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2G, Not 5G, Best Bet to Accelerate Driverless Tech

Making our existing cars more ‘clever’ could be a better way of getting autonomous cars safely on our streets rather than relying on 5G connectivity.

That’s the view of Dr Ramsey Faragher founder and CEO of FocalPoint and a Fellow of Queens’ College, Cambridge, who argues a 2G connection is ample when the car’s sensor arrays are sophisticated enough. Speaking exclusively to TU-Automotive, Faragher claimed cheap software can bridge the gap to truly smart automated transport rather than adding more expensive hardware.

He said the burden on bandwidth is driven by an increase in connected cars that is on a steep upward curve. Faragher said: “The two key points are that there are going to be a lot more connected vehicles around that will require the bandwidth and we will need 5G to achieve that yet this could give us more or a problem than we have at the moment in terms of range and mass.

“One of the solutions could be that we stop relying on the connectivity and make the vehicles so ‘clever’ that they barely need any communication with the rest of the world to function well. Then it will rely on how well their on-board sensors work and how clever is the programming at spotting any errors that are coming into those sensors.”

His own company claims a breakthrough in vehicle positioning using algorithms embedded in a vehicle’s positioning receivers. He explained: “This software application is a very powerful technology and it is also the cheapest part of the senor array on that autonomous vehicle. We are hoping to make the GPS chip much more clever by adding software to it in order to not having to add expensive hardware to the car like more cameras, radar or LiDAR. For autonomous vehicles to be truly here and ubiquitous they need to be economically viable and at the moment carmakers are putting more expensive hardware on the car which is not going to be viable in the long-term.”

He claims his solution requires no major infrastructure spending as would be the case with rolling out enough 5G transmitters to ensure a vehicle knows exactly where it is particularly in the GPS canyons found in most of our high-rise cities. “It’s not going to be viable to have an autonomous vehicle to be free to roam the whole of the UK but need to be within a 100-meters or so of a 5G connection,” said Faragher. “The solution is to have very clever software on-board the vehicle using low bandwidth, long-range communications to carry simple messages.”

He added that existing connectivity should be used to accelerate the advance of autonomous driving. “If you look at eCall for example when dealing with an accident where the emergency services have to be called, that connection uses a very low band width using a tradition 2G phone call. The other end of the spectrum, people are talking about streaming live video between vehicles so that the vehicle behind another one can see what’s in front of it.

“All these very bold views about how 5G could be used to share huge amounts of data, whereas the realistic solution is that the cars themselves are internally very clever and that the amount of connectivity they require is only low bandwidth, long-range stuff. The 2G connections that you and I have used for a long time with phone calls and text messages are sufficient.”

He explained that using a software application on a self-driving vehicle will solve the issue of many motorists face when losing GPS connections while driving among inner city skyscrapers. Faragher explained how it could work: “The biggest problem you have with GPS in cities is that, often, you are picking up a reflected version of the signal from the satellite.

“So, there is one very simple but very important piece of maths that goes on inside the receiver and that maths is based on the premise that the signal has travelled in a straight line from the satellite. However, if the signal bounces [off tall city tower blocks, for example] that maths can’t give you the right answer anymore and you get the wrong GPS position areas in cities.

“If you have very tall buildings, the signal can bounce 100-meters (330-feet) before it gets to the car. Our technology can, for the first time, allow the receiver to determine for itself which direction the signal actually arrived from. Instead of very expensive antennae, we have software solution that calculates if the signal is coming from the direction it should be or not. This allows us to do two things: firstly, we can discard the measurements coming from the wrong direction and just use the subset of data we determine to be line-of-sight to give us a more honest positioning.”

The really clever part is when the data is matched against a 3D high definition map of the city. Faragher continued: “Secondly, we can use the knowledge that signals are coming from different directions and that can be useful. Such as, if you have a 3D map of the city you can say this signal from satellite No. 4 is coming from a particular direction that it shouldn’t be which means there is probably a building in the way. So you can start to match where you might be in the street based on where reflected signals are coming from, where signals have been blocked completely and where signals are getting a mixture of true line-of-sight and reflected ones.”

He pointed out the process, described as either shadow-mapping or 3D map-aiding, is currently being explored by the ride-hail giant Uber which has said it is trying to implement these sort of concepts. Faragher did admit to get the most from the software, the process will depend on an on-going growth in 3D mapping databases being available to the connected car.

He said: “Accessing that second stage will involve some key entities such as Google with its rich set of databases for this. However, it does solve the connectivity issue because you won’t have to update the vehicle all the time but just now and again with the latest map databases. 5G is not critical for a self-driving car but some people may be leaning on it for their own particular reasons.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

Source:   4/6/2020

Crown Castle expects ramp in small cells in backend of 2020

Crown Castle reported its fourth quarter 2019 earnings this week, and analysts were frustrated trying to decipher the company’s restatement of its financials. But, bottom line, analysts found its small cells and tower businesses should increase over the year now that the T-Mobile and Sprint merger has solidified.

On its earnings call, Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said uncertainty around the outcome of the pending merger between T-Mobile and Sprint caused a decrease in activity during late 2019 and early 2020. “However, we believe this slowdown will ultimately prove temporary and short-lived as we anticipate a significant increase in industry activity in second half of this year as clarity around the merger drives a ramp in 5G investments,” said Brown, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche noted that of the three public tower companies, Crown Castle was the only one that included accelerated leasing contribution in its 2020 outlook. “With a large macro portfolio and 50% share in the small cell space, we believe CCI’s infrastructure will continue to benefit from 4G and future 5G spend,” wrote Fritzsche.

Cowen analysts led by Colby Synesael said Crown Castle’s updated guidance now implies 2020 tower organic growth of about 6%, while implied organic growth for small cells remains mid-teens and fiber remains about 3%. “However, management did note that it expects its performance to be more back-end loaded, particularly for its services business, due to the drop-off in activity, which the company began to see in 4Q19 related to the pending T-Mobile/Sprint deal,” wrote Synesael.

But Crown Castle's Brown bragged that 2019 represented the highest level of tower leasing activity for the company in more than a decade. He said the company deployed about 10,000 small cell nodes in 2019. “We expect to deploy another 10,000 small cell nodes this year as we continue to respond to the significant increase in demand from our customers while, at the same time, navigating ongoing hurdles that remain challenging with many municipalities and utilities,” said Brown. “We finished 2019 with more than 40,000 small cells on air and another approximately 30,000 in our construction pipeline.”

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said Crown Castle has benefitted from an uptick in tower leasing over the past couple of years. “Like its peers, the company experienced a slowdown in leasing in Q4 2019 related to T-Mobile and Sprint pulling back as they waited for a resolution to their proposed merger,” wrote Moffett.

Moffett also said Crown Castle’s tower growth guidance puts it in the same zone as American Tower’s and SBA’s. “Still, the bottom line is that Q4 results were soft, in large part due to a known factor (the T-Mobile pause and its knock-on effects to leasing and services), and the 2020 outlook remained unchanged on an apples-to-apples basis.”


Source:    3/4/2020

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The proliferation of connected entertainment devices is disrupting content distribution.

Nearly one-half of broadband households own a Smart TV, and one-third own a streaming media player. All CE form factory now offer streaming capabilities, which have precipitated an explosion of OTT services. Yet, both manufacturers and content creators/distributors are looking ahead to the next form factors to get an edge on the next wave of content distribution.

Companies in the entertainment IoT space are watching virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to see the impact of these trends on content and consumer engagement. The key to wider adoption is for people to experience these technologies firsthand. Pokemon Go exposed many Smartphone users, particularly Millennials, to AR. however, following such a rabid interested in the summer of 2016, uncertainty remains as to whether Pokemon Go is a one-off phenomenon or if it truly signals a shift in content distribution that other companies can exploit.

Source: ISE Magazine, January 2017, Volume 35, Issue 1

Cable will have big 2017 thanks to lower taxes, fewer regs, smaller bills, bullish analyst says

by Daniel Frankel

While Comcast’s stock price has nearly tripled over the last five years, and Charter’s has nearly quadrupled, cable-bullish MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett said there’s still plenty of room for the industry to grow in 2017.

“We believe there are three separate factors that argue in favor of further multiple expansion in 2017: Lower taxes, less regulation and lower capital intensity,” Moffett said in a note to investors today.

Of course, lower tax rates under the far-right Trump administration would benefit most American businesses in the short term. But a “domestically-based high tax-payer” like Comcast, Moffett estimated, would see its share price spike by 21.4% if the current tax rate of around 38% was cut to 15%.

Meanwhile, removal of regulatory burdens like Title II will also bolster cable operators, the analyst said.

“We have long believed that the most cogent bear argument for cable stocks is that broadband prices will eventually be regulated,” Moffett said. At its heart, that’s what Title II reclassification was all about.

“Under a Republican FCC and a deregulatory administration,” he added, “the reversal of Title II reclassification is a matter of when, not if. The sitting Republican members of the FCC (Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, both of whom will remain) were adamantly opposed to reclassification in the first place, and both have already singled its reversal as a priority. More likely still is that the Republican Congress, which had previously proposed legislation to reverse Title II only to be blocked twice by the threat of an Obama veto, will now step forward with a legislative fix.”

The third “tailwind” favoring the cable industry in 2017, Moffett argued, is lower capital intensity, a result of operators like Cable One ceding the video business to OTT insurgents.

“We’ve written extensively about OTT video and the risk posed by cord-cutting (we’ll come to that in a moment). If there is a silver lining to this that is often overlooked, it is that as video subscribership falls, capital intensity falls with it,” Moffett said. “Indeed, even if video subscribership doesn’t fall, the rise of OTT video is in part a repudiation of the set-top box model. We believe an increase in the percentage of customers taking video in an apps-based format will inevitably rise. And with it, capital spending on set-top boxes will decline.”