Friday, 20 May 2022

Vodafone Explains Mobile Phone Mast

Questions related to what does a mobile phone mast consist of keeps popping up time and again. I looked at it some years back but it doesn't stop people asking additional questions. 

When the UK MNOs started their Shared Rural Network journey, Vodafone put together a nice primer on what does a mobile network mast consist of. Here is an extract from the article:

What do all the bits of a mast actually do?

  1. Antenna: Antennas send calls, texts and internet data to your smartphone using radio waves and in turn receive radio waves from it. The higher up an antenna is, the more likely it is that you’ll get a strong and reliable mobile signal from it. Most masts will have at least three antennas to provide coverage in every direction. Masts that need to serve more people, because they’re located in more heavily populated areas, will have more antennas.
  2. Radio unit: The radio unit generates the radio waves transmitted by the antennas. Traditionally, the radio unit was installed at ground level. Nowadays, they’re more likely to be installed higher up the mast closer to the antenna to help improve performance.
  3. Transmission/backhaul: Cables, traditionally copper but now far more likely to be fibre optic, are used to connect the mast with other masts and the rest of the Vodafone network in the UK. These are usually buried in the ground. In a few cases, a microwave dish is used instead.
  4. Cabin/cabinets: Located at ground level, these contain computers which communicate with other masts in the network. Additional equipment, such as a battery backup in case of power failure and connectors for the transmission/backhaul, are also stored here.
  5. Power: Most masts will draw their power from the National Grid; some will have their own renewable power source on-site. In a handful of cases, such as with temporary masts, power will instead be provided by a diesel generator.
  6. Microwave dish: In some locations, such as remote rural areas, a microwave satellite dish is used instead of fibre optic cables to act as transmission/backhaul, connecting the mast to the rest of Vodafone’s network. To do so, the dish must be within line of sight of a dish on another mast.

Why can’t you build it somewhere else?

Not all sites are suitable. To provide the strongest mobile signal to as wide an area as possible, there can’t be too many neighbouring buildings, trees or other geographical features in the way. These tend to block the mast’s signal.

Masts also need their own power and what’s known as “backhaul” – data connections to the rest of the network. To meet soaring demand for faster speeds, that backhaul often consists of fibre optic cables under the ground – it’s a common misconception that most of Vodafone UK’s masts communicate wirelessly with the rest of the network.

And to run these power and data lines to a mast, we have to negotiate with the owners of the land, and quite often, with the owners of land adjacent to it. Those negotiations aren’t just about how much rent we will pay, but how easily we can access those sites for construction, maintenance and repairs.

These so-called “wayleave” negotiations can take time – and sometimes break down completely – setting back mast construction by several months.

Why can’t you just build a shorter, less conspicuous mast?

The taller the mast, the wider the area it can cover and the more people it can provide with a fast and reliable mobile signal. Under current rules, most UK masts are around 25m (82ft) tall. But in fact 50m masts would provide a better, more far-reaching signal in many areas.

Update April 2021 – the UK Government has proposed rule changes that would allow new and existing masts to be up to five metres taller and two metres wider than they currently can be. This would not only help increase the range of their wireless signal, it would also make it easier for masts to be potentially shared with other mobile network operators, as more equipment can be fitted onto taller masts.

Who decides where masts are built?

Our engineers pick sites that best meet the technical, logistical and economic requirements for hosting a mast, but the local council has to grant planning permission for the building works to go ahead. So councils hold public consultations before making their decision and residents can have their say.

You can read the complete article here.

The old video of cell tower construction site is worth a watch and is embedded below:

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Friday, 6 May 2022

Comba Telecom Helps Bring Open RAN to New Markets

Comba Telecom is a global leading wireless solutions provider with their own R&D facilities, manufacturing base, and sales and service teams. The company offers a comprehensive suite of products and services including wireless access, wireless enhancement, antenna and subsystems and wireless transmission to its global customers. Comba's core product portfolio includes antennas and subsystems and network products (DAS, Small Cells, Repeater, RRU, etc.), offering turnkey solutions for indoor and outdoor 2G/3G/4G/Wifi/5G to their global customers.

Last year, Comba announced the launch of the industry's first Open RAN multi-RAT, multi-band Remote Radio Unit (“RRU”) that supports 1800MHz and 2100MHz, promoting widespread adoption of emerging open standards in the globe. The announcement says:

The RRU is designed to minimize the total cost of ownership (“TCO”) for operators and neutral hosts in macro deployments through fast and easy deployment, energy savings, improved coverage and throughput, smaller footprint and easy maintenance. Engineered for efficient high power (320W) operation, the multi-RAT multi-band 4T4R RRU minimizes the environmental footprint and reduces the energy spend for the operator. 

As a first in the Open RAN industry the GSM/UMTS/LTE/5G NR multi-mode operation makes it ideal for simple upgrades of legacy sites without compromises. The 4T4R radio supports two LTE/5G NR carriers per band and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (“DSS”). This enables operators to serve arising 5G traffic demand without additional spectrum or removing LTE service.

Comba has a long-standing collaboration with major industry partners and alliances and has participated in the initial Open RAN trials and lab projects in different regions. With all in-house expertise in interoperability and optimizing radio designs for market specific criteria, Comba enables mobile operators to accelerate time to market, and mitigate the overall technology risk when adopting to Open RAN strategy in their next generation of RAN. 

A recent video looks at these Open RAN Multi-band RRUs

While most Open RAN RUs are focused on 4G & 5G, Comba's radios work on 2G & 3G as well. This has allowed them to bring Open RAN solutions to many different parts of the world that may not be ready for 5G yet. Some of these include announcements with their software partner Parallel Wireless in Latin America and Indonesia. Another recent standalone announcement included one with Turkcell in Turkey.

Telefonica also listed them as one of the partners in a presentation at MWC

Telecom Infra Project's TIP Exchange features quite a few radios from Comba which you can see here.

If you are interested in learning more, what the Comba keynote and Panel Discussion on Maturity of Open RAN Adoption at MWC22 Open RAN Summit below:

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Friday, 15 April 2022

ZTE Shows-off New 5G Products and Solutions at MWC 2022

Like all other big vendors, ZTE's booth at MWC 2022 was closed for visitors. They did however create a video explaining all their new products and solutions launched at MWC. Here is a summary from their press release:

ZTE's UniSite NEO, among the new solutions, is the industry’s simplest site solution. Powered by the integrated radio unit OmniUBR Series, it is capable of reducing the radio units from 18 to 5, and supporting a 6-band 3-sector site with only 5 units, thus significantly decreasing site rental cost by up to 57% and delivering 40% lower power consumption. 

Also, ZTE has updated its 5G RAN portfolio with the new-generation Massive MIMO product series. It includes 32TR and 64TR AAUs, up to 192 antenna elements and 320 watt, and introducing the industry's lightest Massive MIMO product weighing 9kg for high traffic site with limited space. ZTE's full scenario product portfolio update wraps up the radio network enhancement and improves the ROI for its operators.

At MWC 2022, ZTE presents an all-in-one 5G private network solution based on the new model of 5G network as a service. This is a one-stop order-to-service package with the pre-integrated software and hardware, as well as converged 4G and 5G networks. The package has the tailor-made network features to empower the digital society. 

ZTE introduces three major types of 5G private network, including the compact cabinet for smart factories with dozens of enterprise applications to be launched on the cloud, single server i5GC for comprehensive campus where applications are more diversified and data security and self-service are mandatory, and embedded MEC for a very limited equipment room and simple application scenarios.

In additon, ZTE has launched VMAX, the accelerator of digital transformation at MWC 2022, to satisfy the increasing complexity of the network O&M, which is regarded as one of the biggest issues for operators.ZTE's VMAX can help improve customer experiences, reduce costs and enhance operating performance.

VMAX is a part of uSmartNet, ZTE's Autonomous Network solution, and changes single-domain operation into all-domain and end-to-end perspective providing One-stop Insight. When network errors occur, VMAX supports cross-domain service self-healing. It gets to the root cause of service problem and customer complaint in minutes with more than 80% location accuracy and efficiency increase by 30%. 

In addition, VMAX can interpret the service intent, output network planning suggestion accurately with minimal intervention. Meanwhile, it provides end-to-end security for different scenarios to protect personal privacy.

Here is the video of their products and solutions

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Friday, 25 March 2022

Taoglas Advanced Antennas and RF Components

Taoglas is a leading provider of advanced technology for a smarter world. Focused on best-in-class, high-performance antenna and RF design with advanced positioning, imaging, audio and artificial intelligence technologies, Taoglas has unique expertise in integrating and commercializing highly complex technology solutions. 

At the Mobile World Congress 2022, we caught up with Baha Badran, Global Head of Engineering at Taoglas to tell us about the different types of antennas and what they are used for. Baha didn't disappoint us and gave us a whirlwind tour of all the antennas on the display at their booth. The video is embedded below.

To learn more about Taoglas, visit their website here.

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Friday, 18 March 2022

The Provider (Telecom, Cloud) and User Open Edge: Innovation with No Vendor Lock-in

Dr. Cliff Grossner was hired at Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation back in September last year. He leads the market intelligence function at OCP and is responsible for driving awareness of OCP, training and certification programs, and guiding inventors presenting their early-stage company ideas to potential investors.

At the Layer123 Conference back in November 2021, Cliff presented a talk that covered the edges that are forming, use cases and forces driving edge computing. His talk is embedded below:

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Sunday, 13 March 2022

Benetel shows their Open RAN RU Progress

Benetel, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, has a 20 year history with over 6 million Benetel designed radios deployed around the world. We caught up with them at Mobile World Congress 2022 to find out what they have been up to. 

We first heard of Benetel when they announced the launch of its flagship BNTL-RAN550 High-Performance 5G O-RAN radio unit (O-RU) back in 2020. Their MWC 2022 press release provides details on their latest RAN650 RU :

This is intended to bring 5G capacity to private, campus and industrial networks, as well as rural networks and public hotspots. A 4T4R antenna arrangement is featured with up to 5W of output power being delivered per antenna port (equating to 20W in total). The 7.2x functional split employed will help minimize the costs associated with fronthaul network implementations, while support for 100MHz of instantaneous bandwidth will allow maximum coverage to be attained.

Benetel’s new RAN650 RU can be deployed in either a Cat A or Cat B based configuration (using selected distributed units), thereby providing flexibility to address radio access network architectures. Key to its elevated performance and versatility is the cutting-edge semiconductor technology that has been designed into it. Each RU incorporates an Intel Arria 10 FPGA along with an Analog Devices’ ADRV9029 4T4R transceiver with integrated Digital Pre-Distortion (DPD). The initial version of the RAN650 covers the n77u (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz) frequency range. An n78 variant (3.3GHz to 3.8GHz) will be made available in the second quarter of 2022.

The RAN650 RU runs off a 48V supply. It has a maximum power consumption of 110W. The robust IP65-rated enclosure use means that even the most challenging of outdoor conditions can be coped with. An operational temperature range spanning from -33°C to +45°C is supported.

The RAN650 complements Benetel’s existing OpenRAN portfolio, including the RAN550 indoor 5G RU that the company announced back in late 2020. Active network trials are already being conducted on the Benetel RAN650 by several pilot customers.

TMN reported last year that, Benetel said it has integrated its Radio Unit (RU) with Radisys’ 5G NR Open RAN CU-DU software and has also licensed Radisys’ LTE software for its eNodeB radio platforms. The official announcement comes after Benetel told TMN last month that it was working with both Radisys and Altran on DU-CU integration.

If you are interested in learning more about Benetel then watch Olli Andersson, Benetel's senior VP for the Americas, discussing the O-RAN architecture's climb into market relevance here.

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Sunday, 27 February 2022

Rakuten Mobile shows off their Open RAN Portfolio

(Click on image to enlarge)

During the Full Year and Fourth Quarter 2021 earning call, President of Rakuten Mobile, Yoshihisa Yamada gave a short summary of the progress of the mobile network. During that, he also showed the Open RAN product portfolio spanning to address diverse deployment use cases.

The portfolio can be seen in the picture above and you can listen to his part of the talk in the video below: 

You can download the slides from here.

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Friday, 18 February 2022

UK will make Street Furniture accessible for Telecoms Infrastructure

The UK government has announced new plans to slash red tape from 5G roll out and improve mobile phone connectivity. For this to happen, street lights, bus shelters and traffic lights will be allowed host more mobile network equipment thereby helping boost mobile coverage as part of a new scheme to cut red tape and install more 4G and 5G kit.

The following is from the press release:

Eight winning projects will receive a share from the £4 million Digital Connectivity Infrastructure Accelerator (DCIA) to explore how digital software can help simplify local authority processes when telecoms operators request access to publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure.

Street furniture such as road signs and CCTV poles can be used to improve 4G coverage but they are also integral to the roll out of 5G, which requires a larger number of smaller ‘cell sites’ - where antennas and other telecoms equipment are placed to form a network - to ensure seamless coverage and to meet surging demand for connectivity.

However, telecoms firms can often find it difficult and time consuming to acquire the information needed to verify a structure is suitable for hosting network equipment - such as its location, physical dimensions, proximity to the street or access to a power source - which is slowing down the pace of deployment.

In response, the government will invest in piloting the latest innovations in digital asset management platforms. This software will enable local councils to more easily share data mobile companies need to accelerate their roll out plans and deliver the revolutionary benefits of 4G and 5G to people and businesses.

From what we can see, this news has been well received by operators.

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Friday, 11 February 2022

THOR - Verizon's Disaster Response COW

When we wrote about how Verizon uses satellite connectivity to restore services after hurricanes, someone made us aware of THOR, the Verizon disaster response vehicle in a league of its own.

The Verizon Response Team (VRT) has a collection of different types of field equipment, which they refer to as 'The Barnyard'. This includes COWs (Cell On Wheels), COLTs (Cell On Light Trucks), CROWs (Cellular Repeater On Wheels) and GOATs (Generator On A Trailer). The latest addition to this is THOR (Tactical Humanitarian Operations Response).

The press release points out:

THOR is National Incident Management System — or NIMS-1 — compliant and offers full radio interoperability and onboard Joint Operations Center services. It provides a multitude of connectivity options, spanning private 5G, commercial 4G LTE, Land Mobile Radio and tactical radio, wireless networking, microwave, mesh and more. Other components include 4G/5G radios, a rear command center, a camera, a six-seat cabin and an exterior touch screen display.

It also comes equipped with a tethered drone to capture an aerial view that can be fed over the network to devices on the ground and the command center below, potentially helping those in public safety or the military with risk and damage assessment, situational awareness or search and rescue operations.

As a prototype, there are currently no plans to build a second THOR, as designs for future 5G-enabled response vehicles continue to evolve.

Here is a video with more details of THOR.

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Monday, 31 January 2022

Crown Castle bringing more Small Cells to the USA

Crown Castle owns, operates and leases more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 80,000 route miles of fiber supporting small cells and fiber solutions across every major U.S. market.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile US, Inc. and Crown Castle announced that the companies have signed a new 12-year agreement to support the continued build-out of T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network with increased access to Crown Castle's towers and small cell locations. The agreement enables the Un-carrier to further expand and deepen the reach of its industry-leading 5G network to serve consumers across the U.S. while also realizing financial synergies following its merger. The agreement also helps Crown Castle generate long-term tower and small cell revenue growth.

An RCR Wireless News article said:

Crown Castle secured commitments for over 50,000 new small cell nodes during the last twelve months, which equates to approximately 70% of the total small cells the booked in its history prior to 2021, the company’s CEO Jay Brown said in a release.

“As a result, we now have approximately 55,000 small cell nodes on-air and more than 60,000 committed or under construction in our backlog. Our customers are already planning for the next phase of the 5G buildout that will require small cells at scale, and this inflection in our small cells business reflects how well-positioned we are to support their wireless network needs for years to come, with our more than 80,000 route miles of fiber concentrated in the top U.S. markets,” the executive said.

“I believe 2022 will be an important transition year for our small cells and fiber business, as we prepare to accelerate our deployment of small cells from approximately 5,000 this year to what we expect will be more than 10,000 per year starting in 2023,” Brown added.

A Light Reading article from last year talked about a new report from Altman Solon. 

Altman Solon said it derived its findings from a database it constructed of small cells across more than 70 US markets. "Leveraging analysis of this database and augmenting with other primary and secondary research and our deep experience and knowledge base in the space for all small cell ecosystem players, Altman Solon has developed preliminary critical insights about the competitive landscape in the US small cell market," the firm boasted.

Among its findings:

  • "Small cell growth has been much slower historically than what industry reports have projected due to the regulatory climate, lack of neutral hosts, and limited backhaul," the firm wrote
  • Roughly 70% of the small cells it identified are located in dense urban and urban areas.
  • Crown Castle operates about 50% of all small cells identified, while mobile network operators like Verizon account for around 35%. Crown Castle operates about 50,000 commercially available small cells today, with another 30,000 on order. ExteNet Systems operates roughly 32,000 small cells across the country, while Mobilitie – recently acquired by Canada's BAI Communications – counts around 10,000 small cells.
  • Altman Solon identified very few neutral host small cells, which are small cells that transmit signals for more than one network operator. Such devices are considered critical to the growth of the industry considering neutral host small cells can generate significant revenues for the companies that operate them.

Here is a short video from Crown Castle explaining their view of small cells

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