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Nokia to enter tablet race?

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During a round-table interview with a group of South African journalists, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop dropped strong hints about the company’s entry into the tablet market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is less guarded than most CEOs in confirming product secrets that the market has already guessed. Taking questions during a round-table session with five South African technology journalists, he is expected to be cagey.

But when he is asked about Nokia’s possible entry into the tablet market, there is none of the expected evasion and refusal to comment.

Instead, he acknowledges that when you add up Nokia’s embrace of the Windows Phone operating system, plus the fact that it draws on the same user experience being built into the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, plus the fact that Windows 8 is especially well-suited to tablets, the conclusion is inescapable.

“Microsoft has shown in a couple of venues their plans around Windows 8, the big version of windows,” he pointed out. “What they essentially showed was that the standard user experience and also the convergence of development experience over time is what you see here on the Lumia devices. They call this the metro user experience, this idea that there are tiles that are constantly presenting you with new and useful information and it’s a fluid and a live environment.

“That same user experience will be turbocharged on a tablet, on a PC, on an Xbox: that will become the standard user experience across the Microsoft family of platforms. To the benefit of Nokia.”

Clearly, Elop sees no point in beating about the bush. His candour makes a refreshing change from technology sector CEOs who would place such topics off limits. Not only does he welcome it with good humour, but he drops tantalising hints about a timeline, and about such a tablet’s place in the device ecosystem:

“If you fast-forward let’s say a year – we don’t know when Windows 8 will ship – there will be hundreds of millions of people who on a tablet, on a PC, on a gaming platform, in an automobile, wherever, they will be seeing this style of user experience. It will instantly give them the promise of a combined experience across all of the digital parts of someone’s world.

“From our point of view, we knew this when we made the decision to go Windows Phone. We had an appreciation that it wouldn’t be just us alone trying to introduce an entirely different point of view, that there would be a lot of energy and push more broadly. That was something we couldn’t say a year ago but now its like, ‘we get it now, its clearly part of a much larger story’.

“When we look at that therefore, the opportunity to have a point of view that spans not just smartphones but also other devices from Nokia is very apparent to us, it is definitely an opportunity for us.”

Elop stresses that Nokia has not announced specific plans in this space, but also does not offer even a hint of denial. On the contrary: “Very clearly we look at that and say there’s an opportunity there.”

Elop is even willing to articulate a reason for a tablet: it is what Nokia’s customers will expect.

“I think our consumers would look at that and say we can imagine Nokia doing some interesting things and not just in the obvious parts. But there’s a lot of digital experience still to go, we’re all in the early stages of this so there’s an opportunity for us for sure.”

The suggestion then, between the lines, is that a Nokia tablet is likely to be ready around the same time that Windows 8 ships. Nokia would clearly be privy to such timings, and will have been working closely with Microsoft to ensure the Windows 8 software integrates tightly with Nokia’s hardware. It may even turn out to be one of the key elements of the Windows 8 launch. The long wait for the release also means Nokia has had the luxury of time spent ensuing the device works flawlessly. But Elop is not drawn further.

“That’s what we’re not announcing today. We just keep highlighting the opportunity. Tablets have come into the mainstream, but that situation is still in the very early stages.

“With what Microsoft is doing as it relates to the user experience, whether it’s on the PC, whether it’s on the tablet, to have a unified experience that says here’s a new point of view for tablets as well, I think that’s really going to change the industry, broaden the opportunities, so we’re very excited about that.”

A final hint at Nokia’s intended embrace of Windows 8 – and therefore of a tablet option – is Elop’s enthusiasm for the platform. It is infectious.

“If you have not seen the Windows 8 experience, take a look on YouTube,” he says. “It will really affect your thinking about how the industry is going to evolve. In terms of the degree that they’re changing their point of view and what they’re presenting, this isn’t a minor step; it’s a fundamental shift in their approach to Windows.

“And that will be to our advantage.”

Read Arthur’s column here on Nokia listening tonthe markets and taking the phone wars local.

* Follow Arthur Goldstuck on Twitter on @art2gee,

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Prepare for Wi-Fi 6

From traffic to healthcare, the applications of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard are set to transform how we connect.

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20 years ago, with the release of 802.11b, Wi-Fi began its conquest of the world networking scene in earnest. Wi-Fi can easily be called out as one of the most popular technologies of the last two decades. Just as mobile telephony and mobile internet, it has become a part of everyday life. And with the advent of IoT and the introduction of 5G, the time has come for the new standard – Wi-Fi 6.

Beyond being significantly faster than the previous generation, Wi-Fi 6 delivers up to four times greater capacity. Latency is vastly improved, allowing for near real-time use cases. Wi-Fi 6 is also easier on connected devices’ batteries.

So what impact will Wi-Fi 6 have on business in the coming years?

Digitisation, mobility and IoT are driving the need for connectivity. By 2022, more IP traffic will cross global networks than in all prior ‘internet years’ combined up to the end of 2016. In other words, more traffic will be created in 2022 than in the 32 years since the internet started. In 3 years, 28 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, many of which (robots, production lines, medical devices) will communicate over a wireless network. Against this background, it is easy to understand why we need a redesigned wireless standard that is more responsive to present and future challenges.

Wi-Fi 6: The business impact

“In the first phase, we expect the new wireless standard to gain a significant foothold in the B2B field, where it brings important innovations,” said Garsen Naidu, Country Manager, Cisco South Africa. “We will see it, together with other technologies, penetrate significantly into manufacturing, into the logistics industry. The technology is also more effective in high-density settings like large lecture halls, stadiums and conference rooms, so we are likely to see significant penetration in these settings too. And, with its extremely low latency, Wi-Fi 6 also promises to open up new opportunities in AR/VR, healthcare, and self-driving vehicles. ”

Ever since the launch of the Internet, every leap in network speed has had a major impact on technological innovation: 4G has brought along the age of smartphones, whilst 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will transform the business world. According to Cisco experts, these two technologies – 5G and Wi-Fi – will be widely adopted at the same time, complementing each other.

A short history of Wi-Fi

In 1999, half a dozen technology companies, including Aironet, which was later acquired by Cisco, formed the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance. The standard announced that year, 802.11b, which gained significant commercial traction, was the first to emerge under the ‘Wi-Fi’ brand. As such, 1999 marks the year in which Wi-Fi really began.

Solutions that carry the official Wi-Fi logo work consistently with the IEEE 802.11 data transfer standard. These solutions are certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which guarantees compatibility between various wireless devices. In addition, networking manufacturers have done a lot to improve compatibility. Launched as early as 2002, Cisco Compatible eXtensions is a free licensing program that has enabled other vendors’ Wi-Fi products to be securely deployed on Cisco wireless networks.

Subsequent developments in Wi-Fi technology included managing interference and increasing data stability. Cisco is supporting these with the Cisco Flexible Radio Assignment and Cisco CleanAir technologies. The latter is capable of identifying and graphically displaying radio interference, identifying the source of the problem, and directing users to other, less crowded, channels.

Challenges of the present and opportunities for the future

One of the most widespread business applications of wireless technology is office Wi-Fi. Using Wi-Fi, employees can move freely and access the network from anywhere where there is a hotspot. Wi-Fi-based analysis and location services are also becoming increasingly popular. And with the spread of IoT, Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous, and is today found everywhere from agricultural fields to production lines.

“We see promising business opportunities and a wide range of new applications. At the same time, with hundreds and thousands of new devices connecting to wireless networks, IT teams are facing increasing complexity. So we need to rethink IT architectures from the ground-up,” added Naidu.

Much of this need to rethink network architectures is driven by the enormous growth in wireless connectivity.

Wi-Fi has driven growth in general IT use, which in turn has led to the need to provide and run bigger and more complex networks with a greater variety of endpoint device types on them. This complexity ‘feedback loop’, driven in no small part by Wi-Fi, requires that new solutions are developed to deal with this complexity.

Cisco has pioneered in this area, using AI, machine learning, and machine reasoning, via products such as Cisco DNA Assurance to eliminate manual troubleshooting and reduce the time spent resolving service issues.

The latest Wi-Fi 6 developments introduced earlier this year make a consistent, efficient and seamless wireless connectivity experience a reality.

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Getting London wired

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Ruckus Wireless has been selected by Telefónica UK, which operates the O2 brand, to supply high-capacity small cell products for high-speed wireless services being deployed throughout London.

Already deployed throughout the busiest, iconic areas in central London, such as Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Leicester Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street, Ruckus SmartCell 8800s have initially been deployed to provide free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi to anyone.

Within a single, low-profile design, the SmartCell 8800 is the first carrier-grade, modular multi-radio system to integrate patented adaptive antenna array technology supporting multiple licensed and unlicensed radio technologies including: high-speed dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, small cell 3G/4G radios and 5GHz wireless backhaul. This gives Telefónica UK the flexibility to easily and economically offer high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular services in specific locations when needed.

‚”For O2, it’s all about us providing customers with fast and reliable connectivity where they need it,‚” said Derek McManus, chief operating officer for Telef√≥nica UK. ‚”Our vision is for Wi-Fi to be simply another access layer to our mobile core. Customers don’t really care about the underlying technology: they care about getting connected, fast and reliably. The introduction of small cells helps us to support these requirements and completely complements our mobile strategy by letting us push capacity closer to users in locations where it makes the most sense.‚”

‚”In telecoms there is now a mad race to the lamppost, and the first one there wins,‚” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. ‚”A big barrier in small cell deployment is simply securing the physical locations with the requisite power and backhaul to support small cells. Once physical assets secured, it becomes important for operators to exploit them with as much technology as they can. This means multi-function, carrier-grade products that are simple deploy, unobtrusive and massively scalable. SmartCell is one of those products and O2 is one of those operators taking a lead in this race.‚”

After extensive evaluations of wireless suppliers, Telef√≥nica UK selected Ruckus and its SmartCell system. ‚”It all really boiled down to who had the best Wi-Fi for carriers and the most forward-thinking strategy to integrate Wi-Fi within existing and future cellular infrastructure,‚” said McManus.

‚”Such partnerships prove that industry players are starting to see the benefits Wi-Fi is bringing to their services,‚” adds Michael Fletcher sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. ‚”We are likely to continue to see more industry players embracing this transformation globally, and hopefully locally as well as operators look for solutions to cater for their growing customer base.‚”

Beating the Backhaul Dilemma

‚”A major challenge with small cell deployments is how to reliably backhaul traffic from potentially thousands of small cell nodes without breaking the bank,‚” said Robert Joyce, chief radio engineer at Telef√≥nica UK.‚”

Telefónica UK effectively eliminates this problem by meshing traffic over highly reliable 5GHz Wi-Fi mesh links between nodes using Ruckus Smart Mesh technology. Smart Mesh uses advanced self-organising network (SON) principles with Ruckus-patented adaptive antenna arrays (BeamFlex) and predictive channel management techniques (ChannelFly). Combined these technologies create highly resilient, high-speed Wi-Fi mesh backbone links between nodes that automatically adapt to changes in environmental conditions.

Thought by many to not be possible, Smart Mesh has demonstrated to deliver reliable backhaul for licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi traffic in both line of sight and non-line of site environments.

‚”Ruckus Smart Mesh technology is proving to offer a cost-effective, reliable and flexible alternative to conventional approaches,‚” said Joyce. ‚”With Smart Mesh, we are running fiber to just one of every five nodes. This has proven to be a huge benefit in reducing capital and operational expense with the added bonus of reducing the time to market.‚”

Big Improvements with Small Cells

Small cells represent a new architectural approach for injecting much needed capacity into service provider networks. Small cells are miniature base stations that combine licensed and unlicensed radio technology with wireless backhaul to deliver lower powered wireless signals much closer to mobile users. This results in better signal coverage, improved voice quality and higher data performance.

Small cells enable operators to provide a premium quality mobile signal where it was never previously economic, such as indoor environments and remote outdoor locations. They also enable operators to meet the burgeoning demand for mobile data, by multiplying the data capacity of the macro network at a fraction of the cost.

With the Ruckus SmartCell system, mobile operators gain a capacity boost from LTE small cells, cutting costs and complexity by co-locating and combining them with Wi-Fi access points, sharing site-lease agreements and backhaul. The integration of Wi-Fi and LTE small cells within the cellular core also helps operators optimize network utilization across the radio access network, providing a further improvement in performance, and creating a seamless experience for subscribers.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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