Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
The Porridge thickens...signal strength
Monday 21 April, 2014, 19:34 - Spectrum Management
Posted by Administrator
Following the recent Wireless Waffle piece on Valles Marineris sized chasm in the values used by the ITU in predicting the demand for IMT spectrum in 2020 spotted by the European Satellite Operators Association in their response to Ofcom's mobile data consultation, others have noted similar gulfs.

tim farrarTelecoms analyst Tim Farrar (pictured right) published an article in GigaOm entitled 'Note to the telecom industry: beware of false models'. In it he takes a different view to ESOA. The ESOA response tries to use the values in the ITU's 'Speculator' model to define the data traffic that the UK would experience in 2020 and discover that applying the values in the ITU model yields results that far exceed forecasts. The GigaOm article instead looks directly at the values found in the ITU model and concludes that they are up to 1000 times too high which generally concurs with findings of the ESOA analysis.

ebu logo 144x144Next the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) have chipped in. Their document, 'Crystal balls, tea leaves or mathematics' critically examines the ITU's model and similar to the others concludes that there are a 'number of erroneous elements'.

Wireless Waffle has been able to get hold of a copy of the 'Speculator' and so exclusively for you, here are some of the values that are causing people such as ESOA, Mr Farrar and the EBU such consternation:

ParameterCurrent ValueNotes
Spectrum EfficiencyFor GSM/UMTS/LTE: 2 to 4 bits/second/Hz/cell.
For LTE-Advanced: 4.5 to 7.3 bits/second/Hz/cell
These look like highly aspirational values!
Call Blocking Rate1%This represents the chance of not being able to make a call (i.e that there is a 99% chance of success).
Population DensityMaximum of 222,333 per sq kmThis occurs in 'SE2, SC12' which equates to interactive high multimedia use in offices in dense urban areas.
Mean Service Bit RateSC6 (streaming super high multimedia): Up to 1 Gbps
SC11 (interactive super high multimedia): Up to 1 Gbps
Really? 1 Gbps on average!

office workerThe population density figure for urban offices using 'interactive high multimedia' is brain achingly odd. For other uses in urban offices, the population densities are significantly lower, so it is not clear why the use of these interactive high multimedia would be so prevalent in offices compared to other applications. Have the ITU assumed that all office workers do all day is play games and watch videos?

A mean (average) service bit rate of 1 Gbps seems excessively excessive. If this was the peak service rate then, maybe, just maybe, this would be possible (and only possible on LTE-Advanced networks, not on the others). But to assume that it is an average seems just crazy.

Of course the big question is, what would the 'Speculator' say, if the values input to it were more realistic? To try and answer this question requires some kind of estimation of what realistic actually means. Whilst we make no claims for the realism of any of the values proposed below, here are some alternative values...

ParameterNew ValueNotes
Spectrum EfficiencyFor GSM/UMTS/LTE: 0.55 to 1.5 bits/second/Hz/cell. For LTE-Advanced: 1.1 to 3 bits/second/Hz/cellThe values for LTE-Advanced are taken from the ITU's own Report M.2134. Those for GSM/UMTS/LTE are half the LTE-Advanced values (roughly in line with the original ratios).
Call Blocking Rate2%A value that more operators would recognise.
Population DensityReduced so that the weighted average values are the same as those in the ESOA report for the UK (e.g. ~11000 per sq km in Urban areas).This should mean that running the ESOA calculations would at least yield the correct population for the UK.
Mean Service Bit RateCapped at 100 Mbps.Seems a little more reasonable based on the technologies likely to be in use by 2020.

The big question is obviously therefore, what does this do to spectrum demand? The original and revised figures are shown in the table below.

SettingGSM/UMTS/LTELTE-AdvancedTotal
OriginalRevisedOriginalRevisedOriginalRevised
Low440 MHz580 MHz900 MHz480 MHz1340 MHz1060 MHz
High540 MHz660 MHz1420 MHz600 MHz1960 MHz1260 MHz

What does this tell us? Oddly, in both cases, the demand for GSM/UMTS/LTE spectrum has increased. This is probably due to the lower spectrum efficiency that these technologies have been assumed to achieve. Conversely, the total spectrum demand has dropped significantly and all of this reduction has come from spectrum for LTE-Advanced.

But what is most striking about these calculations is not necessarily the differences in the results, but the simplicity with which it is possible to present alternative values and find a different outcome. For example, no effort has been made in the above analysis to check the way in which the ITU model apportions traffic between the 2G/3G networks and the LTE-Advanced network. Could, for example, it be argued that by 2020 major carriers in advanced markets (e.g. USA) will have moved all of their data traffic to LTE-Advanced and that only 2G will remain for legacy voice services. itu outlook gloomyThis would almost certainly serve to vastly reduce the amount of 2G/3G spectrum that would be needed, whilst providing only a modest increase in the amount of spectrum that would be needed for LTE-Advanced, given the technology's improved spectrum efficiency. In this case, the total requirement would probably fall further. Or could it be that we will all be living in a virtual environment, with Google glasses projecting us a view of the world in full HD as we stroll around the office - requiring umpteen times more data than the ITU model predicts.

The fact is that any model of this kind, no matter how many brains were employed in developing it, can never be more than a 'best guess', especially when looking 7 to 10 years into the future. Weather forecasters struggle to predict the level of precipitation 7 to 10 days into the future and no-one in their right mind would decide if they needed to carry an umbrella a week next Tuesday based on their forecast. Nor should the vast wireless community take decisions based on this one forecast, it would be irresponsible of them to do so and if the weather changes, they may end up getting soaked!
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