PureLiFi moves closer to commercialization

, FierceWireless, 7/18/16

PureLiFi, the Scottish startup led by “father of LiFi” Harald Haas, just announced the completion of a Series B financing round led by Temasek. The funding will support the development and commercialization of its proprietary LiFi technology that uses LED light to provide wireless communication.

LiFi, which uses the visible light spectrum instead of radio frequencies to deliver high-speed wireless data communication and internet access, initially gained fame during a TED speech that Haas delivered back in 2011. Radio waves are limited and expensive, he said, and can’t keep up with demand given constraints in spectrum resources.

PureLiFi, which has worked with the likes of Cisco and Lucibel, was formed in 2012 as a spin-off from the University of Edinburgh, where Haas has served as chair of the Mobile Communications department.

Since its last funding round in December 2014, the company has completed the development and production of the LiFi-X product, which it described as the world’s first mobile LiFi dongle, representing a step toward mass-market adoption. This enabled the company to secure the Series B funding and support its ambitions of ubiquitous LiFi infrastructure and device integration.

The company now has raised more than $10 million to date, with the most recent funding led by Temasek, an investment company based in Singapore. The company was advised by Quest Corporate, the Edinburgh-based corporate finance advisory business, and Dickson Minto, during the fundraising process.

“This funding, which exceeds what we set out to secure, gives the company the resources required to rapidly scale over the next few years,” said Russel Griggs OBE, chairman of PureLiFi, in a press release. “When I was asked to become chairman, my task was to build the initial base of the company and secure the funding to take it forward into the sectors we see as the future for the business. Having delivered all that successfully now, I am delighted that we have secured Mike Hickey to take over from me as chairman, whose international and sector experience will lead the company to even greater success.”

Along with Hickey coming in as chairman, the company has also brought on Alistair Banham as CEO, both of whom have substantial experience in the semiconductor industry.

Various universities around the world are studying LiFi as a complement to capacity-challenged Wi-Fi and cellular networks. LiFi uses light, which runs on a much higher frequency, instead of radio waves to transmit data.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that recent versions of iOS code were found to contain references to LiFi. But analysts told FierceWirelessTech at the time that a reference to LiFi is no guarantee that Apple will actually implement it. If it does go that route, Apple likely would have to create an entire ecosystem to go with it – not implausible, but certainly bold.

Posted on July 18, 2016 at 2:37 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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FCC votes to begin working toward 5G wireless networks

Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, 7/15/16

In a unanimous vote this morning, the Federal Communications Commission approved a plan to begin readying the United States for 5G wireless networks.

The proceedings will lead to the commission opening up airwaves that allow for faster data speeds; rights to those airwaves will then be auctioned off to companies like AT&T and Verizon. The FCC expects the first 5G networks to go live four years from now, in 2020.

“I do believe this is one of the — if not the — most important decision this agency will make this year,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

With this vote, the US can begin moving in earnest toward 5G wireless. There are two parts of the equation that still have to unfold. The FCC has to complete the plans it’s laying out today and open up high-speed airwaves to businesses; and wireless companies have to develop the technology that makes 5G work. Most of the big names are already at work on that, and some — like AT&T and Verizon — are already beginning tests.

What we still don’t know is specifically what 5G will do for us. It’ll be faster, of course — the question is, exactly how fast will that be? Wheeler says it’ll be capable of delivering 10 to 100 times the speed of currently wireless networks, but that’s a huge range. The reality likely depends on how mobile carriers decide to put 5G airwaves to work. Like 4G and LTE before it, expect 5G to exist somewhere the forthcoming technical papers’ grandiose promises and what we have today.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn joked about this lack of certainty in her opening remarks. Turning to Wheeler, she said, “Mr. Chairman, just what is 5G?” You’ll have to trust me on this, but it was very funny. “I’m willing to bet that your answer to the question ‘What is 5G’ will be different from the person sitting next to you, and to the next, and to the next,” Clyburn elaborated. “What we can agree is that the next wireless revolution promises to change the way we live, interact, and engage with our communities.”

This proceeding also opens up the door for much higher speed Wi-Fi. Although that, likewise, will require technical advancements before it can be put to use.

Posted on July 15, 2016 at 9:02 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Verizon hopes to set 5G agenda with latest milestone

, CNET news, 7/11/16

The carrier and its partners agree to a set of standards — a move that pushes the 5G effort forward and that reinforces Verizon’s leadership in the upcoming wireless tech.

The reality of 5G, wireless connectivity that’s faster than our speediest home internet service, is years away. But that isn’t stopping Verizon from making its presence felt now.

The nation’s largest wireless carrier said Monday it has worked out the radio specifications for its 5G deployment with its vendor partners, providing a common blueprint for everyone regarding the network infrastructure, processors and devices. It’s a significant step on the path to 5G. And by moving quickly now, Verizon hopes to set the agenda for how the standards look, a similar strategy it took with its 4G LTE deployment.

Setting the specifications not only speeds the process for its own vendors, but may influence the international community when players around the world finally begin hammering out a global standard, expected in 2020. The Federal Communications Commission is also working to free up resources to drive 5G in the US.

“The level of collaboration that we’re seeing exceeds what we saw during 4G,” said Adam Koeppe, vice president of network technology planning.

Verizon said it was working on making sure its 5G specification lined up with KT, a South Korean carrier interested in making a quick leap into the new technology in time for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

There’s been a lot of hype about 5G, and Verizon has had a hand in that. It offers massive potential as the next generation of cellular technology. The test speeds that Verizon has been able to produce are fast enough to download the entire “Simpson” series, or 600 high-definition episodes, in about half an hour.

While that may represent a theoretical best-case scenario, even modest predictions of what 5G will actually look like may transform our lives and a myriad of industries by improving and widening access to more people and more devices, and better enabling new tech like virtual reality and self-driving cars.

Verizon isn’t the only company working on 5G. T-Mobile has quietly looked into 5G. AT&T is investing in 5G as well and will run limited service in two cities by summer’s end. AT&T’s size will make it another influential voice in figuring out how 5G looks in a few years.

Verizon said it will begin commercially deploying its service next year.

These early deployments will serve more as a replacement for home internet service, referred to as fixed mobile broadband. Verizon even hopes to potentially provide home broadband access across the nation using its 5G network. But to get the kind of freedom of access you enjoy with 4G today, you’ll have to wait until all the carriers get on board the 5G train.

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 12:52 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Verizon, AT&T offering interoperable VoLTE to some customers

, FierceWireless, 7/7/16

The nation’s two largest mobile network operators have begun to commercially deploy interoperable Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Finally.

VoLTE offers as much as three times more voice and data capacity than 3G technologies, enabling higher quality connections. The technology also allows carriers to increase bandwidth.

AT&T confirmed to FierceWireless that some of its customers can now place VoLTE calls to Verizon users. Verizon declined to comment, however.

“Currently, we are working with Verizon to allow our customers to enjoy that clear audio quality and video calling features when placing VoLTE calls to Verizon customers and vice versa,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “In December, we saw the first VoLTE exchange between our customers and Verizon’s in limited, select areas.  We’re working with others on this same feature, too.”

The news follows several Reddit posts last week claiming the carriers had begun to support interoperable HD voice in some markets.

A top Verizon executive said earlier this year that the company’s VoLTE interoperability testing with competitor AT&T Mobility was going well and that he expected VoLTE interoperability with AT&T to be commercially available this year. The companies had previously said interoperability would be available by the end of last year, but they fell short of that goal.

Adam Koeppe, vice president of network planning and technology at Verizon, said in February that the VoLTE interoperability trials between the two companies were progressing nicely. Koeppe was using VoLTE as an example of how the two carriers have come together to work on interoperability and will likely be able to work together in other areas in the future, like 5G.

T-Mobile said in May that 52 percent of its voice calls were routed on VoLTE, although the operator didn’t discuss interoperability with other service providers. “When you look at the amount of spectrum that is being dedicated to 4G LTE, it’s only 52 percent of our spectrum,” CFO Braxton Carter said at an investors conference in May. “We’re actually very aggressively refarming first PCS spectrum, then we’ll go in and start refarming increasing amounts over time, so we have amazing capacity in a very spectrum-differentiated standpoint.”

Posted on July 7, 2016 at 9:17 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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New Wi-Fi standard promises to speed up your wireless

, CNET, 6/29/16

Products that meet the new standard will have expanded high-speed features, such as MU-MIMO, quad-stream and faster channels.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, a body that certifies Wi-Fi products to enable interoperability, has expanded the “Wi-Fi CERTIFIED ac” certification program to include features for faster performance.

This program, announced Wednesday, will now include features called “Wave 2” for newer and future AC network products.

What does that mean for you? Any new AC product you buy bearing the certificate’s seal has been tested to deliver these features:

Of all these features, the MU-MIMO (short for Multi-User Multi-Input Multi-Output) is the most anticipated and most significant, since it allows Wi-Fi devices of different Wi-Fi grades to each connect at their stop speed without slowing each other down.

MU-MIMO, as well as other features of Wave 2, have been available in many routers currently on the market, such as the Linksys EA8500, or the Netgear R8500, but only in draft or non-activated form. After today, these routers can be upgraded, via firmware, to fully support the final version.

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, currently more than 68 percent of devices are dual-band, operating in both 2.4 and 5GHz, with many of them supporting 802.11ac, which is capable of delivering wireless speed faster than Gigabit Ethernet. It’s expected that by 2020, 95 percent of devices will support dual-band and in the next five years, most Wi-Fi access points will support Wave 2 Wi-Fi.

Posted on June 29, 2016 at 11:55 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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AT&T routing more than 4 million voice calls a day over Wi-Fi

, FierceWireless, 6/23/16

AT&T  just rolled out Wi-Fi calling to its first Android handset last week, but the operator is already routing more than 4 million calls a day over Wi-Fi.

The nation’s second-largest operator first began to offer Wi-Fi calling on newer iPhones last fall, and last week it extended the service to Android users for the first time, announcing support on the LG G4. Bill Smith, AT&T’s president of technology operations, told attendees at an investors conference this morning that he expects usage to ramp up in a big way as Wi-Fi calling becomes available on more of AT&T’s Android phones.

“We’re now carrying over 4 million calls a day on voice over Wi-Fi,” Smith said. “We just recently started turning up Android-based operating systems, so I think that’s going to go up tremendously, and we’re doing that at extremely impressive performance levels.”

AT&T hasn’t pursued Wi-Fi calling as aggressively as T-Mobile, which first launched the service in 2007 and last year counted 7 million users making calls over Wi-Fi. But Smith said the increasing uptake of Wi-Fi calling bodes well as traffic continues to ramp up, forcing carriers to look to unlicensed spectrum as well as licensed airwaves.

“Unlicensed has to come into the mix when you think about wireless solutions,” Smith observed. “About 80 percent of the wireless traffic today is handled over Wi-Fi networks, so we’re actually pretty bullish about how we take not only Wi-Fi but other unlicensed bands. And if you build a control plane that is sophisticated enough to manage that effectively, it can really help you…. So when you consider that this has been kind of an un-engineered asset that we’ve been taking advantage of, I think when you look going forward we will be sophisticated enough to use unlicensed bands more effectively and in a more sophisticated manner.”

Meanwhile, Smith said AT&T is deploying its WCS spectrum “on an as-needed basis,” and it plans to put the AWS-3 airwaves it won at auction last year to work beginning in 2018. And while some investors have expressed concerns that the operator may be reigning in its capex, Smith said AT&T continues to invest heavily in its network both in the U.S. and as it expands its operations in Mexico.

“You can’t look at capex spend on a quarter-by-quarter basis; one data point is not a trend,” Smith said, noting that the company’s move toward SDN and NFV technologies are already paying dividends. “In ’15 (and) ’16 we’re going to deploy about 200 percent of the capacity that we did in ’13 (and) ’14, and we’re going to do it for 75 percent of the cost.”

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 9:13 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Windows 10 phones are getting NFC payments at last

, The Next Web, 6/23/16

Windows Phones mostly achieved feature parity with iOS and Android with Windows 10, but the lack of NFC payments has been a glaring omission. That’s starting to change today.

Windows Insiders running builds 14360 or higher can run an updated Microsoft Wallet app to make mobile payments with their MasterCard or Visa accounts. It will arrive for more devices with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update later this summer.

You can also use Wallet to store membership and rewards cards (think gym memberships, library cards, etc), which can be scanned from your phone’s screen.

As with Apple Pay and Android Pay, Microsoft Wallet doesn’t store your card number on the device, and it’s encrypted when making purchases.

The list of supported banks is fairly paltry at the moment (Chase is ‘coming soon’) but we imagine it won’t take too long to build a decent list.

Aside from running a recent Insider Build, you’ll need to have a Lumia 950, 950 XL or 650 for the feature to work. Still, it’s a nice move in preparation for that inevitable Surface Phone next year.

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 9:10 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology, WinPhone · Tagged with: 

Microsoft is experimenting with creating links to every screen in your mobile app

, The Next Web, 6/23/16

It’s not uncommon that people sometimes lose their place in a mobile app because they were interrupted by something else – like a notification from another tool – and struggle to find their way back.

A team at Microsoft Research believes it has a solution to that problem, and it’s called uLink. It’s described as a mechanism that uses mobile deep linking to generate a link and allows you to bookmark it – just as you would with Web URLs.

uLink is a new deep linking mechanism that brings the notion of web URLs to mobile apps. With uLink, users can bookmark links to app pages or search previously-seen pages with content of interest.

It also lets you search through your app browsing history. So if you came across a restaurant in a booking app, you can find it again just by typing a keyword from that page – like the city it’s located in – without having to bother swiping through the app in question to return to the page you’re looking for.

The team has implemented the uLink system on Android, and says that it requires minimal developer effort and achieves significantly higher coverage than other techniques. It isn’t yet clear if this will become available to users soon or show up on other platforms like iOS, but it’s certainly an idea worth pursuing.

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 9:08 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology

AT&T brings WiFi calling to Android phones

Jon Fingas, Engadget, 6/23/16

You don’t have to worry about cell coverage if you have the right phone.

Hey, AT&T subscribers: you no longer need an iPhone to make calls over WiFi. The carrier has introduced WiFi calling for Android. If you have a supporting device (currently limited to the LG G4), a postpaid plan and HD Voice support, you can grab an update that lets you make calls over the internet when cell service just isn’t an option. As on the iPhone, what you pay for a call only depends on who you’re calling — you can reach a US number at no extra charge while you’re abroad. AT&T certainly isn’t the first out of the gate with WiFi calling on Android, but this will definitely make a difference if you’d rather not switch networks just to get the improved coverage.

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 9:05 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iOS, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: ,

Google’s Project Fi cell service adds US Cellular to the mix

, CNET, 6/9/16

Multi-network MVNO now picks the best connection from T-Mo, Sprint, and US Cellular.

Project Fi, Google’s MVNO cellular service, launched last year with the unique ability to switch between multiple networks—T-Mobile and Sprint. Today Google announced that it is adding a third network into the mix—US Cellular. US Cellular is the fifth-largest carrier in the US, and Google says the company’s LTE service in “23 states, both urban and rural” will be merged into the Project Fi network.

Project Fi uses special SIM cards and radios to work as a “network of networks.” Fi-compatible phones measure the available connections from participating cellular networks and switch to the fastest one on the fly. With the new addition, Fi phones will now pick the fastest network from T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular. The downside is that you actually need a Fi-compatible phone, which right now is the Nexus 6, 5X, and 6P.

The service also provides a ton of Internet-centric features, full functionality over Wi-Fi, online voicemail, texting from other devices via Google Hangouts, call forwarding, and a sweet mobile app. Voice and text on Fi is unlimited, and data charges work on a flexible system where users are only charged month-to-month for what they use, at a rate of $10 per 1GB.

Fi users won’t need to do anything to get the enhanced coverage. Google says “U.S. Cellular coverage will be automatically rolling out to all users over the coming weeks.”

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 9:34 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , , ,