EJL Wireless Research provides proprietary, accurate and cutting-edge market analysis and consulting services on the wireless technology ecosystem. The firm focuses its research on specific vertical elements of the wireless ecosystem including mobile subscribers, mobile operators, and mobile infrastructure equipment.
Manager Earl Lum shares his expertise on the biggest developments in the wireless industry, including the latest technological developments in the BTS market, the impact of NFV technology on mobile networks and much more.
Q1. What have been the most important technological developments in the global base station (BTS) market over the past five years?
The introduction of LTE-Advanced and carrier aggregation has allowed mobile operators to multiplex disparate spectrum holdings to create larger data throughput pipes and better leverage their assets. The use of MIMO technology, coupled with carrier aggregations, has allowed mobile operators to offer up to 300Mbps peak data rates for consumers.
The development of a single software defined transceiver and antenna technologies to offer a highly integrated site solution.
Q2. What further developments should we expect by 2020?
Massive MIMO integrated radio/antenna solutions supporting 16/32/64/128 architectures will be a key enabler for LTE-Advanced Pro network upgrades, as well as a critical building block for 5G networks. The ability to scale carrier aggregation to more than 5 component carriers will also allow mobile operators to offer faster download/upload speeds for consumers.
Initial 5G field trials in millimeter wave frequency bands will be conducted in Asia, North America and in Europe with the United States having already allocated spectrum for 5G services, ahead of the official unveiling for the world in 2019.
Q3. What kind of challenges does the global BTS antenna market face in 2016? How are market participants responding to these challenges?
One of the key challenges remains increasing port counts on BTS antennas while maintaining the high performance of passive intermodulation (PIM). The introduction of massive MIMO antennas for <6GHz significantly alters the complete design of both the radio transceiver as well as the BTS antenna while the >6GHz solutions will also face cost/performance challenges.
The introduction of multi-beam antennas may shift market share within the industry while a potential cooling off period for LTE/LTE-Advanced networks in China will limit near/mid-term growth across the industry.
Q4. What kind of impact has network function virtualization (NFV) technology had on mobile networks?
NFV remains in a nascent stage for mobile networks as compared with data storage networks. The reality that it will be harder to implement and realize the theoretical advantages of NFV are beginning to set in for the industry, compared with the hype over the past few years.
Q5. How does it benefit vendor ecosystems?
NFV will have a large impact on the vendor ecosystem in that it will simplify the hardware portfolio and reduce manufacturing costs. The issue of interoperability across different vendor ecosystems DOES NOT change with the way the current NFV solutions are being developed and marketed so the mobile operators will still not achieve a complete "white box" network solution.
Q6. How will millimeter wave technology drive growth in the Point-to-Point radio industry?
Millimeter wave, specifically in the unlicensed 60GHz and licensed 70/80GHz frequency bands will continue to allow multi-Gb throughput for PTP radios for both enterprise applications as well as for LTE/LTE-Advanced mobile network backhaul. The introduction of 90-110GHz and 130GHz+ PTP radio solutions are still in the early stages and are being targeted for 5G backhaul applications supporting 20-40 Gb+ throughput capacity.
Q7. What region will see the biggest growth and why?
North America may turn out to be a significant driver for millimeter wave radios but not for 4G or 5G mobile backhaul for more traditional enterprise/WISP applications. Europe would potentially be the other region where deployment of millimeter wave radios may replace/augment existing microwave solutions in mobile networks.
Q8. Outside of those you already cover, what other industries do you find interesting? Have you ever considered covering this industry?
I find the In Building Wireless/DAS market segment interesting. Yes I will be covering the DAS market.
Earl provided a number of interesting insights into the developments and challenges affecting the wireless market. For example, he discussed how the use of MIMO technology has allowed mobile operators to offer up up to 300Mbps peak data rates for consumers. These advancements have led to strong growth in the market, but with the rapid rise of emerging technologies like the IoT, the demand for faster wireless services will continue to grow.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Earl for answering our questions and offering his expertise in this area.
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About the Interviewee:
EJL Wireless Research is managed by Earl Lum. Mr. Lum has over 20 years of experience within the wireless industry. Prior to starting EJL Wireless Research, Mr. Lum was the Managing Director of the Wireless Technology Equity Research sector for Montgomery & Co.
Mr. Lum holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.