Demystifying 5G

With the exception of a few blocks in a few cities 5G does not exist in the United States. Despite all the hype it’s getting, right now 5G is more theory than reality. 5G will revolutionize delivery of high speed data, but it will be a while before the bulk of US consumers regularly connect with 5G. The best strategy for now is to enjoy 4G LTEA coverage, watch, wait, and plan.

In a lot of ways we know more about 5G’s potential than its reality. According to Mike Moore of TechRadar, “estimates expect the average speed of 5G networks to reach 10Gb/s, and some even think transfer rates could reach a whopping 800Gb/s.” That is an 8,000% difference between the low and high estimates. 5G has crazy potential, but we will be on the very low end of the speed predictions in the early stages. Even at the low end 5G will have speeds only previously available with a wired connection. Speed like 10Gb/s will be common eventually, but not today, and probably not a year from now.

The 5G Reality

Where 5G is in “testing,” the roll out is block by block. There are areas of Chicago, Dallas, and Minneapolis where, if you win the geography lottery, there is a real 5G signal. But don’t wander around because you might lose the connection. In an April 2019 PCMAG.com article aptly titled “5G is [Barely] Real,” Sascha Segan notes “Verizon’s 5G in Chicago, right now, only covers parts of downtown and seems to get about 300 feet of distance from each cell site. AT&T’s 5G in Dallas gave us 1.3Gbps speeds and about 600 feet of range—but only at two locations in the city.” In an April press release Verizon promised, “20 U.S. cities will get 5G Ultra-Wideband service in 2019.” But a footnote clarified, “5G Ultra-Wideband available only in parts of select markets.” 5G cells have narrow reach, so networks will need lots of them, and full market saturation will take time. Today, world-wide the greatest 5G density is six major cities in South Korea.

Where are the Phones?

Even if you are next to a 5G cell, your iPhone10 won’t know it. The Motorola Moto Z3 with its Moto Mod is the first 5G phone available in the US. You can get one from Verizon, and if you happen to live in parts of Chicago or Minneapolis you might be able to find a 5G signal. The Samsung Galaxy S10-5G is just arriving at some Verizon stores. But phones are not the obstacle to 5G. Several 5G capable devices will roll out in the new generation of phones, before the network infrastructure is fully deployed even in major cities.

5G is Good for Carriers

It will be a while before consumers can wander anywhere and enjoy a 5G connection. The real near term advantage of 5G isn’t to the user, but to the providers. 4G goes back to 2010, and even 4G LTE, and LTEA were just a refresh and extension of 3G with more and better connections. The 3G/4G network hardware is getting old, and the 5G build out will be a revolution. On AndroidCentral Hildenbrand, Maring, and England write, “5G benefits the carrier as much or more than the consumer. The initial costs of new equipment will be offset by the savings over maintaining the current aging infrastructure. The ability to actually compete with in-home broadband service without resorting to fiber will gain more customers, all 5G devices in the U.S. will be carrier-specific, and some of the costs will be passed on to the customer.” In short, because there will be newer, faster technology, carriers can raise rates in a market where rates have stabilized and are even falling.

New Rules, New Tech

Like 3G and 4G, 5G isn’t one thing, but a set of protocols and rules. One of 5G’s new rules now allow 4G LTE/LAA (License Assisted Access). Previously carriers had to license their transmission bands, LAA uses the unlicensed 5GHz band used by Wi-Fi to increase bandwidth, however, only when there isn’t Wi-Fi traffic present. LAA uses a concept called Listen-Before-Talk (LBT) which dynamically selects channels that are not being used. The technology uses these unlicensed bands by “sharing them fairly.” 4G LTE-LAA is the thing AT&T is badging 5Ge.

The real 5G rollout however will supplement the current 4GLTE channels in the 450 to 6,000MHz bands with a whole new set of frequencies from 24GHz to 86GHz the so called Millimeter Wave Bands. Anyone with dual band Wi-Fi experience knows that transmission is denser and faster on the 5GHz channel, but reaches farther on the 2.4GHz channel. The same is true, and more so for the Millimeter wave bands; they are screaming fast, but don’t carry very far. 5G networks will be made of many smaller cells phased together in arrays. It’s a completely different connection strategy. Full 5G rollout will take years with 4G and 5G operating side by side for most of the time.

The Bird in the Hand

It’s not time to feel left out of the 5G revolution. We should all be excited about 5G technology, just as we might be excited about anything coming in the future. At the same time, currently, and for the near future, we have the highly effective and tested 4G LTEA technology available. The worst mistake anyone can make is avoiding a new equipment needed today for things coming in the undetermined future. With reasonable planning and foresight, today’s needs can be met while setting the stage for something better when it is finally a reality.

Next: Purchase decisions for the 5G future

Frontier Computer Corp. is the worlds largest distributor of Peplink, the industry leader in high speed data connection technology. We offer integrated, managed M2M data plans from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

Learn More about Frontier Cellular Data

Your Contact Information

Please enter "personal" if you are not affiliated with a company.

The Internet in Your Camper, RV, or Boat

Airstream Connected

Summer is emerging and people are heading for travel and adventure. A few people will jump into nature with only survival tools, but most of us still want our normal comforts, like staying connected away from the strong signals of home. Connection is so important that Airstream received the New Horizons award at RVX: The RV Experience in Salt Lake City, Utah. Airstream’s new trailers include their Airstream Connected technology. The Airstream technology uses a cellular router with a high performance antenna to provide Wi-Fi internet access both inside and outside the RV. While the Airstream Connected package is custom designed for their trailers, anyone who wants to be connected far away from home can get the same technology with a cellular router and a high quality antenna. With these tools RVers heading to the woods and sailors on the open water can stay connected even where smart phones struggle for a signal.

Most RV parks and harbors have some sort of Wi-Fi. But anyone who has roamed an RV park trying to find exactly the right spot to connect knows how unreliable public Wi-Fi can be. Harbor Wi-Fi is lost as little as 50 feet beyond the dock. On the water there are only two options for internet or communications, expensive satellite or cellular. For near-shore leisure-based maritime traffic, five to nine miles out, cellular is significantly less expensive, particularly for any significant bandwidth usage. With the right equipment, a cellular signal can be received up to 10 miles off shore.

A Wi-Fi Router without cable

Home routers are powerful and easy to use. When they are home no one thinks twice about the easy connection for their phones, tablets, laptops, and even game consoles. The same level of convenience and easy connectivity is available in powerful cellular routers without the cable connection. The Pepwave MAX cellular router line includes moderately priced, enterprise level cellular routers that include dual SIM card slots to have two different carriers available for the best possible connection. While there are other somewhat similar brands, The Pepwave cellular routers feature SpeedFusion which will “failover” from one carrier SIM to the another, maintaining the best signal for an uninterrupted connection. They can be powered with 10 to 30 volts, and can operate from -40° to 149°F, making them suitable for any RV or Boat. The Airstream Connect system uses a Pepwave router.

“My Phone has no bars. How can I connect with Cellular?”

No one buys a smart phone because it has a great antenna. Phone designers dedicate their precious space to marque features like cameras and batteries. Since most phones are used in populated areas with strong signals, and since no one points a finger at the phone manufacturer when they can’t connect, phone designers rate the internal antennas as good-enough technology. However, where signals are weak the quality of an antenna can make the difference.

While many “high gain” antennas are available, they often perform poorly, having full gain in only a small part of the frequency band. If a carrier’s signal is in a 690MHz channel and an antenna’s stated gain is only reached at 1700MHz the specified gain is meaningless. Generally an antenna from major designers like Poynting, Panorama, and Mobile Mark will have full specified gain across the entire frequency band. A full spectrum medium gain antenna will often deliver a clearer signal than a poor quality high gain antenna.

The Airstream Connected technology uses a medium gain Poynting antenna. These units are available with five antennas in one waterproof IP68 housing — two LTE elements for cellular signals, two elements for dual band Wi-Fi, and a GPS element for location. In addition to the full bandwidth performance and higher gain, the Poynting MIMO-3 antenna can be mounted on top of an RV for vastly improved line-of-sight performance. For maritime applications a mast mounted, pole antenna can offer even better reception of cellular signals. The Poynting OMNI-402 offers 2×2 MIMO LTE performance in an IP68 Marine enclosure costing about one third of the price of other premium marine antennas.

Travelers enjoying nature, or navigating the Great Lakes and coastal waters do not have to be isolated from the Internet. For a modest investment in the right connection technology travelers can enjoy the safety and convenience of connectivity wherever they roam.

SpeedFusion Intro & Best Practices

Even the novice will find valuable information in the whitepaper. This simple graphic perfectly illustrates the core benefits of SpeedFusion.

Peplink has issued a new comprehensive whitepaper on their SpeedFusion technology. SpeedFusion is a powerful, simple to implement VPN technology that can use multiple WAN links to create a single secure data tunnel between devices. This allows SpeedFusion bonding to provide two key functions: bandwidth aggregation and VPN reliability. SpeedFusion can use all connected data paths to create a single logical VPN connection. If one connection technology fails, SpeedFusion can detect this slowdown or outage and instantly redirect traffic to other available connection channels.

SpeedFusion has applications in multiple markets from connecting branch offices, mobile resources, industrial sites, and others to a main office, headquarters, or even the cloud. It is widely used in Public Safety and by First Responders, as well as in education, broadcasting, and maritime applications.

The white paper includes a detailed technical description of SpeedFusion as well as a through explanation of how to create and implement SpeedFusion networks. While the information is technical enough for engineers, it includes enough basic illustrations that even a relative novice can gain a better understanding of this breakthrough technology. Peplink has made this whitepaper free to anyone on their website. It can be downloaded directly below.

Download the Whitepaper

Frontier is the largest distributor of Peplink products in the world and carries the full Peplink line. In addition to Peplink, the Frontier channel represents Poynting Antennas, Wilson Amplifiers, Yealink and Grandstream VoIP phones, and other connectivity solutions. Resellers and integrators are welcome to apply for membership in the Frontier Channel.

Learn more about the Frontier Channel

Broadcast Video from the Air

More than 600 municipal law enforcement agencies have helicopters for aerial surveillance and observation, but few of them have real-time video feeds for responders on the ground. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office was one of those agencies. Although Greenville is South Carolina’s most populous county, and the Greenville Sheriff’s department has over 400 deputies and 100 additional employees, they still couldn’t get real-time video from their Bell OH58C helicopter to their mobile command center and responders in the field. Industry standard COTS microwave systems are expensive, require multiple towers, and line-of-sight transmission. Using an off-the-shelf microwave transmission system was not only cost prohibitive, it was a massive undertaking. Adequate coverage of Greenville County with a microwave system would have required finding, leasing, or erecting towers to cover 800 square miles. The only field alternative was a $10,000 handheld receiver that still required line-of-sight connection to the Helicopter.

Frontier’s Peplink Partner Creates the Solution

The Greenville Sheriff’s department worked with Joe Schmauch of Greenville Media, a helicopter pilot himself, to find a better way to broadcast the video into the field than the off-the-shelf microwave systems. Greenville media is one of Frontier’s Certified Peplink partners, and worked with Taylor Avery, Frontier Computer’s Peplink Technical Manager to develop the proof of concept for sending real-time video to all responders. They configured a system using Peplink’s SpeedFusion secure VPN, Bandwidth Bonding, and Hot Failover. The result is a cost effective system that uses existing cellular assets in the community without additional infrastructure. Schmauch brought in Mark Robison of VITEC to improve the broadcast stream quality and video compression/error correction. With the Peplink System, the Sheriff’s department can send broadcast quality video to headquarters, a mobile command center, and directly to deputies responding at the scene in real-time. The full HD stream is broadcast with error correction and less than a two second delay.

Connections

At Headquarters a Peplink Balance 210 establishes four SpeedFusion VPN tunnels to receive the encrypted video stream from the Pepwave HD2 IP67 in the helicopter. The stream is also instantly and securely transmited through the SpeedFusion tunnels to the Pepwave HD4 in the Mobile Command Center. SpeedFusion bonds the Cellular WAN links into an unbreakable high speed connection that is more robust than any single cellular connection alone. Seeing the results from the Peplink Configuration, Mark Robison who usually works with video broadcast through Microwave transmission, was impressed with the quality and low latency.

“This use case implements Peplink bonded cellular to replace line-of-sight microwave transmission systems. It is orders of magnitude less expensive, and is more robust even than the microwave COTS solution that is currently the most well-known alternative approach.” — Mark Robison, VITEC

The system provides a steady broadcast quality video from the helicopter to both headquarters and the mobile command center, with a less than a two second delay. Over a secure CDN, the video streams are also shared to department cell phones and to other first responders. The Greenville Sheriff’s Department shares their aerial observation abilities with other agencies through a mutual aid agreement. With a FLIR camera, the chopper shows firefighters on the ground real-time thermal images from the air. The Pepwave outfitted Bell helicopter has been dispatched beyond Greenville to assist with other efforts including hurricane response. From any remote location the HD2 in the chopper can send video back to headquarters, and from there to anywhere in the world.

Frontier is the World’s Largest Peplink Distributor with more than 600 partner integrators in North America and Europe4.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

New Peplink IP67 Router for Worksite, Maritime, and Mobile

The Peplink HD2 Dome with the Ethernet Splitter attached.

Peplink has been the go-to solution for rugged and outdoor applications that require cellular Internet, but recently they have added a unit that will redefine outdoor cellular routers. The new HD2 Dome offers the unique innovation of an antenna and dual radio cellular router in one enclosure, built for any weather conditions.

Built-in Antenna Eliminates Cable Loss

All cellular routers deployed in outdoor applications require external LTE antennas. Ideally the remote antenna should be installed in the highest location for the best reception. For maritime and field applications that can mean 50 feet or more of cable. Even a high quality low-loss cable will give up about .5 dBi per meter. A quality high-gain external antenna will have a 6-8 dBi gain, but even a 40 foot cable can absorb most or all of that gain. The HD2 Dome’s 2×2 MIMO antennas are part of the circuits, without connectors and cabling, which means that their full 2-5 dBi gain is delivered to the cellular radios. The lightweight HD2 Dome can be easily mounted at the top of a mast, pole or roof, for maximum reception without losing any signal in long cables and connectors.

The HD2 Dome can be powered and attached to the network with a single PoE Ethernet cable.
Single Wire Installation

In addition to no antenna cables, no separate power wires are needed. The HD2 Dome connects to the network with a single PoE Ethernet cable. The Internet signal from the HD2 Dome can travel through more than 300 feet of Ethernet cable with no loss. The HD2 dome is ideal for pole or mast mounting outdoors where the signal is needed as much as a football field away.

Unbreakable Cellular Connection

Each of the HD2 Dome’s Dual LTEA radios have redundant SIM card slots. Peplink’s SpeedFusion technology, with hot failover and bandwidth bonding is included with the HD2 Dome. The HD2 Dome can use the strongest cellular networks to assure your connection never breaks. SpeedFusion’s Bandwidth bonding can build one wide connection from two cellular links.

The components included: The HD2 Dome, Ethernet Splitter, and universal mounting bracket.
Mount it Anywhere

The HD2 Dome includes a full range of mounting options. The main unit has an M35 thread for pole mounting, but the other options are included. The HD2 Dome comes with an Ethernet splitter. The splitter enables a second gigabit LAN port and can be used as a second mounting option. With the Ethernet splitter attached an included pivot mounting bracket can be attached for articulating surface or pole mounting.

Extend the HD2 Dome Capabilities with the SIM Injector

The HD2 Dome can be paired with the Pepwave SIM Injector to add eight additional SIM cards, or when the HD2 Dome is mounted in an inaccessible location, a SIM Injector can replace the HD2 Dome’s internal SIMs. If the HD2 Dome is mounted atop an 80 foot mast, the SIM Injector, with its eight card slots can be mounted inside the cabin for easy SIM access. While the HD2 Dome is ideal for worksite, maritime, and mobile applications, several other application will benefit from the potential for remote installations without antenna cables that degrade cellular signals, and the simplicity of single Ethernet wire connectivity. The HD2 Dome is available for order now at Frontier Computer.

Frontier is the World’s Largest Peplink Distributor with more than 600 partner integrators in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

Peplink included in Gartner Report

Gartner WAN Edge ReportGartner needs no introduction to anyone in the IT world. They are the objective reference source for both existing and emerging technology. Gartner is the tech world’s Oxford English Dictionary, Consumer Reports, and Farmer’s Almanac all rolled into one. It could be argued that an IT trend isn’t real until Gartner reports on it. Gartner’s Magic Quadrants are the Who’s Who of IT market segments.

In this, their first WAN Edge Magic Quadrant, Gartner predicts that by 2023 90% of all WAN Edge replacements will be based on virtual appliances (vCPE) or SD-WAN rather than traditional routers. To simplify, Edge technology is a device or system that creates the virtual or physical boundaries of a network. Traditionally those have been hardware; your data center was the edge of your network. The data center was where your business network started and from there connected to other networks beyond it, including the Internet. As more businesses are eliminating in-house data centers the Edge of the network has become a virtual rather than physical device.

Peplink Makes the Cut

The WAN Edge marketplace, once dominated by the giants like VMware and Cisco, has become a larger sector with several providers at many levels. This first Gardner Magic Quadrant signifies that what started as a trend is now the direction. Peplink’s inclusion in this first Magic Quadrant cannot be overlooked. Peplink has met many required inclusion factors: a significant number of customer installations, a long list of basic and advanced product capabilities, financial performance, and commercial support. Many larger companies did not make the cut, including HP’s Aruba.

Gartner noted that in North America more than 60% of WAN Edge installations are DIY, as opposed to a managed service approach. They predict that of the 90% of businesses replacing traditional data centers, more than half will want a solution they control and manage rather than a vendor controlled package. This could be one of the reasons Peplink has a place in this report. Many Peplink adopters note the ease of both initial set-up and continued management as an early positive in the Peplink experience. Peplink’s ease of installation and user accessible features are ideal for the North American market.

Peplink Leading in Cellular Connections

The report also identified some unique advantages Peplink brings to WAN Edge installations. Peplink was the only company listed that was specifically noted as “optimized for applications where bandwidth is limited.” Gartner recognized Peplink’s expertise and ease in integrating cellular connections, noting “Peplink has a rich set of WAN management and troubleshooting capabilities, particularly relating to wireless issues.”

The report further noted “Peplink can support a large number of links in its platforms and can bond multiple links (wired and wireless) into a single logical link to deliver high-bandwidth connections where others cannot.” Gartner cited one of Peplink’s direct competitor’s lack of T1/M1 interfaces and WAN optimization as a weakness, and noted that the competitor does not offer a Virtual Appliance like Peplink’s FusionHub. Peplink integrates all types of connection, from T1, DSL, and Cable to Satellite and Cellular, which sets it apart from others in the segment. The FusionHub virtual appliance means Peplink’s SpeedFusion bonding, failover, and WAN smoothing technology can be installed inside any cloud architecture without physical hardware.

SD-WAN as a Cost-Saving Measure

In the Market Forecast section Gartner notes: “Many Gartner clients hope to fund their WAN expansion/update by replacing or augmenting expensive MPLS connections with internet-based VPNs, often from alternate providers.” Peplink’s unique ability to integrate all connections has made it a leader for MPLS replacement. Frontier partners using Peplink have built many large MPLS replacements saving customers significant IT dollars and reducing the connection failure risks associated with a single provider. As wireless connections increase and become faster, Peplink is the primary company with experience integrating cellular to supplement or replace wired connections. Gartner cautions, “However, suitability of internet connections varies widely by geography, and service providers.” They warn that as the number of connections and providers increase, so does the complexity. SD-WAN, as provided by Peplink, “has dramatically simplified” integration of multiple sources into one stable connection. At several places in the report, Gartner notes the problems with limited Internet access when adopting WAN Edge deployments, an issue Peplink solved many years ago.

Peplink has been a leader in SD-WAN technology, and as Gartner predicted, 90% of WAN Edge installs will be vCPE or SD-WAN, not traditional routers. Using SD-WAN technology, businesses are freed from the legacy suppliers of enterprise routing. Gartner reports, “The emergence of SD-WAN has demonstrated that routing has been democratized and that many vendors are as good, or perhaps even better, at branch office routing than the incumbents.”

Other than recognition, there is nothing earth shattering in the Gartner Magic Quadrant report, but it is a solid, authoritative acknowledgement of Peplink’s importance in the SD-WAN/WAN Edge segment. It will come as no surprise to the thousands of installed users that Peplink is alone in its ability to use all connections in creating a virtual Edge network, and that Peplink is a leader in wireless connectivity even where bandwidth is limited.

Frontier is the World’s Largest Peplink Distributor with more than 600 partner integrators in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

Disrupt Your Own Market

photo by Octavian Rosca

If you are ever having trouble sleeping, pick up an article on Digital Disruption. Instead of counting sheep you can count the jargon crammed into every sentence. Sentences with four or more nonsense words get a score of 2. Sentences earn an extra point when every single word is easily understood, but combine into gibberish. The points mean nothing and you don’t have to keep score; you will be asleep by the third sentence.

Here’s a jargon laden jewel from the Gartner IT Glossary: “Digital disruption is an effect that changes the fundamental expectations and behaviors in a culture, market, industry or process that is caused by, or expressed through, digital capabilities, channels or assets.” Yikes. In that mumbo-jumbo there is a nugget of wisdom. The broad concept of Digital Disruption is helpful for describing something we all inherently understand. Let’s translate that Gartner definition: Digital Disruption is when technology changes the way consumers buy things or do stuff.

• People bought books at bookstores. Now they buy them on-line. Amazon used technology to change (disrupt) the way people buy books (and now pretty much everything else).

• People watched their favorite TV shows when they were scheduled. Networks owned the programing and some people planned their days around the network schedule. Now people expect to watch TV when they want to.

• People carried cash. It was the default for commerce when nothing else worked. Now, an entire generation of consumers grew up without cash. Credit and debit cards are being replaced with phone and watch payments. It won’t be long before cash will only be used to pay babysitters and drug dealers, but both are probably taking payments on their phones with Square. Easy, secure payments have disrupted the world of currency.

There is nothing complicated about Digital Disruption. You don’t need a consultant to tell you that any enterprise dependent on limited customer choice or a captive audience will falter when technology opens access. If your business relies on a protected market, or restricted consumer knowledge, your days are numbered.

Lead or Perish

Following digital trends is chasing your tail. You can’t just keep up, and it’s not enough to innovate, for innovations sake. Innovation has to improve your customers’ experience and access. Many small business were built on social media. It was the emerging technology and some people who jumped on quickly had success. But the same social media strategy that worked to sell housewives* yoga pants is not a model that will sell sandpaper to machine shops. Social Media is yesterday’s news, and is now the norm, not disruptive. By the time a market disruption is observed, it’s too late for anything but a me-too position.

The key to digital disruption is creating your own — your own disruption, not your own technology. Again, Gartner is the authority here if you can make sense of their MBAspeak. “Understanding the potential for disruption related to customer outcomes requires an understanding of the value chains within intended customer markets/segments.” Wait, what? Let’s translate: When you know what your customers want, and where they struggle, you can find technology to give them more of what they need, and less of what gets in the way.

Back to the example of network TV: People love episodic entertainment, but they had to make network broadcasts fit their schedules. Networks exploited the very thing people disliked the most, scheduling. They tried to own a night, as with NBC’s “Must See Thursdays” when Seinfeld ruled. The first technology to disrupt this was the VCR, and its refinement, TiVo. People could record and watch shows later, and on their schedules. It took away some of the scheduling problem, but shows were still portioned out in tiny bits like carrots leading the mule.

Streaming technology ended network television (it’s over, they just haven’t figured it out yet). Netflix delivered the deathblow when they released entire seasons of shows in one day. Viewers aren’t going to wait six months to find out what happens when they can find another show that gives them the whole story at their own pace. Not to pick on Network Television, but they are the perfect example of what happens when an industry fights or ignores disruption. When it became clear that owning a night of television was over, networks tried a new strategy, randomly moving favorite shows to different nights to draw an audience to specific day. It didn’t work. Rather than moving viewership, they alienated their customers who expected a specific show in a specific time slot. When their favorite show wasn’t where they expected, they didn’t go looking for it, they turned to Netflix to find something new.

Learn from Netflix

Netflix didn’t disrupt the television industry by creating technology. They used developing technology to give their subscribers what they always wanted, television on their schedules. Netflix didn’t invent the Internet, they didn’t wire it to houses, and they didn’t increase bandwidth. Instead Netflix identified a growing technology and started using it before it was even widely adopted. As more people had increasing bandwidth coming into their homes, Netflix gave them something to do with it.

You do not disrupt your market by creating technology. Creating your own market disruption requires fully understanding what your customers need from your products or services. It requires knowing what aspects of the buying process your customers dislike, but tolerate to get to the good parts. Once you have identified where your customer struggles, you have to find, modify, and exploit technology to reduce or eliminate that pain.

Digital Disruption is a new term for an old concept. In the 19th century the key to success was building a better mousetrap. Digital Disruption is identifying existing technology that gets rid of the mice without a trap at all.

Frontier can help you find the tools you need to disrupt your market.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

*Housewives still exist, and businesses ignore them at their own peril.

Replacing an LTE Antenna

Our customer installed a Poynting LPDA-92 antenna in the same location and orientation as her previous antenna, but she wasn’t getting better reception. We turned to Poynting in South Africa for an answer. Their engineer’s response is worth sharing. The original is filled with technical language and delightful but confusing British phrasing. We’ve translated it into American and condensed it.

When a new Poynting antenna is installed to replace another brand, it will have different characteristics than the previous one. We recommend treating the installation of an upgraded antenna as a new installation. There are several reasons. The most obvious is that two antennas from different manufacturers, even with similar specifications, will have different radiation patterns.

A Poynting antenna will deliver an even gain over its entire frequency range with a smooth radiation pattern. In contrast, a different antenna may have gain spikes in one segment of the frequency band, or at one point in the radiation pattern. If the old antenna is placed SSE 167° and receiving a good signal, it does not assure that the tower is at SSE 167°. One off-axis spike in the antenna’s pattern could be picking up a stray signal from the side. To quote the Poynting engineer, “with the previous installation they may have just been lucky to receive some spurious signal from an adjacent angle.” Installing a new antenna in the same location, without the flaws of the old antenna could result in no reception improvement, or even lower reception. The answer is to re-orientate the new Poynting antenna as part of its installation.

Locate the network cell towers before you install the antenna.

It is not always clear where cell signals originate. Locate nearby cellular sites by trying a combination of the following:

  • Check your cell provider’s web site. Sadly, this is a long shot because carriers don’t want to disclose this information, to either customers or competitors.
  • Ask your cell provider’s help desk or tech support. You are probably not going to get this information from the level 1 support people, but with persistence, you may find someone who can give you the locations of your nearest towers.
  • Use your eyes. Look for towers or rooftop sites (not all cellular sites are on towers). In Frontier’s home location, there is a cell tower disguised as very tall, oddly symmetrical pine tree.
  • Check antennasearch.com, which will show existing towers and antennas. Unfortunately, it will not always tell you which carriers are using which towers, but it is one of the best indicators of tower locations. Cellmapper.net will allow a search by carrier. With its interesting coverage and broadcast diagrams, Cell Mapper will sometimes show that the site closest is not the one broadcasting in your direction. Antenna Search, Cell Mapper, and a little deduction can help you figure it out. Sources on the Internet change often, so a Google search is probably worth a try.

Finding your carrier’s nearest broadcast sites best achieved by using several of these resources.

Setting up the Antenna

Once the nearest cellular sites are determined, begin installation by pointing the antenna toward them and testing to refine the orientation. The nearest site or site with best Line of Sight (LOS) is usually preferred. A nearby site completely blocked by tall buildings, dense trees, or terrain features may offer less signal than one farther away with a clear path. The only way to identify the ideal location is to test more than one antenna orientation toward different cellular sites (see below).

When Cellular site locations are unknown

In situations where the locations of the cellular mobile network sites are unknown, and where the known locations do not provide sufficient results, we recommend the more methodical and involved process of testing in all the directions.

Point the antenna towards a direction where coverage is expected, or you can start in a known direction. Test your reception in this starting orientation. After your first test, redirect the antenna clockwise and test again. Keep repeating this until you have tested a full 360 degrees. The angle you move for each test depends on the horizontal beam width of your antenna. Test at an angle slightly less than the horizontal pattern width of your antenna.

For example, the Poynting LPDA-92 antenna has a beam width of approximately 50 degrees, so a 45-degree angle will be sufficient. For the LPDA-92, you would take measurements in eight different directions, 0, 45, 90, 135, 180, 225, 270 and 315 degrees. For any antenna, the beam width is different for each specific frequency band. Using the published data for your antenna, choose a test interval slightly less than the antenna’s narrowest horizontal angle.

How to measure the antenna performance in each direction.

You can measure the values with most LTE enabled routers, which are capable of reporting the cellular network signal strength and quality as RSRP, RSRQ, or SINR. Nearly every cell phone has a signal meter built-in, although it is mostly hidden from the consumer. It’s pretty easy to find on Android, under ABOUT DEVICE: STATUS. You can find it on iPhones too, but it’s not so easy (search Field Test Mode). The meter will show the value in –dBm. There are apps on the market that will show this as well.

LTE Signal Strength

It is best to reboot the device before each measurement to ensure that it is not holding on to the previous cellular site. A cellular router or cell phone can ‘lock’ onto the previous cellular site even when the new cellular site is available with a much better signal level and quality.

Take note of the signal strengths measured in each direction. Finally, use the best performing direction as the baseline and install the antenna in that direction. Even with a known antenna location, fine tune and further optimize the placement by re-testing at +20 degrees and -20 degrees from the determined position. It is a slower process, but the only way to assure you are finding the best performing antenna orientation.

General Tips
  • Although installing an antenna as high as possible is generally recommended, it is possible that the highest position is a weak coverage spot. In other words, vertical placement can make a difference. Poynting has found that a lower installation height achieves better results in few cases.
  • Cellular network signals and quality can fluctuate as much as 6 to 12 dB. A measurement taken now and a few moments later can differ substantially even if nothing apparent has changed. Reflections, interference, and load capacity cause signal variations. Network throughput can also change significantly for the same reasons.
  • Network topology and usage change over time, even from one minute to the next. If a previously tested antenna position begins to yield poor performance over time, you may have to re-test, and reorient the antenna. It is possible for a cellular site to become over used, or taken out of service. As the network design and topology changes, so will the experience change.
  • Poynting has many informative webinars on YouTube. This video gives a detailed overview of the factors involved in cellular reception.
  • An antenna can only pick-up an existing signal. If the ambient cellular signal has an RSRP -110dBi or less, it is unlikely even the best antenna can improve reception.

Frontier Computer stocks Poynting and Axxess Marine Antennas, WilsonPro and weBoost cellular amplifiers, and the entire Peplink and Pepwave lines of SD-WAN communications.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

IBM: Part Number, FRU, or Feature Code?

IBM FRU

Way back in 2015 we published a similar article on the confusing world of IBM nomenclature. To this day, it is among our most searched posts. To make it easier to find, we are republishing this updated version.

Trying to navigate IBM hardware presents a seemingly endless array of numbers to describe processor speed, drive storage space, transfer rates, and a host of other characteristics. In the sea of IBM numbers, none are more confusing than part numbers, which are subdivided into marketing numbers, FRUs, and feature codes. In any IBM server installation there thousands of these numbers. Understanding the difference between a part (marketing) number, a FRU, and a feature code can save both time and money.

Part number

The Part Number, also called a Marketing Number, describes a specific part within a specific system among IBM’s various product lines. It is used to configure a new system or add features to an existing system. For example, if you want a dual port expansion card in an IBM Blade Center you would include 46M6140 when you build the system, or order it to add it later. These numbers tell IT infrastructure technicians exactly which parts are included in their servers, storage and networking equipment. The numbers are used in IBM marketing materials for technicians configuring new equipment. You can use a part/marketing number to find a replacement part, but it is not the primary reason that number exists. Some parts may not have a part number at all, if they are not for original purchase outside of a configured unit.

FRU

FRU stands for Field Replacement Unit. It is the number IBM uses to reference a part for repair. The FRU number may, or may not, be accompanied by a part number; some parts have a FRU only. Use FRU numbers to request spare or replacement parts. FRUs are the numbers IBM technicians will use when replacing a part. However, a FRU number may not be the only number associated with many parts, and the exact same part may have different FRU numbers in different countries or inside different systems. The FRU number indicates the IBM specified replacement part, but sometimes two identical parts can have different FRU numbers.

Feature Code

Inside IBM, they use the Feature Code to process orders. Finding a replacement part can be easier and cheaper if you know the Feature Code. IBM uses the feature code because any one IBM item can have twenty or more FRU or part numbers. For example, 36.4GB 10K SCSI drive with the feature code 3129 can have the part numbers 00P1519, 00P2676, 07N3774, 07N4803, and many others. While a you may be holding a faulty drive with IBM Part number 00P1519, that isn’t the only number indicating an exact replacement. To save time and money, try to find the feature code when replacing a part.

It is important to know the correct feature code for an IBM part, or to have a partner you can trust to provide the information. At Frontier, we have had customers come to us requesting a specific part number that may have the same feature code as many other part numbers. To go back to our 36.4GB SCSI drive with the feature code 3129, a customer may ask for part 00P2676. If they only have this specific part number and search the internet, they may find a reseller advertising that part number for $150, hoping their buyer doesn’t know the 00P2676 part number is a feature code 3129 drive, worth maybe $50. We will share the correct feature codes to assure our customers pay a competitive price for the IBM parts they need. If you are not well versed in features codes, it is important to have a vendor like Frontier that will reference the correct feature code when you ask for a specific part number.

If you have any questions about part numbers, FRUs or feature codes, give Frontier’s IBM team a call. We will tell you exactly what part you need, and which FRUs and feature codes will work as replacements.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

photo: Bruce Mars/Unsplash

Ignore Email from the CEO

CEO Fraud Email

Maybe you shouldn’t ignore it, but at least wait a few minutes before responding to any urgent request. Nothing makes employees snap into action like a message from the CEO. Which is why CEO Fraud has become such a problem. No, Chief Executive Officers are not engaging in dirty deeds at any higher rate than they have before. Hackers, posing as CEOs, are using employee’s immediate deference to their top leader as a way to get sensitive company information and even bank accounts. Even if you and your staff are just hearing about it, CEO Fraud — better described as CEO Impersonation — is not new. In 2016, the FBI reported a one-year, 270% increase in CEO Fraud, or as they characterize it BEC (Business Email Compromise). The FBI reported 17,000+ victims and 2.3 billion in losses in a three-year period. Is your organization at risk?

As with most Social Engineering attacks, CEO Fraud is not a spam email from Nigeria written in broken English. These planned attacks start by learning about a company’s top executive. Using LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, as well as any information and interviews available in a Google search, thieves will build profiles of both the CEO and other employees. Using those profiles, they will find mid-level employees with access to accounts or records and find a weakness or distraction to exploit. Email imitating the CEO will be targeted to a specific employee. The request will be specific and urgent, but within the target employee’s authority. Because there is a natural reaction to please the boss, workers will put aside other tasks to complete the requests quickly. That sense of urgency is often all it takes to distract an otherwise cautious person into careless action.

While common sense is still the first defense against cyber fraud, there are additional red flags that should trigger extreme caution:

  • Any email or phone request with a short deadline or high level of URGENCY.
  • Any unfamiliar email signature.
  • Tone or language that doesn’t fit what is known about the alleged sender.
  • Any name or greeting using unfamiliar nicknames.
  • Unfamiliar email addresses or phone numbers.
  • Any requests that suggest or would require bypassing policies or standard procedures.

Even absent these indicators, a message can be fraud. Criminals are sophisticated, and the bigger the potential reward the greater care they will take in constructing the con.
Follow these steps to avoid CEO Fraud attacks:

  • Never answer requests for sensitive data or money transfers by replying.
  • Respond with a new email to the correct address you know from the company directory.
  • Respond to requests in a different form entirely. Confirm important requests with an instant message, text, or phone call, to numbers already known.
  • Never respond using contact information included in the original email.

One of the critical factors in cyber-attacks against humans is that it only takes one distracted person to succeed. You are reading this, so for now, you are not that weak link. What about the people in the next office? Every company needs a culture of security awareness, with constant reinforcement. Share this post. Start the conversation and keep your organization from being the next victim of CEO Fraud, Spear Phishing, or any of several other staff based cyber security attacks.

— ♦ —

Frontier security experts can schedule a security check-up and train your full staff to be alert to every cyber security threat.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

Specifying the Right Antenna

Whether you are trying to connect to WiFi or cellular the right antenna is a primary factor determining success. Bundled antennas often deliver minimum performance required for ideal installations, but many factors can interfere with, or attenuate signal transmission. The following chart shows the relative obstacles to radio wave transmission.

The frequency of a signal also effects how well waves transmit through obstacles and how well signals travel. Low frequency signals like the original 900 MHz bands for cellular are less susceptible to attenuation and travel well over longer distances. Higher frequency signals, like the newer channels used for LTE in the 1700-2500 MHz bands, are more prone to interference and don’t spread as far from the towers. T-Mobile is now using some channels in the 5.2 GHz and 5.7 GHz bands for LTEA Aggregation. These high frequency signals do not move well through barriers and require high tower density because the signal spread is shorter. For example, in dual band WiFi the 2.4 GHz signal will spread better through walls for a whole house installation; the 5 GHz signal, while stronger near the router, may only penetrate a single wall before attenuation makes the transmission unusable. As more bands are used with varying characteristics, mobile, remote, and M2M communications depend more on proper antennas.

Choose the Frequency Band, not the application

It is important to remember that antennas are agnostic to technology. An antenna tuned for 1.7 to 2.7 GHz will work equally well for Cellular, WiFi, or any other transmission within that range. When specifying an antenna upgrade, matching the correct frequency range is more important than the use specified for the antenna or even the stated gain. Since the frequency range is such an important factor, it is critical that an antenna actually delivers the full range advertised, often more important than higher gain.

Poynting antennas deliver level performance over their full frequency range, which is not the case for many other antennas. An antenna listed as having 5-dBi gain may have the 5-dBi gain at only one frequency within the range. The numerical gain is not as important as how widely the gain occurs in the radiation pattern. What distinguishes Poynting Antennas is that they deliver a flat gain across the full-specified frequency bands, a direct function of proper engineering and manufacture.


Example: the radiation pattern for the Poynting LPDA-0092 shows the directional gain pattern for each frequency segment in the specified range. While the off-axis transmission is different for each segment, the directional transmission both horizontally and vertically are nearly identical at all frequencies within the 60° beam width.

Often two antennas will have similar frequency and gain designations, while their results can be significantly different. A thin wire Omni antenna may be within a given frequency band, but the pattern response will be markedly uneven. A more substantial Omni pole antenna will have properly tuned elements inside, engineered to deliver an even pattern response. Poynting only sells careful engineered antennas designed for maximum performance.

Poynting Now Available

Earlier this year Frontier Computer became the US Distributor for Poynting Antenna. Poynting is a leader worldwide but has had limited availability in the United States.
Poynting is a unique company because is was founded by an electrical engineer. André Fourie, Ph.D. was a professor at University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and an electromagnetic and antenna consultant when he started Poynting in 2001. Dr. Fourie is listed on over 30 patents, has published more than 50 scholarly papers, and 4 books. He started Poynting to manufacture the antennas he wanted to see in the market. His expertise in antenna technology means Poynting Antennas are designed, from the concept through production to deliver the performance they specify.

Frontier has added Poynting to give our partners a high-quality antenna for their customers at a very competitive price. When integrators, providers, and VARs select Poynting antennas, they can be certain the products will deliver the performance their customers expect, which is why Frontier is stocking several Poynting models. Visit here for more information on specific Poynting antennas. Frontier Partners can add Poynting antennas to their product lines today. Apply here to become a Frontier Partner.

Frontier Computer stocks Poynting and Axxess Marine Antennas, WilsonPro and weBoost cellular amplifiers, and the entire Peplink and Pepwave lines of SD-WAN communications.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.

Keep your RV Connected

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer travel season is here. Soon hundreds of thousands of couples, families, and adventurers will hit the road. From luxury travel coaches to towable RVs they will all have one thing in common. They will be traveling to new and unfamiliar places. Many of those places will be remote and tree covered. As a result, the familiar cellular connections of home will be gone. Staying connected is always a challenge when traveling, and even more so for RVers heading to the woods.

“The weBoost Drive 4G-X has been a game changer for our connectivity on the road.”

The weBoost Drive 4G-X RV is designed specifically to give RV travelers stronger cell signals in difficult conditions. Built by Wilson Electronics, with the same technology used in WilsonPro professional cellular amplifiers. The 4G-X RV is a complete, easy to install system. The entire system with all components, cables, and fasteners comes in one box for under $500.

“It has worked flawlessly and boosted cell signals in remote areas where we have never had a signal before!”

It starts with a high quality outdoor omnidirectional antenna. The antenna can be permanently mounted on the roof of an RV for maximum line-of-sight clearance. The outdoor antenna brings the signal inside to the booster unit which amplifies the signal up +50 dB, the maximum allowed by the FCC. The booster broadcasts the signal to users through a desktop antenna inside the vehicle. The desktop antenna can be moved anywhere, even outside, to create a cellular signal space that can accessed by up to four users at the same time.

“We were camped where there was no AT&T service and Verizon had 1 bar. With the booster AT&T could make calls and Verizon had 4G LTE.”

The Drive 4G-X RV system works in all Recreational Vehicles: Class A, Class C and all towables. It can be used parked or while on the road. The 4G-X RV is compatible with all phone brands and all North American cell carriers. It can boost a Verizon signal to an iPhone, an AT&T signal to a Samsung Galaxy, and a T-Mobile signal to a pay-as-you-go phone simultaneously.

“We are currently parked in an area of northern Idaho, and had to drive 3 to 4 miles to use our “hot spot”. After installing the weBoost 4G-X RV we get a consistent 4G signal throughout our coach”

The weBoost system can extend 4GLTE signals up to 32x for clear, uninterrupted calls and fast, reliable data connections. In the case of marginal or faint signals the weBoost can hold a call where even a text message would be have been impossible. If there is any signal at all, a Drive 4G-X RV can make it a usable connection.

Full Drive 4G-X RV Specs can be found here.

Frontier Computer stocks WilsonPro and weBoost cellular amplifiers.

Contact Frontier at 866.226.6344.