into sizable network cost saving. See figure

Figure – MEC-processing for Video Optimization

Due to the heterogeneity of user-device processing capabilities and the varying of network connections, user preference and demand towards a specific video might be different. For example – Based on terrain information of area based on anonymously-coded location of the user-device and history of data-performance in a certain location, optimum data-rate options for a video streaming to a user can be estimated. AI-enabled MEC Solution can help create a highly differentiated user video experience by an operator instead of simply acting as a bit-pipe. Video content distribution can become integral part of operator network with value-added or localized services based on the location of MEC-server on which video content distribution is running. Example of localized video content at MEC is – Educational content, Local News, Local business information & reviews etc.

Case Study – Mobile Edge Collaboration

In spite of the limited resources (e.g., battery, CPU, memory) on mobile devices, many computation-intensive applications from various domains such as computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are expected to work seamlessly with real-time responses. However, the traditional way of offloading computation to the remote cloud often leads to unacceptable delay and heavy backhaul usage. Owing to its distributed computing environment, MEC can be leveraged to deploy applications and services as well as to store and process content in close proximity to mobile users. This would enable applications to be split into small tasks with some of the tasks performed at the local or regional clouds as long as the latency and accuracy are preserved. In this case study, we envision a collaborative distributed computing framework where resource-constrained end-user devices outsource their computation to the upper-layer computing resources at the edge and cloud layers. Our framework extends the standard MEC originally formulated by ETSI, which only focuses on individual MEC entities and on the vertical interaction between end-users and a single MEC node. Conversely, our proposed collaborative framework will bring many individual entities and infrastructures to collaborate with each other in a distributed system. In particular, our framework oversees a hierarchical architecture consisting of:

  1. end-user, which implies both mobile—and static—end-user devices such as smart phones, sensors, actuators,
  2. edge nodes, which are the MEC servers co-located with the BSs, and
  • cloud node, which is the traditional cloud-computing server in a remote datacenter.

Our novel resource-management framework lies at the intermediate edge layer and orchestrates both the horizontal collaboration at the end-user layer and the MEC layer as well as the vertical collaboration between end-users, edge nodes, and cloud nodes. The framework will make dynamic decisions on “what” and “where” the tasks in an application should be executed based on the execution deadline, network conditions, and device battery capacity. See figure below for the example of Mobile-edge collaboration use-cases in which AI-enabled MEC can be used.

Figure – (a) Computer Vision Use-Case (b) Health-Care use-case collaboration

In contrast, AI-enabled MEC introduces a new stage of intelligent processing such that the edge nodes can analyze the data from nearby user-devices and notify cloud node for further processing only when there is a significant change in data or accuracy of results. In addition, sending raw-sensor values from end-users to the edge layer can overwhelm the fronthaul links, hence, depending on the storage and compute capabilities of user devices, information processing of other near-by devices and the network conditions, the AI-enabled MEC can direct the user devices to extract features from the raw-data before sending to the edge nodes.