LTE Archives - eleven-x

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016: Big Hype and Real Data

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It is hard to believe that it has been a year since our first trip to Mobile World Congress (MWC). And as we madly prepare for this year’s conference, we reflect on last year’s event, and look forward to what we will learn and who we will connect with this time.

The exciting thing about MWC is that everyone in the industry goes. But behind all the flash of new product announcements and press releases, the engineers and decision makers from the trenches are also there to show off their hard work. Here you can meet the key players, find out the real story behind what they are doing, and learn the actual state of play.

A year ago, the wireless IOT solutions movement was just gaining traction. And in the year since, it has become the biggest story in telecoms. Talk of low bit rate, low-power networks has dominated wireless conversations, and the term LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) became the hot acronym of the year.

Last year we met a group of engineers from a little company called Nuel who had just been bought by Huawei in 2014. They were excitedly showing off their prospective wireless technology for IOT applications that they had just introduced to the 3GPP standards body. We were impressed by the simplicity of their system. It was a wild ride for them this past year, as their technology was put through the 3GPP wringer. It merged with other technologies and was renamed at least twice. I hope we get a chance to meet these guys at the Narrowband-IOT summit at MWC, hear their version of the journey, and compare notes on current proposed solutions.

Having spent the last year implementing LTE CAT-1 and CAT-0 and looking at LTE-M, we have a good grasp of the possibilities and challenges here. But 3GPP is offering multiple paths for IOT: LTE-M, NB-IOT, and EC-GSM. This leaves a lot of questions in terms of who is deploying what and where. We are going to MWC for answers. We will be talking to carriers, module makers, chipset manufacturers and infrastructure vendors to build a picture of the market’s direction and also build key partnerships.

Another company we met last year was SIGFOX. Almost exactly a year ago, this French start-up announced a $115M funding round to build out its network globally. They made a bold move to build a worldwide IOT network in unlicensed bands, and took an innovative approach to driving adoption: by giving away the technology. The team was passionate and confident. But in the last year, their success has generated many rivals. This year we will talk to them again, and discuss how their expansion is going. We will also talk to representatives of their top competitor, LoRa. I still have doubts that these ISM technologies can provide a scalable, sustainable solution in the long term, but I look forward to discussion and competing opinions.

Virtualization was a big topic last year. Both core and RAN are primed for radical transformation. Last year NFV was being promoted by all the big infrastructure and equipment vendors. During the year we were lucky enough to get a front row seat to some initial testing of a vEPC solution. I am interested to see advances in virtualization: vRAN or cloudRAN blows my mind. The possibilities on how spectrum will be managed in the future using virtualization are astounding. This will be the really transformative part of 5G. While there were a couple of interesting demos last year, I hope to see some truly innovative stuff this year.

MWC 2016 is a huge, exciting event where the big players put on a big show. But it also gives us smaller guys a one-stop shop for access to the key players – of all sizes – in mobile. While being in the thick of the hype will be exciting, we expect to achieve and learn a lot. And going to Barcelona, well that is just icing on the cake.

Published on EETimes: Fragmentation Looms in IOT

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Our Co-Founder and CTO Fraser Gibbs is now a continuing contributor to esteemed industry website Aimed towards the global networking and electronics community, EETimes has published Fraser’s article on the Internet of Things (IOT). Specifically, Fraser explains how the 3GPP standards body is failing to serve the looming needs of IOT, and the repercussions of this failure.

Anyone developing products for the low-power, wide area wireless market will find this article of interest. Take a read and feel free to comment online or message Fraser Gibbs. Thanks so much for reading.

Published on EE Times!

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Fraser Gibbs, Co-Founder and CTO of eleven-x, has been published on EE Times, the go-to publication for global electronics. In his article, Fraser describes the limitations of unlicensed spectrum in the ISM band, as it pertains to IOT applications. You can read his article here, and post comments to EE Times or send to Congratulations to Fraser for his contributions to thought leadership on wireless connectivity for IOT.

eleven-x Conducts First Tests of LTE Cat-0, Power Saving Mode for 3GPP Release 12

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To do something first: in high tech, the notion is a thrilling one. We are certainly feeling the excitement in the field of wireless communications. As 3GPP is releasing its standards in support of IOT, eleven-x is proud to be working on the front lines. Over the last month, several members of our team hit the road to conduct demos and tests with some big-name players. We say that “we love innovating to solve real-world problems” and this was a wonderful opportunity to see our code in action.

In Ottawa, we took part in the industry’s first integration of LTE Machine Type Communications (MTC) devices on the Ericsson network equipment. The goal was to prove out the Power Saving Mode (PSM) and LTE Cat-0 features in support of 3GPP Release 12. This session of interoperability testing gave both parties a chance prove out our solutions, and take the first steps towards compliance. A successful first interoperability session is a major milestone in the development of any mobile technology.

From Canada’s capital city, we shifted gears and went to Las Vegas for the CTIA Super Mobility conference. We participated in two demonstrations for PSM and LTE Cat-0; one with Ericsson and one with Anritsu. It was the first time MTC was demonstrated to the public with Ericsson and showcased industry-leading low power consumption for IOT devices.

After the bright lights of Vegas, the big city of Dallas beckoned. At the Verizon test lab, we participated in interoperability testing for their network using equipment from Ericsson, Cisco, ALU, and Affirm.

Next week, another member of our team will be heading back to Ottawa, but this time in service of LPP development for a new chipset integration. It is a thrilling time at eleven-x. We love to be on the forefront of wireless innovation, and are excited to be on the leading edge of IOT.

Network Technologies

Published on Light Reading

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Ryan Hickey, co-founder and CEO of eleven-x, has been published on esteemed industry website Light Reading. In his article, Ryan provides an expert’s insight into the state of Low Power Wide Area Networks. While LPWAN technology is the short answer to “How will millions of Things connect to the Internet of Things?” Ryan explains how the current abundance of LPWANs will actually hinder the adoption of remote wireless/sensor connectivity. You can read his article here, and post comments to Light Reading or send to Stay tuned for follow-up articles!

One IoT Strategy: Build It, They Will Come

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Whether you have heard of SIGFOX or not, I hope you will find this blog post interesting and educational. SIGFOX is a French company who has taken the “build it, they will come” approach to deploying their cellular Internet of Things (IoT) network. Current deployments include France, the U.K., the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal. Other countries and major cities around the world are either planning or have started to deploy test networks. SIGFOX’s business model relies on partnerships with local SIGFOX network operators (SNOs). As a recent example, they have partnered with T-Mobile for a deployment in the Czech Republic.

SIGFOX is offering an alternative to traditional cellular networks that utilize 2G, 3G, or LTE/4G radio access technologies. Their proprietary Ultra Narrow Band (UNB)-based radio technology targets IoT applications that require low bandwidth, low cost, and long battery life. Some example applications include smart meters, agriculture sensors, water sensors, air quality sensors, health monitors, and asset trackers. SIGFOX operates in the ISM band (868MHz in Europe and 902MHz in North America). This is unlicensed spectrum that offers long range due to the sub-GHz frequency.

I admire that SIGFOX is dreaming big with ambitious goals for global expansion over the next few years, including this activity in the US right now. Partnerships are key to SIGFOX’s strategy. In addition to partnering with local players to act as SNOs, SIGFOX is partnering with chipset manufacturers, module makers, and product companies. And to round out the SIGFOX story, they are well funded, recently raising $115M with backing from heavyweights such as NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, and Telefónica.

SIGFOX has been able to accomplish a great deal in a relatively short amount of time. By embracing partnerships with companies all over the world and not waiting around for global standardization, they are building an impressive dedicated cellular IoT network. However, there are certainly many technological and business challenges ahead for SIGFOX. Not to mention the competing technologies available such as LoRa and Weightless-N along with some interesting technologies being introduced to the 3GPP standards.

It is an exciting time to be in the telecommunications industry. At eleven-x we are constantly researching cellular IoT technologies and the related business opportunities. Please feel free to connect with me if you would like to discuss this emerging sector.

8 Reasons Why Co-op Students Are a Start-Up’s Best Investment

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Our Co-op Student Mahek with eleven-x CEO Ryan

Upon opening in 1957, the University of Waterloo became the first post-secondary school in Canada to implement a co-operative education model. It revolutionized the notion of students being equipped for work by virtue of their textbooks alone. These days, no one can question the value of having practical experience interspersed with classroom studies, not to mention the paycheques to put towards those textbooks. Many schools now offer some form of the co-op program, giving companies a rich diversity of students to complement their work force.

A company in the start-up stage may not consider hiring a co-op student, but we would recommend it. In our first year of operations, eleven-x employed an engineering student from Lambton College, recently welcomed a business student from Wilfrid Laurier, and is recruiting from the University of Waterloo for next term. Don’t let your lean corporate stature or more humble workplace setting deter you from recruiting on campus: candidates who want to make an impact will be drawn to start-ups. And here’s why you should consider them a wise investment:

  1. Youthful Perspective. Within a few days of arriving, our Market Research co-op Mahek shared a wealth of ideas from the perspective of a young applicant who would want to know more about the company. She made us stop and identify our values, and she shared her own observations as a newcomer to the team. As a start-up, you will benefit from the fresh take of a student who doesn’t have the same vested interest in your enterprise. Mahek’s feedback was a very positive form of disruption, and she learned to use WordPress to update our Careers web page. Everyone wins!
  2. Good Value. As a start-up, you may not be in a position to commit to a full-time employee. A student will generally be looking for a 4-8 month work term, with a more reasonable salary for your budget. And you may find yourself with a student so productive (and perhaps even so innovative) that it will be more than worth the investment. We believe in offering very competitive salaries to our students, because it demonstrates how much we value their contributions, and that we’re serious about high calibre work.
  3. Career Development for All. Aside from the quantitative work that your student will bring to the table, there are also many qualitative benefits for your full-timers. In a start-up, there are fewer opportunities for climbing the corporate ladder (in the near term, at least), but there are still opportunities for career development. Mentoring a co-op student can be a very enriching experience: conducting interviews, breaking down tasks, setting goals, and performance reviews can add dimension to your staff portfolios and increase their job satisfaction.
  4. Partnerships and Support for Schools. Most universities and colleges strive to reflect what’s going on in the real world, so that they can better equip their students for gainful employment. Furthermore, you can find a lot of innovation happening in the labs on campus, unhampered by deadlines or the changing tides of a corporate strategy. Start-ups and schools share that common goal of seeking “What’s possible? What’s next?” and can often focus on a very precise subject. Employing students and forming bonds with post-secondary schools is a mutually beneficial relationship.
  5. Grooming Your Next Best Full-Timer. There is less room for low-performing or high-maintenance employees in a start-up. Every single person on your team needs to be a rock star. In each co-op student, you have the potential to train a future full-time employee who would already be familiar with your product and your expectations, and have a relationship with the team. Investing in a student now could pay off when you suddenly find yourself with the next big contract, and needing your next rock star.
  6. Training Tomorrow’s Workforce. In the case of eleven-x, our core competencies are wireless and embedded software development. This area of expertise will be increasingly valuable as The Internet of Things introduces billions of wireless devices to the world. But faculties of engineering aren’t teaching to this degree of speciality, and co-op is the only way for us to seed the workforce with these skills. What is your ideal skill set in a new hire? Are these skills being fostered in the classroom setting, or can your start-up raise the bar for your industry by arming future talent with these niche abilities?
  7. Early Emphasis on Culture. Times have changed: gone are the days when there were far more co-op students than co-op jobs. Now students want an experience as much as they want work. And it can be easy to let the bonding moments slip past you when you’ve got your head down to do work. People who like each other, and respect each other, are going to be far happier at work, and how you foster that respect is up to you (and your team!). But there’s nothing like a student – who’s just interviewed with a place that has a nap pod – to encourage a start-up to “protect what’s awesome”, as our HR mentor Jackie Lauer always says.
  8. A Chance to Manage Millennials. Management publications would like you to believe that there is a menacing army of youngsters coming to sabotage your sanity. They will mystify you, as you struggle to motivate and lead them! Solve the mystery yourself by simply hiring a co-op student. There’s no better way to identify what makes a particular generation tick than to interact with that generation, and what better time to do it than when you’re building your company’s foundation? One of our favorite stats at eleven-x is “We have 100 years of combined experience in wireless communications”. But we believe that experience must be complemented by the boundary-pushing next generation, who can learn from the wisdom of industry veterans.

Are you a start-up who employs co-op students? Are you a student who’s worked for a start-up? We’d love to hear about your experience.

Trip Report: Wavefront Summit in Ottawa

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Operating out of Vancouver, Wavefront is an accelerator focusing on wireless enterprises. This year they held their Summit event in Ottawa, making it an accessible trip for eleven-x.  As a first-time attendee, I was unsure of what to expect. What I found was an interesting and probably unique conference. Being Canadian, it was a small conference (my last being Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) but this provided a great opportunity for small Canadian companies to hang out with large global organizations.

The agenda featured a series of talks by mostly larger organizations, covering the themes of IoT, big data and analytics. We were able to hear from thought leaders from IBM, HP, Cisco, Rogers, Sierra Wireless and Ericsson. Each session included time for Q&A, giving an interactive feel to the conference.

Here are some interesting tidbits that I learned:

  • A 737 jet generates 20TB of data on an average flight; that tremendous amount of data from the engine is only retrieved sporadically by a tech via USB stick.
  • Only half the trucks in Canada have real-time tracking.
  • On average, food travels 2400 km from field to plate; 1/3 of that food is wasted.
  • There are 3 million points of data acquisition on a train locomotive; only three are used.
  • The OPEX cost for the most efficient oil company in the oil sands is about $35 per barrel

The messages buried in these facts are that there are tremendous opportunities and expectations in the problems that IoT is expected to solve. The other point illustrated here is that most companies are not yet exploiting the data they currently have, and need to undergo a tremendous shift in the way they think and operate. So while the Internet of Things is here today, the evolution has barely begun, and companies need to shift to “Internet Thinking” to unleash the power of a fully connected world.

Companies of the future will need to be masters of data: sourcing and combining data from many sources, monetizing that data along the way, using pre-emptive and prescriptive analytics for both themselves and in service of their customers.

The summit also provided lots of opportunities for networking. Coffee breaks and lunch breaks were generous and orchestrated to encourage interaction. The real appeal of this summit for us was the B2B meetings and the chance to get one on one, scheduled time with some large companies we would have trouble approaching on our own. eleven-x had great meetings with Orange, Verizon and IBM. Thanks to Philippe, Jason, Fran and Sky for their time and insight. I look forward to talking again.

The WaveFront summit was definitely worth the drive to Ottawa. It provided a global view of IoT and the wireless industry, but in very Canadian style.

LTE Cat-0’s Power Saving Mode: What it Could Mean for Cellular IoT

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We are supposedly on the IoT event horizon, ready to realize the promise of billions of connected things. Many of these things will find current mobile networks perfectly suited to their needs: high resolution sensors and HD video cameras will need the low latency and high bandwidths available with today’s LTE network.

A large number of IoT devices (some suggest the majority) will have different needs, demanding long battery life, low cost and better coverage. The mobile ecosystem has been busily preparing for these use cases through the MTC initiatives.

Today I will focus on Power Saving Mode (PSM), a 3GPP Release 12 feature which forms the backbone of 3GPP’s MTC power-saving strategy, and is an important part of LTE CAT-0 (which I first discussed in February). With this approach, the UE decides how often it needs to be active in order to transmit and receive data, entering PSM in between.

The mechanics of PSM are relatively simple. The UE activates PSM simply by including two proposed timer values in the Attach or Tracking Area Update (TAU). The first proposed timer is the T3324, which will be the time the UE stays in idle mode following the Attach or TAU procedure. The second proposed timer is an extended T3412. Network acceptance of PSM comes when the network provides the actual values of the T3324 and T3412 to be used in the Attach Accept.

Following the Attach or TAU procedure, the new PSM process begins. Once the network releases the RRC connection after the Attach/TAU, T3324 and T3412 are started, and the device behaves as any registered, idle LTE device would. This is called the Active Time and is there to provide the opportunity for a remote server to contact the device. The more certain a specific application is that no downlink data is pending, the shorter T3324 can be. Once T3324 expires, the device will then enter PSM for the duration of T3412. Here the device should enter its lowest power mode. It should not look for paging or any other network signaling.  The network should not page the device, and moreover, should hold any data that arrives for the UE while in PSM. It is important to note that while in PSM mode, the device and network maintain all UE states, including Radio Bearers, registration state, and temporary identities. The maximum duration of PSM (T3412) is 12.1 days. PSM mode can be cancelled anytime by the device by sending a TAU to the network that does not include the PSM timers.

Figure 1: PSM Flow

PSM puts the UE largely in the driver’s seat in terms of the power management needed for its application, which is very important. IoT applications will be wide ranging, and this type of flexibility is needed. With the network in sync with the device, it can better manage the data intended for the device. A properly-implemented network solution should be able to avoid congestion by managing the timers of all the devices using PSM, and adjusting the wake-up periods to be offset as much possible.  This way all of the devices will not wake at the same time and attempt to access the network.

As with all new features, there are still some potential issues and concerns. Most networks today expect contact with a mobile every 2-4 hours, otherwise the mobile is considered “not reachable” and quietly detaches it from the network. This helps the network constrain the number of mobiles it has to track.  Infrastructure vendors will now need to support tracking for millions of devices that will only contact the network once every week or two.

On the device side, there will be challenges as well. Sleep times are increasing from seconds to weeks.  There will be engineering challenges in keeping accurate timers, at the same time pushing down power consumption to new levels. IoT will revive the need for highly-skilled embedded engineering.

The question lurking in PSM is this: why not just shut off or cut power to the LTE modem for the long inactive periods? This is always a possibility. A full power-down would likely involve a detach procedure (extra signaling), losing track of the cell and having to re-acquire SIB information, then having to re-establish all the bearers (again more signaling and active time). So if power consumption during PSM can be driven to near “off” levels, then if could be even more efficient than when off. Again, this is where good engineering will improve either solution and make the correct choice for the particular application.

PSM is a key feature and a big step forward for Cellular IoT. It was defined for 2G, 3G and LTE networks and, at a high level, is a simple solution. But, as with most things, the devil will be in the details of the implementation. For some of my earlier thoughts on Cat-0, please refer to this post.

In Praise of Good Mentors: The Accelerator Centre

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When you are an entrepreneur, there are so many paths that you will walk for the first time. Sales process, marketing, payroll, funding: just a few things that were new to us at eleven-x. And while I’d call our co-founders quick learners, there is immeasurable value in the wisdom of those who have done it before.

Affectionately (and efficiently) known as The AC, we’ve been proud to call this our home since the beginning of the year. Waterloo Region is a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship, and The AC’s mandate is to transform big ideas into thriving businesses. I have worked in the networking area of The AC, and over the course of the day I’ve witnessed the mentors in action. They are engaged, insightful, and caring. They come armed with a distinguished arsenal of accomplishments, and clearly love to feed that back into the start-up system.

(Pictured above: Ryan Hickey (our CEO), Kevin Hood, Kevin Elop, Fraser Gibbs (our CTO), Bob Rushby, Steven Fyke. Sadly missed were Jackie Lauer and Ellyn Winters-Robinson)

Jackie Lauer advises on Human Resources, Leadership and Culture. And while she’s helped us with the nuts and bolts of HR, what makes Jackie special is her passionate stance on good leadership. She’s like a (much!) younger version of Yoda, sharing practical philosophies on how our needs as human beings inform the way we want to be led. Though we’re just 8 people now, Jackie shares our cultural belief in “protecting what’s awesome now” and nurturing it as eleven-x grows.

Kevin Hood is the Sales and Marketing guru, and given our engineering-heavy origins, Kevin has helped us navigate this learning curve. A good idea doesn’t magically translate into a successful product, and that market validation process is crucial. We have been learning to conduct the vital research that indicates whether we need to modify, adapt, or pivot our product concept. In addition to this enormous undertaking, Kevin has provided practical methodologies for the sale process.

Bob Rushby mentors on the Technology front. He has been brilliant at challenging our technical ideas, asking the types of valuable questions that can only come from a knowledgeable-yet-neutral third party. Bob is also a skilled hand when it comes to strategic partnerships. With so many ties to the tech community, Bob exemplifies that spirit of collaboration and sharing one’s expertise.

Kevin Elop provides a wide range of guidance under the Finance umbrella. As the CFO of two high-tech start-ups, and with a deep history of blue-chip experience, Kevin understands a company’s needs at every stage. He’s clarified the complex world of funding options available to us, and the equally-complex legalities of a shareholder agreement. Most recently, we relied on Kevin’s support for an asset acquisition project.

Steven Fyke is devoted to making products that provide a rewarding user experience. As the Design Strategy mentor, Steven has taught us the importance of workflows as we flesh out our product ideas. He demonstrates the importance of asking good questions, and making the customer an integral part of our product story. He loves to dig into a problem, in the interest of developing the right solution.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is like a walking toolkit for all things PR and Communications. In short order, Ellyn grasped our vision for the eleven-x brand. With that in mind, she encouraged us to demonstrate thought leadership in our industry by publishing original technical content on a regular basis. She helped re-model our pitch deck so that it told a more compelling story. She has advised on newsletters, business cards, social media, and SEO – always with enthusiasm.

And this is only our first four months at The AC. The word “accelerate” is an accurate description of what happens here. We are amazed by all that we have learned in this time, and by how much The AC feels like home. Every morning when you walk in the door, you are surrounded by people who love to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. Thank you to the mentors at The Accelerator Centre, who have fostered this invigorating place to build our business.