Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Deutsche Telekom 5G Small Cells in Phone Boxes

Vodafone and BT/EE in UK have been deploying small cells in phone boxes for years, now the German operator Deutsche Telekom is going the same way as it starts dismantling the last remaining 12,000 public telephones of the 160,000 that used to exist. 

The Museum for Communication in Frankfurt (link) has models of the German Phone Boxes. The following is an extract from DT's blog post, translated in English by Google Translate:

The well-known "yellow telephone boxes" have not been there since 2018. There are currently around 12,000 public telephones from Telekom. The steles or so-called basic telephones are often located at train stations, airports or on exhibition grounds. They are not economical, they are outdated and consume large amounts of energy. On average, it is between 500 and 1,250 kilowatt hours per year - depending on the equipment at the location. By switching off the unused technology dinosaurs, between six and 15 million kilowatt hours can be saved annually. This corresponds to the power consumption of several thousand apartments. The supply of spare parts for the old ISDN technology is also being discontinued by the manufacturers and is becoming increasingly difficult. Despite all the good memories, it's about time, even with this look, 

Telekom will gradually phase out the service by early 2023. From November 21, 2022, coin payment will be gradually deactivated nationwide for the remaining 12,000 telephones. From the end of January, the payment function using telephone cards and thus the entire telecommunications service at the telephone pillars or booths will also be discontinued.

The dismantling of the steles will then begin, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2025. In consultation with the communities, Telekom continues to use around a quarter of the sites to improve local mobile communications without a public telephony function. It is converting the locations with so-called small cells. These are small antennas that amplify cellular signals and thus further improve cellular communications. 

Since the Telecommunications Act was amended at the end of 2021, there is no longer any obligation to operate public telephones. Due to the low usage, the public telephones no longer contribute to the basic service of the population. Even for emergency calls, the public telephones are no longer relevant. Here, too, the mobile phone takes over and supports, for example, by transmitting the exact location information.

This video below shows how some of these phone boxes will have Ericsson's small cells. There are two different approaches. Some of them will be D-RAN and some of them will be C-RAN, where C is Centralised in this case. Switch on the subtitles for English translation.

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Saturday, 22 April 2023

Omdia's Global Telecoms Capex Trends – 2022

Our industry goes through a lot of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). Information Handling Services (IHS) built its Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) in large part through the acquisition of Infonetics Research for an undisclosed sum in 2014. Then in 2016, IHS merged with London-based Markit to create IHS Markit. Then in 2019, IHS Markit swapped its TMT group with Informa's Agribusiness Intelligence group and $30 million in cash. 

At the start of 2020, Omdia was formed by unifying the depth and breadth of expertise from Informa Tech’s legacy research brands: Ovum, IHS Markit Technology, Tractica and Heavy Reading.

Omdia recently published the 2022 full-year update of its Global Telecoms Capex Tracker, a detailed database of telecom operator capital expenditure (capex) from 1Q19 to 4Q22. This Analyst Opinion covers the major recent developments in telecoms capex and highlights some interesting points from the tracker.

In the tracker, Omdia splits capex estimates into various categories and subcategories that broadly map to our technology market research coverage. For the full year of 2022, the first level of breakdown is into civil infrastructure (9%), access network (37%), transport (14%), core (4%), cloud infrastructure (9%), IT and software (13%), devices and customer premises equipment (CPE) (6%), and other (10%).

You can find the details here. The author, Adam Mackenzie, has shared a high-resolution picture and some more details on his LinkedIn post here. The comments are worth reading as well.

For people who are interested in similar topics, check out the links below 👇.

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Tuesday, 14 March 2023

KDDI's Underground 5G Base Stations

Some five years back I talked about NTT Docomo's underground LTE base stations, now it's KDDI's turn for an underground 5G base station. Last week the Japanese operator KDDI announced to the world that they are testing an underground base station in a handhole (just big enough for the hand to go in as opposed to manhole where a person can go in). 

The press release (translated by Google from Japanese) said:

In December 2022, KDDI became the first domestic telecommunications carrier to begin operation of an embedded 5G base station (hereafter referred to as this base station) in Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (on the premises of the KDDI Otemachi Building).

In the future, we aim to accelerate the expansion of areas that require consideration of scenery, such as Bikan districts, by utilizing this base station


Conventional tower-mounted base stations and building roof-mounted base stations have exposed base station antennas, which can affect the scenery. It was. As one solution to this problem, the introduction of buried base stations, in which the base station equipment is installed underground (below the ground surface), is expected. In July 2021, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' new system of radio wave protection guidelines for embedded base stations came into effect.

About this base station

Since 2018, KDDI has been considering the start of commercial operation of embedded base stations. In December 2022, we succeeded in emitting radio waves from this base station, and verified radio wave propagation characteristics until February 2023, confirming that a communication area with a radius of about 50m can be secured.

By storing the devices necessary for radio wave radiation, such as wireless devices and antennas, in a housing buried underground (below the ground surface), it is possible to install the device in consideration of the landscape. In addition, by radiating radio waves upward, it will be an area along the ground.

It adopts a highly waterproof metal housing and is designed to withstand water intrusion. Also, since the antenna is underground, it is less susceptible to strong winds.

KDDI will continue to develop new concept base stations that are not bound by existing base station installation forms, and will continue to expand service areas, improve quality, and create an environment that is easier for customers to use.

Nice to see mobile enthusiasts already testing the base station out. We will have to wait to see how the PoC goes and if we will see more of these deployed commercially. 

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Friday, 10 February 2023

Evolution of AT&T’s Flying COW (Cell on Wings)

I first got introduced to COWs (Cell on Wheels) when AT&T talked about them back in 2014. Since then I have written about AT&T's Flying COWs (Cell on Wings as opposed to Wheels) and also the Flying COW - Helicopter. All of the Flying COWs were transmitting 4G/LTE.

In an announcement last June, AT&T announced that their Flying COW was able to transmit 5G. Surprisingly they haven't shared any videos publicly, unlike the 4G ones. Their announcement said:

The AT&T drone team picked this remote location for the ground-breaking launch of its Flying COW® (Cell on Wings), because of that: it’s remote. No trees. No houses. No humans. Only wide-open spaces and the occasional four-legged cow.

“We had intermittent, weak LTE signal at the flight location before we launched the 5G Flying COW®,” said Ethan Hunt, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Principal Program Manager, AT&T. “We flew the drone up to about 300 feet, turned on the signal and it began transmitting strong 5G coverage to approximately 10 square miles.”

That means, customers with a capable 5G phone in the area could have gone from no service to super-fast wireless connections in seconds. In the future, this could help first responders in a search and rescue mission.

“Drones may use 5G for command and control or to stream video, but the AT&T 5G Flying COW® is the only drone that provides a 5G network,” Ethan said.

A COW serves as a cell site on a drone, and AT&T has been using this technology to beam LTE coverage to customers during big events and disasters for years. Other companies may use 5G signals to communicate with drones, but the 5G Flying COW® could be a game changer.

“Our focus within the drone world is connectivity. All of our drone solutions have that focus,” said Art Pregler, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Director, AT&T. “5G brings a lot of new capability to the table. We can connect a lot larger number of devices with 5G. When we put that up, we can share with a larger population.”

That, in turn, can lead to a more seamless experience, better network performance and an overall better experience.

 “It’s enabling a lot more solutions, including human-to-machine interface that are now capable that wasn’t previously possible,” said Art.

Complete story here.

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Friday, 27 January 2023

Seoul Metro Wi-Fi Backhauled by Samsung's 5G mmWave Network Solution

In our earlier posts we talked about how Wi-Fi 6 is being promoted by South Korea's ministry and also how mmWave has not been very successful in Korea. Having said that, earlier last year, Samsung Electronics announced that it has signed contracts with all three South Korean operators to supply its 5G mmWave network solutions and boost connectivity for passengers on the Seoul subway system:

Over 3.6 million passengers use the Seoul subway daily across over 300 stations. With a population of 9.6 million, Seoul is one of the world’s most densely populated cities, with its subway serving as one of the major means of public transportation for the busy metropolitan area. The subway system is expansive, resembling a spider web network that connects Seoul and the surrounding areas, carrying over 30 percent of the city’s population.

While the Seoul subway system has already been providing stable 5G (3.5GHz), 4G and Wi-Fi services, mobile data demands in subways continue to rise exponentially as Korea’s monthly average 5G data consumption reaches approximately 25GB per person.

Later this year, Samsung’s 5G mmWave solutions will enable the subway’s Wi-Fi services to meet increasing data demands by leveraging mmWave’s wide bandwidth, extensive capacity and massive throughput. Subway passengers will be able to enjoy bandwidth-intensive applications such as high-speed, superior-quality streaming for live sports games, movies, mobile games and video communications. These will be delivered at Wi-Fi speeds up to ten times faster on average than currently provided.

In addition to transforming the daily mobile experience for subway users, Samsung’s advanced 5G mmWave solutions will drive a diversified range of use cases and business opportunities for new entrepreneurs, app development startups and consumers. Utilizing mmWave bandwidth can not only bring to life next-generation services such as the metaverse, cloud gaming and Extended Reality (XR) remote learning, but it can also be expanded beyond transportation to industries like retail, medicine, media and entertainment.

A key component of the Seoul subway commercial deployment is Samsung’s mmWave 5G radio solution, Compact Macro, which brings together a baseband unit, radio and antenna in a single form factor. Optimized for mmWave 5G, it uses in-house modems, radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) and digital analog front end (DAFE) ASICs.

Complete press release here. Embedded below is a short promo video on this

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Thursday, 12 January 2023

KDDI Plans to Improve Rural Connectivity in Japan using SpaceX's Starlink

Back in December 2022, KDDI announced that the first mobile tower in Japan to use Starlink has started commercial operation in Hatsushima, a remote island in Sagami Bay. The press release said:

Starting with this location, KDDI will expand its coverage to 1,200 remote towers in order to pursue its vision to bring an urban mobile experience to its rural customers.

Developed by SpaceX, Starlink provides high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband internet around the world. With satellites positioned in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 550 km, over 65 times closer than conventional geostationary satellites, Starlink achieves significantly lower latency and higher transmission speeds for its end users. Using Starlink to backhaul service from these remote stations complements KDDI's urban towers that utilize fiber for backhaul.

KDDI has been conducting technical demonstrations of Starlink including for use in mobile backhaul since 2021. In order to ensure sufficient quality for cellular service with voice and data, Starlink has met the company's network technical guidelines in latency, jitters and uplink/downlink bandwidths. KDDI has completed its evaluation of Starlink and confirmed the conformance in customer experience that could be comparable to that of optical fiber.

KDDI will also offer Starlink Business to enterprise and civil government customers this year. With Japan having more than 16,000 mountains and 6,000 islands, with Starlink KDDI is now able to bring a new dimension of connectivity to Japanese society.

The video of the launch ceremony is embedded below:

In addition to the image from KDDI press release, additional images from Twitter here and here.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Top Blog Posts of 2022

With 2022 coming to an end, here are the top 10 most viewed posts from 2022. These posts were not necessarily posted this year, so I have added the month and year it was posted.

  1. Passive and Active Infrastructure Sharing, May 2020
  2. Open RAN (O-RAN) RRU (O-RU) and DU (O-DU) Design, Feb 2021
  3. Nokia's AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) Small Cells, Jul 2020
  4. Vodafone Explains Mobile Phone Mast, May 2022
  5. Samsung and Ericsson Talks Massive MIMO, Feb 2021
  6. IOWN - Innovative Optical and Wireless Network, Jun 2020
  7. Huawei's Lampsite, Jul 2014
  8. 5G for Defence and Autonomous Military Solutions, Jan 2022
  9. Huawei MetaAAU Promises Improvement in 5G Network Performance and Energy Efficiency, Nov 2021
  10. Ericsson Radio Dot: Evolution and Technical information, Sep 2017
If you are a regular reader of this blog, do let us know of your favourite posts.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Details on India's First Neutral Shared RAN Solution

Back in August, RailTel and CloudExtel partnered to launch India's first Shared RAN solution for congested locations with the objective to enhance the telecom user experience. A press release said:

RailTel and CloudExtel carried out the successful pilot of this project in partnership with Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Nokia, and the Telecom Infra Project's NaaS Solutions Group, with vital support from the Railways, in one of the most network stressed locations, Mumbai Central railway station. The outcomes have been impressive with 5 times increase in average user speed (from 3Mbps to 15Mbps) for both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, while the data consumption jumped up by 20%.

At Telecom Infra Project's Fyuz 2022 conference, Kunal Bajaj, CEO & Co-Founder, CloudExtel provided details on this in a breakout session dedicated to Neutral Host Network-as-a-service (NaaS) business model. His part of talk is embedded below and you can also check out his presentation from the main stage here

In an interview with Economic Times earlier this year, Kunal pointed out:

How many small cell sites are there in the country at present?

Small cells are not just for 5G rollout. There is a substantial 4G component of it today. As per industry standards, there are over about 30,000 odd small cell sites that have already been rolled out. Of that, about one-third to one-half of those sites have been rolled out by Reliance Jio. The balance have been rolled out by Airtel and Vodafone, and of that we have the largest market share. We have done over 4,000 sites for these two telcos, and there are all primarily 4G sites.

What’s the demand like for 4G small cells?

Even in the 4G space, month on month, year on year, data consumption has continued to grow pretty substantially. We are at 19 gigs per user, per month today, and if I remember correctly, we were at 12 gigs just a year ago, and much lower than that before. And this is all coming from 4G. 5G is not there yet, and what that really demonstrates is the reliance that users have on wireless connectivity. We have don’t much fixed line infrastructure today in India to really speak of. 25 million fixed line broadband users is nothing compared to the over 500 million 4G subscriptions. This growth in 4G data densification, even with 5G auctions coming up, will continue for the next two years.

Going forward, will these 4G sites be converted to 5G, or that will be part of a separate infrastructure?

If you see what has happened historically, when we went from 2G to 3G, and more relevantly, when we went to 3G to 4G, the 4G sites came up wherever you have very high capacity usage on 3G. 3G was not taken away, but those sites were upgraded to dual technology, by upgrading the equipment and adding an additional 4G radio to bring up 4G traffic from those sites. And I think that’s exactly what we are going to see in the 5G environment. The good thing is a lot of telecom operators learned from the 3G to 4G transition, and started investing very early in hardware that would be upgradeable to 5G.

Obviously the radio band is different, and there’s nothing really you can do in software to make the same radio to radiate multiple bands. So there will be investment. That happens in radio ugprades, but the core base station technology, the back haul, switches and things like that, a lot of that is now software upgradeable, and therefore it is going to be hopefully a much easier transition from 4G to 5G.

So what’s your projection of the number of small cells that will come up with the 5G rollout from August?

Some of the industry projections that we see from a lot of analysts and consulting companies is that India needs somewhere around 2,50000 small cell sites in the next five years across all three of the major operators. What that basically means is over 5-6 lakh unique small cells to be deployed. So that’s a tremendous amount of growth that we are going to see. The first one or two years from now is primarily going to be 4G, but then after that, the huge acceleration, the hockey stick curve is going to come from 5G deployment.

What is the kind of investments you are looking at in the next five years to cater to this demand?

We are talking of hundred of crores, just for us. We are looking at our base growing from 4000 small cells to 40000 small cell sites in the next five years. That’s a conservative projection, obviously, we believe and hope that we can do a lot more than that, but that will require well over 400-500 crores for us to really pull that off, and that’s where the opportunity to scale and build a substantial network. Today, when you compare us to the mainline tower companies, we are still a startup and in the beginning of our first innings, so we have a long way to go.

There certainly is a bright future for Neutral Host Network-as-a-service (NaaS), especially in country like India, with a large population of young people.

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Monday, 28 November 2022

NTT Docomo Expands Open vRAN Options in its 5G OREC

We have done quite a few blog posts on NTT Docomo on our blogs (see related posts at the bottom) as they always share a lot of latest useful and relevant information. In a blog post last year, we talked about their 5G Open RAN Ecosystem (OREC). 

Back in September, NTT Docomo announced that it will be adding a fourth type of flexible and highly scalable virtualized base station (vRAN) to its verification environment for Open RAN that will allow equipment and components of various vendors to integrate via standardized specifications. The press release said:

The new virtualized base station will combine NEC Corporation's open virtualized RAN software, Red Hat Openshift, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.'s inline accelerator cards and Hewlett Packard Enterprise's servers. This will be DOCOMO's first time to use the Qualcomm® X100 5G RAN Accelerator Card and the HPE ProLiant DL110 Telco server, the latter optimized specifically for Open RAN workloads to improve system performance and power efficiency.

Since February, DOCOMO has been providing global carriers with access to its Shared Open Lab environment to allow them to mix and match the equipment and components of various vendors in order to verify performance with virtualized base stations. In addition to three types of virtualized base station equipment/system configurations that carriers have been accessing so far, the new configuration will become available for verification in the Shared Open Lab starting in 2023.

As the increasing global availability of 5G continues to raise interest in Open RAN, DOCOMO has been a leader in helping telecoms worldwide to prepare to introduce this highly versatile new technology. In February 2021, DOCOMO was joined by 12 global equipment vendors in establishing the 5G Open RAN Ecosystem (OREC) to promote Open RAN, which supported the development of the virtualized base station being announced today.

DOCOMO and its OREC partners plan to continue adding new equipment/system combinations before and after commercializing virtualized base stations, which is expected within the current fiscal year ending in March 2023.

Through the promotion of Open RAN, DOCOMO looks forward to continuing to enhance the efficiency and flexibility mobile communication networks around the world.

In fact their OREC page has this and a lot more details here.

At Telecom Infra Project's Fyuz 22 conference, NTT Docomo and other operators shared their vision, progress and approach to Open RAN. You can watch the panel discussion here.

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Saturday, 22 October 2022

The Role of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) in Making Sure Internet Works

Ever wondered how Internet works? Surely you did but did you actually figure out? Most often, people just understand it roughly how it works but sometimes details could be handy.

Plum consulting recently published a detailed study titled, "How the Internet works (and is paid for)".  It is quite a detailed study and is divided into three parts:

  • The first part explores how data and content move around the Internet, and how it is coordinated and governed;
  • The second part focuses on the economics of the Internet and how the delivery of content is paid for;
  • The third part provides cases studies of the economics of the Internet in five APAC countries: South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, and Singapore.

There is also a concise summary if that helps. 

A recent article on Ookla titled "5 Critical Services that Keep the Internet Up and Running" described how the internet works and what causes an Outage. The article explains the role of Content delivery networks (CDNs), Domain Name System (DNS), Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), Services and their Application Programming Interfaces (API) and finally Downdetector.

BGP is an important service which has been in the news regularly after some major outage. Last year when Facebook disappeared from the Internet, BGP was responsible. Facebook (Meta) Engineering published a detailed post explaining it here. Cloudflare also looked at this Facebook BGP issue here and have a simple explanation about what BGP is:

Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is the postal service of the Internet. When someone drops a letter into a mailbox, the Postal Service processes that piece of mail and chooses a fast, efficient route to deliver that letter to its recipient. Similarly, when someone submits data via the Internet, BGP is responsible for looking at all of the available paths that data could travel and picking the best route, which usually means hopping between autonomous systems.

BGP is the protocol that makes the Internet work by enabling data routing. When a user in Singapore loads a website with origin servers in Argentina, BGP is the protocol that enables that communication to happen quickly and efficiently.

This video below is also a good simple explanation

BGP can be a serious issue when Internet is hijacked, hence even the regulators are looking at it to ensure there is no country wide Internet failure. An example from Swedish Post and Telecommunications Board (PTS) here.

Similarly, UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published a Technical report on "Responsible use of the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) for ISP interworking", which explains best practices for the use of this fundamental data routing protocol.

With all these ongoing conflicts and politics in the play, it is important for the Service Providers and Mobile Operators to ensure there is no failure because of lack of understanding of the fundamentals.

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