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Monday, September 23, 2019

Is there a potential market for 5G or other connectivity insurance policies?

[Reposted & slightly extended from my LinkedIn post here - see that page for some really good discussion in the comments]

This is a completely speculative post, on an area I’ll happily admit I know little about. It might be complete nonsense, or it could be a billion-dollar idea. Or it could be trivial & exist already with a different name. 

So: What happens if you blend radio spectrum policy & licenses, and 5G or WiFi networks, with the insurance industry? 

Is there a potential market for insuring radio networks against failures (interference, coverage gaps, latency etc), especially in enterprise environments? 

Or insurance against interfering with others' networks in shared spectrum like CBRS? (Sort of like radio liability insurance)

At the moment there is huge wariness by conventional operators or vendors in offering full SLAs, especially in mission-critical environments. Understandably, on the other hand very few users or developers will want to risk their mission critical (or possibly safety-critical) applications on networks that could fail. They're certainly not likely to pay much extra for a "slice" or QoS guarantee that has no penalties for failure.

Few existing incumbent spectrum-holders will be willing to share their bands, without governments forcing them to, either. Could a C-Band satellite operate be satisfied that their links would be interference-free, if mobile networks were allowed partial access to the band?

Insurance could offset some of these risks - although it would likely need more data and better measurement in order to calculate premiums.

Regulators typically focus on worst-case scenarios, rather than probabalistic ones. Insurance could put a price on problems, and enable more efficient use of spectrum resources. 

The insurance industry is good at modelling risks, and costs of various types of failure or problem. As well as familiar forms of insurance that pay for a replacement car or house if damage is incurred, some pay out based on specific measurable parameters, such as wind-speeds of a certain strength in a given place. This is called "parametric insurance" -
well-explained here by Swiss Re ("The key criteria for an insurable trigger is that it is fortuitous and it can be modelled”) or in this article.

This could be a huge & beneficial area, if my gut feeling is correct. It's not easy - and various of the LinkedIn comments highlight complexities and problems. But it seems to me that there could be something here, at least in situations where network coverage/performance can be both modelled and measured. There are various other intersections & use-cases I can think of too. 

Comments welcome! 

(Also: a hat-tip to Richard Womersley of LSTelcom, who I discussed this with briefly about 18 months ago).

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Future Spectrum Policy: 10-year Disruptions

Yesterday, I presented & debated on disruptions & directions for spectrum-management, at UK regulator Ofcom's annual spectrum conference in London. The slide-deck (it was just a short 15-minute intro) & my Twitter thread are at the bottom of this post.

I was on a panel with representatives from Google (Simon Saunders, who looks after EMEA connectivity partnerships) & the FCC (Julius Knapp, Chief of Rules & Policy Division)

This was a really fun session, as my remit was to look into the medium-to-far future (10 years or so) and think about some totally new angles on spectrum for upcoming regulatory policy. Often, I throw rocks at things that don’t make sense… This time, it was more like tossing rocks into a pond, and watching the ripples propagate & stimulating ideas.

My previous presentations at Ofcom events have been on more immediate needs on spectrum: sharing models, local cellular, Private LTE, Neutral Host* networks [see comment on upcoming workshop, below] and the need for “network diversity” rather than just enabling a 3GPP 5G monoculture. This was about taking a much longer view.

Some of the topics I covered were:
  • Designing spectrum management policy (& future 6G mobile systems) with a direct link to implied energy consumption / CO2 emissions from its usage
  • Asking the question “will harmonisation be as important in future as it has been in the past?” given that we’re ever better at creating software abstraction layers, and creating multi-radio / multi-band chips and devices.
  • The next stages of dynamic spectrum allocatin: towards fluid spectrum marketplaces, API-led spectrum platforms, and radio resource within broader “Mobile Network-aaS or Satellite Service-aaS” concepts
  • Ensuring that spectrum allocations and processes ensure multiple delivery/business models are supported: services, private, amenity networks etc. This contrasts, for example, with existing national licenses for mobile spectrum, which are geared strongly to the MNO business model.
  • My new disruptions/distractions framework for realistic assessment of predictions of tech deployment & market evolution (see this post)
  • Spectrum releases aimed at more device-to-device & intra-device usage (for example between components on a circuit-board)
  • Potential post-Brexit divergence for UK #pectrum policy (we didn’t get a chance to drill into this much)
Overall, it was a really enjoyable session (my Twitter thread is at the end of this post). It might odd to describe a regulatory event on radio spectrum as “fun”, but this panel was certainly lively and wide-ranging. My co-panellists talked about everything from DevOps and just-in-time spectrum availability, to taking the lessons from US CBRS and expanding to other bands or regions.

I'm looking forward to similar events in the UK and other regions, both on spectrum (eg mobile / WiFi / satellite needs) and other regulatory angles on future networks and communications. Please get in touch if you need a speaker or panellist.

*Neutral Host Networks — if this area is of interest, I am running a 2nd London public workshop on Nov 21st, with Peter Curnow-Ford MIoD Details here: https://disruptivewireless.blogspot.com/p/2nd-neutral-host-networks-london-public.html And if you’re interested in a private internal session for your own team, please see here: https://disruptivewireless.blogspot.com/p/private-workshops.html

Dean Bubley presentation at Ofcom Mapping The Future 2019 Spectrum Conference from Dean Bubley

My Twitter thread for the rest of the event is here.