Monthly Archives: June 2017

Mobile World Congress 2017 PureLiFi Announces that New Li-Fi Luminaires and Progress Shares for Commercial Pilots

Most startups dream of someday making their mark on a single industry. If all goes according to plan, PureLiFi will stir up two industries at once. As theworld’s leading Li-Fi startup, the company has developed technology that delivers high-speed wireless Internet service through the LED lights found in homes and offices.

This week at Mobile World Congress, an annual gathering for the smartphone industry held this year in Barcelona, PureLiFi revealed a sleek new integrated Li-Fi luminaire and spoke to IEEE Spectrum about its plans to expand commercial pilots in the months ahead. The company’s leaders also opened up about their eagerness to ditch the Li-Fi–enabled USB dongle they debuted at the same trade show just last year.

PureLiFi, which is based in Edinburgh, has developed a technique that uses flashes of light to transmit information, instead of encoding data on a radio signal that is broadcast over the air, as done by today’s Wi-Fi routers. The flashes are so fast that they are not noticeable to the human eye. (For more on how Li-Fi works, read this story by IEEE’s The Institute.)

But so far, people can only access PureLiFi’s technology by plugging in a dongle to their laptop, which many users find inconvenient. Last year at MWC, PureLiFi revealed the world’s first Li-Fi USB dongle, called LiFi-X. The credit-card–sized dongle contains a photoreceptor that receives a signal from a Li-Fi–enabled light, and an infrared transmitter to send data back.

Based on what the PureLiFi team shared, connecting to Li-Fi in 2017 should be less clunky and more convenient. The company says this year, it will shrink its dongle to half of its current size and 40 percent of its weight.

Of course, the dongle is only part of the equation. For this year’s show, PureLiFi unveiled a new luminairethat integrates Li-Fi modulation components into a black ring designed to encircle an LED light. The ring lays flush with the ceiling and makes Li-Fi-enabled LEDs virtually indistinguishable from any other lights in a home or office.

Previously, the company’s only Li-Fi access point was a white box, roughly the size of a smartphone, that had to be mounted to the ceiling next to an LED light.

In a demo on Monday, Nikola Serafimovski, director of business strategy for PureLiFi, plugged the LiFi-X dongle into a laptop and connected to the Li-Fi network by selecting it on his screen, just as a user might choose their WiFi network. He then began to play a YouTube video and walked from below one light fixture equipped with the company’s original access point to one featuring the new integrated luminaire, demonstrating that the technology was capable of a seamless handoff as a user moves around a room or building. He placed his thumb over the dongle’s receiver to momentarily block the connection, proving it was live.

Speed is one of the reasons that so many companies are intrigued by Li-Fi. When Harald Haas, founder and Chief Science Officer of PureLiFi and a professor at University of Edinburgh, first began working on Li-Fi, he achieved a peak data rate of 10 megabits per second with some basic modulation. Now, with the help of new techniques, PureLiFi can achieve peak rates of 15 gigabits per second.

One of those techniques is wavelength-division multiplexing, which allows the company to separately encode data on the red, green, and blue channels within a white LED. With it, Haas says 100 Gbps rates are on the horizon.

In real-world settings, the company’s products deliver data rates of about 45 Mbps for both uploads and downloads. For comparison, the average broadband Internet connection in the U.S. offers download speeds of 54 Mbps, while mobile Internet service provides about 20 Mbps. Upload speeds are significantly slower.

There are some special considerations that come with using Li-Fi, such as the fact that light doesn’t penetrate walls, so every room in a house would need a Li-Fi–enabled lighting fixture. However, PureLiFi likes to pitch this factor as a feature that also keeps users’ data secure, since communications are inaccessible to anyone who is not in the same room.

At least in the eyes of Alistair Banham, CEO of PureLiFi, the company’s early trial participants have so far responded positively to the technology. “The major feedback is that they love the security of information,” he says. “The feedback on the speed has been very, very positive.”

However, there is one area where those users have told Banham that there is clearly room for improvement. “Obviously, the goal is to go beyond the dongles, and they understand that,” he says. “Everyone would like to have it integrated into their devices.”

Banham and Haas know that Li-Fi will not be widely adopted until it is integrated into the chipsets of laptops, tablets, and smartphones. In the meantime, Banham points out that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth also started out with dongles, and that it took nearly a decade for those technologies to move to chipsets and become widely adopted. “I think we’ll be much faster,” he says.

It’s not clear whether PureLiFi would manufacture a Li-Fi chipset itself, or work with a partner to do so, and Haas couldn’t comment on the company’s plans. The company is actively working with other stakeholders to develop standards for LiFi that ensure consistent performance across devices, just like the standards that exist for Wi-Fi.

Haas says the world needs to put Li-Fi in its chipsets because there is a scarcity of bandwidth available for wireless devices, and pesky interference when too many devices operate at once. “It’s inevitable that we have to go to light as a wireless means of communication,” Haas says.

Ultimately, Haas doesn’t view Li-Fi as a replacement for other wireless technologies such as 5G for cellular networks or Wi-Fi. Instead, he thinks Li-Fi will work hand-in-hand with existing technologies to provide the most bandwidth to users, rather than compete with them.

He does hope the recent commercial pilots will help them overcome somecommon misconceptions about Li-Fi. Haas says many people still wonder if Li-Fi works in the presence of sunlight (it does) or think it will only work if the transmitter and receiver have a clear line of sight to one another. In reality, PureLiFi has found that reflections off of walls and floors deliver perfectly adequate data rates.

Haas has now spent the past 15 years working on Li-Fi, which began as a “curiosity-driven project” in his lab. He’s not at all surprised that he is still waiting to see it be integrated into mainstream products. “For me, it was always clear, it will not be an easy road,” he says.

Progress of 5G system, Reality Set at Brooklyn 5G Summit

5G technologies are early in their development, and the business cases for them are a bit fuzzy, but wireless researchers and executives still had plenty to celebrate this week at the annual Brooklyn 5G Summit. They’ve made steady progress on defining future 5G networks, and have sped up the schedule for the first phase of standards-based 5G deployments.

Now, the world is just three years away (or two, depending on who you ask) from its first 5G commercial service. Amid the jubilance, reality is also starting to set in.

While attendees can agree that 5G networks will incorporate many new technologies—including millimeter waves, massive MIMO, small cells, and beamforming—no one knows how all of it will work together, or what customers will do with the resulting flood of data. The video below provides a primer on these technologies, and a hint of what we can expect.

This was my second year attending the two-day summit, an annual gathering organized by Nokia and NYU Wireless, and here are my observations from the first day:

1. Update from AT&T

For the past year, AT&T has tested early 5G technologies at 4 gigahertz, 15 GHz, and 28 GHz from its labs in Austin, Texas. Like many of its competitors, the company is currently focused on fixed wireless, which means providing over-the-air broadband Internet service between two stationary points.

Already, the company has used high-frequency millimeter waves (roughly between 30 and 300 gigahertz) to provide superfast Internet service at speeds of 1.5 gigabits per second to one enterprise client. (Its service is broadcast at 28 GHz.)

Now, Dave Wolter, assistant vice president for radio technology and architecture, said AT&T plans to expand its fixed wireless trials to serve roughly 10 pilot customers in the Austin area this year. They’ll be a mix of residential properties and small businesses.

For its enterprise trial, the company installed a transmitter on top of one of its buildings, with a clear line of sight to a receiver placed about 250 meters away on an upper floor of a client’s office building. The only problem was that the client’s office had double-coated windows, which are energy efficient but block millimeter waves. To make the trial work, AT&T had to switch out those windows for a single-coated variety.

Moving forward, Wolter expects 39 GHz become AT&T’s key frequency for fixed wireless, as well as for mobile devices.  AT&T recently acquired Straight Path Communications, which had vast spectrum holdings for both 39 GHz and 28 GHz.

It’s still an open question of what customers will do with their upgraded service—and how much they will pay for it. When an audience member asked Wolter to name an application that he believes will justify the capital expenditure that AT&T must shell out for spectrum holdings and a 5G build-out, Wolter deferred.

“Good question, and I hope our business folks are working on that,” he said.

2. Massive MIMO

High-frequency millimeter waves have been all the rage in wireless circles for the past few years, and NYU Wireless led much of the early work that catapulted them to fame. But this year, the summit organizers devoted an entire session to massive MIMO, which seems to be having a bit of a moment.

There have been several big stories about massive MIMO since last year’s event, including new world records in spectral efficiency, the world’s first commercial trials, and early mobile trials. Facebook even got in the game withProject ARIES.

“In the past year, we’ve actually shown that [massive MIMO] works in reality,” said Ian Wong of National Instruments. “To me, the biggest development is that the skeptics are being quiet.”

Massive MIMO builds on a 4G technology known as multiple input, multiple output, or MIMO. This technology uses many antennas, combined with signal processing, to communicate with several users on the same frequency, at the same time. With it, carriers have added capacity to crowded frequency brands below 6 GHz, where most consumer electronics operate today.

The actual definition of massive MIMO was the subject of some debate during the session, but Fred Vook, an engineer at Nokia, describes it as the extension of traditional MIMO to a large number of controllable antennas. And by “a large number,” he means more than eight antennas, though some massive MIMO arrays have 100 or more.

Based on the day’s conversation, massive MIMO has solidified its place as a foundational 5G technology. “4G was the first system to start out with MIMO, and we expect 5G will be the first system to start right off the bat with massive MIMO,” declared Durga Malladi, a senior vice president at Qualcomm.

There’s certainly more work to be done (one of the stickier questions is how to integrate gobs of antennas into a smartphone) but the general outlook for massive MIMO now feels rather upbeat.

“I truly believe that there’s no other technology below 6 GHz that can give 5G gains, other than massive MIMO,” said Wong.

3. 5G New Radio

Earlier this year, a slew of companies petitioned 3GPP, a group that defines 5G standards, to speed up the schedule for describing 5G New Radio. This standard is important, because it will set the terms for the air interface by which base stations communicate with mobile devices, with the goal of improving performance and ensuring consistency across carriers and manufacturers.

Those companies were particularly interested in one type of 5G New Radio—what’s called non-standalone, as opposed to standalone. At the summit, Malladi of Qualcomm described the difference between the two like this: “In one mode, you rely upon 4G as an anchor, and in the other one, you deploy 5G without 4G as an anchor.”

The thinking is that a non-standalone 5G New Radio could be deployed more quickly, because it’s meant to be integrated into a 4G core network, whereas standalone 5G New Radio would operate on a brand new 5G core network (which is a much bigger undertaking to deploy and relies on even more standards).

In an afternoon panel, five executives confirmed their interest in developing non-standalone 5G New Radio as quickly as possible, and allowing the standalone version to lag behind. This suggests 5G will look and function a lot like 4G LTE in its early phases, before eventually migrating over to a spiffy new core.

In March, 3GPP accepted the accelerated schedule for non-standalone 5G New Radio, which should be defined by the end of this year. Some companies now expect to deploy their first standards-based 5G networks with it as early as 2019.

4. Will 5G live up to the hype?   

Over the past few years, engineers and executives have set sky-high expectations for 5G. They’ve spoken of 5G as the wireless network that will unleash radical new technological advances in every possible realm, and promised that it will enable autonomous cars, streaming virtual reality, and remote surgeries.

Much of the talk at this year’s summit was as bold as ever. In a keynote about how 5G would improve industrial systems, Kenneth Budka of Nokia Bell Labs predicted that 5G technologies would “fundamentally transform human existence.”

This year, though, such grandiose statements were also punctuated with more sobering analyses. A generous helping came from Seizo Onoe, chief technology officer of NTT DOCOMO, who has developed something of a reputation for pouring cold water on 5G expectations.

During his keynote, Onoe said he has noticed an informal law during his time at DOCOMO: The wireless industry manages to achieve great leaps of success only in even-numbered generations. By his measure, 2G and 4G were truly transformational, while the improvements that came with 1G and 3G were mostly incremental.

“Applying this law to 5G, I would say we have to wait until 6G to fill all the expectations of 5G,” he said. Stay tuned.

Intel, Nokia, Qualcomm Rely on MultiFire to access the LTE Blend and Wi-Fi

A wireless industry consotium is developing a new technology calledMulteFire that it says delivers the high performance of 4G LTE cellular networks while being as easy to deploy as Wi-Fi routers.

Rather than relying on the licensed spectrum purchased for today’s LTE service, MulteFire operates entirely in the unlicensed 5 gigahertz band. And to set it up, users would simply need to install MulteFire access points, similar to Wi-Fi access points, at any facility served by optical fiber or wireless backhaul.

Once installed, MulteFire would provide greater capacity, range, and coverage than Wi-Fi, because it’s based on advanced LTE standards. But by operating in unlicensed spectrum, MulteFire could conserve resources for companies struggling to meet customers’ data demands.

Depending on how MulteFire is used, it could let cellular companies offload traffic to unlicensed spectrum, or allow factory owners to set up private MulteFire networks to serve equipment, robots, and Internet-0f-Thingsdevices. The technology is being developed by the MulteFire Alliance founded by Nokia, Qualcomm, Ericsson, and Intel.

Marcus Weldon, president of Nokia Bell Labs and chief technology officer of Nokia, laid out his vision for MulteFire during a meeting at Nokia Bell Labs in New Jersey last week. As Weldon sees it, managers of industrial facilities will be the primary customers for MulteFire and will want to use it to connect millions of devices for oil and gas drilling, power transmission, and manufacturing.

“No consumers are saying, ‘Damnit, give me MulteFire!’” he says. “Or at least, I haven’t found one yet. But some industries are.”

Already, carriers can combine unlicensed spectrum with their own licensed spectrum to create larger bandwidths for users. Advanced LTE technology known as LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) allows carriers to do this for the downlink (transmissions from base stations to devices), and the more recent eLAA (Enhanced Licensed Assisted Access) allows them to also do it for the uplink (transmissions from devices to base stations).

A third technology, called Multi-Path Transmission Control Protocol, is similar to both LAA and eLAA in that it also combines licensed and unlicensed spectrum to deliver higher data rates on cell networks.

But all of these modes still rely on licensed spectrum as the “anchor” to which carriers then add capacity from unlicensed spectrum. In effect, MulteFire extends these advanced LTE capabilities to operate independently in unlicensed spectrum. In fact, the first MulteFire specification, released earlier this year, builds directly on 3GPP Releases 13 and 14, which describe LAA and eLAA.

With MulteFire, a device could operate at 5 GHz without anchoring to any licensed spectrum, thereby freeing up licensed resources for other mobile customers. The technology dodges other Wi-Fi users (who may also broadcast at 5 GHz) by employing the same “listen-before-talk” protocol used in Wi-Fi today.

To set up MulteFire at a facility, the owner would simply install MulteFire access points, similar to Wi-Fi access points, around the premises. Just like for Wi-Fi, these access points would require some type of backhaul—either fiber or millimeter wave fixed wireless.

On the network side, carriers could choose to set up their own MulteFire access points at specific loations (just as they operate their own base station equipment today) or agree to share many access points installed by an independent third party (this model has become an increasingly popular way to deploy expensive infrastructure).

If MulteFire catches on, cellular carriers could automaticaly offload consumers to it once they are within range an access point, just as carriers offload traffic today to Wi-Fi.

That’s certainly a compelling pitch to carriers struggling to meet customer’s data demands on their LTE networks. But Weldon and others ultimately believe the technology’s higher purpose will be for industrial uses. They think managers at facilities and companies will want to set up their own MulteFire networks (similar to Wi-Fi networks) to connect robots and Internet-of-Things devices.

Nanda Menon of Athonet, in Bolzano-Vicentino, Italy, said his company hears many requests from enterprise clients who want a private LTE networks to serve the increasing numbers of devices they’re bringing online worldwide. But creating such a network requires the clients to negotiate contracts for licensed spectrum at many different frequencies with carriers around the world.

Deploying these private networks on a common 5 GHz band, which remains unlicensed everywhere in the world, would be much easier.

Last year, Qualcomm demonstrated the first MulteFire transmission, and showed that the technology could peacefully co-exist with Wi-Fi on the same band, while increasing network throughput beyond what Wi-Fi alone could deliver. Another test by Nokia and the Saudi Telecom Company showed that MulteFire delivered 50 percent better range and up to two times better coverage than Wi-Fi.

Next, the MulteFire Alliance plans to develop a certification program that will eventually indicate which devices incorporate MulteFire. First, though, the group will have to persuade smartphone makers and other device manufacturers to add support for MulteFire into the chipsets of their products.

Lihat Dari Lembah Telecom Internets yang Terdesentralisasi dari “Silicon Valley” HBO? Tim Dunia Nyata Mengatakan Mereka Telah Menemukannya

This season, on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” fictional character Richard Hendricks set off on a new venture—reinventing the Internet into a decentralized network. The vision, to create a peer-to-peer Internet that is free from firewalls, government regulation, and spying, is one shared by the Decentralized Web movement. It isn’t exactly a new idea. In the real world, the Decentralized Web movement has been working for a couple of years to link people interested in advancing the effort, and pieces of the technology are being developed in various corporate and university labs. Making a true decentralized Web—or decentralized Internet (the two are a little different)—isn’t going to be fast or easy, Decentralized Web evangelist and Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle told me last month, because, although it is a good idea, it is hard to execute.

Or maybe it is coming sooner than we think. After I wrote about HBO’s “Silicon Valley” joining the Decentralized Web movement, I heard from two teams who say they are close to rolling out a version of the technology very similar to that described on the show. However, their interpretation of what’s described on the show is somewhat different.

At the University of Michigan, Robert Dick, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and a team of two doctoral students and more than a dozen undergraduate volunteers have been focused for seven years on designing and implementing a decentralized network. If the Internet is shut down or blocked in some way, it maintains connections by sending data hopping from phone to phone. The team will this year roll out an app called Anonymouse that allows anonymous microblogs, including images and text, to be sent around its network by phone hopping. There’s no ability to serve Web pages just yet, although that feature is on the road map. Dick says he’s aware of—and may end up teaming with—other organizations working on similar technology.

“We deployed a research prototype with 100 people using it at the University of Michigan,” Dick said. “Messages typically reached 80 percent of the participants in a day. That surprised us; we didn’t think it would work until we reached about 5 percent of the university population—over 2,000 people. We were also surprised by how quickly messages were ferried between campuses, as a user passed another and then got on a bus, for example.”

The challenge, Dick indicated, is getting enough people to use it so it works efficiently. That’s the challenge the fictional Hendricks is wrestling with as well. Hendricks said in a recent episode, “People won’t want to participate until the quality is high, and the quality won’t be high until we got a lot of people.” Hendricks proposes offering users free data compression to encourage them to run the app; Dick intends to target markets where fear of censorship is a very big deal, so the app will be its own reason for existence. For now, the group is taking sign-ups for a public beta to start in the third quarter of this year.

“I can’t get people in the U.S. to understand just how awful it can be when a few people control what everybody else can say,” Dick told me. “However, I can try to make sure that, if and when they understand, the technology to help them will be available.”

Taking a different approach to reinventing the Internet is MaidSafe, a company based in Troon, Scotland, that has been working since 2006 to create a “massive array of interconnected discs secure access for everyone.”

MaidSafe chief operating officer Nick Lambert says that the company’s goal is to decentralize all Web services, with users offering up bandwidth and storage space in exchange for a cryptographic token the company calls SafeCoin that users can then use to pay for network services or convert into cash. The data travels across the existing Internet, but it is more secure because it is broken into chunks and encrypted. One password is required to store and retrieve data, plus another one to encrypt and decrypt it, because the data is distributed and because the network, although it travels across the same wires as the Internet, doesn’t use the same addressing system. The only way to prevent access to the data would be by shutting down the Internet, Lambert says.

The company recently tested the system on a 100-node network running inside a data center, then rolled it out to several hundred alpha users using laptop and desktop computers. These users were given demo apps to run that allow them to create websites and send email; eventually, the company hopes a developer community focused on building out more sophisticated apps will emerge. Lambert says the company is currently developing better support for mobile devices for its next alpha test, and then it will move on to testing network recovery from massive power outages in alpha 3. Lambert says a more extensive beta test is on the horizon for the near future.

Did either of these efforts inspire HBO’s “Silicon Valley”? A MaidSafe employee says Hendricks’s pitch seems eerily similar to a 2008 video of company founder David Irvine. Anonymouse’s Dick, binge-watching the series for the first time this month, says he was a little freaked out that the two major themes—data compression and then a pivot to the decentralized Internet—tracked his career progression so precisely. Certainly, the show is proving to be a mirror that is reflecting many in tech today.