My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: LIME chooses AWS for 4G LTE – AWS Link Budget difference reduces Shadowing as It’s all about Optimization and Human Nature

Monday, April 21, 2014

LIME chooses AWS for 4G LTE – AWS Link Budget difference reduces Shadowing as It’s all about Optimization and Human Nature

“All of the major, and even some minor populations and households can avail themselves of 4G. We're going to be vastly superior to what we have today”

Managing Director of LIME Gary Sinclair in his interview with the Financial Gleaner dated Friday April 11th 2014

Telecom Provider LIME has decided to take the AWS Spectrum and utilize it to launch 4G LTE (long Term Evolution), despite any negative Press surrounding their decision to use what’s considered very difficult Spectrum to utilize as stated in “LIME Jamaica makes big bet on AWS Spectrum”, Published Friday April 11, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Specifically, they purchased the following Blocks of Frequency and its associated 15 year license for a tidy sum of US$30 million:

1.      12 MHz Band consisting of Spectrum from 1710 MHz to 1722 MHz
2.      12 MHz Band consisting of Spectrum from 2110 MHz to 2122 MHz 

It’s pretty much equivalent to the 700 MHz Band 17 that was granted to Telecom Provider Digicel, in that it’s 12 MHz is size.  The difference here being that Telecom Provider LIME took 1 Block of 12 MHz whereas Telecom Provider LIME took 2 non-adjacent Blocks of Spectrum.

There seems to be some confusion though between the actions of the Ministry of Science, Technology Energy and Mining, Telecom Provider LIME and the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority).

Apparently, the SMA has declared they’ve not issued any such Spectrum License for any Blocks of AWS Spectrum to Telecom Provider LIME, to quote their emailed response to the Financial Gleaner:  “At present, no Spectrum in the AWS Band has been licensed. Consideration is also being given to making frequencies in the 1700/2100 MHz Band (AWS-3) available for licensing”.

LIME chooses to go 4G LTE – HSDPA+ plans refashioned as Jamaicans falling in love with Data

Telecom Provider LIME upgrade of their 3G Network to 4G LTE is really a change of direction from their plans to go HSDPA+ (High Speed Downlink Packet Access Plus) Release 7 (64-QAM) to a full on 4G LTE Network as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel have purchase AWS and 700 MHZ Spectrum for 4G LTE - Spectrum Purchase by the Number with Strings Attached as Ministry gets kitty donations from Local Telcos”.

That’s clearly obvious from their figure of US$80 million, which C&W PLC, their Parent company, had gifted them back in 2011 for a December 2012 launch as I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled LIME's 4G plans are really a HSDPA+ Release 7 Upgrade - Telecom Provider LIME’s Deception as HSDPA+ is really just a faster 3G Plan from the past”.

Back then, the plan was to use the influx of tourists into the islands as the main users of the faster HSDPA+ or H+ Network for short. But since the MTR (Mobile Termination Rate) was adjusted by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation), Telecom Provider LIME has seen a 25% increase in its Customer Base as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME experiences 25% increase in Profits due to MTR - 4G LTE and FTTH like Bahamas with IPTV Streaming LIME TV will give LIME 3 Days to Kill” to their current number of 700,000 customers!

Thanks also in part to Telecom Provider Digicel for their launch of DL600 and DL700 smartphones, the appetites of most Jamaicans for Data Services was whetted by these low-end JA$10,000 budget smartphones as stated in my blog article entitledJamaicans fall in love with Digicel's DL600 and DL700 during Christmas 2013 - Sub-US$100 smartphones driving rapid smartphone adoption in Jamaica as Manufacturing is Possible”.

Positive feedback from the Bahamas launch of 4G LTE as described in my blog article entitled “Bahamas Telecommunications Company launched 4G LTE on Valentine's Day - Jamaicans need UNCHR Right to Broadband Access needed to empower Jamaicans before 4G LTE can go National” may have also changed their minds as well, making them realize after the Christmas of 2013 that many Jamaicans were indeed interested in paying for Wireless Broadband.

AWS vs 700 MHz – Link Budget for AWS different from the US of A due to reduce Shadowing

But are these higher frequency Block of Spectrum up to the Task? Short answer, yes!

Telecom Provider LIME merely has to upgrade the Cell Sites in their intended coverage area with the new Firmware and Circuit Boards that will enable their Ericsson 3G BBU (Base Band Units) to function with the 4G LTE Spectrum.

Remember, like Telecom Provider Digicel, Telecom Provider LIME uses Ericsson as its Telecom Equiptment Supplier of Choice as stated in my blog article entitled “LIME outsources Network Maintenance to Ericsson - The Lone Rangers in Telecoms may have to Tag Team to get a 700Mhz license for 4G LTE”.

So they don’t need to purchase all new Telecom Equipment, merely to upgrade their existing one from 3G to 4G LTE with new Agisson or Andrews Antennas capable of handling the new Frequencies. Additionally, they’ll also need to upgrade all Backhaul Network to Fiber Optic to handle the Peak Traffic associated with 4G LTE.

Finally, they’ll also have to make sure that the Secondary Power Backup system is preferably Solar or Wind Turbine powered, specifically for the Backhaul Network as argued in my blog article entitled “Phillip Paulwell allocates 700Mhz and Fiber Optic License for LTE - Broadcasters effectively on notice for Digital Switch Over”, as at such High Speeds that 4G LTE Networks are capable of, Data Failures and outages are not tolerated by Business Customers.

The Financial Gleaner has quoted the SMA in emails requesting information on Telecom Provider LIME’s AWS Spectrum as were told they’d have some challenges as according to the SMA, AWS needs three Cell Towers to provide the equivalent 4G LTE Coverage of a single 700 MHz 4G LTE Cell Tower.

The concerns about the Spectrum being too high and requiring more Towers as mentioned by SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) are completely false. Interesting comments that have elicited some defensive albeit correct posturing from Managing Director of LIME Gary Sinclair who was quoted as saying that the AWS Spectrum is  “going to provide us with maximum cost efficiency”.

Truth is, the SMA’s comments are based on the experiences of Telecom Provider AT&T operating in the Cities in the US of A using the 2100 MHz Band back in 2007 to 2008, where there are a lot of high Rise buildings. These buildings contain a significant amount of Steel and concrete and thus are not transparent to frequencies above 1 GHz or 1000 MHz.

However, they suffer more reflection than absorption, which explains many quirks about these early 2100 MHz 3G Data Networks where persons have spoken anecdotal stories of standing in particular spots and getting coverage in New York and San Francisco, California, only to move somewhere else and the 3G Data Signal drops

Consequently, when they’d deployed their 3G Wireless Networks in the US of A, they had problems with reception, resulting in many Americans who owned AT&T Apple iPhones to curse them for their poor Data Service. In response, Telecom Provider AT&T eventually made the decision to purchase Blocks of Spectrum in the 850 MHz Band and had customers having difficulty using their 3G go to Times Square to use free Wi-Fi Internet.  

Good to note too that Apple also redesigned the Apple iPhone 4 with a new Antenna design that improved the coverage by enabling the smartphone to pick up reflected signals as chronicled in my blog article entitled Apple iPhone and the Loop Antenna - Strange Encounters of the Third Kind and “Apple and the Antenna - Black Sabbath and much ado about nothing”.

This resulted in an improvement in the reception. However, the bandwidth is a little less for 850 MHz and even more so for the 700 MHz Blocks of Spectrum, a minor loss for the gain in increased indoor coverage. All this merely suggests is that higher Spectrum is useful for carrying Wireless Broadband Data, with Spectrum below 1 GHz being able to handle slower speed Data e.g. 3G and Voice Services.

A good example of such a service is Digicel’s very own 4G Broadband Internet service, which is based on WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) Protocols and uses the 2.5 GHz Band, very close to the Bands that Telecom Provider LIME has chosen.

Digicel’s 4G Broadband modems work ok and deliver good service but work best when located near to a window or area in the house with little metallic structural interference. But you’ll have to get used to the Troubleshooting Procedure as it relates to handling your WiMaX Modem as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to setup and troubleshoot your Digicel 4G Broadband Modem”.

Good to note that in the USA of A, which is flat and lacking of any significant terrain features, the AWS is used by Telecom Provider in the country areas, not in the Cities, to provide 4G LTE Services. The SMA is thus being very disingenuous in suggesting that AWS Spectrum costs more, when in fact, it really comes down to a matter of the difference in the Link Budget (Plan for Voice and Data Spectrum Deployment from point-to-point or point-to-multi-point).

Thus the Link Budget in the US of A and Jamaica would be different as here we have sunny weather and drier air and more mountainous terrain as opposed to the US of A where they have more moister air and temperate climate with flatter terrain.

Telecom Engineer and AWS – It’s all about Optimization and the typical Customer’s Data Usage

Telecom Engineers can take advantage of these differences in Link Budget between Jamaica and America when installing 4G LTE antennas by placing them on high elevations or hills, thus increasing the range of a typical Tower without boosting power.

In addition, Optimization exercises, which are constantly ongoing for any Telecom Network involving the adjusting Tilt angles of the Andrew and Agisson Antennas as well as adjusting coverage frequencies. These are all part and parcel of the Telecom Maintenance, with 4G LTE Maintenance being added to that list.

In addition, in the US of A, the cities aren’t suitable for AWS due to the shadowing effect of the high rise buildings, but excellent for use in the flat, rolling countryside. Hence, the Americans are already planning AWS deployments in these low-lying, flat countryside areas as a Last –Mile solution in what are called WiSPs as described in “Meet WISP, the wireless future of Internet service”, published Dec 2, 2013 3:30 AM by Eric Geier, PCWorld. Ditto that too for AWS in Jamaica and thus with benefits to Telecom Provider LIME, with the added benefit of higher Bandwidth.

Also the usage habits of humans come into play. The typical engrossed Data user on his smartphone will often stop stock still while walking and messaging, deep in concentration. This is atypical of any person on their smartphone using Data Applications, the little screen holding them in rapt attention to the point of ignoring all about them.

This as humans cannot multi-task in any activity that requires the eyes and both hands. Hands-free phone conversations, however, require less mental agility, making it easy to do both. To that end, Telecom Provider LIME need not worry about dropped Data connections for users in the future using smartphones or Tablets to access their 4G LTE Network; they’ll be standing stock still!

As for the same of smartphones that support the AWS Spectrum, most smartphones and Tablets that have the ability to access 4G LTE are Quad Band. Thus in choosing 1710 MHz to 1722 MHz and 2110 MHz to 2122 MHz, Telecom Provider LIME has chosen a commonly used Spectrum that’s already trending in the US of A as a common choice for 4G LTE as mentioned in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel have purchase AWS and 700 MHZ Spectrum for 4G LTE - Spectrum Purchase by the Number with Strings Attached as Ministry gets kitty donations from Local Telcos”.

All they merely have to do is just make sure that devices that use the AWS
Spectrum for Data Services are mainly of two types:

1.      Mi-Fi with fairly large antennas connected to a Power Supply
2.      Fixed Units at home where the customer doesn’t do a lot of moving about
3.      Smartphones that use the Spectrum that they’ve purchased

Hopefully, they’ll also offer other services such as Fixed Line Telephony similar to Digicel DigiHome as described in my blog article entitled “Digicel rolls out DigiHome, their first Residential Postpaid Fixed Line Service - Ramp up for Landline Number Portability and LIME’s Homefone XPress”.

Telecom Provider LIME can thus provide reliable 4G LTE Service to Jamaica and with enough bandwidth to handle the traffic, once they’ve significantly upgraded their Backhaul Network to handle the increased Data Traffic with a Fiber Optic Backhaul as Telecom Provider Digicel is currently doing as stated in “Digicel to build sophisticated underground fibre network”, published Wednesday March 26, 2014, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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