Creative Capillary Connectivity

© Peter Linder 2014 – All rights reserved

Short-range radios today play an essential role in connecting smaller devices to our mobile phones. We can expect a lot of new applications leveraging the Bluetooth Low Energy and Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Network standard (IEEE 802.15.4) with connectivity through a smartphone or wireless access point – also known as a capillary network. This concept is emerging to address the unique network needs that many new applications will have.

The obvious driver for introducing short-range radio is battery life and the need to avoid cabling. Many emerging devices, such as sensors, cannot be charged as frequently as smart smartphones and need to be run using a zero-maintenance model (e.g. deploy and forget). The ability to introduce a wireless device with no or low-charging needs enables a whole range of new industrial and consumer applications, like sensors (temperature, humidity and pollution), alarm generators (windows, fire) and smart control and consumption (gas, water, electricity).

This new application paradigm will be cloud based, with devices running close to the customer while the back end will run in the cloud. Capillary network connectivity provides an end-to-end connection between the device and the cloud. This connectivity bridges the short-haul private area network with fixed or wireless access, metro transport, and the cloud. As the primary target is commercial applications, the value of capillary connectivity will be application dependent with little correlation to the amount of bits used.

As part of the zero-provision paradigm, the applicable devices will rely on automatic discovery, directory and provision mechanisms provided by the network and the cloud. A key part of the capillary network concept is automated provisioning end-to-end. These connections also need to provide the right security levels for the application at hand. This can be achieved by leveraging existing security mechanisms in mobile networks.

My predictions for the future of capillary networks are:
• Devices connected through smartphones or access points with low-power radio is a rapidly growing network application area
• The ability to provide end-to-end support, to devices with mobile-like capabilities through capillary networks, is crucial for broad industry acceptance.
• Zero maintenance is a vital requirement for both the powering and provisioning operations of these new devices.
• Operators can introduce new revenue generating capillary connectivity services tailored to application needs.

Coverage Challenges Completely Changed

App coverage -1610 Edited

Measuring coverage in mobile networks used to be easy when the bars on the screen told the full story. As the breadth of applications grows quickly, so does the need for new coverage measurements. Going forward operators need to be prepared that end-users will expect coverage for all their applications.

As a starting point for how to measure coverage per application, you can measure the coverage for three performance tiers, e.g. 100kbps, 1Mbps and 10Mbps. These tiers can be used to approximate the coverage for voice, data and video-centric applications. The evolution of mobile-data performance requirements are driven by the new needs from IP-based voice and video applications. According to the most recent Ericsson Mobility Report, the North American coverage for the three tier examples above are: 95%, 78% and 31% respectively.

End-user’s expectations for IP-based voice quality are defined by the mobile voice services we have today. Circuit-switched mobile voice services are known to be universally available and support uninterrupted calls with very high availability. These factors together with the new High-Definition voice capabilities have set the bar for IP-based communication services. The large-scale introduction of VoLTE is driving performance reviews and upgrades for the lower coverage tiers. In addition to voice communication, the application coverage for streaming music services is important to support.

The very high screen resolutions for smartphones and tablets make them prime targets for innovative video consumption services. Video coverage is defined by the higher performance tier and a quickly growing factor for redefining the most demanding coverage bar. Streaming video services can be buffered at both ends but require close to real-time performance when used.

In the past, we have assumed that a lot of the video consumption will be offloaded to Wi-Fi but the ultra-mobile use of smartphones and tablets means that video demand is highly realistic in areas outside hotspots as well.

Here are my predictions for the ‘App Coverage’ evolution:

– IP-based voice and video will set the performance bar for new coverage expectations on mobile data services.
– End-user demand for universal app coverage will require a more refined approach for measuring coverage.
– The current performance measures for mobile data, e.g. response times and download times, will be accompanied by already established quality of experience (QoE) measures for voice and video.

Perhaps the vertical coverage bars we grew up with will soon be complemented with horizontal app-coverage bars on our screens.

Mchn-Maaaaaaschiiiiiine-Mchn – Middle Man Matters

© Peter Linder – All Rights Reserved
© Peter Linder – All Rights Reserved

Why most people miss the role of the world’s largest machine when predicting the future.


When Ericsson sold its 50 percent stake in Sony Ericsson to Sony, a common question to Ericsson employees was: “What do you do now that Sony has bought your company?”


Not all people I meet understand my explanation about what a mobile network is and does. I believe the term “network” is too abstract a concept for most people, even if we keep it simple and say it’s the internet’s backbone and mobile-access network.


In addition, the communications industry sometimes talks about the future in terms of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and industry verticals. The seven letters that make up machine are used to outline the future of servers and applications at one end, and the future of devices at the other. The magic “2″ refers to the largest machine of them all – the network.

Most people get the idea that there is a machine somewhere working away so that 5 billion people can talk, SMS/TXT and send data to one another. They do not reflect on how this machine is changing so it can transform all the industries around us into smart industries. So how do we get traction with such ideas if the majority of society believes mobile phones communicate with each other like walkie-talkies; in other words with just air between them and no network?


The following examples highlight the role of the network in all society stakeholder groups:


* When breaking mobile-broadband networks into two main parts – the internet backbone and the mobile-access network – most people follow the discussion on what a network is all about a lot better.


* Machine-MACHINE-Machine is a better expression regarding the evolution of the communications industry. This makes it clear to all society stakeholders that there are three fundamental machine developments in play.


* The network plays a vital part in making vertical industries “smart”, and smart industries require smart networks.


* Significant network investments are required to support 50 billion devices across new industries, way beyond the requirements that brought voice and data services to 6 billion mobile phones.


I think the following vital questions need to be asked when discussing the networks in the Networked Society:


* How do we secure the investments in network capacity and coverage to keep up with the demand from the Networked Society?


* How do we create new business model innovations across industry borders so all key stakeholder groups benefit?


* How do we secure regulatory frameworks that promote rather than prevent network innovations?


All of the above are complex issues. The resolution requires a broader understanding in all society groups about what the role of the network is, as it will remain THE enabler for the Networked Society.