As a basis for rolling out 5G and beyond, most carriers have been focused on network utilization and optimization to better monetize services, but have been limited in their ability to optimize spectrum utilization for the same purpose.
While 5G holds great promise for delivering higher network speeds and network utilization, unfortunately, the cost to deploy a full network solution across the U.S. will be enormous and perhaps only marginally feasible.
A significant barrier is regulatory limits on spectrum utilization and access. Carriers, mobile network operators, and spectrum access system providers are bound by limited spectrum resources that are governed by static frequency policies at the federal level.
From that context, an impediment to a truly successful 5G rollout is the industry “vertical” model of centralized cloud service, internet provider, and eNodeB large carrier cell towers. (eNodeB is the “evolved” element of an LTE radio access network.)
Instead, a distributed small cell with peer-to-peer or multi-access mobile edge computing architecture, that adjudicates spectrum in real time via an intelligent spectrum brokering approach, will offer true democratization of spectrum and a pathway toward monetization of ubiquitous 5G and beyond services. This approach also makes a sound economic case for carriers, federal agencies, and consumers.
Here are five ways the industry could get there:
1. Lightweight hypercloud and micro slice management
Real-time dynamic spectrum access systems enable efficient and secure wireless communications at levels previously unseen. By integrating a new spectrum approach within existing architectures, we can move from a stop-and-go or discrete micro slice architecture with inherent latencies to continuous micro slicing, where data flow is based on the whims of dynamic spectrum performance. In an artificial intelligence-driven, dynamic frequency model, the frequencies and related mesh network applications are continually updated in real time.
Key will be automated frequency coordination, a relatively new framework that facilitates a data cost card structure acting as a real-time, agile spectrum broker. This is where a horizontal model can deliver usage-based-pricing per segment (e.g. banking, content delivery, telehealth, smart cities, education).
2. Device rules of engagement
Devices will need to automatically negotiate with the spectrum and mesh network fabrics they operate within. 5G devices will need to be semi-autonomous in their ability to operate without human intervention to the extent necessary (with humans on, not necessarily in, the loop). Can we build smart algorithms that are service-level agreement driven?
How can we best leverage AI and machine learning to enable wireless devices to be “self aware,” self-adjust, and negotiate the ever-changing policy limits and environmental conditions they encounter? Can devices be trained not to hog up spectrum when they shouldn’t and release it to others as necessary and to develop monetized “rewards” for such actions?
3. Pay-as-you-go versus flat fee monetization
Pay-as-you-go models would by proxy include spectrum policy enforcement. Here, the industry could create economic “good citizen” incentives (“good corporate entities will pay less and be rewarded for using the spectrum in the right way”), automated with some form of human-on-a-loop.
Consumers at the edge will see lower latency which becomes critical in life-saving situations. With better and faster service on demand, the consumer becomes their own small cell or mini tower, leasing or owning the spectrum for the period of time that they need it, when they need it. Government stakeholders at the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration) are satisfied because they will see increased spectrum utilization, yes; but more critically, the gap for underserved, edge users located in rural markets will be closed.
4. Open standards
Open standards are critical to expand the community of adopters and users, who only interact with the communications process when needed. Heterogeneous devices will connect to “us” or “us to them” via an open standard interface. This ‘play fair and share’ model incentivizes all to fractionalize the wealth across more users, operating under a framework of the more users you have, the greater the potential for overall revenue growth.
Carriers and Spectrum Access System operators that have technological advantages will most likely want to offer hybrid solutions or “plus” solutions that go beyond standard/open options. Tread cautiously: as the market matures it may be wise to heed the advice of “Don’t cut off your network to spite your devices.” An open standard model may seem counterintuitive at the outset, but in the long run the open architecture notion it creates and supports opens the door to expanded revenues.
5. Autonomous AI-driven policy-based approach
Edge and IoT applications must be geared toward (1) “cognitive” spectrum awareness, (2) achieving high efficiency transmissions with low latency, (3) maintaining reliable quality of service, and (4) defending against malicious cyber activity. AI and machine learning-driven dynamic spectrum access, link-aware spectrum governance and management, cognitive routing, and secure waveform development also provide for resilient links that seek out safe, optimum routes for data transmissions to prevent mishaps.
Andrew Drozd, chief scientist and CEO of ANDRO Computational Systems, was previously president of the IEEE EMC Society from 2006 to 2007 and is an IEEE Fellow. He was on the Board of Directors of the Applied Computational Electromagnetics Society from 2004 to 2010. He is an iNARTE certified EMC Engineer and has authored over 160 technical papers, reports, and journal articles. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to [email protected]. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
Panelists and Telecommunications Policy Research Conference Urge Focus on Equitable 5G Rollout
March 13, 2021 – Regulatory policies to accommodate 5G and other network infrastructure must be equitable to accommodate different service levels and providers, Donna Bethea Murphy, senior vice president of Inmarsat, said in February at the TPRC.
When trying to set goals on building and deploying broadband and satellite networks, one shouldn’t be prescriptive about what solutions are best, Murphy said at the conference exploring issues of communication, information and internet policy.
Considering the cost infrastructure builders must bear to build such systems, it is critical they are not faced with large spectrum auction fees. If smaller players have to pay high spectrum costs, they will not be able to make back their investment and may turn down developing innovative technologies, Murphy said.
The government should therefore ensure getting spectrum to newer market entrants is financially viable to boost competition and lower prices for Americans.
Everyone agrees broadband should be available at an affordable rate, but securing such rates is a challenge yet to be resolved.
The panelists agreed that 5G should be rolled out to communities in fair and equitable ways and that no community should be excluded from it, especially disadvantaged communities.
The concern is that 5G technology is moving at a pace that is outstripping the deployment of older technologies. Jon Peha, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, alluded to that when he wondered whether the next-generation technology will find the path of least resistance and gravitate toward areas that enjoy 4G LTE and leave the areas without the current generation network for someone else, or the government, to solve.
TPRC panel description:
This panel will be made up of domestic and international experts from communications operators, government regulators and academics to discuss how to best connect the unconnected in a 5G and beyond world. This panel will focus on technology, economic and adoption to address this very real problem. It will also explore if and how regulation and funding efforts can assist in achieving goals of connectivity. An important part of this will be the adoption piece as this will allow us to determine how do we enable connectivity to be considered valuable by the citizens of the world and how we overcome the very real economic issues associated with solving the digital divide.
Experts Say U.S. Needs Tighter Security on 5G Components
February 8, 2021 – U.S. officials seeking to reduce the likelihood of security problems with the next-generation 5G network should look into network components that may include compromised technology from non-Chinese companies, an expert said at a conference late last month.
Alexi Maltas, senior vice president and general counsel at the Competitive Carriers Association, said at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration conference that there is a concern that non-Chinese built equipment contains Chinese components.
The issue is part of a larger concern about the 5G ecosystem that may require stringent standards to flush out the possible security problems.
Some experts have been calling for strict import standards for internet-of-things devices, which pose a number of hacking hazards because they often feature poor out-of-the-box security standards.
The NTIA conference, which addressed the advent of 5G and how to keep it secure, included reflections on global leaders in the next-generation network build and which countries are ahead on ensuring that their equipment is safe.
Gary Bolton, CEO of Fiber Broadband, said the United States government should invest in more research and development and enhance workforce education and training. Policy needs to address competitor countries that engage in unfair trade practices, he said. China’s fast adoption of 5G and similar technologies has caused U.S. carriers to have to deal with Chinese-built equipment issues and have voiced need for dialogue with the U.S. government over security threats.
The U.S. has already moved to hamper Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G future. But weeding out Chinese influence will go beyond the visible branding of those alleged spy threats and into what’s underneath the hood that makes it way along the supply chain.
If it’s suspected that carrier equipment is tainted, then the industry and government need to take steps to identify security threats from China, said Tamber Ray, regulatory counsel for the Rural Broadband Association.
Information sharing needs to go two ways, she said: From government to industry and industry to government. If equipment appears “off,” or suspicious, the issue can be resolved sooner than later.
5G architecture requires standards
Another threat to 5G is the architecture, said Edna Conway, vice president of global security, risk and compliance, for Azure at Microsoft. Threats to architecture come in the form of counterfeit components in the supply chain, she said.
To address these security concerns, government agencies can push out standard guidance or preferably, standard software configuration security networks, she added.
Eric Wenger, senior director in global government affairs at Cisco, said that some threats stem from the openness of 5G. To resolve this concern, he proposed more research on the subject would improve our understanding on how open interfaces impact risk and what steps would be useful to mitigate them.
The U.S. has a strong semiconductor ecosystem with strong operators, but it needs to add more 5G providers because 5G is no longer a telecommunications technology—it has a big overlay with the mobile edge and computing technologies, said John Roese, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Dell.
FCC Should Prioritize Affordability and Digital Literacy with Emergency Broadband Funds
January 29, 2021—FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday that she will convene a virtual roundtable discussion on February 12, 2021 to gather public input on how to structure the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
The $3.2 billion initiative, funded through Congressional appropriations in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will enable eligible, low-income households to receive a discount on the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A panel of policy experts convened for a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday agreed subsidies from the federal government need to be spent wisely in order to get the most effective possible outcome from the federal program.
“The FCC should better define its objectives and collect data to ensure it is getting the most bang for its buck,” said Sarah Oh, research fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, adding that the agency has the resources to create better plans for data collection and analysis in preparation for the program’s disbandment.
In an initiative spearheaded by Oh, the Technology Policy Institute recently filed comments to the FCC on ways the agency could maximize the effectiveness of the program, and further, how the agency can learn from the program to continue addressing the digital divide beyond the pandemic.
TPI finds that the FCC’s objectives should be a combination of getting people connected and keeping people connected. Oh said the agency should both target households at risk of disconnection and encourage households without broadband connections to subscribe, with the federal aid.
Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Angela Siefer, urged the agency to prioritize affordability and digital literacy measures. “We can’t focus all our attention federally on the rural availability and miss out on the fact that there are 26 million households in the U.S. that don’t adopt broadband in urban areas,” she said.
The digital divide is “less about availability and more about affordability and digital literacy,” said Siefer.
While Trina Coleman, board member at the U.S. Distance Learning Association, said the agency should use the funds to increase adoption initiatives, she recognized that adoption can be a tricky subject.
Coleman highlighted the fact that some may be weary to participate in the program, due to an overall distrust of the government. She added that older populations may be satisfied with functionalities offered by mobile phones, and may not want to adopt broadband.
The panelists agreed that broadband data remains largely unavailable and called for the agency to gather better data on where broadband exists and where it does not. Coleman highlighted that only 22 states contribute data on where broadband exists to the National Broadband Availability Map, leaving more than half of the United States with no data on it.
This event is part of a six-part event series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G,” on Broadband Breakfast Live Online.
A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G’ sponsored by:
Events in “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:
- Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G”
- This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
- Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners”
- This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
- Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise”
- 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
- Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund”
- To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
- Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband”
- What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? Are there 5G use cases that could help close the digital divide by elevating broadband utilization among communities of color and low-income populations? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
- Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband”
- More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
- Openreach Partners With STL For Fiber Build
- FCC to Vote On Emergency Broadband Benefit Policies By Mid-May: Rosenworcel
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- John Curtis, R-Utah, Opens Up About Future of Fiber and Broadband Challenges
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