A look at key themes that will impact our geodata business
Volume 4, Issue 1
Mobile World Congress marks the unofficial start of the year for the wireless ecosystem. There is no denying this massive show sets the tone for the wireless industry. Now that the dust has settled on our annual trip to Barcelona, we thought we'd reflect on what we saw and how the show's key themes will impact our geodata business. Specifically, these themes include the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and 5G. Read more.
Citywide LoRa network designed using City Planner data.
Mobile World Congress 2017: Implications for Geodata
With 5G still at least a year away from being a "standardized" reality, we expect the real opportunity for geodata business in the interim is to support LoRa, Sigfox and NB-IoT rollouts. This is a space we have been actively playing in for the past couple of years. It seems that the industry — in particular the LPWAN operators using unlicensed spectrum — have reached an inflection point. LPWAN operators are rapidly expanding their footprint before NB-IoT (i.e., the 3GPP standard) gains more traction in the market.
RF planning software has evolved to include IoT modules with technology-specific parameters, but many LPWAN operators have different profiles from traditional mobile operators. They may be coming at the IoT problem from a vertical market perspective (e.g., electrical utilities) or as an IoT carrier to be used by different verticals (e.g., Sigfox, Ingenu). Without generalizing, the levels of internal GIS competency, in-house RF planning skills and understanding of expected traffic demand can vary dramatically by operator.
Incumbent LTE operators will be looking at NB-IoT deployments as a software upgrade. The use of licensed spectrum means that there are a number of channel strategies to be utilized in deploying the technology. This means traditional operators may plan their IoT more than some expect. In certain areas, where engineers know that planning environments have changed, new geodata may be required.
Virtual Reality
Wireless operators see VR as a way to drive content on their devices and make their services stickier to end customers. In fact, according to one report 98% of VR headsets sold in 2016 were tied to mobile devices. LuxCarta has a long tradition of working in the simulation industry. For instance, our SpacEyesRF Vision software allows for 3D simulation of 2D propagation analyses. Our geodata has also been utilized in tourism applications, navigation systems and flight simulators to provide the geospecific world reality. We expect this area of our business to grow exponentially in the years to come.
Mobile World Congress provided us with great opportunities to demonstrate examples of our 3D cities, along with Region Planner data sets demonstrating terrain, clutter, street vectors and water bodies using our own VR set up. We haven't figured out how to demonstrate RF analyses yet using VR, but we have almost a full year to think about how to do it for the next Mobile World Congress.
There was a fair bit of discussion and marketing at the show about 5G. In some regards this was surprising given the standard is not expected until next year. Or so we thought... During Mobile World Congress and in the subsequent week, large players in the 3GPP have pushed forth a new plan for 5G New Radio (NR) to accelerate the timeline for the radio interface standard. It will be splintered off the larger 5G initiative. Given LuxCarta's interest in the RAN, this is welcome news.
There are a number of aspects of 5G that are broadly anticipated to be included in the standard. For instance, 5G will support millimeter waves, specifically frequencies in the 30 GHz - 300 GHz range. This fact will have a dramatic impact on the RF planning environment and related geodata requirements. Planning with millimeter wave technology adds a new level of complexity, as these frequencies attenuate due to atmospheric conditions (e.g., moisture) and have a much shorter propagation distance. Foliage will have an even greater effect than it does in 4G systems. Closer inter-site distances, likely to be ~100m will mean that 5G is used for access and backhaul. These short inter-site distances mean that operators will require higher-resolution data, particularly 3D data for modeling indoor coverage. We spoke to a number of parties investigating 5G propagation characteristics at Mobile World Congress and expect a great deal of 3D geodata and related vegetation to be generated in support of these efforts.
The GSMA announced over 108,000 visitors (a 7% increase YoY) attended this year's Mobile World Congress. The event didn't disappoint from LuxCarta's perspective. It was another busy and interesting week. We enjoyed meeting and seeing a number of you there. But now that it's over, it's time to get back to the office and down to business.
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