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There was no celebration: in September, I attended my thirty-first public technical symposium in the guise of Keysight’s 5G program manager. From Tampa to Tel Aviv to Taipei, whether organized by IEEE, NTIA, GSMA, or IMT2020, such events have taught me a few things about myself and many more about how our 5G technology community manages social gatherings.

 

Please allow me a quick analysis. I sort these events into three buckets: “technically rich,” “overtly commercial,” and “government promotional.” Here are my snapshots of each type.

 

Technically rich: By turns exhausting or invigorating

I like technical, but these are simply not enjoyable when they drift into academic opacity. Still, many provide opportunities for rich dialogue with others in the industry. Three events come to mind: IEEE MTT/IMS; the IWPC meetings; and the recent International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) convocation in Colorado. I exit these with a rejuvenated curiosity and a refreshed perspective about the amazing technical brains powering the communications business.

 

ISART was an especially impressive mix of policy makers, mobile communications experts, and satellite industry representatives. I learned a great deal about millimeter-wave (the primary topic) and gained insight into how some institutions work. I also picked up a few tidbits on spectrum policy:

 

  • News to me, part 1: The ITU is part of the United Nations, and ITU spectrum decisions are international treaties. Among UN organizations, the ITU is unique in allowing the participation of commercial entities.
  • News to me, part 2: The FCC, which gets a lot of press, and the NTIA, which gets very little, are sister organizations. The former manages (among other things) spectrum for commercial use; the latter manages spectrum for federal use.
  • The real story: I had assumed that the spectrum conflict between mobile and satellite was strictly technical, centered on the risk of interference. Not so: the most recent Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) report and order (R&O) from July 2016 is the source of discord because the FCC wants to reduce the risk of interference by placing tight restrictions on the location of large ground-based satellite gateways (i.e., terrestrial links to satellite constellations). Jennifer Manner of EchoStar suggested these rules are not even practical.

 

Overtly commercial: Have you read our press release?

GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the most prominent example. While I have had excellent discussions with some of our key customers at this event, I sheepishly admit that MWC has additional appeal because it is a great excuse to explore and enjoy one of my favorite cities. On the other side of the Atlantic, the GSMA teamed up with CTIA for the first time to create Mobile World Congress Americas 2017. Although I would love to write about the event, I was not there; rather, I was in Taiwan, attending the third kind of gathering...

 

Government promo shows: Not purely self-promotion

The 4th Taipei 5G Summit was a two-day event organized by a group within the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs. It was coupled with the 21st World Conference on Information Technology. I had the honor of speaking at this event and focused my talk on getting the audience to think about a sampling of measurement and validation challenges in 5G New Radio (NR).

 

Taiwan is an interesting case for 5G communications in that its indigenous mobile operators will be very cautious about investing in 5G—a reluctance driven particularly by the failure of Taiwan’s WiMAX business model. However, Taiwan-based multinational technology giants like Hon Hai, TSMC, WNC, Quanta, and Pegatron will all take full advantage of the global investments in 5G technologies. Based on what I saw from both National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University, it is clear that academia is also fully engaged in a very impressive manner.

 

Among the many highlights from the event was a presentation by Tareq Amin of Reliance Jio. Mr. Amin deftly detailed how Jio completely changed its technology investment paradigm to implement a financially stable LTE network in India, a country with an ARPU of about $2 (vs. about $60 in the USA). Ordinarily, I resent sitting through presentations that are thinly veiled sales pitches (the Taiwan Summit had a few of those). Mr. Amin did indeed talk about Jio’s success: it achieved #1 LTE penetration in the world in seven months, processing some 7 petabytes per month. However, his real message was about innovation that follows from a drastic change in perspective when confronted with unprecedented boundary conditions. It was the most inspiring talk I have heard perhaps all year.

 

What have been your experiences?

Here I expose myself to comments from those of you whom have had to listen to my talks. What inspires you at these events? Will 5G be successful in your environment? What will it take?