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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Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Disaggregated Networking for 5G - What is Needed to Make it Work?

The Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) group is a project group within Telecom Infra Project (TIP) that works on the definition of open technologies, architectures and interfaces in Optical and IP Networking. We looked at a detailed webinar from OOPT here.

The Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) within OOPT works on the definition of open and disaggregated whitebox cell site gateway devices that operators can deploy in their current 2G/3G/4G cell sites, as well as in the upcoming 5G deployments. The team produces technical specifications that define software, hardware and API requirements that represent the needs of mobile network operators and also works with industry partners to develop devices that meet the specifications.

At TIP Summit Latam in 2021, Ulrich Kohn, Director, Solutions Marketing, ADVA presented a talk on Disaggregated Networking for 5G where he looked at disaggregating high-end routers, DCSG, strategies of making white boxes timing aware and finally, disaggregated synchronization solutions.

His talk is embedded below.

You can check out ADVA's portfolio of TIP products here.

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Monday, 12 September 2022

Construction of a Self-Supporting Tower (SST)

Inside Towers shared a video of SST (self-supporting tower) construction on YouTube. According to the article, invited to observe the installation of the last three preassembled sections of a very new, very big SST. Article here and the video as follows:

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Friday, 26 August 2022

Rakuten Mobile and TEPCO Power Grid establish 'Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution'

Back in 2019, I wrote about how TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany) Power Grid was trying to utilize their utility poles and other electric power infrastructure for mobile network infrastructure sharing. They managed to get KDDI, Softbank and Rakuten Mobile onboard with their approach. 

Japan is vying to be a global leader in 5G and that has been one of the main drivers to encourage active and passive mobile network sharing. We covered some of these in the blog post here.

In their annual report for last year, TEPCO said: 

We shall coordinate with other operators and leverage the assets of TEPCO Power Grid to provide support for the efficient installation of base stations and eliminate landscape issues by clustering facilities together. We aim to further improve convenience in your daily lives by building infrastructure that meets diverse needs.

Our base station sharing service will integrate location, fiberoptics, and co-location services for configuring base stations. Sharing base stations with multiple companies will contribute to reducing the facility investment of communications operators.

In 2020, TEPCO also carried out trials with NTT Docomo and Rakuten Mobile where they deployed 5G smart poles and digital signage on their power distribution ground equipment. 

In the most recent announcement, Rakuten Mobile and TEPCO Power Grid announced the establishment of a new company for base station construction solutions. "Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution, Inc.," started business on 01 July 2022. The press release said:

Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution will further improve the efficiency of base station construction by effectively utilizing public assets to expand Rakuten Mobile's network, developing installation specifications for Rakuten Mobile's base station equipment and managing installation work. Through this work, the company aims to contribute to the provision of a stable communications environment.

In the construction of its network, Rakuten Mobile is already utilizing some power assets to enable rapid network construction. This has contributed to Rakuten Mobile achieving its target for 4G population coverage on its network about four years ahead of schedule. With the establishment of the new company, Rakuten Mobile will further expand its 4G and 5G coverage, increase the densification of its base stations and strengthen the development of communications infrastructure to provide a stable service. In addition, utilizing existing power assets will improve the cost efficiency of base station construction.

TEPCO PG is actively engaged in infrastructure sharing that utilizes electric power assets such as distribution ground equipment, and has been considering the possibility of new social contributions through its electric power assets. Through the establishment of this new company, TEPCO PG will contribute to the realization of a stable communications environment by supporting the efficient installation of base stations and reducing capital investment, through utilization of the assets, construction capabilities and know-how of the TEPCO PG Group.

We are looking forward to the companies sharing details about the operation in the future.

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Monday, 8 August 2022

Verizon's Growing Small Cells Footprint

Verizon was in news recently when their CTO, Ed Chan, mentioned that the operator had plans to speed up its small cell buildout starting in 2023. Light Reading quoted in an article:

His comments, made to financial analysts at Wells Fargo, come after the small cell market in the US took a breather during 2021 as big network operators focused on building out their new midband spectrum holdings via bigger, macro cell sites.

"Verizon anticipates small cells activity will ramp in 2023 as activity shifts toward 16t16r deployments from early 8t8r deployments built in 2022," wrote the Wells Fargo analysts of their recent meeting with Chan. Newer 5G radios can generally support more antennas, including 16T16R configurations.

"Chan also referenced that a third party had taken longer to grow scale and expertise to handle the installs Verizon had planned, but that it is reaching a point where a higher mix will trend toward third-party deployments from self deployments today," the analysts added.

Verizon officials did not respond to questions from Light Reading about Chan's meeting with Wells Fargo executives. The meeting is not listed among the operator's recent public investor events.

The small cell news could be important to equipment vendors, ranging from Airspan to Ericsson to CommScope. Jennifer Fritzsche, managing director at investment bank Greenhill & Company, wrote recently that Chan's comments could presage a resurgence in the US small cell market. She speculated that Verizon could turn to third-party small cell providers like Crown Castle and ExteNet Systems.

Small cells are big in the USA but the definition of it has become a bit fuzzy. In the old days it used to be an all-in-one unit but now anything that is deployed with an omnidirectional antenna or anything that is deployed on lamp posts or poles can be considered a small cell. 

Over the last few years we have looked at the small cells pics in the USA (see related posts at the bottom), so here are some of them from Verizon.

Quoting again from the Light Reading article:

Verizon is widely regarded as the leader in small cells in the US. The company has so far deployed 30,000 small cells sites for its millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network.

"We continue to deploy millimeter wave, which is a key part of our network, providing massive bandwidth in dense urban areas," said Verizon's Rima Qureshi, the operator's chief strategy officer, during a recent Verizon investor event. But company officials haven't provided any specific goals for small cell buildout in 2023 and beyond.

T-Mobile has said that it eventually expects to operate around 40,000 to 50,000 small cells as it completes its big 5G network buildout, while AT&T at one point had planned to operate 40,000 small cells by 2015. But AT&T did not meet its goal, and company officials have remained quiet about small cells since.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all been working to deploy their midband 5G spectrum holdings, and that work has shifted their focus away from small cells. Macro cell towers can cover wide geographic areas, while small cells – which typically sit atop street lights and rooftops rather than large cell towers – are primarily viewed as a method to improve capacity rather than coverage.

Which one is your favourite? Let us know if you have more pictures.

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Monday, 11 July 2022

Three UK's 5G C-RAN Infrastructure in Birmingham, UK

The Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG), recently announced the launch of a significant new infrastructure project set to transform mobile connectivity across Birmingham. They have deployed their own fibre backbone across the city and partnered with Birmingham City Council to connect up tens of thousands of streetscape assets for mobile infrastructure. An article highlighted:

WIG’s neutral host network infrastructure can support all mobile networks and has been anchored by Three UK running 5G services and creating the UK’s first large-scale 5G centralised radio access network (C-RAN) to enable super-fast speeds for all Three’s customers.

WIG’s network will also play a key role in supporting the vital testing of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) on Birmingham’s streets. WIG has developed this complex project in its role as lead communications infrastructure partner to Midlands Future Mobility – the organisation responsible for the UK’s largest real world test bed for CAVs.

Project Highlights:

  • Birmingham-wide 5G C-RAN network utilising WIG-owned fibre back-bone enabling ultra-low latency capability with fibre fronthaul.
  • Contiguous high speed and high capacity 4G and 5G services from Birmingham International Airport through to the city centre.
  • Future-proof, multi-operator, multi-technology architecture that will support 5G in standalone and non-standalone modes.
  • Long-term agreement for WIG and its customers to utilise tens of thousands of assets owned by Birmingham City Council.
  • Deployment of long-term sustainable infrastructure solutions, supporting small cells and making use of existing street furniture.
  • Three UK customers already benefitting from 4G and 5G delivered by the infrastructure with service throughput in excess 1Gb/s. Three’s initial deployment area includes city centre capacity hot spots together with contiguous high speed and high-capacity services across 20kms of the busiest parts of the Midlands Future Mobility testbed route.

A short case study on this is available here.

In a recent video, embedded below, Dr. Peter Clarke highlighted 'Blazing Three UK 5G from Brand New Small Cell Poles of Wonder in Birmingham'. The video embedded below feature Commscope VVSSP-360S-F antennas, Commscope cabinets and Ericsson Radios.

For more details also checkout Peter's LinkedIn post here.

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Sunday, 26 June 2022

Vodafone UK Switches-on First Live 'Self-Powering' Mobile Phone Mast

In a press release last year, Vodafone UK had announced that they have developed self-powered mobile towers and will deploy them across the UK, supporting the company’s target of achieving net zero for its UK operations by 2027. 

Vodafone and Crossflow Energy have been collaborating over the last couple of years on the development of Crossflow Energy’s innovative wind turbine technology, combined with the latest in solar and battery technologies, to create a self-powered mobile network tower. In addition, Vodafone's network partner, Cornerstone, had signed up to run a proof of concept to install Crossflow Turbine technology on rural mobile sites.

These ground-breaking Eco-Towers are expected to enable the deployment of new mobile sites in the most remote locations, without the major challenge and cost of connecting to the electricity grid.

In a press release earlier this month, Vodafone announced that it has switched on the the first live wind- and solar-powered mobile phone mast in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The mast will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw. The PR further says:

The specially designed mast, which potentially removes the need for a connection to the national electricity grid, could provide connectivity to ‘not-spots’ in the UK’s most remote and inaccessible locations – helping the industry achieve 95% of UK landmass coverage by 20253. It will also help Vodafone reduce carbon emissions and support its target of reaching net zero UK operations by 2027.

The ‘self-powering’ mast incorporates a unique Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power even in light winds. The mast can be installed without the need to dig trenches and lay electricity cables, making it faster and easier to install and reducing the impact on the local environment.

It is also extremely quiet, making it viable for sensitive sites such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It can also be ‘filtered out’ as a solid object by radar, birds and bats, so it is easily avoided, making it less harmful to wildlife.

The trial, in partnership with wind turbine technology specialists Crossflow Energy and mobile infrastructure partner Cornerstone, is at Home Farm in the village of Eglwyswrw. It will run for two years and data gathered will help Vodafone optimise the technology and determine which sites are most suitable for ‘self-powering’ masts.

Bringing mobile and internet services to rural communities helps boost the local economy, tackle isolation and close the rural digital divide. To date, building masts in coverage ‘not spots’ without an existing electricity connection has been a significant financial and logistical challenge.

The following video has also been shared:

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Friday, 10 June 2022

Omniflow Smart Street Lighting for 5G and IoT

I wrote about Omniflow back in 2017 so it was nice to see it in reality at MWC 2022 at Deutsche Telekom stand. A blog post on Telekom's website throws more light on the partnership:

Omniflow’s smart IoT lamp pole provides light, WiFi access, measures traffic flows, and many other services, all powered by sun and wind and using Telekom’s 5G technology.

Conventional street lights provide light, consuming a considerable amount of energy. Generating this energy releases up to 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per year. Not so with the smart IoT lamp pole manufactured by a Portuguese company, Omniflow. Omniflow’s state-of-the-art Smart Pole supports all kinds of practical uses such as traffic monitoring, smart parking, WiFi access, 5G small cells and many more. And thanks to solar modules, a wind turbine and integrated energy storage the smart pole can operate even during power network fails, being resilient and very energy-efficient. Compared with conventional street lighting, that enables operators to reduce their energy costs by over 90 percent.

A further reason for the growing global success of Omniflow smart poles is that the lights can be equipped with a wide range of IoT functions. Telekom supports this sustainable Smart City solution with LTE and 5G small cell modules for functions such as WiFi reception and data transmission to the cloud. Omniflow already has more than 2,000 smart poles in use around the world.

Digital Catapult has a case study on Omniflow here:

A graduate in material engineering, Pedro Ruão is the company founder and CEO of Omniflow. He started his career in product design, developing 3D prototypes. 

In 2009, a magazine article caught Pedro’s attention – a feature on Richard Branson and his search for cleantech innovators. Although Pedro did not work directly with energy at the time, the article inspired him to start formulating ideas. 

Pedro’s original idea was to generate and sell energy using a hybrid turbine and solar energy device. However, he soon realised this would be difficult to scale, let alone compete with the megawatts produced by giant wind farms and solar parks. 

Instead, Pedro saw the potential of using edge computing and IoT technologies to transform the turbine into a multi-purpose device, designing the Omniflow Smart Pole. 

Powered by wind and solar with integrated battery storage, the Omniflow Smart Pole transforms a regular streetlight into a sustainable smart infrastructure. One unit can provide WiFi, IoT sensors, computer vision, traffic management and charging points for electric vehicles or phones, among many possible services, to drive additional revenue for cities.

In 2021, Omniflow joined the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, designed to help small businesses develop cutting-edge technologies that reduce carbon emissions using 5G connectivity. 

5PRING is part of a programme of strategic projects led by West Midlands 5G (WM5G) to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the region.

As the technical lead for the 5PRING Green Innovation accelerator programme, Digital Catapult supported Omniflow to validate its 5G use case and access 5G testbed facilities.

Refining the technical configuration setup to use the 5G testbed, Digital Catapult installed the Omniflow test equipment and remotely performed tests using a private 5G network. 

By reporting latency of 17ms – compared to 125ms with public 4G – Digital Catapult confirmed that Omniflow’s unit would allow the delivery of a real-time surveillance solution and process video analytics through 5G.

Omniflow installations now span all continents, from Asia, to Europe and the United States. In Dubai Internet City, Omniflow is in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, showcasing 5G capabilities and innovation with an Omniflow Smart Pole equipped with computer vision, public WiFi and edge computing services. 

As a key market for green innovation, California has adopted a wide range of Omniflow solutions and 5G-enabled services across the state, including airport infrastructure, university campus security, city-wide smart lampposts and onboard technology for boats, used for Alcatraz Cruises. 

As cities across the UK commit to net zero targets, an Omniflow installation in Manchester recently reported energy savings of more than 90%, simply by replacing two-year-old LED streetlights.

Omniflow is also seeing a growing interest in drone charging stations, beneficial for managing solar parks, wind farms or surveillance for areas with a large perimeter. Powered by the smart pole, drones can also be used for logistics or medical emergencies, deploying defibrillators on demand.

With the expansion of its 5G offering and solutions, Omniflow plans to increase the battery capacity of its units, which could collectively generate megawatts of power.

Recently, Omniflow was selected as one of the 12 startups for AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator. You can read the details on Pedro Ruão's LinkedIn post here.

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Friday, 27 May 2022

London Underground Mobile Network Infrastructure

Earlier we made a tutorial on Infrastructure required for bringing connectivity to underground rail network. So it was good to see Nick Hudson, Director of Global Partners & Programmes at BAI Communications share some pictures of Mobile Network Infrastructure on London Underground network on his LinkedIn post.

Back in June 2021, BAI Communications (BAI) was awarded a 20-year concession by Transport for London (TfL) to deliver high-speed mobile connectivity across the capital in the most advanced and largest infrastructure project of its type in the world. The press release said:

BAI’s partnership with TfL will establish a long-awaited backbone of connectivity with a city-wide integrated communications network delivering multi-carrier cellular, Wi-Fi, and fibre connectivity services. The 4G-enabled and 5G-ready communications network that BAI will build and operate as a neutral host for fixed and mobile operators will fast-track London’s evolution as a smart city. BAI will also help to create a safer, smarter London by building and operating critical communications infrastructure that will support police, fire, and ambulance services.

The first phase of the project will see the rollout of modern multi-carrier infrastructure. This will allow fixed and mobile operators to immediately provide continuous 4G coverage to their customers across the London Underground stations and tunnels. The new wireless infrastructure will also be 5G ready. Work on the project will begin immediately, with all stations and tunnels due to have mobile coverage in four years.

Additionally, a new high-capacity fibre network running throughout the London Underground will enable fibre service providers to provide full fibre connectivity to premises across the city. The network will connect to buildings and street assets housing small cells to leverage the power of 5G and the IoT, and deliver improvements in areas like traffic congestion, public safety, and city planning.

Through this concession, BAI will help the transport authority support London’s post-covid recovery as travel resumes, delivering seamless 5G ready connectivity that will enable people to move around the city more efficiently, safely, and securely. More specifically, this project will enable TfL to reduce overcrowding and manage station flow, while improving safety with real-time information and reliable ‘from anywhere’ communications.

BAI was awarded the concession after a competitive tender process. The company has proven experience deploying mission critical communications networks in highly dense urban environments, including the underground rail networks in New York, Toronto, and Hong Kong. This project supports BAI’s strategic intent to sustainably accelerate growth globally. This is achieved through our work deploying outdoor neutral host infrastructure and developing 5G-driven offerings that introduce and scale connectivity solutions for emerging services and fresh revenue opportunities. Ultimately, our work supports our customers by delivering better connectivity and enhanced customer experiences. BAI’s ambitious plans include expanding its wireless infrastructure business across the public transport sector and growing its private network services portfolio.

Last month, BAI announced that they have completed the first milestone of its rollout of high-speed mobile coverage across the London Underground as it launches a permanent 4G service on the eastern section of the Jubilee Line. The press release said:

Customers of Three and EE are the first to be confirmed to have permanent access to 4G and 5G-ready communications between Westminster and Canning Town. The connectivity has been available as part of a pilot service since March 2020. This follows agreements made last year by both mobile operators to join BAI’s network, making them the first to cement their commitment to providing coverage to London Underground passengers.

Whilst on this section of the Jubilee Line, customers will continue to be able to check the latest travel information, keep on top of their emails, catch up on social media, live stream videos wherever they are on the Underground.

Cities all over the world are improving connectivity for subways and metros. With London already a centre of mobile connectivity, it's surprising that getting coverage in the Tube took so long.

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