My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Qualcomm to create Airplane Wi-Fi named Next Gen-AG using 500MHz of unused 14GHz spectrum - 300MBps in the Mile High Club

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Qualcomm to create Airplane Wi-Fi named Next Gen-AG using 500MHz of unused 14GHz spectrum - 300MBps in the Mile High Club

Telecom Equiptment Maker Qualcomm has come up with an idea that I think borders on genius. Their idea simply put: re-use currently 500MHz of spare spectrum in the 14GHz band to power what I would effectively like to call Airplane Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) at a maximum theoretical speeds of 300MBps as stated in the article “Qualcomm is exploring the last 4G frontier: The sky”, published Kevin Fitchard, Gigaom.

Telecom Equiptment Maker Qualcomm’s name for this futuristic Wireless Broadband Delivery system is called Next Gen-AG and must pass muster with the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) before they can start manufacturing the Hardware and firmware for this push to rule Broadband in the Skies.

If this sounds familiar it should, as a similar fate possibly awaits ADSL in Jamaica when FTTH (Fiber To The House) eventually leaves the Guinea Pig Testing stage and becomes so popular that the only use ADSL may have is as low-speed Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) offerings (possibly free?) at Shopping malls and Fast Food Restaurants.

This is the so called Shopping Mall Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and Fast Food Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) as stated in my blog article entitled “Fast Food Wi-Fi for LIME's ADSL Broadband when FTTH goes Mainstream - Mother's and KFC to Supersize Me with Wi-Fi”, similar to the Telecom Equiptment Maker Qualcomm announcement as it is the re-use of an otherwise unused Resource.

This article caught my eye as with the impending shutdown of CLARO Jamaica’s Network looming large on Thursday March 1st 2012AD it’s now becoming clear what Telecom Provider Digicel’s real ambitions were all about: getting a hold of CLARO’s spectrum and 3G Licenses to build out their Caribbean-wide HSDPA+ Release 7 Network and then ramp up to LTE (Long Term Evolution) push by 2014AD as surmised in my blog article entitled “Digicel to shut down CLARO's Voice Network in HSDPA+ Push - The Louisiana Purchase of Spectrum”.

Interestingly too in the US of A, Telecoms Provider AT&T attempt to get a hold of Telecoms Provider T-Mobile purportedly for the same purpose of using their spectrum to build out a USA-wide LTE Network was flatly rejected by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) Julius Genachowski. The FCC Chief stated that the merger was not in the US public’s interest as stated in the article “FCC Chairman: AT&T/T-Mobile deal not in public interest, hearing requested, reports WSJ”, published November 22, 2011 By Andrew Couts Digitaltrends.

Guess their Telecoms Industry has the right checks and balances, as the GOJ is yet to set up the Telecoms Regulator, freeing the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) from being overstretched in their duties to this now bustling Industry as stated in my Geezam blog article entitled “New Telecom Act Coming for Jamaica – Providers surprised with their Own Regulator”.

The Telecoms Industry growing complexity requires not only its own Regulator but a radically revamped Telecommunications Act to deal with the growth of Wireless and Wired Broadband for which the originally drafted Telecommunications Act of 2000 was not designed

So this latest attempt at a spectrum grab in the US of A is of interest to me, oweing to the fact that it aims to reuse spectrum that is otherwise rather useless for UE (User Equiptment) as the Mobile phones do not have the battery power to function using these very high frequencies. Even worse, these frequencies are severely attenuated by even just the wind blowing and moisture, let alone metal building in metallic structures!

At 14MHz, only IP RAN (IP Radio Access Networks) can utilize this spectrum but at very high power levels, making them a last resort in a spectrum auction. Telecoms providers in provisioning their Microwave Backhaul always try to use the lowest frequencies possible to minimize on power usage as argued in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and Alternative Energy - Stormy Weather and the MTV Generation

The genius of Telecom Equiptment Maker Qualcomm’s plan is in instead of making UE i.e. Mobile handsets, modems, etc that can receive those frequencies, they instead envision the utilization of a 500MHz block of this particular spectrum to transmit broadband to Commercial Aircraft that would house the gear to convert the LTE signal to Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n). In effect, make the entire Aircraft the MiFi, if you will, converting the 14GHz frequency down to the 5GHz and 2.5GHz normally associated with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n).

Commercial Aircraft have acres of reserve electrical power that can be used to power the LTE Tx/Rx gear on board the aircraft. Interestingly, at 14MHz, the severe attenuation of the signal means that the LTE Tx/Rx would have to be placed on the outside of the aircraft, most likely molded to the shape of the wings and fuselage.

Additional power for such as system, if required, would come from solar panels and wind turbines mounted near the engines so as not to create unnecessary turbulence, in effect supplying the LTE Tx/Rx gear with all the power it may need without compromising the Aircrafts power System or draining its onboard batteries.

But more interesting is the transmission system. Telecom Equiptment Maker Qualcomm could theoretically use either ground based 14GHz LTE Antennas pointing up into the sky or use Satellites from above that beam the LTE signal down to earth effectively Satellite Broadband with a twist of Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) as stated in the article “Telecom Providers and Satellite Broadband - Quantum of Solace and The Tourist ”.

Either system envisioned would not require a lot of Mobile Towers on the ground or birds [satellites] in the sky as the Sky Waves, the type of propagation used in this proposed system, spreads far and wide and do not need to be directional in nature, a big money saver to new entrants to the Mobile Broadband Telecoms Market. In fact, if could re-use the Crow’s Nest of a lot of Mobile Towers and may not necessarily require Mobile Towers to be built at all, due to the fact that

Albeit Airplane Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) is currently very expensive, foreseeably in the future Telecoms Providers using such gear may actually be the Airlines and Airports. Albeit traveling passengers and seats are the bread and butter of any airline, increasingly Airlines are trying to diversify away from just offering seats and offer VAS (Value Added Services) in a bid to increase their revenue streams.

Much as my prediction of free Shopping Mall Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and Fast Food Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) may be a VAS for Shopping Malls and Fast Food establishments to attract more customers, so too in the future, In-flight Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) may be another standard choice aside from choosing to fly Coach, Economy or First Class.

As a service, however, it has ways to go before you can go to the airline Check-in counter and declare that you want in-flight Wi-Fi as currently the prices are prohibitively expensive as stated in the article Wi-Fi use in the air is slow to take off”, published 16 January 2012 By Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY

So a flight of Fancy: REDjet or Caribbean Airlines as Telecom Providers for hefty 300MBps Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n)? Here’s hoping that Telecoms Equipment Maker Qualcomm succeeds in getting on the good side of FCC (Federal Communication Commission) Julius Genachowski for their Next-Gen AG proposal, who may be in no mood for attempts at another Monopoly in the Mile High Club.
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