I’ve often been known to say I know more about cellphones then 95% of people, but compared to that 5%, I don’t know much. So one of my primary goals this past summer was to improve my technical knowledge of mobile communication network architectures and technologies. I really enjoy reading Martin Sauter’s blog WirelessMoves — even when it gets a little over my head — so I decided to purchase his book.
While going on vacation to Ottawa this summer, I remember trying to mentally trace the steps that were required as I sent a Tweet from the train. Working through the permissions and protocols that were occurring — my tablet to my mobile over Bluetooth; my mobile over the 3G cellular network; the radio access network to the core network; the core network to the appropriate gateway to the internet; and, all back again — was pretty challenging. In fact, I couldn’t complete all the steps and identify all the protocols, security, and handoffs that were happening and solemnly declared the whole process must be magic.
Reading the book itself was challenging, both from a content perspective and the technical writing style. I am certainly no radio or electronic engineer. Even after making my way through the chapters on GSM, UMTS, and LTE, the intricacies of protocol stacks still seem to escape me. Yet I do have a much stronger understanding of how phones connect to the network and how it operates, and the basic architecture of the handset. Certainly it was a great help when writing the content for the website of the research team I am part of — the Canadian Spectrum Policy Research group. Attending lectures by telecom engineers, I can follow along easily and ask insightful questions. I am also much more informed about how the technical nature of telecommunication networks impacts (or doesn’t!) spectrum regime governance.
I guess I’ll now to need to note that I know more then 99% of people about cellphones, and even with that 1%, I can hold my own. I still haven’t completely figured out my study focus for this year but it’ll likely dig further into the business side of things.