Professor William Webb

Neul - 2013 - Looking away

William is a consultant providing technical and strategic advice across the wireless communications space. His activities include advising CEOs, Government Ministers, regulatory bodies and acting as an Expert Witness. He is also the part-time CEO of the Weightless SIG, the standards body developing a new global M2M technology and was President of the IET – Europe’s largest Professional Engineering body during 14/15.

He was one of the founding directors of Neul, a company developing machine-to-machine technologies and networks, which was formed at the start of 2011 and subsequently sold to Huawei in 2014. Prior to this William was a Director at Ofcom where he managed a team providing technical advice and performing research across all areas of Ofcom’s regulatory remit. He also led some of the major reviews conducted by Ofcom including the Spectrum Framework Review, the development of Spectrum Usage Rights and most recently cognitive or white space policy. Previously, William worked for a range of communications consultancies in the UK in the fields of hardware design, computer simulation, propagation modelling, spectrum management and strategy development. William also spent three years providing strategic management across Motorola’s entire communications portfolio, based in Chicago.

William has published 16 books, over 100 papers, and 18 patents. He is a Visiting Professor at Southampton University, a Governor at Motability, a member of multiple oversight Boards and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the IEEE and the IET. In 2015 he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by Southampton University in recognition of his work on wireless technologies and Honorary Doctor of Technology by Anglia Ruskin University in honour of his contribution to the engineering profession. His biography is included in multiple “Who’s Who” publications around the world. William has a first class honours degree in electronics, a PhD and an MBA.

He has been widely recognised by his peers. In 2005 he became one of the youngest ever Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a select group of the top engineers in the UK, with entry limited to 50 top achievers per year. In 2007 he was elected a Fellow of the IEEE – a grade restricted to only 0.1% of the membership. His citation for the Royal Academy of Engineering reads:

“Internationally respected engineer who has had significant influence on the world of mobile radio, leading standardisation processes and wireless implementation strategy in government and industry. He is particularly noted for his experience and ability to apply his skills to the academic, industrial and governmental sectors.”

His citation for Fellowship of the IEEE reads:

“For leadership in the deployment of third generation mobile and wireless LAN technology.”

He is listed in “Who’s Who” – the definitive guide to the influential, in Debrett’s “People of Today”, in “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in the World”.

Career history

At Webb Search

William is CEO of Webb Search, a consulting company he established to provide technical and strategic consultancy across the wireless communications space. His activities include advising CEOs, Government Ministers, regulatory bodies and acting as an Expert Witness in complex cases involving wireless regulations and patents. Projects have included:

  • A critical study for Hong Kong International Airport developing a wireless strategy for the 5G era and including cellular, IoT, Wi-Fi, private cellular, PMR and innovative mmWave elements. This included working with all the MNOs in Hong Kong, key suppliers, the airport and regulatory authorities. (As part of a team led by Plum.)
  • A major report for Ericsson on the barriers that make mobile network deployment more difficult such as local authority bureaucracy, health-related limits and lack of international agreements, including tens of case studies across the globe.
  • Multiple training courses on spectrum management, mobile communications, fundamentals of mobile phones, 5G, etc. Also a range of webinars and briefings for the financial community on the future roadmaps for technology and networks.
  • A major multi-year project for the 5G Innovation Centre at Surrey University, strengthening the links with external bodies, developing visions, enhancing marketing and collaboration with the intent of making the 5GIC the global centre for 5G.
  • A study for Comreg (Ireland) on the best use of the 400MHz frequency band, concentrating on smart grid usage and considering a range of technologies including modified LTE.
  • Support to Telemach in Slovenia after the regulator threatened to remove their rights to use some of their 2100MHz spectrum. Delivery of a report arguing the case as to why this would be inappropriate and showing the costs and implications for operators and consumers.
  • A study for an alliance of satellite operators on the value of the C-band spectrum in the US when taking into account mobile operator strategy and CBRS licensing. The study determined the range of the cells based on various interference calculations and deduced the likely value of the spectrum if sold through trading or similar.
  • Expert witness activity across a variety of cases, most recently for Viasat in a case adjudicated by the UK Competition Appeals Tribunal around EC licensing arrangements. Prior cases include a number of IPR adjudications, work on network equipment supply after contract termination by ZTE and on import tariff levels for Amazon products such as the Echo Show.
  • Advice to a major Far-Eastern manufacturer on the emerging standards in the IoT space and areas where they could gain commercial advantage.
  • The development of substantive course material for the ITU for a year-long spectrum management course.
  • A large project for the EC considering whether there would be benefits in converging broadcasting and broadband communications onto a single platform in the UHF band and what the technical, economic and regulatory issues would be.
  • A report for the IDA – the regulator in Singapore – on their local requirements for IoT and how the regulator and government might work to facilitate the emergence of a country-wide network. A separate report on 5G and how Singapore should regulate and invest to maximise the benefits it gains from its introduction.
  • Support for a UK mobile operator to develop technical and legal cases to influence forthcoming auction and merger rulings.
  • A major project for the regulator in Thailand to show the economic value of spectrum and the best approaches to maximising this in forthcoming spectrum auctions.
  • A future prediction project for the Wi-Fi Alliance, modelling the possible congestion on Wi-Fi networks under various scenarios and showing the mix of spectrum, regulation and standardisation needed to ensure Wi-Fi remains able to handle projected traffic loads for the next 10-20 years.
  • A short study for Rolls-Royce on possible strategies for the deployment of IoT within their businesses.
  • Work for O2/Telefonica on their options for enhancing the capacity of their network, the possible role of small cells and the need for additional spectrum to meet growing capacity demands.
  • A substantial project for OpenSignal, a company delivering crowd-sourced measurements of mobile network. William assumed the role of CTO for a six-month period, guiding the company to new data metrics and strategies that aligned with the interests of regulators. He developed a personalised network recommendation tool and Quality of Experience measures.
  • On-going support to Federated Wireless, a US provider of dynamic spectrum databases, to assist them in developing their strategy and UK presence.
  • On-going support to Tutela, a provider of crowd-sourced data, to assist them in developing their strategy and marketplace.

At the Weightless SIG

William is CEO of the Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) which is harmonising the technology as a global standard. He established the SIG, recruiting its Founder Members including Vodafone, ARM and CSR, managed the formation of its legal framework, oversaw the development of its website and marketing, managed the standards activities, recruited volunteer sub-group chairs and managed the finances. He grew total membership from four founders in 2012 to over 1,000 members by mid-2013. He wrote the definitive book on Weightless, played a core role as Chief Architect during the writing of the Weightless Specification which the SIG published at a final version in April 2013 and is now coordinating test and conformance activities. This is a part-time position allowing William to explore other interests as an independent consultant.

At Neul

William was one of the Founding Directors of Neul. He held the role of CTO where he was responsible for the overall technical design of an innovative new wireless technology for machine-to-machine operation in white space spectrum. He led the development of the system specification, the development of and application for IPR, and regulatory interface work around the world including being the author or joint-author of 17 patents. He was now responsible for much of its marketing activities, its relationship within the Weightless community and in ensuring Neul optimised its position in the Weightless eco-system.

At Ofcom

William was the Head of Research and Development and one of the senior spectrum strategists since the inception of Ofcom in late 2003. Key tasks have included:

  • Inherited a team of 35 people in the R&D group, co-ordinating internal and external research with a budget of around £8m. On moving into position, William initiated a review of the team and its function which resulted in major changes. William closed the laboratory at Whyteleafe and managed the outsourcing of the work and subsequent redundancy programme. Other major structural changes resulted in only 2 of the original 35 team remaining. William then rebuilt a first-class team of 10 individuals, recruiting into key positions.
  • William led a number of key policy initiatives including the Spectrum Framework Review, one of the three key reviews for Ofcom for the 04/05 period. This review set medium and long term Ofcom strategy in all areas of spectrum management including trading, auctions, unlicensed spectrum, and easements. Other key policy roles included taking the lead on ultra-wideband, the licence-exempt framework review, spectrum usage rights and most recently cognitive or white space access to the spectrum.
  • He framed and led the overall research agenda, leading to over 50 projects covering a wide range of technical and policy issues and including the publication of the highly regarded Ofcom Annual Technology Reports.

At PA Consulting

William led a range of consulting projects including:

  • Development of a European strategy for NEC to enhance their position and profitability in the 3G cellular infrastructure marketplace.
  • Worked with a number of UK operators to help them streamline and enhance their organisational structure, including assessing organisational and technical issues causing poor quality in their network.
  • Development of the 3G acceptance strategy and documentation for Vodafone so that they were able to formally accept the 3G equipment from their supplier.
  • Assistance to a major supplier in bidding to a 3G operator to supply an end-to-end system including writing the Executive Summary, drafting the prices and developing the key themes for the bid.

At Motorola

William had a number of roles during his three years at Motorola, including:

  • Director of Strategy in the Corporate Strategy group based in Chicago, USA, where he was responsible for the development of Motorola’s communication strategy. He also managed projects to resolve key issues within Motorola, particularly those that spanned multiple sectors. He was responsible for developing and maintaining the medium and long term visions within Motorola for wireless communications.
  • Leading strategy development for fixed wireless activities within Motorola on a global basis. In this position he managed a team of six individuals responsible for gathering and processing strategic information.
  • Multiple specific tasks including development of strategy for GPRS and UMTS, development of a range of core business models for use throughout Motorola to assess the value to the operator of new features and assessment of all the capacity enhancement techniques for GSM to determine which techniques provide the greatest return on investment.

At Netcom Consultants:

William was head of the company’s wireless local loop division. As such he was responsible for management activities including marketing, recruitment, staff management and project management.

At Smith System Engineering Ltd:

William worked on a range of consulting projects, the most notable of which included a major study for the European Railway Body to define a digital radio system for the European railways. and a number of projects for the Radiocommunications Agency and Oftel to estimate the net economic value of use of the radio spectrum to the UK economy and how economic principles could be used in the assignment and allocation of radio spectrum.

William was involved in a range of research related projects including:

  • An in-depth study of the spectral efficiency of modulation techniques for mobile radio.
  • Development of a set of complex propagation models for microcells.
  • Direction of numerous propagation measurements.
  • Design and construction of advanced hardware test platforms.