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4G Wireless Location Services_091108

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					4G Wireless Location Services will Drive Powerful, Content-Rich
Applications, Dr. Martin Feuerstein, CTO
9/11/2008


While recent media attention has focused on the deployment of 3G networks in
the U.S., the rest of the world is fast at work on the development of the next
step in wireless communication—4G wireless networks. Already, both LTE and
WiMAX networks—two competing 4G standards—are in development today,
promising to be truly broadband networks capable of supporting a new world
of advanced voice and data applications.

These more powerful, more resilient and more flexible next-generation 4G
carrier networks will drive the proliferation of high-bandwidth, low-latency
multimedia applications including mixed data, voice, video and location-based
services. 4G will leverage Internet Protocol (IP) throughout the network from the
radio link through the core network infrastructure, eventually bringing speeds
of 20 Mb/sec and higher to wireless devices.

The proliferation of 4G networks also promises to create a convergence in
wireless technologies and services on a worldwide scale, creating a single,
unified global wireless infrastructure for content-rich applications where
location awareness is ubiquitous and transparent. Location-based services will
work seamlessly across continents and oceans, driving the wide-scale
development and deployment of powerful applications that thrive on frequent
and accurate location updates on a mass scale and in real-time. Location
awareness will become an integral element—weaved throughout a range of new
services and applications.

Location-based services are already available on today's 3G networks—most
notably on the Apple iPhone 3G—however, these applications are primarily
centered on basic turn-by-turn navigation tools. More pervasive and interactive
mobile social networks, multiplayer gaming, geo-fencing based coupon
advertising promotions and asset tracking will drive the need for high-
accuracy, high-yield and low-latency location-based services on 4G networks.
And it is the all-IP 4G networks that will act as an enabling platform for these
"beyond navigation" applications.
Location-Based Services and 4G Networks

While the iPhone 3G relies on GPS technology to pinpoint the handset's location,
most industry experts agree that a GPS-exclusive wireless location solution
does not provide the accuracy or reliability needed to drive 4G applications. GPS
works great in open-sky environments but is severely limited in dense urban
and indoor environments—the concrete and steel canyons of large cities acting
as barriers to satellite signal reception. Even Apple has recognized the
problems with GPS-only solutions, coupling satellite technology with WiFi on
the iPhone 3G.

While there are still concerns about a solution that relies on GPS and
unmanaged WiFi networks, it is generally accepted that only a hybrid approach
using multiple wireless location technologies will provide the accuracy, latency,
reliability and yield needed for 4G networks.




Figure 1: A 4G Network based on LTE



Existing solutions use a variety of independent location technologies including
Assisted GPS (A-GPS), Enhanced Cell-ID (ECID), Uplink Time Difference of
Arrival (UTDOA) and unique pattern matching location technologies like
Wireless Location Signatures (WLS), but these are essentially standalone
technologies, incapable alone of providing the necessary consistency of
location performance across all environments. However, pooled together, these
technologies can dramatically improve accuracy, leveraging each technology's
advantages while mitigating the other technologies' weaknesses.

Pattern matching location technologies use the principle that every location has
a unique radio frequency signature. Like a fingerprint's pattern of lines and
swirls, a location can be identified by a unique set of values including
measurements of neighboring cell signal strengths, time delays and other
network parameters. A product architecture that leverages existing wireless
location technologies to mine network measurement information can determine
accurate locations to better than 50 meters in urban areas. As the technologies
on devices continue to expand (e.g. 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi and Bluetooth), the
handset signatures are becoming richer, further enhancing accuracy—perhaps
one day even providing vertical coordinates, resulting in highly-reliable handset
location virtually anywhere.

The work done by standards groups such as the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA)—a
broad group of wireless carriers, software developers, device and network
suppliers and content and service providers with a vested interest in mobility
applications—will only help wireless location services vendors leverage this
wide net of technologies throughout a global network. In addition to consumer
applications, there is a huge opportunity to develop powerful enterprise
applications that rely on accurate, reliable and real-time location. Companies
can leverage this technology to track inventory and assets around the world,
supervise employees as they travel around a service area or target potential
customers as they approach storefronts, making location-based services
pervasive in the realm of mission-critical business applications.

However, it is generally accepted that for the type of applications that 4G
promises, the solutions need to be accurate to within tens of meters, make a
Time to First Fix (TTFF) in under five seconds and work seamlessly across
urban, suburban, rural, indoor and outdoor environments. While we're not there
yet, a reliable, robust product architecture that pools information from different
location technologies and air interfaces could eventually leverage the power of
these rich signatures to achieve greater accuracy, yield and low latency on a
global scale. If engineered correctly, this wireless location architecture would
help drive the rapid and cost-efficient roll out of the high-bandwidth, low-
latency enterprise applications that consumers are going to expect from 4G
networks.
Figure 2: A New York field trial shows that A-GPS can not provide the accuracy needed in
dense urban environments, but a hybrid solution made up of A-GPS and WLS provides
much greater accuracy. (SOURCE: Polaris Wireless)

Evolving Standards

Much of the debate has been centered on whether to embrace the 3GPP Long
Term Evolution (LTE) standard or the IEEE Worldwide Interoperability for
Microwave Access (WiMAX) standard, both proponents claiming that each one is
better suited to meet the demands and challenges presented by 4G carrier
networks. LTE is the evolutionary next step up from GSM and UMTS, and has
the backing of most wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone and DoCoMo—
who are looking to protect their 2G and 3G investments. Mobile WiMAX, on the
other hand, got a head start in time to market and is being deployed by
Clearwire in partnership with Sprint.

Converge! One Minute Videos

The reality, however, is that most vendors are prepared to support either
standard—or most likely—both standards. Because both technologies are based
on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) they are more like step-
brothers rather than rivals, and should theoretically be able to co-exist and
interoperate. The thinking is that LTE networks would be able to support
handsets enabled with WiMAX, and WiMAX networks would be able to support
LTE handsets. Likewise, 4G applications and location-based services should be
seamless, perhaps through OMA standards, engineered to support both
wireless protocols on a global scale.

The User Plane Approach

While many standards developed for 2G (GSM) and 3G (UMTS) are based on a
control plane approach to delivering location information over wireless
networks, the OMA is focusing on the user plane—a more simple, cost-efficient
and, ultimately, a more powerful approach. User plane networks take the
location intelligence out of the carrier's mobile network elements and allow
handsets to connect directly to location servers through IP, where the servers
can be inside or outside the wireless service provider's network. The wireless
network is therefore transparent to location applications, eliminating the need
for carriers to build location performance directly in 4G networks, instead
relying on outside providers for application serving—something that they
already do very well.




Figure 3: Putting location awareness on the user plane makes the network transparent
and generic. (SOURCE: Polaris Wireless)


OMA has developed a standard for user plane location called Secure User Plane
Location (SUPL), providing a blueprint for how wireless location technology
should work on 4G networks. SUPL-enabled handsets—or SUPL-enabled
terminals (SET)—connect directly to SUPL servers through IP transport over
packet data services, taking advantage of this more powerful, flexible protocol.
The wireless data transport is transparent and generic, meaning that it can be
LTE, WiMAX or any other data protocol including GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA, EV-
DO or WiFi.
SUPL is a Key to Fast, Cost-Efficient 4G Deployments

The benefit to this user plane approach is that there is no need to populate the
carrier's network elements with location-specific intelligence since this function
has been off-loaded to the SUPL server. Likewise, carriers will not need to
upgrade their wireless network infrastructure—a costly, time-consuming
process and a major inhibitor to location services deployments today. For this
user plane approach, networks can be LTE, WiMAX or neither—it doesn't matter
since the wireless network is completely transparent to location-based services
and 4G applications. Because carriers will not have to invest in upgrading
network hardware, SUPL environments will enable cheaper and faster
deployments of wireless location solutions—which promise to be leading
drivers of next-generation networks.

SUPL environments can run directly off the open Internet—but why would any
carrier want to? Private, closed networks are more secure, providing protection,
security and privacy while leveraging powerful authentication solutions to make
sure only authorized users and applications have access to location
information. Closed networks can also be engineered to be faster and more
reliable to support mission-critical applications than the open Internet
depending on the infrastructure investments carriers or enterprise customers
would be willing to make. SUPL environments could be a new revenue source
for carriers without requiring a major capital expense.

Having highly-accurate location-specific information not only opens the gate
for any number of useful business applications, the technology can introduce
valuable location information to existing mission-critical solutions. Companies
could amend their asset tracking solutions to monitor delivery trucks in real-
time and use the information to map out the most efficient routes based on
geography, traffic and even weather information. In addition, roadside
assistance companies could identify the closest tow truck to a customer
needing help, speeding assistance or making sure specific expertise is sent
where it is needed. The possibilities are endless.

The SUPL-enabled pattern matching location technologies include a location
engine residing on the SUPL server that processes location requests by
comparing radio parameter values reported by the handset to those in a
database of predicted values. A much more accurate approach than ECID—a
technology that relies on cell tower information and timing mechanisms and is
only accurate to within several hundred meters—pattern matching location
technologies work very well in dense urban and indoor environments since they
actually take advantage of the complex clutter caused by tall buildings and
other obstructions.
Figure 4: The SUPL architecture sits outside the carrier network. (SOURCE: Polaris
Wireless)


  As aforementioned, a hybrid approach using powerful pattern matching
location technology and A-GPS would provide an ever-increasing rich signature,
by blending information from both systems that result in a highly-accurate,
highly-reliable handset location virtually anywhere—compared to any stand-
alone solution.

The SUPL Standard
Eventually, all handsets sold will be SETs, unlocking secure location-based
services on a large scale. OMA started its SUPL standards work in 2003, and
Version 1.0 devices are entering the market now. Version 2.0 with enhanced
functionality was ratified in 2008 and will be entering the market soon.
Improvements continue with Version 3.0 currently in discussions and planning
with the goal of providing enhanced reliability and functionality. These evolving
SUPL standards will drive greater location accuracy, performance and network
flexibility for 4G networks.

The standards will also help drive efforts to further develop the ecosystem
around 4G applications, providing guidelines as to how additional functionality
and services will be built into the applications. For example, how will the
environments be deployed, what will the architecture look like, how will services
like billing and authentication be included or how will privacy policies be
managed? These are important questions that OMA and its members are
investigating today.

Instead of debating between LTE and WiMAX, 3GPP and IEEE, 3G and 4G, the
community needs to embrace this user plane approach as the next step to
wireless location services. Coupled with innovative pattern matching
technologies that rely on rich handset signatures to determine exact handset
location, the telecommunications industry will soon be able to cost-efficiently
create SUPL-enabled solutions that provide the high-accuracy, high-yield and
low-latency needed to support and drive powerful 4G applications.

About the Author
Marty Feuerstein is chief technology officer for Polaris Wireless, where he leads
research into position location products. He has more than 20 years of
experience in telecom, including positions with manufacturers, service
providers and academia. Prior to Polaris, Marty held management and
engineering positions with companies including Nortel, Verizon, Lucent Bell
Labs and Metawave Communications. He has many publications, more than a
dozen patents in wireless telecom and is a frequent panel participant.

About Polaris Wireless
Polaris Wireless is committed to simplifying and improving the process of
location of mobile phones for carriers around the globe by serving as the price/
performance leader delivering accurate, reliable and flexible products to
support a variety of applications. Since 2003 Polaris has been successfully
deploying the only software-based location system that meets FCC E911 Phase
II requirements. Polaris is backed by venture capital funds Draper Fisher
Jurvetson, Draper Richards and Centre Palisades Ventures. For more information
about Polaris Wireless please visit http://www.polariswireless.com .

				
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