AR, VR – Real-time communication in 5G

GSMA Intelligence forecasts that the number of 5G connections globally will reach 1.3 billion by 2025, covering 40 percent of the world’s population or approximately 2.7 billion people. At that time, the Americas region is expected to account for over 260 million 5G connections or 20 percent of the global market.

The question everyone is asking in telco last couple of years is – do we really need 5G? Do we really need that throughput for our voice, video and messaging services? Can we significantly improve real-time communication services so that customers would be willing to pay for it? RCS aka Advanced Messaging is a great example of how difficult it can be to find the right business model for new technologies. EVS supported in 4G is more than what we need for voice calling. Although video calling is possible in 4G, not that many customers are using this option on their mobile devices. More popular than video is desktop-sharing, collaboration and communication in context. Well, lower latency and better throughput can be useful – but is it a reason strong enough to invest into the new 5G infrastructure, when collaboration applies mainly to fixed networks?

5G Drivers. Source GSMA

Still there are real-time communication applications which require low latency and huge amount of data so that 4G is not enough. Virtual Reality (VR) applications like 360-degree video will necessitate higher resolutions of 8K and above, and stereoscopic video (which separates left and right eye views in VR) also requires additional bandwidth. When most people hear about 3D video, holograms, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), they mostly think about gaming. And yes, gaming can be a good example and people like to spend money for entertainment. But there are other examples, where AR and VR can make a difference.

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News: Wireshark is 20!

Impossible not to mention. Ethereal – these days known as Wireshark – is twenty! In 1998 Gerald Combs publicly released its first version 0.2.0. And he truly changed the IT (and particulary telco) world. Over the years Wireshark has won several industry awards, and it is one of the top-rated sniffers. Wireshark is a real gift for every engineer who works with a protocol stack. At the same time many BIG companies don’t even realize what contribution Wireshark means to their daily business!

 

Wireshark

 

Thank you Gerald and everyone who has helped with this great project!

Comment: Real-time communication & AI

So we have a first robot citizen. When we read about human-robots they are presented as future cleaning-ladies, news anchors, soldiers or sex-machines.

Everyone can imagine possible threats. In the current world of spam and fake news robots can manipulate our reality even in a more advanced way. It’s not just a robot shop assistant which – by the way – mentions how great is a new laundry detergent or your joy-robot asking for an upgrade in a (im)proper time. It can also spy what you have at home, how much time you spend with various activities, assess your income or overhear conversation with your spouse  – all, of course, in your best interest (let’s call it cookies 2.0). Not talking about real malware and ransomware.

In the same way participants in reality show forget about TV cameras, we’ll forget that robots are just robots. They don’t even need to look very real. Our brain is not that difficult to deceive. So the question is how to protect ourselves. At some point AI outsmarts human brain and we’ll need some help.

Let us know in comments section, what is your view and how to protect ourselves – e.g. how a new antispam sw/hw could look like.

SIP URI Overview

Everyone knows that SIP headers like R-URI, To, From, P-Asserted-Identity, Path, Route and others contain Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI) –  sip uri or tel uri. But do you know what formats we can use, with what parameters? As URI is one of the IP communication’s corner stones, it worth to have some better understanding.

SIP URI in VoLTE

Let’s start from the beginning. SIP URI is defined in RFC 3261, TEL URI in RFC 3966 (this RFC defines also modem and fax URL schemes).

SIP URI has a similar form to an email address. It contains typically a username and a hostname, for example test@realtimecommunication.info, where realtimecommunication.info is the domain of a SIP service provider. TEL URI is simply a telephone (landline or mobile) number as tel:+611234567890. It is needed mainly to support CS related scenarios and Mobile Number Portability (MNP). In practice we can see various forms of sip-uris:

sip:+611234567890@operator.com
sip:+611234567890@ims.mnc000.mcc000.3gppnetwork.org
sip:ims.mnc000.mcc000.3gppnetwork.org
tel:+611234567890
sip:+611234567890@ims.mnc000.mcc000.3gppnetwork.org;user=phone;npdi
tel:4567890;phone-context=+61123
tel:7890;phone-context=operator.com
sip:ffffffff@tas.ims.operator.com:5060;transport=udp

Last but not least we have also a SIPS URI, which specifies that the resource is to be contacted securely. For that we use TLS as a transport layer protocol. The format for a SIPS URI is the same, except that the scheme is “sips” instead of sip. Note, that any resource described by a SIP URI can be “upgraded” to a SIPS URI by just changing the scheme, if it is desired to communicate with that resource securely.

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News: RTC in 2017

GSMA has just recently published the final numbers for 2017. As expected the last year we’ve seen less 4G deployments than in 2016.

4G Deployments in 2017

The only exception was the RCS. (Btw. GSMA released its Universal Profile Version 2.0 for Advanced RCS Messaging.)

From the population coverage point of view the last year meant a great step forward. Although many developing countries have been still more focused on 3G (4G coverage is on average 35% there), the overall number of 4G coverage increased significantly.

Population Coverage, © GSMA Intelligence 2017

The main reasons for that are:

  • China has achieved 99% coverage in less than three years and it is now 4G-first
  • In India Reliance Jio has beem driving the technological move towards 4G and other operators are following
Technology Migration© GSMA Intelligence 2017

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Comment: A Piece of Advice for Every (Telco) Company

As a trainer and blogger I have a chance to talk to many engineers from various (telco) companies. And I can hear a lot of similar complains. “We’re just reinventing a wheel, over and over again.”, “I feel like an investigator – to find the right information/documentation is so painful.”, “R&D doesn’t want to share anything.”,  “They are not answering to my questions, they’re just sending a lot of crap to keep me busy.”, etc. The common denominator is that companies don’t encourage engineers to work aloud and share their experience and knowledge. Why? So much effort and talent is wasted.. And by encouraging I mean also that they don’t provide the right tools (no, it’s not sharepoint) and managers don’t lead by their examples.

This can’t be fixed by any process or action points. It is about company/team culture. If managers treat engineers as “resources”, act as if they are more important, or if they say “we’re not at work to make friends” (and some are even so dump to share it on social networks), it is hard to imagine that others would willingly share their know-how. Yes, there can be some lessons-learn filled after project, some reports created – but honestly, what engineers read these documents??

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IMS Centralized Services – Overview

Have you heard about the IMS Centralized Services (ICS)? The basic idea is fairly simple. We want to apply services for IMS subscribers, regardless what access network they use. We know that in IMS we can do it for all IP-based access domains. But if the subscriber is accessing through the legacy CS network (e.g. because of a low LTE coverage in her area), we are still triggering the services in the CS Core network … right, unless we have the ICS in place. So ICS enables the IMS services even when one is using CS access for the media bearer.

IMS Centralized Services

The ICS is specified in GSMA IR.64 and 3GPP TS 23.292, 23.237 and 23.216. The scope of the specification includes:

  • Session establishment when using CS access for media transmission for an IMS service
  • Support of Service Continuity
  • Support of Single Radio Voice Call Continuity
  • Access Domain Selection (ADS)
  • IMS control of services where the media is transported via the CS network (e.g. managing of mid-call services)
  •  Service data management

The solution is applicable for UEs with or even without ICS functionality. As the first step all the sessions have to be anchored in the IMS. That is a job for Service Centralization and Continuity Application Server (SCC AS). The SCC AS is on the signalling path for both the originating and terminating services. Using the initial Filter Criteria (IFC), the SCC AS is triggered as the first AS for originating sessions and as the last for terminating sessions.

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NEWS: Number Portability & ENUM

Even in 2017 the telephone number remains the most universal identifier for real-time communication. And as the word is moving to be All-IP, we have to be able to translate the number into something more meaningful for routing in IP networks. The GSMA organization selected for this purpose the Electronic Number Mapping System (ENUM) and in 2007 released the first version of PRD IR.67.

ENUM based Routing

Moreover Mobile Operators in over 50 countries have to support Mobile Number Portability (MNP). Although for MNP is a great feature for end subscribers, it makes the signalling more complex and costly for the Operators. The MNP is not just a problem for signalling (routing) but also for billing and management of interconnect agreements. Last but not least it can be a significant issue for content and application providers who may not be aware of the change of the operator for a particular user.

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GSMA Advanced Messaging – RCS Universal Profile

Rich Communication Services (RCS) has been around for a couple of years without any major success (actually the number of RCS deployments has been declining). There were many reasons. From the technical point of view it was caused by very ambitious design at the times where there was a little experience with IP-based technologies in operators’ networks, along with the lack of good enough RCS clients. That has changed and in the November 2016 we got a new standard called RCS Universal Profile (RCS UP) created by GSMA.

It contains a set of Advanced Calling and Messaging features and agreed enablers – such as application to person messaging (chatbots) and conversational commerce (the seamless integration of transactions and messaging).

Updatehttp://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43836504

Update: GSMA in June, 2017 released the version 2 of RCS Universal Profile. This document also introduces the key enablers for Messaging as a Platform (MaaP). MaaP includes support for Application-to-Person messaging, Rich Cards, privacy control and spam protection to open up an A2P RCS business.

 

To date 46 Mobile Network Operators and 12 manufacturers, covering a subscriber base of 4.7 billion people globally, have committed to supporting a single, standard implementation of the Universal Profile. That means that the profile will be implemented by most smartphones makers (similarly as in the case of VoLTE/VoWifi). They are Alcatel, ASUS, General Mobile, HTC, Intex Technologies, Lava International Ltd., LG Electronics, Lenovo/Motorola, Samsung Electronics and ZTE,. Moreover the standard is supported by mobile OS providers Google and Microsoft. Therefore the devices will be equipped (as from Q2 2017) with a built-in Advanced Messaging app, so consumers will be able to text, chat and share media without the need to download any special application. (However a usage of app is also an option supported by RCS Universal Profile.)

Update: We have got the first smartphone with RCS UP support – more here

It is worthwhile to mention that Google is playing an important role because it bought Jibe – one of a few useful RCS clients, and has developed a universal Android client based on the GSMA RCS UP. Google along with Sprint in US and Rogers in Canada announced that they’re rolling out with their RCS Messaging based on RCS UP at the end of the last year. Besides, as GSMA says, Google is offering a carrier hosted service for Operators to launch and manage Advanced Messaging services to their customers without deploying the RCS or even IMS infrastructure.

Update: We have got some more RCS  UP deployments in Europe and Asia this year – more here

Update: Australia – more here

Update: Sprint and Rogers now support RCS Interconnect! – more here

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News: 2016 Summary

The year 2016 was in many ways the year of VoLTE and VoWifi. IP-based communication became an established standard and mobile operators are getting confident with the new technology. GSMA has just published the numbers for 2016.

IP deployments in 2016
IP deployments in 2016

One thing is the official announcement that an operator offers VoLTE/VoWifi, the other thing how much compliant it is and what services are really supported. We can see a big progress here as well. More and more operators are trying to interwork over IP, provide IP-based emergency services, IP voice and video mail, enhanced voice quality such as HD or EVS, support real multi-device feature or self-provisioning.

Operators are also trying to offer web-based access using WebRTC, which seems to be a must for enterprise integration and communication in context. RCS was not that popular in 2016, operators mostly use IPSMGW to provide SMS over IP. But seems it starts to change as can’t rely on SMS forever.

If the 2016 was about calling over IP, the 2017 can be about M2M (again). In the last 12 months we have seen many Sigfox and LoRaWAN deployments, and finally we got the log-awaited ‘so-called’ specification NB-IoT and we could see its first deployment. I planned to write a post about LPWANs, but then I read and article written by Nick Hunn, which is much better than anything I could put together: nb-iot is dead long live nb-iot.

Although we made a big step forward it doesn’t make our life any easier. In 2017 we can expect Artificial Intelligence everywhere, but I doubt it will allow us to relax either 🙂 Happy new year everyone!