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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Sunday, 18 April 2021

NTT Technical Review Highlights ITU-T Work on Standards for Higher-Capacity Fiber

International Telecommunication Union - Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 15 is working on revising standards (Recommendations) for single-mode optical fiber (SMF). There are also discussions toward standardizing space division multiplexing technologies, which are promising for overcoming the capacity limit of SMF. All these are captured in an NTT Technical Review article titled, "Recent Standardization Activities in ITU-T on Single-mode Optical Fiber and Space Division Multiplexing Technologies"

Here is an extract from the article:


The Recommendations shown in red in Table 1 are those being actively discussed. The G.652 fiber is used worldwide and recognized as “standard SMF.” The G.657 fiber has optical characteristics compatible with those of G.652 fiber but has improved bending loss. These two fibers support transmission over the O–L band* (1260–1625 nm) and used for various applications such as access, metro, and core networks. Recommendation G.654 is for a fiber supporting C–L-band* transmission and mainly used for submarine long-haul transmission systems. The revision of these Recommendations are active topics in ITU-T due to the capacity growth in terrestrial and submarine optical fiber networks. In the next section, recent activities for revising these SMF Recommendations are introduced.

...

Network capacity has been increasing at a rate of a few tens of percent, and the capacity crunch with SMF networks will become a serious issue in the 2020s. To overcome the capacity limit of SMF, fibers for space division multiplexing (SDM) transmission have been intensely investigated. Figure 4(a) shows the conceptual images of SDM fibers. SDM fibers can be basically categorized into two: multi-core fiber or multi-mode fiber. Multi-core fiber has multiple cores within a cladding, and multi-mode fiber has multiple propagation modes within a core. In SDM transmission, multiple signals can be simultaneously transmitted through multiple cores or modes, achieving much higher capacity compared with that in SMF. Before SDM fibers can be used in telecom networks worldwide, it is necessary to establish an SDM fiber Recommendation in the same manner as the SMF Recommendations. 

It was proposed and agreed at ITU-T 2020’s January meeting to start discussion on a new technical report for SDM optical fiber and cable. Although the content of this technical report is under discussion, it was agreed to include the related topics on cable, splice/connectors, and installing technologies. The main discussion pointes are: target application and benefits of SDM technology and categorization of SDM fiber. Regarding the target application for SDM technologies, it is important to compare technologies that use SMF to improve spatial density, such as high-fiber-count cable or reduced coating-diameter fiber technologies, as shown in Fig. 4(b). Although various SDM fibers have been proposed, current multi-core fiber- or few-mode fiber-based SDM fiber is being discussed as a potential candidate of SDM fiber. It is expected that the fiber parameters and test methods for such fibers will be discussed and incorporated into this technical report. The tentative publishing year for this technical report is 2022. The discussion on SDM fiber standardization has been initiated in advance in Japan, and the current technical level or challenges for SDM standardization has/have been summarized as technical report-1077 entitled “Technical Report on Space Division Multiplexing Technologies” (in Japanese) published by the Telecommunication Technology Committee (TTC).

You can read the article here and download the PDF after free registration from here.

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Friday, 9 April 2021

SPL Looking to Beam 4G/5G from an Aircraft


While we talk about satellite connectivity, drones, HAPS, UAVs, etc., we don't necessarily think about connectivity through an aircraft. Last year, we looked at the announcement from Deutsche Telekom and Stratospheric Platforms Limited (SPL) where they talked about the world's first successful demonstration of LTE/4G voice and data connectivity over a platform flying at the edge of the stratosphere and fully integrated into a commercial mobile network.

The main advantage of aircraft is that you do not have to worry about designing a new system and can carry higher loads. The disadvantage I can see is that you won't be able to charge using solar cells. That is why the SPL system is using "environmentally-friendly hydrogen fuel cell power system". The SPL website says:

  • The platform is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system
  • Hydrogen is stored in liquid form, using our breakthrough technology, to deliver the highest energy density source of any aviation platform in the world
  • Not reliant on solar energy and its associated limitations
  • Low environmental impact – water vapour exhaust, no NOx emissions and low noise

They have also developed the world's largest commercial airborne communications antenna. You can see the specific details for the DT deployment that I covered in the earlier post here. Regarding the antenna, the website says:

The Fastest 5G airborne antenna in the world

  • The antenna works with all current and future standards (including 3G, LTE/4G, 5G)
  • Compatible with all consumer smartphones without any hardware or software changes
  • Beam coverage can be formed to match specific shapes, e.g. motorways, canals or shipping lanes

Cambridge Consultants, who are working closely with SPL for the antenna design, have more details on this here.

This Reuters video below provides a lot of technical information.

Let us know if you think we will see more of these going forward in the future.

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Saturday, 3 April 2021

Transition to Infrastructure 2.0

Infrastructure can mean different things to different people in different industries. We tried to explain what it means in the telecoms industry in one of our tutorials here.

When it comes to Infrastructure 2.0, there are articles dating back years. Couple of examples here and here. Back in those days we were talking more about virtualization while today we are talking about containerization and cloudification. We have some introductory presentations on Cloud Native here.

I have heard Qualcomm speakers talk about Infrastructure 2.0 but what does it mean from their point of view? Here is what Cristiano R. Amon, President & CEO-Elect of Qualcomm meant according to RCR Wireless

Infrastructure 2.0 seeks to address the fact that existing core network infrastructure is limited in its ability to handle the highly virtualized network models that the industry is moving toward.

For instance, there has been some concern for awhile now around how data center virtualization will impact existing enterprise networking models.

At the CTIA event, Amon explained that 5G will be revolutionary, creating new industries, use cases, services and network models. However, a network capable of doing all that 5G promises requires “infrastructure like we’ve never seen.”

“It needs to be dense, high-performance, cost-effective and power-efficient for both indoors and outdoors, and support public and private networks with a scalable and flexible networking equipment for diverse deployments across multiple industries and use cases,” he continued. “This modern 5G network is driving a shift towards virtualized radio access solutions or vRAN.”

For further context, in a previous conversation with RCR Wireless News, Amon discussed how this push towards virtualization and openness is a potential vector of disruption to traditional network equipment providers, and this disruption is what will lead to Infrastructure 2.0.

“I believe that vRAN and Open RAN creates a huge opportunity for some of the network equipment providers that will lead the transition in what Infrastructure 2.0 is,” he said, adding that incumbents could “take a leading role in the software that will run in those networks and will provide feature parity between the existing systems and the new systems.”

With the announcement of Qualcomm 5G RAN platforms, we will probably seem them talking a lot more about Infrastructure 2.0

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Friday, 26 March 2021

Huawei Explains Antennas and Radomes


In the last few months Huawei have produced some short videos explaining how antennas work and what innovations they are doing which is allowing them to have an edge over their competitors. The videos are embedded as playlist below.

There was a separate video explaining Radome, the antenna shell that needs to be weather-proof and withstand temperature fluctuations from -40˚C to 55˚C while still being ultra-light and signal-penetrable. Here is a video on that

Let us know if you know of other interesting videos on these topics.

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Friday, 19 March 2021

KMW's C-band 64TRx 640W 25kg Massive MIMO


There is a Massive MIMO weight wars taking place. Last month, Ericsson announced that it had a 64T64R Massive MIMO antenna radio unit that weighs just 20kg. Two days later, Huawei announced at MWC Shanghai that its latest equivalent tips the scales at only 19kg. The Mobile Network covered it nicely here and so did Light Reading here.

While Huawei & Ericsson are number 1 and 2 players in the world, at a far smaller scale is KMW (Korea Micro Wave). In conjunction with RCR Wireless, they announced a C-band 64TRx 640W 25kg mMIMO Hardware Ready along with a whitepaper and a video. 

The whitepaper can be downloaded from here and the summary says:

Massive MIMO technology has been deployed for capacity improvement as the 5G NR system. However, in the aspect of coverage expansion, there has been no satisfactory solution so far.

KMW applies the Modular Architecture technology to develop the mMIMO RU (64TRx, 640W, 25kg) with the natural convection cooling system as a solution of 5G coverage expansion.

This Modular Architecture, AFAM (Antenna, Filter and Power Amplifier Module), introduces Radio’s heat source separation that maximizes heat dissipation performance and minimizes the size and weight. And it allows operators to provide the desired smartest service at a lower investment.

Modular RU can also be a standardized platform with easy frequency variation just in time. Moreover, if the market requests O-RAN RU, the product shall be provided on time with the set of HW/SW.

KMW is a professional RU H/W company delivering 5G mMIMO RU to Global Market collaboration through S/W JDM with Global OEM. KMW is ready to cooperate with the global partners and customers.

It would be nice to see some of these massive MIMO units deployed in Open RAN networks later this year. 

Last year Vodafone had announced a bevy or Open RAN radio vendors. Hopefully we will see some more massive MIMO units from others. 

Finally, it should be noted that KMW also goes by the name GigaTera, which is what was earlier known in the US as KMW Inc. Details here.

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