Friday, 30 July 2021

Nokia's FastMile for 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Fixed Wireless is a hot topic, especially with 5G. We made a tutorial on that back in 2018, available here. While there are many different CPEs (Customer Premises Equipments) available, for the big players as well as the smaller ones, Nokia's FastMile caught my attention.

The Australian operator Optus has been selling and promoting the FastMile solution for FWA in Aus. You can see a lot of unboxing videos on YouTube, one nice one here.

There are couple of solutions available. In our tutorial, we talk about a combined CPE + router in a box and a separate CPE whose output is connected to a router. Nokia has a solution for both of these. 

The FastMile 5G Gateways (link) is the combined CPE + router. The video below shows how it works.

The FastMile 5G Receiver on the other hand is just a 5G CPE whose output is then connected to a router to create a hotspot. The video below sort of explains it:

Nokia is enjoying reasonable success with FastMile which can be seen from some of their announcements on the web. One such embedded as Tweet below:

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

ZTE explains 5G CDN in a new White Paper

ZTE recently released a new whitepaper analyzing in detail the challenges confronted by content delivery network (CDN) in the 5G era. it also proposes architecture and technology trends suitable for the evolution of CDN to content edge clouds. Finally, the WP shares deployment cases of actual applications.

The announcement states:

With 5G entering into an era where video "reigns supreme", the video demand of individual users continues to rise, and that of businesses has also shown explosive growth in the context of the pandemic, such as interactive live broadcasting, online education, and cloud gaming. Immersive experiences including high-definition channels, VR/AR and 8K+ ultra-high-definition services have witnessed rapid development. Enterprise users are accelerating their digital transformation, and video digital applications like video conferencing, video surveillance, live broadcast of venues and telemedicine are becoming increasingly popular. Various video services require the networks to have stronger distribution timeliness, lower service delay and greater bandwidth.

Based on a lightweight vCDN, ZTE's 5G CDN solution provides nearby access, automatic scaling and rapid deployment while realizing resource sharing and reducing backbone network traffic. Relying on the cloud platform, the solution enhances the video processing capabilities with the cloud transcoding function. It also enriches the video PaaS capability components, providing a foundation for the opening of platform capabilities.

With security being as fundamental guarantee, the 5G CDN solution constructs a dynamic security protection system with infrastructure security, content security, service security and data security as the core to ensure the efficient and safe operation of CDN.

ZTE has utilized the 5G CDN solution in various industries including entertainment, culture, education, games, sports and more. In the entertainment field, ZTE and China Mobile have completed the trial commercial use of 5G MEC-based 8K VR services, bringing users a brand-new immersive audio-visual experience. 

In the education field, through the integration of interactive live broadcast, business management and other video platform capabilities, ZTE has created for customers the Online education SaaS business featuring multiple teaching scenarios and terminals under the condition of different types and multiple networks, while employing ZTE Wi-Fi6 routers, smart education set-top boxes, smart screen speakers, 5G mobile phones and other terminals to carry the online education services. 

In the gaming field, ZTE 5G CDN provides efficient and secure transmission guarantee for cloud gaming services, and it has been commercialized in China Telecom’s networks. In the field of cultural tourism, relying on its powerful media processing capabilities, ZTE’s 5G CDN is able to help present high-definition live content of scenic spots, thereby allowing China Mobile's customers to enjoy the scenic spots in Shaanxi on the cloud. 

In the sports industry, by virtue of the powerful rendering and distribution capabilities, with 5G CDN, ZTE and China Unicom have jointly realized free viewpoint 4K live broadcast service featuring the industry's lowest latency in the "Meeting Beijing" ice event speed skating test competition in April 2021. The measured end-to-end delay is as low as 0.3 seconds, delivering the ultimate smart game watching experience to the audience.

As one of the largest CDN network solution providers, ZTE, backed up with its profound accumulation of ultra-high-definition video technology and 5G communication technology, will keep focusing on customer demand, innovative technologies and optimizing experience, so as to provide a better video service experience and assist operators in laying out 5G vertical industry applications.

The whitepaper is available here.

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Friday, 9 July 2021

NEC's O-RAN Compliant Massive MIMO Radios


NEC has recently started receiving recognition and the attention is deserves for its massive MIMO radio units and other 5G infrastructure. Back at MWC 2019, they was already showing showing their O-RAN compliant Open RAN radio units (see tweet below)

Just in time for MWC 2021, NEC announced the launch of new radio units (RU) for 5G base stations that are geared for global markets and are scheduled to be available in 2022. Their press release said:

In terms of functionality, the new RUs will be compatible with the n77, n78 and C-Band 3.7GHz frequency band (3.3-4.2GHz), which is globally used as a 5G frequency. In addition, ultra-multi-element antennas utilizing Massive MIMO (*) and digital beamforming for high-precision beams will help to provide high-speed, high-capacity communications between a wider range of terminals. Also, the new RUs will feature higher output and wider bandwidth when compared to conventional products, thereby expanding the communications area and providing high-speed transmission. NEC's proprietary high-density mounting technology, power saving technology, and fanless design will also enable a compact format that is lightweight and power efficient.

The RUs will conform to O-RAN fronthaul interface specifications defined by the O-RAN Alliance and will be compatible with base station equipment from different vendors, making it possible to realize open, flexible and optimized networks according to a wide range of use cases.

At the MWC 2021 Virtual Stand, NEC was boldly showing off their O-RAN Compliant 5G Radio Units. Their product features include:


  • Full Digital Beamforming to Improve Customer Experience: AAS(Active Antenna System) improves the radio quality and realizes stable quality of service by Full Digital Beamforming
  • Sub6GHz Massive MIMO AAS for Macro Cells: Best suited for optimizing coverage and capacity in dense population areas. Can also be utilized as an “in-building” solution by horizontally penetrating the beam into buildings.
  • mmWave Massive MIMO AAS for Small Cells: Designed to be compact and light weight easing installation and expanding site options, and also reducing operational cost with its low power consumption feature.

With so many new hardware players emerging as a result of Open Networks, it remains to be seen if NEC is able to make most of its Massive MIMO leadership.

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Thursday, 1 July 2021

Bringing Connectivity to Underground Rail Network

It's always been a challenge to bring mobile connectivity to commuters in the underground rail network. The same challenges extend to mines and other facilities under the ground. One solution that has been widely adopted is the use of leaky feeders as antennas.

This solution is also used to compliment the existing terrestrial network in case of tunnels. We made a small tutorial looking at this from metro point of view but the same solution is applicable in many different scenarios. 

The video and slides are embedded below


5G presents a small challenge for this as it is tricky to go beyond 4T4R easily. Each T/R requires a leaky feeder which makes it expensive as well as challenging in other scenarios.

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Saturday, 26 June 2021

Vodafone UK's 5G Infrastructure


Ker Anderson, Head of Radio and Performance, Vodafone UK did an IET presentation looking at Vodafone's infrastructure, especially 5G infrastructure. The video from that has been publicly shared so it is embedded below.

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Friday, 18 June 2021

Cell-Site Construction And Evolution Strategies


We all agree that cell sites are complex beasts. The diagram above shows in a simple way all the tasks that may be necessary for cell site deployment. Late last year, ABI Research produced a whitepaper on "Global Cell-Site Construction And Evolution Strategies" that they made freely available here. Quoting the executive summary below:

5G networks are being rapidly deployed around the world with many of these networks working in parallel to existing legacy cellular technologies, such as 2G/3G and 4G, to provide higher data connections of 10X more throughput than 4G. 5G networks typically use high-frequency spectral resources (C-band and mmWave) and, according to the International Mobile Telecommunications 2020 (IMT-2020), the downlink and uplink peak data rate of a 5G network should be 20 Gigabits per Second (Gbps) and 10 Gbps, respectively, with downlink and uplink peak cell spectral efficiency of 30 bit/Second (s)/Hertz (Hz) and 15 bit/s/Hz, respectively. The use of higher frequency bands, which suffer from higher penetration loss and the continuous increase in requested data rates for end users, dictate the necessity of higher network availability and network capacity, which could be achieved through additional spectral resources and network densification. Many MNOs have already bought at auction spectrum for 5G deployment, but the network capacity can be maximized through network densification. Thus, the acquisition of cell site assets is critical for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for the effective performance of 5G networks.

These network requirements have brought huge challenges to MNOs, local governments, vendors, and System Integrators (SI), as some of those challenges are well-known unsolved issues evidenced by the deployment of legacy generations of cellular technologies and have become even more relevant now with the advent of 5G and the expected large-scale cell site densification.

These challenges range from the high cost associated with deploying network infrastructure at street level, to complex approval processes from local government, including lengthy and expensive site acquisition processes; lack of power availability; limited backhaul availability; lengthy planning application processes for street works or build works; limited space availability on premises and within street furniture; size and flexibility of existing cellular equipment that can fit the different rollout scenarios (e.g., smaller antennas to fit within wall-mounted small cell enclosures); lack of availability of underground space for the deployment of a new chamber and ducts; decluttering policies from local governments that can largely impact the deployment of 5G networks; and increasing tenancy fees for additional 5G equipment and increased power supply.

In response to this situation, there is some pressure on telecom equipment vendors to come forward with solutions that suit each rollout scenario. Improved physical features, such as smaller form factor antennas similar to the Wi-Fi Access Points (APs), lighter-weight and smaller Massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (mMIMO) antennas, and an innovative variety of vendor equipment, backhaul, and reduced power consumption solutions will help MNOs address these challenges and stay ahead of the competition.

Finally, unlike previous generations of cellular technologies, policymakers, urban planners, and local governments have an important role to play, providing more flexible legislation that enable the rollout of network infrastructure at a faster speed by providing clear guidelines for easy access to the assets for the deployment of cellular infrastructure.

While many topics have been covered in the whitepaper, one of the issues I have closely experiences is the insufficient power for the new upgrades. Again, quoting from the whitepaper:

ENERGY

When deploying a cell site, the power requirement can typically be categorized as: 1) static power consumption, which is associated with the support system of a base station, and 2) dynamic power consumption, which is associated with the data traffic load. For a cell site, the amount of energy consumption varies depending on the amount of equipment and the number of frequency bands supported. Optimizing energy consumption can help operators lower their OPEX and achieve environmental goals.

CHALLENGES

Insufficient DC power capacity. Energy consumption is expected to increase with 5G deployments. New frequency bands and an increased number of equipment contribute to the this. Research on developed markets indicates that the maximum power consumption of a typical site supporting five bands could exceed 10 Kilowatts (kW). However, the reality is that about 30% of macrocell sites do not have a power supply that could support such power requirements. The common solution for energy expansion is adding more rectifiers or more energy cabinets. However, the equipment room or cabinet do not always have sufficient space for additional equipment. To cater to the increasing demand for energy, operators need to either find solutions that improve the existing equipment’s efficiency or construct new cabinets at sites. However, newly constructed cabinets also entail increased civil work and rental costs for operators.

Grid reconstruction. Grid power for the existing sites may be insufficient, especially due to the increase in power consumption with a 5G deployment. Such sites need grid modernization, which can be expensive and can greatly slow down the pace of a 5G deployment. Due to the process and construction requirements, the time to modernize the grid could be up to a year for each site.

Insufficient power backup. Operators need to meet the strict five nines or high availability of services. Ensuring business continuity is crucial for any operator. In times of prolonged bad weather or a power outage, grid and solar energy might not be available to power the cell site. Energy storage systems with lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries, for example, are required to mitigate the risk of a power outage. Most existing networks are still using lead-acid batteries, while the low-energy density, heavy weight, and big volume of a lead-acid battery make it difficult to do an expansion when deploying 5G.

High electricity cost. Another key challenge for operators is how to optimize energy efficiency, translating into good investments by operators. Relying solely on the electric grid could result in high energy expenditure, and the need to consider multiple energy resources. Traffic usage is also not constant throughout the day and varies depending on the location (e.g., city centers versus suburbs). How operators can manage the energy system intelligently and efficiently to reduce unnecessary waste becomes a core consideration.

Given the rapid development of 5G technology and an increasing host of service applications, computing is getting closer to users, with communication technologies and information technologies evolving toward converged Information and Communications Technology (ICT) architecture at an ever-faster pace. The increasing applications and computing required at the edge means that the power supply demand is expected to increase. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the amount of Alternating Current (AC)/Direct Current (DC) power supply needed at the cell site, as well as the number of equipment rooms that are required.

The paper goes on to describe the solutions. You can download the paper here.

If you have a favourite cell site issue do let us know in the comments.

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Friday, 11 June 2021

AWS for Public and Private 5G Networks

wrote about AWS Edge being used to power Private Networks and Industry 4.0 back in March. Since then we had this big announcement from DISH and AWS about formation of 'Strategic Collaboration to Reinvent 5G Connectivity and Innovation'.

It talks about how the new US operator, DISH, will leverage AWS infrastructure and services to build a cloud-based, 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) that delivers consistent, cost-effective performance from core to the edge. 

Netmanias has done an awesome job of explaining how AWS will be used in the Dish network and compares it with the Rakuten Virtualised network. Reproducing the original from them below.


In addition, they have also done a fantastic job of explaining how different operators are planning to use AWS in their Networks. 


You can read more details for each of the operators below:

  • AWS and Verizon Expand 5G Collaboration with Private MEC Solution
  • AWS and Vodafone Business Bring Edge Computing Closer to Organizations in Europe
  • Announcing the first AWS Wavelength Zone in South Korea on SK Telecom (SKT)’s 5G network
  • KDDI To Launch "AWS Wavelength" On December 16, Offering Ultra Low Latency on the 5G Network Edge
  • Singtel and Optus expand 5G ecosystems with AWS for 5G edge computing
  • Telefónica Germany / O2 builds new 5G core network in the cloud
  • DISH and AWS Form Strategic Collaboration to Reinvent 5G Connectivity and Innovation
  • Bell Canada teams up with AWS for edge computing

Let us know what you think about the operator strategy of moving to AWS for something or other.

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Friday, 4 June 2021

Three UK's Gigabit 5G Poles Explained


Peter Clarke does a great service to the mobile industry, especially in UK, with his detailed look at the mobile network's infrastructure. 

Three UK was Huawei shop but after the limitations imposed on them, they moved to Ericsson and announced with a big bang.

When they said in December that they will have 1000 5G sites, many were left wondering how many of those would be Huawei and Ericsson

But they did make a fantastic progress transitioning to E///

Now Peter has made a video detailing the Ericsson Three UK sites. It has a lot of useful information and is embedded below.

Let us know what do you think.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

Nokia Smart Node Modular 4G/5G Femtocell

We wrote about Nokia's 5G Small Cells late last year and about AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) Small Cells back in July. Now they have just announced the launch of the Nokia Smart Node, a unique indoor mobile module solution delivering high-quality 4G and 5G indoor mobile coverage for residential and small-medium enterprise use. In simple words, a modular 4G/5G femtocell.

The press release said:

The compact, ‘plug and play’ modular design can be deployed readily in any environment to support evolving consumer applications. It is future-proofed to support 4G now and 5G networks when required and both non-stand-alone and stand-alone 5G applications through a software upgrade. Nokia Smart Node is available from Q4 2021.

Stylish, durable and smart, Nokia Smart Node is a dedicated indoor mobile solution with superior coverage and capacity and can be easily scaled from single to multiple units to meet total indoor coverage requirements. Its high-quality coverage, latency and reliability delivers ubiquitous 5G connectivity for specific use cases such as immersive entertainment. The ‘plug and play’ capabilities also make it easy to set up, which keeps installation costs to a minimum. It can be wall, ceiling or desktop mounted.

Nokia Smart Node supports traffic management by reducing core network load and optimizing macro resource allocation. It delivers uncongested high throughput network performance with existing secure authentication and provides a secure connection and SIM-based authentication to assure the quality required in mobile networks.

Mobile World Live added:

Nokia is marketing the solution to both enterprises and carrier customers. For enterprise customers, the vendor promotes the femto as part of a mobile network that can offer “hack proof” security, without requiring IT managers to understand and install complex security solutions. The Smart Node security solutions include digital certificates, IPSec for encryption with IKEv2, and firewall and tamper alarms.

For network operators, a 5G femto can provide local breakout and reduce operating costs, according to Nokia.  Whereas an outdoor small cell near an enterprise will require power, backhaul and real estate, an indoor solution lets the enterprise itself cover these expenses. The downside, of course, is that indoor solutions typically support just one enterprise customer while outdoor small cells could support several.

More information on Nokia Smart Node Femtocells is available here.

It is worth pointing out that many operators are choosing to phase out their indoor femtocell offerings in favour of Wi-Fi calling (VoWiFi). One such example is Vodafone UK who have announced that their Sure Signal femtocells will be switched off by September 2021

In addition, Wireless Wireline Convergence (WWC) in 5G is also expected to make access connectivity independent of the core services by allowing connectivity over Wi-Fi. This will accelerate phasing out of femtocells in future.

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Friday, 21 May 2021

Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) as an Alternative to Fiber Deployments

Project Taara, a part of Alphabet's X moonshot factory, has been working on a wireless optical technology that could deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity to remote areas using a network of light emitters and receivers.

The Taara team has piloted their technology in India and Africa. Taara links offer a cost-effective and quickly deployable way to bring high-speed connectivity to remote areas. Taara links help plug critical gaps to major access points, like cell towers and WiFi hotspots, and have the potential to help thousands of people access the educational, business, and communication benefits of the web.

A potential solution to this problem arose during work on Project Loon. The Loon team needed to figure out a way to create a data link between balloons that were flying over 100 km apart. The team investigated the use of wireless optical communication technology to establish high-throughput links between balloons. Like fiber, but without the cables, wireless optical communication uses light to transmit high-speed data between two points.


Free Space Optical Communications, aka FSOC links use beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances — just like fiber optic cable, but without the cable. And because there’s no cable, this means there’s none of the time, cost, and hassle involved in digging trenches or stringing cable along poles. FSOC boxes can simply be placed kilometers apart on roofs or towers, with the signal beamed directly between the boxes to easily traverse common obstacles like rivers, roads and railways.

The advantage of these High-throughput links are:

  • Flexible Technology: With a clear line of sight, wireless optical communication technology can transmit data at high speeds of up to 20 Gbps. A single link can cover distances up to 20 km and be used to extend fiber networks.
  • Long-Range: Long range line-of-sight data transmissions at 20+ km.
  • High-Speed: High-throughput supports 10-100s Gbps data rates.
  • Connectivity Across Terrains: The system is effective in areas that are difficult to connect using fiber cables. These include sites located around forests, water bodies, railway tracks, or land with high real estate costs.
  • Easy To Integrate: Based on open standards to work seamlessly with existing infrastructure and environments.

Looking forward to hearing more about how it's helping connect the unconnected.

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