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Chip in 40% of smartphones has at least 400 exploitable vulnerabilities
USA Created: 11 Aug 2020
Over 400 vulnerabilities on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip threaten mobile phones’ usability worldwide.

With over 3 billion users globally, smartphones are an integral, almost inseparable part of our day-to-day lives.

As the mobile market continues to grow, vendors race to provide new features, new capabilities and better technological innovations in their latest devices. To support this relentless drive for innovation, vendors often rely on third parties to provide the required hardware and software for phones. One of the most common third-party solutions is the Digital Signal Processor unit, commonly known as DSP chips.

In this research dubbed “Achilles” we performed an extensive security review of a DSP chip from one of the leading manufacturers: Qualcomm Technologies. Qualcomm provides a wide variety of chips that are embedded into devices that make up over 40% of the mobile phone market, including high-end phones from Google, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, OnePlus and more.

More than 400 vulnerable pieces of code were found within the DSP chip we tested, and these vulnerabilities could have the following impact on users of phones with the affected chip:

- Attackers can turn the phone into a perfect spying tool, without any user interaction required – The information that can be exfiltrated from the phone include photos, videos, call-recording, real-time microphone data, GPS and location data, etc.

- Attackers may be able to render the mobile phone constantly unresponsive – Making all the information stored on this phone permanently unavailable – including photos, videos, contact details, etc – in other words, a targeted denial-of-service attack.

- Malware and other malicious code can completely hide their activities and become un-removable.

We disclosed these findings with Qualcomm, who acknowledged them, notified the relevant device vendors and assigned them with the following CVE’s : CVE-2020-11201, CVE-2020-11202, CVE-2020-11206, CVE-2020-11207, CVE-2020-11208 and CVE-2020-11209.

Important note

Check Point Research decided not to publish the full technical details of these vulnerabilities until mobile vendors have a comprehensive solution to mitigate the possible risks described.

However, we decided to publish this blog to raise the awareness to these issues. We have also updated relevant government officials, and relevant mobile vendors we have collaborated with on this research to assist them in making their handsets safer. The full research details were revealed to these stakeholders.

Check Point Research is committed to making technology and products around the world safer and will cooperate with any security vendor that requests for a collaboration. In a proactive move, we have also offered organizations that could have been affected by these risks 20 free SandBlast Mobile licenses for their management mobile devices to protect and prevent any potential damage in the upcoming 6 months from the publication of this research.

What is a DSP anyway?

A DSP (Digital Signal Processor) is a system on a chip that has hardware and software designed to optimize and enable each area of use on the device itself, including:

- Charging abilities (such as “quick charge” features)

- Multimedia experiences e.g. video, HD Capture, advanced AR abilities

- Various Audio features

Simply put, a DSP is a complete computer on a single chip – and almost any modern phone includes at least one of these chips.

A single SoC (Software on Chip) may include features to enable daily mobile usage such as image processing, computer vision, neural network-related calculations, camera streaming, audio and voice data. Additionally vendors can optionally use these “mini computers” to insert their own functionality that will run as dedicated applications on top of the existing framework.
A new attack vector

While DSP chips provide a relatively economical solution that allows mobile phones to provide end users with more functionality and enable innovative features– they do come with a cost. These chips introduce new attack surface and weak points to these mobile devices. DSP chips are much more vulnerable to risks as they are being managed as “Black Boxes” since it can be very complex for anyone other than their manufacturer to review their design, functionality or code.
What did we do?

Check Point Research believes such an ecosystem may be a fertile ground for critical vulnerabilities that might have severe impact on millions of people around the world, and that fixing them requires a long chain of communication between many vendors, manufacturers and resellers. For this reason, we decided to review and perform a deep dive on the security posture of one of the most common chips available today – Qualcomm’s Snapdragon.

Due to the “Black Box” nature of the DSP chips it is very challenging for the mobile vendors to fix these issues, as they need to be first addressed by the chip manufacturer. Using our research methodologies and state-of-the-art fuzz testing technologies, we were able to overcome these issues – gaining us with a rare insight into the internals of the tested DSP chip. This allowed us to effectively review the chip’s security controls and identify its weak points.

We hope this research will help build a better and more secure environments for the DSP chip ecosystem, as well as provide the necessary knowledge and tools for the security community to preform regular security reviews for these chips in order to strengthen the security of mobile devices.

To learn more about this research watch our presentation at the DEFCON virtual conference.

We strongly recommend organizations protect their corporate data on their mobile devices by using mobile security solutions. SandBlast Mobile provides real-time threat intelligence and visibility into the mobile threats that could affect businesses, and provides complete protection against the risks detailed in this blog, associated with the Quallcomm vulnerabilities.
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Source: Check Point, 06 Aug 2020

Council Urged to Restrict Location of Wireless Antennas
USA Created: 6 Aug 2020
A non-profit advocacy group is urging the City of White Plains to restrict locating wireless telecommunication facilities in only commercial or industrial zones.

5GAlert Westchester, a group of residents dedicated to educating the public about the risks of 5G antennas and offering solutions to protect communities, is circulating a petition calling on the White Plains Common Council to enact protective amendments to the city’s Wireless Cell Antenna Code.

“It is imperative to act immediately in order ‘o promote the safety of life and property,” the petition states in part. “We are neighbors from across White Plains. We are all seeking a safe place to live and a decent quality of life for ourselves, our children and our community.”
In March, city officials approved the installation of 5G cell antennas in the downtown business area.

However, 5GAlert Westchester members maintain existing code regulations give the telecom industry “free rein” to install wireless antennas in residential neighborhoods, adjacent to houses, apartments, schools and play areas.
“These cell antennas would expose us, involuntarily, to constant wireless radiation, making our homes and schools and the entire City of White Plains unsafe, and would diminish our quality of life,” the petition contends.

Telecom industry experts have long maintained the technology is safe, but 5GAlert Westchester argues, “There is a large body of peer reviewed science that shows significant biological effects from exposure to wireless radiation, including ‘clear evidence’ of cancer, heart abnormalities, neurological, reproductive and cognitive damage.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not updated its exposure standards since 1996, which factors thermal effects, but not other biological impacts. Hundreds of medical and public health professionals have called for a moratorium on the 5G wireless technology rollout and for the FCC to develop rigorous standards for wireless devices and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, 5GAlert Westchester is also requesting the Common Council reinstate Citizens to be Heard sessions at meeting currently being conducted on Zoom. The Common Council has obliged, scheduling a session for citizens to speak in the city chambers on Monday, August 3 at 7 p.m.

Attempts to reach to the council about the petition were unsuccessful.
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Source: The Examiner News, Rick Pezzullo, 21 Jul 2020

FCC Ignoring Evidence Of Wireless Tech Harms, DC Circ. Told
USA Created: 6 Aug 2020
The Federal Communications Commission failed to address scientists' and individuals' health concerns when it concluded its current wireless safety guidelines are still sufficient for the 5G era, two nonprofits told the D.C. Circuit on Wednesday.

In an opening brief, the Children's Health Defense and the Environmental Health Trust argued the agency glossed over crucial evidence when it found in December that its radiofrequency-exposure limits — established in 1996 — still provide adequate protection.

"The FCC received an enormous number of peer-reviewed scientific and medical studies, analyses, and reports demonstrating a consensus of the scientific community that radiofrequency radiation is harmful and sometimes lethal to individuals and the environment," the brief says. "The factual record in this case is strong. Yet the Order gives no consideration to most of the evidence presented to it."

The case, filed in late January, argues that the FCC's rules don't go far enough to protect consumers, especially when those exposed to long-term or multiple sources of radiation. The rules also "do not provide for sensitive or vulnerable populations," according to the brief.

Last year, the FCC revisited its wireless safety standards and found that the current regulations are among the strictest worldwide, making them still effective in protecting people from harmful wireless transmissions.

But according to the lawsuit, the rules don't control for conditions like radiation sickness, which the suit says causes symptoms such as memory loss and fatigue when individuals are exposed to a high volume of invisible radio waves. Prolonged exposure can also impair development in children and is associated with negative environmental impacts, the suit claims.

The sources of such exposure include wireless towers, the proliferation of 5G small-cell nodes in neighborhoods, Wi-Fi signals and cellphones, according to the opening brief.

"The agency simply ignored the ills and challenges faced by individuals who are especially susceptible to Radiation Sickness," the petitioners wrote. "In so doing, the FCC begged the question of whether the agency has a responsibility ... to develop a remedy that would address the ills being visited upon these people."

According to the nonprofits, the D.C. Circuit must force the FCC to revisit its rulemaking that failed to take into account the testimony from individuals and scientists who expressed concerns that ran counter to the FCC's already established wireless safety guidelines.

"There is no meaningful explanation why the scientific and medical evidence regarding harms and risks from current limits was not valid," according to the brief. "The public still has no idea why the FCC decided thousands of studies and hundreds of individual assertions of harm were unworthy of serious discussion."

For its part, an FCC spokesman told Law360 that the agency stands by its decision-making process.

"We are confident that these stringent limits protect the health of the American people and that our decision will withstand judicial review," the statement said.

The petitioners are represented by Edward B. Myers W. of the Law Office of Edward B. Myers; and W. Scott McCollough of the McCollough Law Firm P.C.

The FCC is represented in-house by William J. Scher, Ashley Stocks Boizelle, Jacob M. Lewis and Richard Kiser Welch.

The case is Environmental Health Trust, et al. v. FCC, et al., case number 20-1025, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

--Editing by Peter Rozovsky.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: Law360, Kelcee Griffis, 30 Jul 2020

Government and industry combine to downplay the science on cell phone danger
USA Created: 22 Jul 2020
In 2015, the city of Berkeley passed an ordinance requiring cell phone retailers to advise consumers, in a flyer at the point of sale, that keeping a cell phone in their pocket or near their body could expose them to wireless radiation above Federal Communications Commission safety levels. Councilmembers understood that manufacturers deceptively hide this federally mandated information deep within user manuals or in the phone that few ever see. The council also understood that cell phones are allowed to be tested for compliance away from the body— not as used.

A survey of Berkeley residents found overwhelming support for Berkeley’s ordinance. Eight-five percent of residents never saw recommendations from manufacturers about how to best protect against overexposure to cell phone radiation and 82% want this information at the point of sale.

America’s trade association representing the wireless communications industry (CTIA) challenged this ordinance all the way to the United States Supreme Court twice and lost every step of the way. Now this well-funded industry, along with support from the FCC, is again fighting to prevent the public from simple truthful information. Despite losing, the industry has now asked a federal court in California to rehear the case. Industry is repeating its failed argument that the FCC claims cell phones are safe no matter how used. A federal district court hearing is set in San Francisco for Thursday, July 23, on this motion.

FCC regulations mandate consumers be given “conspicuous” information regarding safe use of cell phones. Hiding safe-distance information deep within the phone and their own manuals is hardly conspicuous. We must ask ourselves what other critical information industry and the FCC are hiding from the public.

The FCC’s General Counsel, Thomas Johnson, recently submitted documentation to the court in support of the wireless industry. Johnson, conveniently, formerly worked for Gibson Dunn, the firm representing the wireless industry against Berkeley. The FCC is claiming that the manner in which manufacturers currently disclose the cell phone “safety” information is adequate, thus Berkeley’s ordinance is “over-warning” and therefore federally pre-empted.

This is not so.

Why is a federal agency aggressively defending the billion-dollar industry that it is mandated by Congress to regulate? Why are the FCC and CTIA so adamant about stopping this simple advisory at the point of sale? Berkeley’s ordinance merely alerts consumers that wearing or using a phone in a pocket, or tucked into a bra, may expose them to radiofrequency radiation that could exceed the federal safety limit. Again, this is basic information provided by the industry itself, though in a hidden fashion.

I, Mark Leno, championed a similar bill in the California Senate in 2011, the same year the World Health Organization put wireless radiation in the same category as lead and diesel fuel. They declared this radiation possibly carcinogenic to humans based on an increased risk of brain tumors associated with mobile phone use. My bill would have put minimal safety information at the point of sale. I experienced the intense lobbying and mistruths of this industry. This is corporate special interest at its worst.

This intense legal battle is an abuse of our legal system and exhibits the flagrancy of the FCC and the wireless industry in covering up independent science in regard to public health. The $30 million U.S. National Toxicology Program released results in 2018 stating “clear evidence,” the highest certainly level, that cellphone radiation causes cancer.

Why should we ignore the science?

This industry and the FCC are putting public health at great risk concerning a device used daily by nearly every American including the most vulnerable — our children and grandchildren. Consumers should have the right to know critical information at the point of sale so that they can make informed decisions as to safe use for themselves and their loved ones.

Mark Leno is a former state senator from San Francisco; Ellie Marks is a co-founder of the California Brain Tumor Association.
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Source: San Fransisco Chronicle, Mark Leno and Ellie Marks, 21 Jul 2020

Petition to block 5G gathers 3,200 signatures
USA Created: 19 Jul 2020
A petition set up to block the introduction of 5G mobile phone technology has attracted more than 3,000 signatures.

Camilla MacPherson, of Bermuda Advocates for Safe Technology, said that there were sound scientific reasons to be wary of the dangers of wireless radiation.

Ms MacPherson added: “People who want to discuss the health implications of electromagnetic frequencies are often branded as people with tin foil hats.

“But we have had overwhelming support from the community.”

The petition has been signed by 3,200 people, alongside 32 letters of objection to 5G technology, on the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda’s website.

The petition said: “Our mission is to educate and inform our community and policymakers about the dangers of exposure to unsafe levels of wireless radiation.

“We call on our government and regulatory agencies to make a firm commitment to our health and our children’s health and deny small cell and 5G applications and to create a more protective policy for wireless radiation in our community.”

The campaign group said it was worried by some scientific studies that suggested electromagnetic radiation could make chronic illnesses worse and cause some cancers, such as glioblastomas of the brain.

Ms MacPherson said: “A lot of people have contacted us to express their concern about the issues or feel that towers in their neighbourhoods contributed to their cancer.”

The 5G technology — dubbed the network of the “near future” by supporters — is said to provide quicker downloads and better network reliability.

But the 5G infrastructure has a more limited range than the earlier 4G network and needs more cell towers.

Opponents argued that more cell towers would expose the public to more electromagnetic radiation.

The RA is still in the preliminary report phase of the public-consultation process for integrated communications operating licences.

The Bermuda petition organisers appealed to people with comments or responses to the preliminary report and order to submit them to the RA before the July 20 deadline.

They questioned why Horizon Communications was verified as a qualified applicant for an ICOL in May, when its business proposal was centred around 5G technology.

Ms MacPherson said: “I think it is putting the cart before the horse.”

She questioned if it represented a change in the RA’s decision to hold off on 5G, announced earlier this year.

But Charmaine Burgess, the director of communications and stakeholder engagement at the authority, said there was no alteration in its stance, which it confirmed in April.

She added: “Our process is to first carry out a detailed radio frequency study, which will be conducted in the coming months.”

Ms Burgess highlighted the public’s opportunity to review and comment on the potential grant of multiple licences.

She said: “Therefore, I can confirm that Horizon Communications has not been granted an ICOL licence.”

Gilbert “Artie” Darrell, the founder of Horizon Communications, said: “Unfortunately, with the pending review of 5G in Bermuda by the RA, it would be premature for me to comment.”

The introduction of 5G has sparked worldwide health and safety fears.

Ayesha Peets Talbot, a doctor and director of Ocean Rock Wellness in Paget, said she had seen at least one patient who believed she had suffered harm from electromagnetic radiation.

The patient lived next to a wireless communications company, with equipment 20 to 30ft from her bedroom window.

Dr Peets Talbot said: “She stayed there for years. A few years ago she started to develop multiple cancers. She is in her forties.

“Her cancers were coming on so rapidly she was confusing a lot of the doctors.”

She said the patient’s history suggested it was hard to ignore the radiation exposure she had been subjected to.

Dr Peets Talbot added that Bermuda had to do more to ensure people were protected before it introduced 5G technology.

She said: “I have three young children. I really do think about their EMF exposure. I make sure I turn off the wi-fi at night.

“I make sure they have EMF protection when they are using their tablets and mobile devices. I make sure they sit far away from a flatscreen.”

She also questioned the potential impact on Bermuda’s sensitive ecosystem.

Dr Peets Talbot said: “We are not against technological advancement, but feel safe technology is smart technology. Ootherwise, it’s not really advancing us.

“Some people think you are either all for it or against it, which is not at all the case. We do not wish to turn back the digital clock.”

Switzerland, one of the world’s leaders in the introduction of 5G, in February imposed an open-ended ban on the use of its new network.

An independent panel advised the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2010 that mobile phone and other wireless radio frequency radiation should be classified as a “possible human carcinogen”, based on evidence from studies carried out up to that date.
Click here to view the source article.
Source: The Royal Gazette, Jessie Moniz Hardy, 13 Jul 2020

In ATT's mobile insurance terms, electromagnetic fields defined as "POLLUTION"
USA Created: 12 Jul 2020
Go to this link and see the PDF of the ATT mobile insurance terms there.:
https://ehtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/ASATT-531-MI-Terms-web-04.pdf

On page 2, in section "II. EXCLUSIONS", it says:

"F. Loss caused by or resulting from the discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape of Pollutants".

Now go to page 4, in section "IX. DEFINITIONS.", see paragraph "M" (right column):

"M. “Pollutants” means: Any solid, liquid, gaseous, or thermal irritant or contaminant including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acid, alkalis, chemicals, artificially produced electric fields, magnetic field, electromagnetic field, sound waves, microwaves, and all artificially produced ionizing or non-ionizing radiation and waste. Waste includes materials to be recycled, reconditioned or reclaimed".

So there you have it. The largest U.S. wireless telecom classes its own emissions as POLLUTION and of course exempts itself from any insurance liability in relation to such exposures.
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Source: EHTrust, commentary by H. Eiriksson, 12 Jul 2020

Massive 5G Electricity Costs are in Focus Ahead of the Global Build-out at the Edge
USA Created: 5 Jul 2020
5G remains in the headlines as test cities and clusters are popping up in the western world while parts of Asia are set to pull the trigger on broad-based service as early as next week. As I have talked about in earlier blogs, 5G is a technology that operates in a small cluster unlike the linear, continuous service of 3 and 4G. Once you travel outside of the confines of a 5G cluster, you lose connection to the 5G service and will automatically revert to 3/4G for continuation of service. Yes, this means 5G and 4G, 3G and even 2G will overlap in many deployments.

In terms of scale, significant global coverage in 2/3/4G is in place with about 5 million telco tower base stations in the world with average power draw at about 6 kilowatts (kW) rising to 8-10kW at peak traffic periods. The global footprint is 50GW at peak power! Unfortunately, most of these tower base stations were not conceived with energy efficiency in mind. They operate around a PUE of 1.5 (power in/power of the telco(IT) load), meaning that about half of the power is wasted. When deployed at scale, this power adds up quickly and waste is multiplied by the number of deployments.

For example, as an initial 5G buildout, a Chinese operator recently added 100,000 5G ready base station sites averaging 10kW each – that’s 1 GW of energy! At a PUE of 1.5, this could cost 1.3 B€ ($1.45B) and give off 8,000 tons of CO2 annually (based on U.S. national average CO2 footprint). But if these systems were designed to be extremely energy efficient, PUE could be 1.1, and it would only cost 1B€ ($1.12B) and give off only 6,000 tons of CO2 annually.

These 5G base stations will also support 2/3/4G as well, in as many as seven different bands from 700MHz up to 3.5GHz. These “all the G’s” base stations average 10kW, with 13.7kW during peak periods. With standalone 5G (no 2/3/4G) two or three times as many base station sites will have to be deployed to achieve continuous 5G coverage! But there is some good news: once standalone, continuous 5G coverage is in place, and 5G devices are ubiquitous, the 2, 3, and 4G equipment can be retired with a corresponding energy reduction of around 4kW average and 6kW peak.

However, power draw at these sites will not necessarily get better. In about five years, newer technology 3.5GHz sites using massive MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) with four transmitters and four receivers (so-called 4T4R) are predicted to draw 14kW on average and up to 19kW under peak load. But that’s not all – the power consumption of 5G sites at 3.5GHz, with even larger 64T64R and massive MIMO could require three times the power of a 4T4R site!
A new generation of transformation rolls through telco at the edge

A positive for energy consumption is a shift from traditional telco equipment in the base station to software defined 5G running on standard IT equipment in the form of a MEC (mobile edge computing or multi-access edge computing). The first MEC deployments are a combination of traditional telco and pre5G/5G, but these will gradually move to be more and more IT based servers – see my blog, Powerful Confusion! The Differences Between 4.5G, Pre5G, and 5G Explained. 5G is a software-defined architecture and that means telecoms are setting themselves up for success by deploying a canvas from which they can innovate, easily introduce new services, and deploy applications on the network with location flexibility. This is a very important point, as the 5G standard the industry has been collaborating on – the 3GPP R16 Standard – is delayed and will not be frozen until April 2020, and not be released until July 2020.

As this new generation of transformation rolls through telco at the edge, it is quite clear that energy use is a top of mind topic from a business and societal perspective. The massive scale of deployments dictates that much attention needs to be given to these edge sites. For 5G to succeed, MEC data centers must be: initially designed for maximum efficiency; sealed for low maintenance; easily deployable (connect and start-up); built in a factory to drive down costs and drive up reliability; and managed by next generation DCIM to maximize availability and efficiency. We may need new architectures and technologies, such as liquid cooling, predictive analytics, and AI enabled power optimization, to make this a reality.

This journey is just beginning…
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Source: Schneider Electric blog, Steven Carlini, 11 Nov 2019

5G Heats Up Base Stations
USA Created: 4 Jul 2020
Before 5G can be deployed commercially on a large scale, engineers have to solve some stubborn problems—including how to make a hot technology a whole lot cooler.

5G-capable modem chipsets are already on the market from Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei, MediaTek, Intel and Apple, with some 5G service (LTE-Advanced/LTE-Advanced Pro) available in the U.S. But still mostly missing from the 5G equation are base stations powerful enough to shape and direct an individual RF connection to every subscriber within range, while performing feats of electromagnetic geometry to maintain that connection.

A base station in the wireless world is a device that connects other wireless devices to a central hub. It is a wireless receiver and short-range transceiver that consists of an antenna and analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) to convert the RF signals into digital and back again. The 5G base station will have beamforming massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antennas—an array of antennas that can focus and steer multiple beams simultaneously to different targets on the ground, such as a cell phone, using the millimeter wave spectrum. Sometimes that means bouncing the signal off an object to reach near the target rather than broadcasting a signal broadly over an area.

Although Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia and Huawei are producing 5G base station technology now, there are gaps in that technology. The base stations are still not powerful enough to track mobile customers and make sure each is connected every nanosecond.

What’s developed for base stations has to work seamlessly with handsets. They also have to be reliable enough to last for years, but the current technology is running too hot. And how that affects reliability and signal integrity isn’t clear because at that point now one is quite sure how the antenna arrays will be tested because there are no exposed leads. Those antennas are essential to form, steer and receive beams, both in the base station and in handsets and other mobile devices, including connected cars, health monitoring devices and even industrial equipment.

“If you embed the antenna into the package, when the package heats up or cools down, that changes how the antennas work,” said Keith Schaub, vice president of business development for Advantest’s U.S. Applied Research & Technology unit. “That affects beam forming, beam steering, and it creates a power loss. It also affects the fabrication process, which needs to be tightly controlled.”

Schaub noted that base stations and handsets are all designed to standards, but the implementation of those standards can vary greatly. For example, when two major chip companies developed their first 5G chips, they adhered to the standards but the chips wouldn’t work with each other due to minor inconsistencies in the drivers.

Two-phase commitment
Despite the moniker, 5G is more of a statement of direction than a single technology. The sub-6GHz version, which is what is being rolled out today, is more like 4.5G. Signal attenuation is modest, and these devices behave much like cell phones today. But when millimeter wave technology begins rolling out—current projections are 2021 or 2022—everything changes significantly. This slice of the spectrum is so sensitive that it can be blocked by clothing, skin, windows, and sometimes even fog.

The result is that many more cells are needed to keep devices connected, and base-stations and handsets will be constantly searching for ways to stay connected. As anyone with a cell phone knows, searching for signals drains the battery faster. But it also keeps the logic circuits active, and that generates heat. In base stations, which are tightly packed with racks of equipment, thermal buildup can cause all sorts of problems. It can have an impact on signal integrity, and it can reduce the lifespan of all components.

“When you have a frequency with a range that’s not as far as a cell tower, you have to add much more density to the network to get the same amount of connectivity,” Michael Foegelle, director of technology development at ETS-Lindgren. “When you design these, you have to assume they’ll be outside, and you have to design in a way to dissipate all that. Since you’re outside and don’t want to risk putting in active cooling, you might have to go fix a lot, that means a lot of ambient cooling,”

Another source of heat stems from the analog circuitry used to generate RF signals. Power amplifiers and converters are needed to get the analog signal onto digital networks. But using silicon for those conversions isn’t efficient, so heat builds up. And while beamforming theoretically can save power, because you’re not broadcasting in every direction, that technology adds its own issues.

“First, you need enough hardware to do the number of digital-to-analog conversions you have to do, and the cost is still prohibitive,” Foegelle said. “But it’s also power-hungry. One of the side effects of the arrays is that the circuits used for them aren’t terrifically efficient. They get hot, and you have to be able to dissipate a lot of heat because of the amount of equipment and conversions and the efficiency issues.”

It’s not entirely clear if this technology will be replaced with digital technology. It’s also not clear how digital technology would impact effects such as heat, particularly if designs are pushed to the most advanced process geometries.

“The 5G standard allows for both,” said David Hall, chief marketer at National Instruments. “Analog circuits are less efficient, which creates more heat in the base station. With a digital beam, there is a change in the waveform itself, particularly with multiple access. So you have to adjust the phase to the wave carriers.”

Hall noted that heat exacerbates non-linear effects. “If you add heat, distortion is not as repeatable.”

That makes it more difficult to identify any heat-related issues. One solution may involve the testing itself. “Historically, we have been using box instruments,” said Heath Noxon, market development manager at NI. “Now you have to hit this more quickly and process test much faster.”

Different materials can help, as well, but they add to the cost. “You can get efficiencies using GaN or GaAS that are probably 60% or 70% compared to silicon, which is more like 20% to 30% efficient, but those are much more /expensive, ” Foegelle says.

That issue could be sorted out if there is enough volume for either gallium nitride (GaN) or gallium arsenide (GaAs) so that economies of scale begin to kick in. Both of those materials are well understood and there is plenty of expertise in working with them. “Engineers have spent 20 years optimizing the efficiency of gallium arsenide power amplifiers,” said NI’s Hall.

“The problem may not be as big as it sounds, though,” Foegelle says. “With millimeter wave the bandwidth is high enough you don’t have to spend much time communicating. It moves quickly, which could minimize heat buildup as well as reduce the amount of energy you broadcast. But we won’t know that until we’re able to see more work on base stations.”

The volume problem
Heat is just one of the many issues cropping up in the 5G world. This is an entirely different wireless technology, particularly when it comes to millimeter wave. The amount of pressure put on technology and service providers trying to move into—and often create—the 5G industry is very high, and few tools are available to test and validate any individual approach early enough in the process to be useful, according to Frank Schirrmeister, senior group director for product management at Cadence.

This is particularly important for dealing with heat, which can impact the lifespan of components. Thermal effects can speed up electromigration, impact performance, and create noise that can impact quality. But engineers are just starting to work with these technologies, and it’s not clear what else might crop up.

“If engineers are used to working at lower frequencies on these earlier cellular applications, and then they transition to working on 5G at higher frequencies, all of sudden all the rules are more stringent, all the rules of thumb go out the door, and you have to do a more thorough design,” said Mike Leffel, an application engineer at Rohde & Schwarz. “It is a more challenging design. Components don’t work as well at the higher frequencies as they used to in lower frequencies, so you really have to retrain yourself on how to make a well-functioning product. Everything gets smaller. Wavelengths get smaller. The ability to adjust the phase of a path is more difficult because now the wavelength is so small so a small change in a wavelength might be 10 degrees instead of 1 degree at lower frequencies.”

Rhode & Schwarz recently started one-day educational conferences to help engineers understand the issues. But for Leffel, preparing engineers for the 5G universe is “one of the biggest challenges for the customers that we have. They have to rethink how things work at higher frequencies. What I see is somebody saying ‘I used to do this at 6GHz, I didn’t even have to calibrate the cable. I would just hook it on and it was good enough. Now when I’m at 40GHz, when I do that, it fails. Everything fails and I have to do this calibration. And when I calibrate, it still doesn’t work right. And the guy came in from Rohde & Schwarz and said you have to use a torque wrench to do this. I never had to use a torque wrench before.’ Yes, but you never worked at 40GHz before. Now everything is touchy. And this is a more expensive, better quality cable at 40GHz. You can’t use that cheap cable anymore. You have to calibrate maybe every day instead of once a week. You have to worry about the length of that line and the insertion loss, so there’s an extra trace on this board, so you can measure how much loss is in that line and then subtract it from the results so that when you measure a path on here, you can correct for that trace. At low frequency you don’t have to do that. At high frequency, that trace is critical to know exactly. So all of these things you didn’t have to do before are suddenly important, and if nobody told you this, then how would you know?”

Millimeter wave technology isn’t new, and a lot of the networking issues in millimeter wave have been addressed before in satellite communications or radar. However, the cost difference between one satellite and a few hundred thousand WLAN-scale access points changes the cost/benefit equations enough that there’s not much direct comparison, said Cadence’s Schirrmeister.

There also are ongoing updates to the 5G standard. “With millimeter wave we’re talking about wavelengths of about a centimeter, so the antennas are also very small and you use two for each subscriber—one upstream, one down,” Foegelle said. “But for base stations we only have a few vendors marketing them. There’s still another version of the standard coming out later this year, so there’s some uncertainty there. And we are getting carriers coming in and trying to figure out what the propagation characteristics on their networks are going to look like and what types of problems they can expect to see in the field, but the prices are still pretty high for distribution of a product that you’re going to have to put out in density more like a WiFi access point than a cell tower.”

It is best to keep things simple with a technology like 5G, which is fantastically complicated to build and test even before the standards or first rounds of implementation are finished and proven, noted Susheel Tadikonda, vice president of engineering at Synopsys’ Verification Group. “The PHY layer is getting very complex. You need high bandwidth, and the latency requirement means you have to do a lot of the processing in the PHY layer itself. We used to have the luxury to send it up the chain and have it done with an algorithm. What you’re doing is moving logic form one portion to another. You still have to convert an analog radio wave. Doing it digitally may be more effective, but in 5G you have not 12 or 14 modems, but hundreds of antennas doing beamforming. It is much more complicated than 4G was, and the transition is more complicated than the transition to 4G was.”

Hybrid designs
There are good reasons to stick with hybrid approaches, however. All, or nearly all, RF base stations that operate below 6GHz use digital beamforming because it is more power- and heat efficient than analog. At frequencies higher than 6GHz the filters required for conversions take up too much space for digital to be practical, according to a 2018 presentation at MIT by Gabriel M. Rebeiz, a University of California San Diego engineering professor and an expert in high-frequency communications and phased array design.

Hybrid designs that use analog signals for RF and digital for networking are among the most common topologies used in satellite communication radar and other 5G-similar applications of the last two or three decades, communication methods, according to Redeiz, who specializes in millimeter wave and primarily on those issues before the growth in demand for terrestrial demand for high-frequency bandwidth.

Hybrid models are also less computationally complex than digital, though the arrays are larger, which makes digital beamforming much more attractive as the size of the devices and antennas shrink, according to an analysis published by Mostafa Hefnawi, a researcher at the Royal Military College of Canada in Ontario.

People are talking about a lot of ways to mix and match frequencies and protocols and devices in other ways that would deliver a lot of value from 5G, especially for people who don’t necessarily need microsecond latency and 10,000 Gbit/sec wireless network connections, says Gilles Lamant, distinguished engineer at Cadence.

“People are talking about putting RF over fiber, but to cross analog RF at high speed to digital might cause major heat problems. Still, those would be a lot less with a slower wireless interface, or even a smaller geographic area covered by 5G that allowed all that RF data to go straight onto the network digital domains,” Lamant says. “The key here is energy efficiency, so you send the RF across the fiber without converting it first and you can save money and time. You can convert it later or transport that signal straight to another RF domain. It is a little science-fiction-like to think about, and you would have to put more energy in the connection after a certain amount of distance, but if the tradeoff is in cost and energy. It is something to think about rather than sending data out over a heavy, slow coaxial cable.”

Conclusion
Relying too much on the idea of people using smartphones means ignoring a lot of other applications. Analytics providers or IoT network owners could find connecting to 5G access points as attractive a business proposition as a company needing instant high-speed access for mobile video, but companies doing two-way high-definition streaming use the physical network behind the 5G access point is much different than an IoT network sending big chunks of data in batches to the cloud.

“If all you care about is how fast you can post Instagram pictures, that’s a different set of concerns than if you have 100,000 devices spread out across a square kilometer than you want to connect,” Schirrmeister says.

At this point there are many unknowns. Heat is just one more issue, although it is an important one. But how that gets resolved may depend on a lot of other factors, from how much of the base station is digitized to the density of cells and base stations and the millimeter wave frequencies. At this point there is plenty of momentum for 5G, but there are a lot of variables in play that could have a big effect on how this wireless technology is rolled out, how well it works, and how long it lasts.

—Ed Sperling and Susan Rambo contributed to this report.
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Source: Semiconductor Engineering, Kevin Fogarty, 07 May 2019

SpaceX Opens Starlink Internet Beta Test To The Public
USA Created: 24 Jun 2020
SpaceX has opened the registration for the beta testing of its space-based Internet service via the company’s Starlink satellites. The company is most likely rolling out the service’s beta test in preparation for a possible commercial launch soon.

Those looking to try out SpaceX’s Internet service may register through Starlink’s website. Upon opening the page, users will be prompted to enter their email address, zip code and country to complete the registration process.

Users who are able to successfully register will then receive an email message from SpaceX, which discusses brief details about the beta testing phases. As noted by the company, registered users will be notified as soon as beta testing is available in their region.

“Starlink is designed to deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” the company stated. “Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer, followed by public beta testing, starting with higher latitudes.”

“If you provided us with your zip code, you will be notified via email if beta testing opportunities become available in your area,” SpaceX added. “In the meantime, we will continue to share with you updates about general service availability and upcoming Starlink launches.”

Although the company did not mention where Starlink’s beta testing will be available first, SpaceX founder Elon Musk revealed in a tweet in May that the initial testing phase for Starlink will only be available in areas at higher latitudes, such as Seattle. Musk noted that it might also be available in London.

Eventually, as more Starlink satellites enter low-Earth orbit, the service will be available to different parts of the world. In total, SpaceX plans to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites. Currently, the company has over 500 Starlink units orbiting Earth.

Through Starlink’s Internet service, SpaceX is promising to deliver speeds of up to one gigabit per second with a latency of about 30 milliseconds. Hype Beast noted that SpaceX is targeting to launch Starlink’s service commercially in North America later this year. It might reach the rest of the world sometime in 2021.
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Source: International Business Times, Inigo Monzon, 22 Jun 2020

Assemblyman Calls for Commission to Study 5G Safety
USA Created: 17 Jun 2020
TRENTON - Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20thDist) is calling for the creation of a state commission to study the many unknown health effects of the next generation of wireless technologies, which are steadily expanding throughout New Jersey.

The wireless industry is engaged in the large scale deployment of 5G microwave antennas to dramatically enhance the nation’s broadband infrastructure. Such technology is welcomed, as it eliminates rural internet disparities, enables new forms of automation, and promotes advancements in telemedicine.

However, there are deep concerns about potential health effects within New Jersey communities, Assemblyman Holley said. 5G technology uses existing technology and new applications of microwave radiation to transmit large amounts of data. It requires closer proximity to network users, resulting in dense deployment of antennas near schools, residences, and businesses throughout New Jersey.

“My constituents have expressed some deep concerns about the potential health impacts of these antennas, especially in high-density communities like Elizabeth and Union Township,” Assemblyman Holley said. “We need to analyze the involuntary exposure of citizens to 5G technology, especially without their express knowledge or consent of the potential health impacts.”

Assemblyman Holley noted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not yet conducted long-term testing of 5G technology, and has not updated its wireless radiation human exposure guidelines since 1996.

“Wireless industry leaders have admitted that safety tests have not yet been conducted to determine any possible adverse health effects from the constant exposure to higher frequency wireless radiation,” the assemblyman said. “Meanwhile, there’s a significant body of published, peer-reviewed, independent scientific studies that link exposure to wireless radiation with serious biological harm and increased risk of cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological impairments.”

Assemblyman Holley said the mounting research casts doubt on the theory that low-level exposure to radio-frequency microwave radiation is harmless. There are more than 250 medical and public health professionals who have signed a joint statement urging government officials to consider the latest science on microwave radiation and human health, especially the latest science concerning abnormal brain development in unborn children, Holley said.

“I am not taking a position on 5G until I have more information,” the assemblyman said. “My concern is the overall body of evidence concerning the potential health impacts of wireless radio wave radiation. It is inconclusive and lacking in high-quality research. We need further study and consideration to help shape appropriate regulatory policies that best protect New Jerseyans.”

Assemblyman Holley is calling for the “New Jersey Commission on 5G Health Effects,” which would study the environmental and health effects of 5G wireless technologies, with a focus on the potential health risks that these technologies pose to vulnerable populations.

The assemblyman suggests the commission comprise 11 members. That includes two members of the General Assembly, two members of the State Senate, one member of the cellphone and wireless technology industry, one member representing the business community, one member of the public with expertise in the biological effects of wireless radiation, the Attorney General (or his appointee), the Commissioner of Health (or her designee), one member of the State Medical Society, and one member representing Rutgers University who is knowledgeable about wireless radiation.
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Source: TapInto Newark, ADAM SAMUEL, 16 Jun 2020

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