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6G: New Generations of Wireless and the Impact on Measurement

Inside Telecom Staff

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By Roger Nichols, 6G Program Manager, Keysight Technologies.

The end of 2020 will see only 2% of the world’s 8 billion mobile subscriptions as 5G. 

But, even though the vision for 5G is still far from being realised, the time required to develop a new generation of wireless means that work on 6G has already started.

The early work in 5G set the stage for developing a technology based on a user- and society-centric view; those working on 6G follow this example. Whitepapers from the ITU, Samsung, Docomo, and the University of Oulu, describe futuristic use cases and network attributes. Traditional key performance indicators (KPI) include data rates to 1Tbps, mobility of 1000 kmph, and latency of 0.1ms. New KPI’s include precision and accuracy of timing (“in time” and “on time” communications) and the ability to pinpoint location to centimeters.

I am often asked what design and testing will be like for 6G and I believe I can anticipate a few things:

  1. Testing will happen in both traditional and new domains.
  2. Test technology and solutions will evolve over time.
  3. Complex system-level validation for the entire system will take an even bigger role than in previous generations.

With history as an indicator, it is safe to say that this will take some time. Automated mobile radio systems were conceived in the early 1970s building upon frequency reuse concepts patented by Bell Labs in the late 1940s. NTT launched first commercial system in 1979, followed by the Saudi and Nordic launches of NMT in 1981, and then by AT&T’s 1983 launch of AMPS in the USA.  Each subsequent generation has launched at one-decade intervals.

Mobile wireless first enabled us to carry our phones anywhere, and now allows our office, education, and entertainment to be anywhere. The next step is for 6G to become an integral part of society. The industry puts contstant pressure on the state of the art of affordable technology.

That same pressure also drove the evolution of test and measurement requirements. We started with considerable focus measuring radio physics: power, sensitivity, and interference issues. Now we measure things like scheduler efficiency and even “quality of service” (QoS). 5G will bring system-level issues related to requirements for security, reliability, latency, and system power consumption. The increasing demands from industry and society, required simulation, design, measurement, and validation to evolve from physics related to voice and data performance, and then to system performance.

Societies and governments are paying close attention to 5G with special interest in public safety, information security, and national interests. This implies design and validation requirements, not just for new physical attributes – like time-precision and jitter, but also for system wide attributes including service level agreement (SLA) adherence and “quality of experience” (QoE).  In 6G, we can even foresee policy-driven requirements for system level performance.

Some of these changes are visible to us now as we help our customers with 5G technology.  However, we also get questions like: How can I validate what I am providing in my SLA with my customer?  What is causing the problems with voice quality?  How can we ensure mobile games run properly in the network and on specific mobile devices?  What level of security can be guaranteed?

6G will drive new technical demands in five major areas:

  • Next generation radio
  • Integrated heterogeneous multi-radio access technology (RAT) systems
  • Time engineering in networks
  • AI based networking
  • Advanced security

All but the first of these will have to be validated from the physical level to the system level.

As mentioned above, governments around the world are engaged in intense dialog on 5G as it relates to security and national interests. Regional and community governments are developing local ordinance related to mobile device usage, cell siting, and electromagnetic exposure. Also, earlier in the 5G lifecycle than in previous generations, departments of defence are exploring the use of 5G for their needs.

If you still have your doubts about the impact of policy, consider early radio history: the universal call of distress: S-O-S was not always the standard.  These three symbols, which were chosen because of their simplicity and ease of distinction, were standardised at the International Radio Telegraph Convention of Berlin in 1906. The Titanic disaster in 1912 led to the standardisation of not only a common distress radio channel, but also international maritime law stipulating that all shipboard radio telegraph offices had to be staffed at all times. So, we have early policy already dictating 1) message types, 2) radio channels, and 3) behavior. With radio systems a fundamental part of society, we can expect to see more.

About the Author

Roger Nichols

Roger Nichols
5G and 6G Program Manager
Keysight Technologies

Roger Nichols’ 35 years of engineering and management experience in wireless test and measurement at Hewlett-Packard, Agilent Technologies, and Keysight spans roles in manufacturing, R&D, and marketing. He has managed programs, projects, and departments starting with analog cellular radio, evolving to 5G, and on every standard in between.  He has been directing Keysight’s 5G, and now 6G programs since 2014. He is also directing Keysight’s wireless standards strategies.

Roger holds a BSEE from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Congressional letter blasts Facebook head for flawed algorithms

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Congressional letter blasts Facebook head for flawed algorithms (1)

Two senior U.S. representatives blasted Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg, noting the platform’s content problems were “systemic” and require deep change beyond just moderation.

“Perhaps no single entity is more responsible for the spread of dangerous conspiracy theories at scale or for inflaming anti-government grievance than the one that you started and that you oversee today as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,” wrote U.S. Representatives Anna G. Eshoo of California and Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, both Democrats.

The pair recognized the recent steps Facebook has taken to crack down on harmful accounts such as those related to QAnon, by removing specific posts that incite violence and banning specific users.

“But content moderation on a service with more than 2.7 billion monthly users is a whack-a-mole answer to a systemic problem, one that is rooted in the very design of Facebook,” the letter noted, adding, “the fundamental problem is that Facebook, like other social media platforms, sorts and presents information to users by feeding them the content most likely to reinforce their existing political biases, especially those rooted in anger, anxiety, and fear.”

Both Congress representatives accused the company of systemic failures which radicalized the “insurrectionist mob” behind the early January Capitol building attack, an effort by the former administration to stop a vote certifying the election and formalizing President Biden’s electoral status.

Thousands of violent rioters breeched Congressional security, reaching the House and Senate floors, causing large-scale damage, and killing a police officer.

“The algorithms Facebook uses to maximize user engagement on its platform undermine our shared sense of objective reality, intensify fringe political beliefs, facilitate connections between extremist users, and, tragically, lead some of them to commit real-world physical violence, such as what we experienced firsthand on January 6th,” noted the letter.

They also reference a 2020 initiative by Facebook itself to limit “bad for the world” postings, which the Wall Street Journal reported was markedly revised to not damage the company’s commercial interest by diminishing it huge user base.

“It scrapped the algorithm, when it became clear that it meant users were spending less time on the site,” the joint letter highlighted.

The pair hoped that the social media giant would immediately make permanent and universal these and other changes to its recommendation system which have been implemented temporarily or on a trial basis in the past.

“[We also hope that] you begin a fundamental reexamination of maximizing user engagement as the basis for algorithmic sorting and recommendation,” the letter concluded.

Facebook has released no comment from Zuckerberg or a general statement in reaction to the letter.

In two separate letters, the Reps. accused Google-owned YouTube and additional social media-giant Twitter of also using structured algorithms that respectively act to amplify, “White supremacist, anti-Semitic, and other conspiracy-oriented material” and “facilitate connections between extremist users.”

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Newzoo’s Games Trends to Watch in 2021

Inside Telecom Staff

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Newzoo’s Games Trends to Watch in 2021

As 2020 is finally drawing to a close, it’s time for us to turn the spotlight onto next year. In terms of trends, 2021 is shaping up to be a hugely positive year for the games market, which will start to return to normalcy after an exceptional growth period.

In the coming weeks, we’ll publish similar articles about the mobile and esports markets, but for now, let’s dive deep into the biggest games trends of next year.    

1. Engagement and Revenues Will Continue to Flourish (Even After the Pandemic Ends)

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly accelerated many trends in the games market, helping engagement spike across the globe. Of course, this engagement trickles into spending.

Even after the pandemic subsides, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, we forecast most of the additional engagement and revenues to stick. Gaming has etched itself in the habits of people during the lockdown, and the investments made to enjoy gaming will not be easily cast aside. However, the level of growth maintained throughout 2020 will not be replicated next year, given the unique circumstances during the year.

Per platform, PC and console gaming has a higher barrier to entry but therefore more sticking power. Mobile gaming saw the largest positive impact of the lockdowns, but the low barrier to entry to mobile gaming means the lowest barrier to exit as well. Retaining the influx of new and returning players in 2021 will be one of the key challenges for developers and publishers.

Our Global Games Market Report shows that in 2021, 2.8 billion gamers worldwide will help the global games market generate revenues of $189.3 billion. Emerging markets will drive much of these new revenues, as infrastructure and economies continue to grow across regions like Southeast Asia and Middle East & Northern Africa.

2. It Will Take Time for Next-Gen Console Supply to Catch up to Demand

Manufacturing, marketing, and launching new consoles is never an easy feat. But orchestrating these tasks during a pandemic—when supply chains are heavily disrupted—made things even more challenging for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S launches.

On the hardware side, the aftermath of these challenges will ripple into the beginning of 2021 and beyond, and it will take time for the supply of next-generation consoles to satiate the skyrocketing demand.

Software development will also continue to feel the impact of lockdowns. Many of the games that were delayed in 2020 were in post-production (meaning the lion’s share of the dev work was already done). Next year, we’ll likely see even more delays for AAA games that were earlier in development at the start of the outbreak.

On the upside, games like PlayStation’s Horizon Forbidden West, many third-party games, and almost all Xbox first-party games will be available on both generations (past and present). Therefore, console spend will remain high in 2021, mostly driven by:

  • The massive installed base of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One generation.
  • The ongoing transition to F2P spending on console
  • The strong performance of the Switch.
3. The Cloud Gaming Market, Having Proven its Value in 2020, Will Grow Its Audience in 2021

This year marked a key inflection point for the cloud gaming market, with most of the major players (including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Tencent) having launched their respective services. Furthermore, stay-at-home orders sped up the adoption of cloud gaming globally, with consumers finding themselves with more time to invest in gaming.

In the West, workarounds to App Store challenges mean cloud gaming apps are finally making their way to iOS (via a web app) and other platforms. Stadia already has an iOS Safari-based app that reportedly works well. Meanwhile, xCloud’s app is due for release on PC and iOS in the spring, and Xbox Boss Phil Spencer has already hinted at smart-TV compatibility.

To that end, yearly cloud gaming revenues will exceed $1 billion for the first time next year, and its serviceable obtainable market (SOM) will spike. Want to learn more? Stay tuned for our Global Cloud Gaming Report update and content next year!

Cloud gaming’s use cases—which we highlighted in our 2020 report—are now becoming more visible. Game developers have been using services like Stadia and Parsec for QA (Cyberpunk 2077), demoing games to the public (Immortals Fenyx Rising via Stadia), and more. This trend will accelerate into 2021.

Next to that, Cyberpunk 2077’s launch has underlined one of cloud gaming’s biggest use cases: high-fidelity experiences without the need for expensive hardware. The Stadia version of the game features hardware-taxing features like ray tracing and DLSS—all while removing the barrier of expensive hardware.

Cyberpunk 2077’s reviews on previous-gen consoles were negatively impacted by a worse-than-expected technical performance, Therefore, cloud gaming services such as Stadia and GeForce Now stood out as one of the best ways for gamers to instantly experience optimized graphics.

4. The Rise of Gaming-as-a-Platform And Metaverse Development Will Expand the Addressable Market for Publishers

Virtual and social spaces have been a growing trend in gaming for over a decade now. However, owing to the lack of physical gatherings this year, the use of games as a “metaverse” has accelerated. The interest in using games as a platform for hosting simulated activities will be one of the most impactful trends for the coming years.

Game worlds can now closely simulate experiences such as fashion shows, music performances, movie viewings, and more. Notable examples include:

  • Lil Nas X’s performance in Roblox.
  • Travis Scott’s and other music performances in Fortnite.
  • Marriages, graduation ceremonies, and even funerals taking place in Animal Crossing.
  • Countless brand, media, and content crossovers in these shared spaces. 

Despite taking place within games, these fundamentally non-gaming experiences have the potential to draw in non-gamers into the games space, growing the userbase for publishers.

The value of such collaborations is beginning to show itself—for publishers, artists, and brands alike. Travis Scott, for example, reportedly grossed roughly $20 million for his Fortnite concert appearance.

So far, over 140 million people watched the Travis Scott concert on YouTube, compared to approximately 12 million who participated in-game, demonstrating both the growth potential and demand for such content.

Even beyond the pandemic, we will likely see brands across numerous sectors experimenting in the space. These digital events will complement their real-world counterparts (and vice-versa).

Video games are ripe with engagement—especially with younger audiences, so we expect to see this trend continue, particularly as traditional ad spend is in flux.

5. Gaming Will Energize Efforts Towards Reducing Toxicity and Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Games such as The Last of Us Part 2, Apex Legends, and Tell Me Why are prime examples of diversity in games, and more titles than ever before now feature accessibility options, boosted by releases like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and organizations like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect.

Online platforms and ecosystems are also striving to make their social hubs more wholesome and less toxic. To that end, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo recently announced a collaboration committed to safer and more responsible gaming and kerbing toxicity.

Another example from this year came from Riot Games, which formally invested in tackling toxicity in 2020 release Valorant, after its own developers reported incidents of harassment. Companies’ efforts over the past few years are certainly to be commended, but we still have a long way to go.

This year also saw the games industry face a “me-too” wave of allegations of abuse and sexual harassment. In combination with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the attention on social issues will drive the industry to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts in 2021.

Our recent Diversity & Inclusion Study, which is already helping many top publishers identify opportunities to make games more inclusive, shows that around half of players in the U.S. and the U.K want more diverse characters in games. Many also want publishers to take a stance on societal issues.

With game communities continuing to grow around new forms of engagement, the responsibilities of game IP owners have become even more complicated, leading many companies to create internal positions and even teams dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

We will begin feeling the impact of these initiatives more next year, and we’re excited to see the resulting game experiences for ourselves next year.

One thing is for sure: the next few years are due to disrupt the market as we know it, thanks to the release of the next-generation consoles, cloud gaming bringing about new business models, and games—from AAA big-budget to hypercasual experiences—experimenting with social features.

This article has been written by Amsterdam-based Games Market Insight firm Newzoo, detailing the gaming trends that will shape the year to come.

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AI to shape telecom investments in 2021

Inside Telecom Staff

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As the world came to a screeching halt due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the tech world adopted a full steam ahead approach

This has rapidly pushed technological advancements to the forefront.

Everything from augmented reality (AR), Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, and the like were propelled forward and began integration within our lives.

While the pandemic heavily impacted service providers’ spending plans, technology never stopped, and several key areas of telecom IT will demand attention in 2021.

Overall, telecom IT vendor revenue is expected to grow by 2.3 percent in 2021, a welcome improvement on this year’s anticipated 0.6 percent decline although still below 4 percent CAGR for the period 2025, according to a study by Omdia.

While telcos took notes of the on-going tech developments and participated some, they found themselves keen on the prospect of adding AI within their systems to better optimize the way they deliver their services.

In parallel, the broader AI industry is witnessing a migration of AI to the edge. For example, the edge AI training and inference market for chipset sales is expected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2020 to $10.7 billion in 2025, at a CAGR of 35 percent. 

Omdia’s research indicates that 80 percent of service providers see the use of AI and analytics, when it comes to the automation of network activities, as an “important” or “very important” IT project for 2021. Nearly 60 percent of them are planning to increase investment in AI tools.

AI presents telcos with the ability to shed human-intensive networks in favor of an intelligence-driven ecosystem, in order to go along with the ongoing quest to drive new growth, the report added.

Latecomers, telecoms are actively expanding the utilization of AI/Machine Learning (ML) beyond merely digitizing internal and external interactions. “Many Communication Service Providers (CSPs) are already on a journey to become augmented service providers where AI augments human decision making for prediction, analysis, and new revenues,” Don Alusha, Senior Analyst at ABI Research, said in the report.

An example of this could be seen by the changes made by Japan’s Rakuten, who renamed its Network Operations Centers (NOCs) to Service Experience Centers (SECs) as it implements extreme automation for self-aware networks.

In addition, Spanish telecom giant Telefónica established a new wing called Telefónica Tech Ventures which plans to incubate new growth based on AI/ML, cloud, and IoT/Big Data, as well as cybersecurity.

“AI/ML capabilities enable the industry to leverage IT-oriented nimbleness and scale as they seek to manage the complexities of today’s networks and establish new commercial models,” Alusha added.

The integration of AI/ML within these industries will aid existing asset-intensive environments where cost of goods sold, inventory turns, managing factories, and supply chain are the area of focus and success.

In parallel, the Omdia report suggested that service providers should make “targeted use of AI to better orchestrate customer journeys, as well as invest in well integrated central data repositories and robust data management capabilities.”

In the new world of cloud, AI/ML, and software, tech providers do not manufacture a product and sell it, the report highlighted.

“They sell a capability. They sell knowledge. They create it at the same time they deliver it. The business model is different and so are the economics. DriveNets, Enea Openwave, Ericsson, HPE, and Nokia are some vendors among many others that are building software-centric ways of marketing and selling solutions. The point is that AI/ML-based platforms are re-shaping existing commercial models. The winners will be those who act decisively and thoughtfully,” Alusha explained.

According to ABI Research, the consistent and continuous maturity and development of AI/ML will pave the way to enable new value creation in CSPs’ journey in becoming digital service providers.

“Technology is a key pillar of that journey, but there are other key dimensions, that if not considered part of the overall digitalization journey, may limit CSPs’ ability to capture the full value at stake,” the report added.

Under that pretense, change management is considered vital to the alteration, since it represents the bulk of the effort to push for new ways of working and conducting business.

ABI Research found that CSPs who are investing in AI/ML-based platforms must take into consideration the root of efficiency will be derived from knowledge sharing and embracing open platforms where APIs and data can be easily accessed.

Alusha stressed that AI/ML, big data and open APIs offer agility and the ability to drive innovation and enable faster and better decision making.

Consequently, CSPs must realize that the new world in cellular must start with a foundation on software and API-led connectivity.

“The ability to harness the power of software platforms and AI/ML is bound to be a defining feature of CSPs of the future. This may well mean that, in addition to bolting on software and intelligent capabilities, CSPs need to learn how to build them as cloud-edges, Open RAN, and 5G core proliferate in the ecosystem,” Alusha concludes.

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