|Africa and the Middle East 2006
|The promise of metropolitan wireless broadband
|Mr. Makoto Ikari
|General Manager of Wireless Broadband Division
|Kyocera Corporation’s Corporate Communication Systems Equipment Group
Mr. Makoto Ikari is the General Manager of Kyocera Corporation’s Corporate Communication Systems Equipment Group, Wireless Broadband Division. Mr. Ikari’s entire career has been spent at Kyocera. He began in its General Affairs Department and worked his way up through a series of increasingly responsible positions. He has worked in the production engineering of electronic devices, as the Production Manager of the Information Equipment Division, in the production of PHS – Personal Handyphone Systems, in quality assurance, and as the leader of the PHS business unit. Most recently, he led the iBurst business of Kyocera’s Wireless Broadband Division. Makoto Ikari earned his masters degree from Waseda University.
The Internet is more than technology; it is a social and economic revolution. Countries throughout the world are developing high-priority programs to provide all their citizens with high-speed connectivity to the net. Initially, the emphasis was upon replacing narrowband connectivity with broadband. Now, the emphasis is upon providing ubiquitous connectivity. The next generation of broadband infrastructure will be largely wireless, to provide the benefits of connectivity – person to person, person to machine, machine to machine – wherever and whenever needed.
Use of the Internet is expanding rapidly in virtually every part of society. This growth has spurred great advances in the technology for network infrastructures, and accelerated the speeds of first – mile / last-mile access through technologies including ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), cable and FTTH, fibre- to-the-home. Thanks to this progress, in many parts of the world virtually everyone has convenient access to a broadband network. We are racing toward a future of ubiquitous connectivity, where Internet access and information will be readily available like water and electricity today. The Figure1 illustrates the concept of ‘u-Japan’, introduced last year by the research council of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) in its final report called “Ubiquitous Network Society.” Before the ‘u-Japan’ concept was unveiled, the Japanese government had promoted its ‘e-Japan Strategy’ since 2001. ‘e-Japan’ was aimed at making Japan one of the most advanced IT nations in the world by the year 2005. The strategy focused on upgrading fixed telecommunications infrastructure, specifically replacing narrowband with broadband. As a result, Japan had great success in growing its base of fixed broadband users, making it one of the world’s true ‘broadband nations.’ In 2005, Japan’s MIC decided that the e-Japan strategy, while extremely successful, was not ambitious enough. The decision was made to replace “e-Japan” with the ‘u-Japan’ strategy we see implemented today. The ‘u’ in ‘u-Japan’ stands for a number of things – including ubiquitous, universal, user-oriented and unique – but the emphasis falls heavily on ubiquity. The ‘u-Japan policy’ has accelerated the country’s advance relative to the former ‘e-Japan strategy’. The ultimate goal is to usher Japan into an age of practical, ubiquitous networks offering connections anytime, anywhere, with anybody and anything. The Japanese government is now taking the promotion of infrastructure for quality broadband services very seriously. To understand this strategy, it is important to have a true understanding of the meaning behind ‘ubiquitous society.’ Figure 2 illustrates the concept, showing how new value is created through convenient communication, enjoyable content and enhanced public safety. To achieve this, the network must enable connections anytime, anywhere, with anybody and anything. Until recently, telecommunication technology was regarded entirely as a means of connecting human beings. It mainly connected people to other people. Looking ahead, however, we can expect to continue the expansion begun in the late 20th century when telecommunications also began connecting people to objects and even objects to objects. More than just modems and networks connecting computers and machines, the applications for ‘connecting objects’ are virtually limitless. For example, imagine a car driven in heavy rain. A pedestrian is crossing the street ahead, obscured by the blinding downpour. Wireless communication equipment installed in the car automatically recognizes signals from the pedestrian’s cell phone and alerts the driver, or perhaps even stops the car automatically. The same technology may assist drivers with speed control, keeping safe distances between cars or even collecting precise and real-time weather information from other cars turning on their windshield wiper systems. Objects transmit and receive waves and frequencies to function – almost like living creatures. Once the providence of science fiction movies, such applications are fiction no more. The realization of such a world, however, begins by establishing the infrastructure. In particular, a truly wireless environment is crucial to ‘liberating’ people from the constraints of time and place. As indicated in Figure 3, there is a rising demand from subscribers for rich content, making broadband infrastructure indispensable. Although broadband requires more bandwidth, spectrum – the key resource – is limited and being shared by an ever-increasing number of users. Richer content and increased network traffic are at odds with the fixed amount of spectrum available. The only solution for making the best use of this limited resource is enhancing the efficiency with which we use it. With this as our context, it is not surprising that so many people are paying a great deal of attention to wireless broadband technology. Figure 4 explains the systems for wireless broadband. There are three main systems for wireless broadband: PAN, Personal Area Network, and LAN, Local Area Network, for narrowly defined areas, and WAN, Wide Area Network for wider areas. Current “3G” technology is categorized as WAN. The 802.11a/b/g standard for wireless LAN products is already in service and is growing quickly in popularity with PC users. Beyond that, 802.11n is progressing toward standardization. Originally, wireless LAN was used mainly for small, private spaces such as homes and offices. Today, wireless LANs are widely used for public “hotspot” applications and reach a broader market. Notice the layer between LAN and WAN, which we are calling MAN, Metropolitan Area Network. The concept of ‘wireless broadband’, as described in Figure 4, is originally a fusion of WAN – the mobile phone infrastructure, and LAN – the wireless infrastructure mainly developed for PCs. MAN is the result of an intermingling of these layers. In other words, MAN technology was born as a child of two different paradigms – one with broadband high-speed data transmission and the other with true cellular mobility. The initial purpose of MAN technology was to transmit data. By adding VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol technology to this system, however, it began being used for telephony (connecting humans) as well. That is why MAN technology is quickly gaining momentum as a leading candidate for the ubiquitous network system. Last year, Japan’s MIC organized “The Study Group for Wireless Broadband Promotion.” They indicated great interest in this sort of wireless broadband infrastructure. At present, there are two leading MAN technology candidates. One is ‘Mobile WiMax’, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, also known as IEEE802.16e. The other is “MBWA” (Mobile Broadband Wireless Access), or IEEE802.20. Both Mobile WiMax and MBWA feature levels of mobility and data speeds that will surely meet the market’s demands. For example, MBWA can efficiently support high network accessibility and contribute to the realization of a ubiquitous environment. Due to its highly efficient use of spectrum, MBWA enables highly functional, large-scale commercial networks. For example, as little as 5 MHz of bandwidth can create a commercial network with very respectable downlink throughput to users of approximately 1 Mbps. Looking at the communications industry in Africa, the rate of growth in the installed fixed telephone base is frankly low, while growth in mobile phone usage is obviously rapid. National governments recognize that developing their telecommunications infrastructure is an urgent task, yet the development of the fixed telecommunications infrastructure in the region has been very slow because of reliability problems and high costs. For African nations, it is far cheaper and faster to build infrastructure for satellite and mobile communications. The mobile market in African countries is growing impressively from a global perspective. In 2005, the growth rate nearly doubled compared to the previous year. Studies show that 14 countries have achieved triple-digit annual average growth over the past five years. The Internet is also growing rapidly in Africa. We heard that many nations have national policies for the development of broadband networks. Nevertheless, the quality of fixed telephone lines remains a bottleneck, and the overall Internet penetration is still low. Given the current status of African voice communications, there are strong motives to quickly migrate to wireless networks. The introduction of wireless broadband technologies can hold the key to quick, low-cost, network growth. The privatization of the state controlled, monopolistic, fixed and mobile communications businesses has been advancing under government guidance in some areas of the Middle East and North Africa. Most observers expect this will facilitate the introduction of advanced communications technologies and new communications services. The widespread deployment of wireless broadband technologies will encourage the accelerated development of the Middle East and Africa region. The ubiquitous society As wireless telecommunication technologies and equipment have evolved, cell phone sales have skyrocketed to more than 650 million per year. Much of society is communicating without regard for time and place. As the technologies have grown and multiplied, each has been examined to find its ideal fit to myriad new applications. Today, nowhere is that evolution more prominent than in broadband, and changes abound. The fusion of mobile telephony and broadcasting systems is bringing new value to users. Wireless broadband technology will play an important role there and expand the possibilities of communications. Broadcasting has truly gone mobile. Rich content no longer relies upon television or radio as the only mediums; today’s cell phones, PDAs and computers are providing new broadcast platforms, bringing high quality content anywhere the user may be. For example, ‘1 segment broadcasting’, in which television programs are digitized and played on mobile phones, is about to start service in Japan. Beyond just entertainment, however, “One Seg” or 1 segment broadcasting may also prove useful for applications such as a disaster warning system. Understandably, expectations for the technology/service are high. Such advances are creating a healthy symbiosis within the telecommunications industry. Advances in hardware drive necessary progress in software and enable new horizons in rich content. As the content and software improve, there is great demand on the hardware and infrastructure providers to keep up. In the end everyone wins, especially the end-user. As a society, we are not ‘wired’ anymore, we are wireless. Wireless broadband will change our lives and society dramatically. Today we enjoy only a small taste of ubiquitous connectivity. People want e-mail, phone calls, TV programs and Web browsing – yet they are we forced to change equipment or devices to enjoy each of these services. One day soon, though, a single device will handle all these services and more! Today, music, movies – and just about every other form of content – is being digitized and primed for delivery through a single, ubiquitous network. It is simply a question of demand and time before we have it. This industry’s mission is to contribute to humankind and society by utilizing its technology to develop systems and devices suitable for the ubiquitous network age.