My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Telecom Providers, 4G and Wi-Fi Roaming - Ruckus Wireless and the Firestarter


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Telecom Providers, 4G and Wi-Fi Roaming - Ruckus Wireless and the Firestarter

War should be the only study of a Prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute military plans

Macchiavelli, The Prince

Due to the nature of how 3G works, I knew as a RF (Radio Frequency) Technician while employed at Telecom Provider CLARO (2008 to December 2009) that HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) Data Networks, more popularly called 3G Networks, need not sign Roaming Agreements as it relates to the use of 3G Data service while traveling abroad.

Thus Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecom Provider Sprint, a Clearwire investor, had to sign Roaming Agreements as explained in my blog article entitled “Digicel and WiMaX 4G mobile - Sprint, My Brother's Keeper”, as WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16.d,e) is not GSMA sanctioned but IEEE sanctioned, effectively politics.

In this same article, I hinted at the possibility that Telecom Provider Digicel could do the same with Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network, now set to spring up like poppies in Jamaica, as there is excess bandwidth still unused from Triple Play Provider FLOW, a wholesaler of T1 connectivity.

This would be a means of staving off competition on for Data customers with Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks, that being Wayne Chen and Lee’s family financed Dekal Wireless and Nubian-1 Tech Services Limited, as per my article on the Geezam Blog entitled “Dekal Wireless - Broadband for the Masses” could enter into Roaming Agreements.

I even floated the idea to Telecom Provider Digicel via letter for all three (3) Jamaican-based Telecom Providers Digicel, LIME and CLARO to jointly building out a shared access Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network as a means of staving off being overrun by an ever expanding wave of Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks, sure as rain to come, as the T1 capacity provided by Triple Play Provider FLOW is yet to be even fully exhausted.

Thus my elation as to the news of a technological breakthrough by Ruckus Wireless that will allows smartphones customers and eventually other Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) enabled devices to roam from 3G/4G Wireless Data Networks to Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks.

This is in much the same way Roaming works in Switched Voice Networks on CDMA and to a lesser extent GSM Networks as announced in the article Ruckus Gateway adds Wi-Fi to Cell Networks”, published February 14, 2011 4:40 am by Nancy Gohring, CELL PHONES / VOIP, IDG News.

The announcement was made at the just concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the Telecoms Bigwigs (CEO, Chairman, etc) met to discuss the future of Telecoms – and how to avoid Apple Inc and Google turning them into “dump pipes”, mere conduits of Data as opposed to making money from said app and content streaming/downloaded driven Data, now clogging their Networks with ever increasing Traffic.

Especially as Apple Inc’s magical app’s store has hit the ten billion (100,000,000) apps downloaded mark as stated in the article Apple App Store reaches 10 billion downloads”, published January 22, 2011 9:29 AM PST by Steven Musil, CNET News - Apple and 2011 is slated to be a bumper crop year for Mobile app downloading.

So says the analyst Gartner as stated in the article “Gartner: Mobile apps to generate US$15 billion in 2011”, published January 26, 2011 11:54 AM PST by Erica Ogg, CNET News - Circuit Breaker.

These Roaming facilities are only applicable, traditionally to Switched Voice, such as on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Voice and Data Networks, as common-sense would make the International traveler with a GSM (Global System Mobile) phone just simply buy a SIM card for their phone, assuming it is a Quad-Band and unlocked of course.

Roaming is mediated by the respective Telecom Providers MGW (Media Gateway) that connects both Native Networks i.e. the Telecom Provider’s own Node B’s Switched Voice Network and any Network foreign to the MGW i.e. other Network equipment such as 3G Networks, 4G Networks or other Telecom Provider Networks terminating on their Network!

Smartphones that use GSM, if not unlocked, are most likely because it is on two (2) year contract or just simply not a Quad-Band mobile phones e.g. Blackberry, the GSM customer would have to resort to Roaming and its onerous Roaming charges while traveling Internationally.

For such people, Google comes riding on a Silicon Valley start-up called Ubiquisys, offering a pocket-sized edition of a femtocell called an attocell that plugs up to any broadband Network Internationally.

This allows the International Traveler to make Switched Voice calls as if still in the country of their Host Terrestrial Telecom Network as so beautifully explained in my blog article entitled “When in Roam (ing) carry a attocell - SnapDragon and The Tourist”.

So this means, by logic, the CDMA and by extension the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) International traveler, if they are a Voice customer, will always have to pay Roaming charges, as one cannot simply change the SIM card when one travels abroad. This is because CDMA and WCDMA do not use the SIM card, a feature of GSM for Switched Voice Networks.

However in the case of Data Network access, SIM cards acts as a reference for billing and authentication purposes for Data Networks via the Switched Voice Network, as each time you log on to the Internet with a 3G Dongle, the Telecom Provider uses the regular Switched Voice Network to identify the customer and set up billing in their AMA (Automated Messaging and Accounting) record tables or databases.

Upon identifying the customer, the Media Gateway (MGW) hands over control to the Data Network, thus enabling the customer to enjoy the delights, sight and sounds of the Internet.

A lot more technical than this, but the internal handover concept within the MSC (Mobile Switching Center) is akin to a security guard allowing you access to a building after signing you name in a paper based logbook, and then issuing you with a Badge Reader that only allows you access via swiping on a badge reader, effectively an internal security handover from one system after the previous older system has identified you as a valid member of the Telecom Provider’s Network.

This is the internal authentication procedure used in such 3G Networks, whose HSDPA Protocol is based on WCDMA Technology, with the modulation schema being IP (Internet Protocol) and Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) based or QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) as commonly referred to by RF Technicians.

It enable real-time authentication by using the Database already available to the Telecom Provider for the customer in their Switched Voice Network to allow access on their WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e) Data Network! This is because WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e) is an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) standard!

Throw in the lack of a close relationship with GSMA (Global Systems Mobile Alliance) authors of the 3GPP Protocol that describes the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) certified 3G Networks such as HDSPA and one can see why WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e) users are subjected to Roaming charges!

Hence, 3G Dongles do not need to have Roaming on their SIM card and but WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e) Dongles do, such as for use on a Pay-As-You-Go e.g. Day Pass Access Plan, that can be topped up online via a dedicated website.

Effectively, it’s really politics: the GSMA and IEEE do not necessarily see eye-to-eye, as both WiMaX and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are the exact same thing, except that the IEEE is Open Architecture, which the equivalent of Open Source for software, whereas the GSMA is closed Architecture!

Thus one can see a rational, albeit rather silly, for Telecom Provider Digicel and Telecoms Provider Sprint and Clearwire, a major investor in nationwide WiMaX 4G Mobile (IEEE 802.16d, e) Network Clearwire signing a Roaming Agreement as explained in my blog article entitled “Digicel and WiMaX 4G mobile - Sprint, My Brother's Keeper”.

So the recent announcement of Roaming from 3G/4G Networks supported by the GSMA to Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks by Ruckus Wireless, also based on similar protocols but powered by the IEEE, represents, in my mind, a technological solution towards mending fences between the GSMA and the IEEE!

Fits nicely too, with the development of 3G/4G compatible chipsets by Qualcomm in 2009, making smartphones HSDPA+ (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) and LTE (Long Term Evolution capable as stated in the article “Qualcomm readies 3G/4G mobile chipsets”, published November 12, 2009 4:07 PM PST by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength!

Thus, Telecom Provider that currently operate a free Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network as a means of handling excess Data Traffic as well as providing coverage in Data Dead Zone coverage areas as stated in the article “AT&T expands free Wi-Fi Hot Zone Trial”, published July 26, 2010 12:14 PM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength can now utilize this technology in the future to erect pay walls [American colloquial for billing] around their previously free Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Network.

It is also a push towards a future where Voice and Data will all be on the same Data Network, be it LTE or WiMaX as explained in my blog article entitled “Verizon's LTE Network and VoLTE - The Dead Zone meets the Machine Stops”. Seamless Data Transitioning or Roaming to ensure continuous billing should be transparent to the customer, who should not have to toggle between 3G (HSDPA or EV-Do), 4G (LTE or WiMaX) and spectrum-license free Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks.

It also enable Telecom Providers to cost effectively extend their 3G/4G Data Networks using Municipal Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) Networks and make revenue from their extended Networks, carrying Voice and Data at the same time. Soon as “White” Space frequencies are up for auction as stated in my blog article entitled “Telecom Providers and White Spaces - A Man for All Seasons and the Big Bang Theory”.

Truly, Ruckus Wireless technological breakthrough, albeit requiring some tweaking to work more seamlessly, is more than a game-changer, Fire Starter (1984) style! 
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