Tuesday 13 February 2024

Deutsche Telekom's Mini-Mast a.k.a. “Cell Tower To Go”

Last year Deutsche Telekom developed a mini-mast (or as they call it, ultra-mobile mast) prototype called "cell-tower-to-go". Think of this as Cell On Wheel (COW) with no wheels. In a recent press release they indicated that it has already become a customer favourite within a short space of time. 

Around a dozen companies are testing the flexible solution so far. "With our call to test our ultra-mobile cell tower, we have raised great interest among companies from a wide range of industries. This high demand shows: The need for a flexible mobile communications solution is there - also among business customers. This has strengthened our decision to offer this innovation 'made by Telekom' commercially in the future," says Klaus Werner, Managing Director Business Customers at Telekom Deutschland.

One of the first testers is the leading Swiss construction and real estate service provider Implenia. The company will provide its bridge construction site in Bad Lobenstein (Thuringia, Germany) with 5G and 4G/LTE during the two-year construction phase. The construction site in the valley could not be reached by the conventional mobile phone masts in the surrounding area. However, due to the high degree of digitalization of the construction site, a fast and reliable mobile network connection is essential. 

Telekom's cell-tower-to-go provides high-performance coverage at the construction site. Smartphones and computers then use fast mobile connections via frequencies in the 2.6 and 3.6 gigahertz range. For Implenia, this basic mobile communications coverage is also an ideal basis for IoT applications. The company uses them to optimize processes and material flows on the construction site. The easy-to-connect mast is linked to the network on the bridge construction site via fiber optics. However, the connection via satellite will also be tested in a next step. This will provide additional flexibility and an even faster connection to the network. 

The micro-container is also making a big impact at the delivery service flaschenpost SE. The food and beverage delivery service from Münster, Germany, uses the additional 5G supply within a logistics hall. This speeds up its operational processes.

The special feature of the ultra-mobile mast is that it is significantly smaller, lighter and more flexible than previous solutions. The entire radio technology fits into a compact micro-container (length: 1.6 meters, width: 2 meters, height: 2.6 meters). This makes the mobile mast space-saving and easy to transport. It can be set up by one person in less than an hour - and is immediately ready for use. The micro container can be connected to a local power supply or operated using any other mobile power source. It can be connected to the data network via fiber optics or radio relay.  

These advantages make the mobile “dwarf” not only the first choice for fast or temporary coverage for business customers. The use of mobile masts also provides rapid assistance in disaster areas thanks to their enormous flexibility.

Deutsche Telekom will launch a commercial offer for the use of ultra-mobile transmission masts in spring 2024.

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Friday 2 February 2024

NTT Docomo's Cell On Wheels (COW)

Yagisawa Dam (矢木沢ダム) is a dam in the Gunma Prefecture of Japan; it supports a 240 MW hydroelectric power station. 

Between May and June, test release of water is done to check that the emergency spillway gate is working fine. On these occasions, many tourists visit to experience this. There may be mobile coverage there but there isn't capacity to support large number of people. 

To alleviate the network congestion, many Japanese networks send their Cell On Wheels' (COWs) to handle the traffic. NTT Docomo's COW is as shown above.

Another COW with mmWave radios is shown above. 

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Friday 19 January 2024

5G and Wi-Fi Connectivity from Link5G and LinkNYC's Tall Towers

Link5G is LinkNYC’s second generation offering that aims to improve the digital connectivity in New York City. The official website says:

Conceived in 2021 (the Year of 5G), Link5G enables the equitable deployment of both 5G cellular coverage and Wi-Fi connectivity across the five boroughs. Using multi-tenant structures, transmitters for telecommunication service providers will be housed within Link5G kiosks, expanding 5G options and enhancing coverage in underserved areas.

Link5G kiosks will bring better cellular service, increased opportunities to connect to free Wi-Fi, and improved options for in-home broadband internet access.

90% of the new Link5G kiosks, which are enabled for 5G and feature the same free services as the original Link kiosks, will be deployed in The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and above 96th Street in Manhattan. Additionally, 13 Community Districts have been specifically chosen by New York City to receive a minimum number of kiosks. Link5G will enhance neighborhoods’ cellular connections and provide businesses and pedestrians with improved high-speed Wi-Fi coverage. Link5G’s 32 foot height ensures that a 5G signal is effectively broadcast from optimal height for all carriers to reach New Yorkers' mobile devices.

Urban Omnibus has a good explainer of the issue and the infrastructure here. Quoting from the article:

CityBridge largely failed to accomplish its goal of helping to bridge the digital divide in the six years after kiosk installation began. The company put the majority of its more than 1,800 LinkNYC units in Manhattan but relatively few in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, where neighborhoods lack at-home and mobile broadband at a higher rate. As THE CITY, the state comptroller and other news outlets have documented, the company fell short of ad revenue projections and was unable to pay $60 million it owed the city. The revenue shortfall resulted in an abrupt halt to kiosk installation, leaving many areas outside Manhattan without the access they were promised. The company faced bankruptcy in 2019. The city contemplated terminating the deal in 2020.

But despite the LinkNYC program’s history of delinquency, city officials are giving CityBridge another chance to bolster digital equity citywide: The company is now preparing to install hundreds of 32-foot-tall Link5G towers, beginning this summer. The city’s Public Design Commission approved the Link5G design for commercial and manufacturing areas at a meeting in December. Members postponed a vote on a residential rollout in order to review data on the service and infrastructural impacts of the towers’ first wave.

The new structures will be more than three times as tall as the original LinkNYC design. Like their predecessors, the lower part of the new structures will have a 911 button, USB ports, a tablet, calling capabilities and advertising displays. The structures will also provide free Wi-Fi. But the new designs will be topped by fifth-generation cellular network technology, or 5G, which will radiate from their upper chambers to enabled devices at street level. Multiple telecom companies could pay CityBridge to house their 5G equipment inside the chambers of a single structure. Their payments would bring in a new revenue stream to CityBridge, funding the company’s operations and expanded footprint.

The structures’ signals will supplement existing 5G networks that currently provide consumers speedy wireless internet service. City officials and CityBridge insist that more cell sites are necessary given the technical specifications of 5G, which require a “line of sight” to work: 5G is carried on millimeter waves that, unlike 4G frequencies, cannot penetrate most surfaces, whether a building or a bus.

Not everyone agrees that these look good or they will help in the future but there is a lot of support behind their installation. This article in NY Daily News for example argues:

Reliable wireless service requires the deployment of new infrastructure that supplements existing technology, such as rooftop antennas and underground fiber cable — or Link5G kiosks, which have space for up to five wireless carriers’ equipment. That means they can provide better, faster, and cheaper service for more people and small businesses nearby.

Bronx residents are not the only New Yorkers who could benefit from Link5G. Across New York City, approximately two-in-five households lack either a home broadband connection or mobile broadband through cell service. More than 1.3 million New Yorkers lack both. For these people, the social, educational, economic, and public safety consequences can be catastrophic. Here in the Bronx, nearly one in five teens cannot finish their homework because they live on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Link5G will eventually roll out to 2,000 locations, with 90% installed in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island and above 96th St. in Manhattan. The need for these kiosks in underserved areas is illustrated by the fact that Link5G’s predecessor, LinkNYC, has provided more than 13 million New Yorkers with free, high-speed wireless internet since 2016 and is used to make around 425,000 phone calls monthly. It also offers access to 911 emergency services and valuable community-oriented public service announcements.

Even in districts with historic or commercial corridors, where locals have questioned the need for these kiosks, it’s unwise to assume every person who lives in the neighborhood, commutes there for work or is visiting has the same access to connectivity. My constituents often commute to other boroughs for work; their ability to stay connected is a necessity — not a luxury.

Still, many critics see the kiosks — which stand only as tall as traditional light posts — and attack their location, size, or ad screens without acknowledging the benefits of the kiosks to the city at large.

Let us know what you think.

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Thursday 28 December 2023

Top 5 Posts For 2023

With 2023 coming to an end, as per the tradition, here are the top 5 most viewed posts from 2023. These posts were not necessarily posted this year, so I have added the month and year each of them were posted.

Finally, a bonus post that just missed out and is also from this year:

If you have a favourite post from this blog, let us know in the comments below.

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Saturday 16 December 2023

Testing Vodafone UK's Open RAN Deployment Performance

It's been a while since Vodafone selected their UK Open RAN partners. The good news is that according to the press release from Samsung as well as Vodafone UK the rollout has already started. According to the press release, the following partners are involved:

  • Samsung: 4G and 5G radio, including 64T64R Massive MIMO, as well as the software platform.
  • Intel: General Purpose Processor (GPP), acceleration hardware and network interface cards.
  • Keysight: Drive test services using Keysight Nemo Solutions to assure the OpenRAN end-to-end live network performance. Pre-deployment OpenRAN functional and interoperability testing using Keysight Open RAN Architect (KORA) solutions.
  • Dell Technologies: Dell PowerEdge servers designed for cloud-based OpenRAN workloads.
  • Capgemini: Testing partner in Vodafone labs.
  • Wind River: Cloud network platforms (also known as abstraction layer software).

Dr. Peter Clarke, who is an actual medical doctor rather than a PhD, and also a mobile network infrastructure hobbyist, has been featured across our blogs on a regular basis. Recently he took a trip to the coastal town of Torquay, Devon, to see for himself how these Samsung Open RAN networks were performing. Quoting from his LinkedIn post

Vodafone UK's Samsung Networks based Open RAN 5G delivers capability and performance to the coastal town of Torquay, Devon, providing a compelling window into the future of radio access architecture. 

The Vodafone spectrum deployed is impressive, illustrating the capability of the Samsung Radios and serving the town well: 90MHz n78 with Massive MIMO on Samsung Active Antenna Units and quad 4G band through Commscope passives.

Throughputs with EN-DC utilising 50MHz n78 carrier were consistently around 500mbps, which for an umbrella site serving a town was pleasing. Field testing video below, in comments, please watch for on the scene testing.

Here is a video from his testing:

I am looking forward to the official results that will hopefully be shared around MWC 2024.

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Wednesday 22 November 2023

Huawei's RuralLink Solution Proposes to 'Connect the Unconnected'

It's been five years since we first wrote about Huawei's rural network solution. RuralStar was all rage back in 2018 and then the updated RuralStar 3.0 in 2020. Since then, Huawei has been working on updated architecture of RuralLink.

At MWC 2023, RuralLink won GSMA's 'Best Mobile Innovation for Emerging Markets' GLOMO Award. The press release at the RuralLink launch at the Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2022 (MBBF2022) provided some insights into the solution. The following is from the press release

Huawei's RuralLink solution uses unique innovative technologies to solve the difficulties associated with communications. In the areas where fiber is difficult and costly to deploy, thanks to unique microwave fronthaul capabilities, RuralLink uses microwave to replace optical fibers to extend RRUs far away, which reduces network construction costs. By co-using BBU with existing macro site, RuralLink does not require a BBU to be deployed, which helps reduce site power consumption. By allowing a site to operate with just four to five solar panels, RuralLink is also easily adaptable to the areas that lack stable mains supplies. The solution features a simplified design that enables all devices to be mounted on to a pole, and its site deployment does not require fencing or concrete construction. As such, site construction is so easy in fact that it be completed in just three days. RuralLink supports 2G to 5G services, laying the foundation for network experience upgrade.

RuralLink has already been deployed by China Unicom Inner Mongolia in rural areas. This operator has seen significant improvement in the proportion of areas with good coverage and notable increase in area traffic and average user-perceived speeds. While fulfilling the communication needs of the local people, the RuralLink site deployment also lays a solid foundation for the development of local e-commerce, tourism, and smart agriculture.

A recent press release highlighted that RuralLink is being used to boost rural network coverage and promote digital inclusion in Brazil.

Huawei supported Brazil’s leading telecommunications operator, to successfully complete the commercial use of the RuralLink solution. This solution utilizes a “1 RRU + 1 antenna” to form three LTE sectors, simplifying site deployment with the aim of improving wireless network coverage in rural areas and providing broader internet access.

RuralLink utilizes innovative three-sector shaping technology, requiring only one antenna and one RRU to form three sectors. Compared to traditional three-sector macro site solutions, this solution reduces 60% of devices on the tower, 50% of power consumption, and 50% of supporting devices, resulting in a 60% cost saving from end to end. Additionally, the simplified architecture enables faster TTM (time to market) and allows one person to complete site deployment and activation in one day, achieving good signal coverage within a range of 3.5 km.

The following video explains the RuralLink solution and deployment scenario:

I am looking forward to seeing an updated solution at MWC 2024.

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Tuesday 10 October 2023

Data Centers At Meta: Heterogeneous Integration Driven By AI/ML And Network Applications

Last year, tech giants including Intel, Meta, Arm, Google Cloud, AMD, Qualcomm, TSMC and ASE formed the Chiplet consortium. A news article in Fierce Electronics said:

Several giant tech companies have joined hands to promote an open standard for chip components called chiplets and how they are crammed together in system-on-chip (SoC) designs deemed critical to a variety of future handheld and high-performance computers that power AI applications and much more.

The open standard, called Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe), has been developed by Intel and clearly benefits Intel’s integrated device manufacturer (IDM) strategy as it builds new chip fabs in Arizona and Ohio and elsewhere outside the U.S.  Intel has been a prominent voice in the push to expand chip manufacturing outside of Taiwan and the rest of Asia where it is heavily focused today.

Intel has donated its UCIe standard to founding members in a new consortium that includes Intel along with Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., AMD, Arm, Google Cloud, Meta, Microsoft, Samsung and Qualcomm. The founders have already ratified UCIe 1.0 which covers the die-to-die physical layer, die-to-die protocols and software stacks which leverage the existing PCI Express (PCIe) and Compute Express Link (CXL) industry standards.

Ravi Agarwal, a technical sourcing manager at the Facebook/Meta Infrastructure group is responsible for driving advanced packaging architectures and foundry for both networking and AI/ML compute applications to meet Facebook’s future workloads. He is driving Chiplet Business Workstream in Open Domain-Specific Architecture (ODSA) Sub-Project within the Open Compute Project (OCP), working with ecosystem partners to enable a Chiplet marketplace. 

In a talk delivered for the IEEE Electronics Packaging Society (EPS) SFBA, he focused on heterogeneous integration for Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and network applications at Meta Infrastructure, and discussed implications for packaging and system-level considerations. In the talk he also shared some of the advanced packaging (chiplet) initiatives in which Meta is participating to develop an open ecosystem.

The talk is embedded below:

While the slides of this talk is not available, you can see slides of another talk he delivered here.

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Thursday 21 September 2023

Vodafone's 5G+ Street Lights in Cologne, Germany

Last year Vodafone Germany announced that they have collaborated with the City of Cologne, RheinEnergie AG and 5g Synergiewerk to bring into operation the first 5G+ street lights in Germany. The first 5G+ street lights in Europe are located in the heart of Cologne city centre in the immediate vicinity of the lively squares at Heumarkt and Domplatte. 

The press release said (Google translated in English from German): 

Vodafone has equipped the two street lights with its own mobile communications technology - this includes the antennas, the active technology and the cable guides. The technology for the 5G network is housed in the lantern base (podium) of the nine meter high lanterns, the antennas are mounted six meters above the ground. The connection to the landline network is via fiber optic lines. RheinEnergie supplies the electricity for the street lights of the future. The antennas have a range of up to 400 meters and offer a speed of up to one gigabit in the 3.5 GHz band of the 5G+ network.

The so-called small cells are small radio cells that supplement the actual base stations of the mobile phone networks. They cannot replace a cell phone location on a roof or mast, but they provide additional capacity or increase the range in smaller areas within the cell phone cell. They are used primarily where there are a particularly large number of people in a small space. Small cells will play a particularly important role in the future for the 5G+ real-time network: in networked mobility offerings, for mobile augmented reality applications or for the social networks of tomorrow.

As part of its 'Gigabit Masterplan Cologne 2025', the city of Cologne is aiming for a comprehensive gigabit network with fiber optics in the ground and 5G in the air by 2025. The city of Cologne's goal is to facilitate network expansion in the cathedral city. Therefore, antenna locations of the city of Cologne and the Cologne public utilities as well as fiber optics and electricity are bundled and rented to the network operators or respective radio tower companies. The commissioning of the innovative street lights is part of the strategy for the comprehensive rollout of 5G+ throughout Cologne. Vodafone and its infrastructure subsidiary Vantage Towers are responsible for thisUse antenna locations in combination with fiber optic and power connections from the city and RheinEnergie. Vodafone is the first user of this 'Cologne model' of combined infrastructure provision. In principle, this model is open to all network operators.

A more detailed video is available in the post here.

In a post that no longer exists, LIGMAN Evolve provided their involvement:

LIGMAN Evolve worked closely with partners 5G Synergiewerk and Stadtsysteme to deliver a bespoke solution for the deployment of the 5G+ network which would blend in with the existing street lighting infrastructure.

The LIGMAN Evolve solution has provided Vodafone with the ability to conceal and thermally manage the radios within the base section of the pole. This podium section also incorporates the power and fibre connections.

The poles incorporate hatches with bracket arms designed for the passive antennas. These provide the ability to accurately align the antennas to the required sector to maximise coverage in the streets.

The Extended podium has been designed with separate compartments for the MNO’s and the local electricity company – ESB. Both have a locked enclosure and neither has access to the others enclosure.

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Monday 21 August 2023

'Story of the Edge' by Akamai

People share some useful stuff on social networks that I bookmark to visit and write later. This was shared by John Francis Nolan nine months back or so. I have just managed to watch it and definitely worth a share here.

Prof. Ramesh K. Sitaraman is currently a Distinguished University Professor and the Associate Dean for Educational Programs and Teaching in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  He is best known for pioneering content delivery networks (CDNs) and edge computing services that currently deliver much of the world’s web, videos, edge applications, and online services. As a principal architect, he helped create the Akamai network, the world’s first major content delivery network (CDN) and edge computing service. He retains a part-time role as Akamai’s Chief Consulting Scientist. 

Late last year he delivered a talk 'Living on the Edge for a Quarter Century: An Akamai Retrospective' on The Networking Channel. The following is the abstract of the talk:

As Akamai and the creation of the “edge” turn 25, we look back at the key role that the edge has played in the evolution of internet services. The story of the edge starts in the late 1990s when servers were deployed worldwide to provide content delivery services for web pages and videos. The quest to move dynamic content and application logic closer to users created the first edge computing services a few years later. The growth of the edge that now spans thousands of locations has dramatically increased the scope and importance of services that critically rely on it. This has created new challenges in operating the edge at scale and securing it from sophisticated attacks. Further, as the carbon footprint of the edge grows rapidly, reimagining a sustainable “zero-carbon” edge that is powered by renewable energy poses a key direction for future research.

His talk is embedded below and the PDF copy of his presentation is available here.

You can view the author's publication page here.

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Thursday 20 July 2023

T-Mobile USA's Disaster Response Satellite Vehicles, Drones and COWs

The United States of America (USA) is a huge country. With such a vast area it is no surprise that it experiences a relatively high number of natural hazards and disasters. It is prone to hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, tornadoes in the central region known as Tornado Alley, earthquakes along the West Coast, wildfires in dry areas, and floods in various regions.

It is for this reason that all US operators have to be prepared for any emergency at a very short notice. In earlier posts we looked at AT&T’s Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) and Verizon's Disaster Response COW, THOR. In this post we will look at T-Mobile's COWs.

In a recent news article, T-Mobile detailed their disaster preparedness. Quoting from the article:

Since 2021, T-Mobile has made strategic investments to increase its network hardening footprint by more than 30%, placing fixed backup generators at even more towers, cell sites, network switches, data centers and other critical sites nationwide. These investments also enable the Un-carrier’s emergency response teams to leverage the network in innovative ways. For example, technicians and engineers who monitor weather in the field can remotely adjust sites in real-time to concentrate the signal in impacted areas, providing first responders with more bandwidth for data-intensive activities such as orchestrating rescues. This saves critical time and has minimal impact on customers due to T-Mobile’s network resiliency.

T-Mobile is increasing its inventory of heavy-duty network disaster response vehicles—Satellite Cell-On-Wheels (SatCOWs) and Satellite Cell-On-Light-Trucks (SatCOLTs)—by over 50%. And this year, the Un-carrier is also rolling out new Class Super C RV Command Centers for on-site operations management and new heavy-duty community support trucks that provide device charging, charging supplies and Wi-Fi for anyone who needs it.

The Un-carrier’s fleet already includes Network Emergency Operation Centers, Rough Terrain Dual Mast COLTs (which provide coverage for up to two miles, two-way radio communications, Wi-Fi and emergency lighting), Jeep COLTs, network and community Command Centers, Wi-Fi charging trailers, tow response vehicles and more.

The emergency response team also stages agile solutions like COWs, VSATs (small satellite terminals) and microwave/long-range microwave kits to quickly restore service in impacted areas.

The Un-carrier is looking ahead and innovating on the next wave of natural disaster prevention and response technology. Through an award-winning partnership, Pano AI leverages T-Mobile’s 5G network, ultra-high-definition cameras and a proprietary AI platform to scan and locate early-stage wildfires. With this technology, utility companies, fire authorities, forestry companies and private landowners can detect and respond to wildfires in rural areas faster than ever before.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile and Valmont announced the longest ever beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) drone flight for infrastructure inspection—77 miles—enabled by T-Mobile’s 5G network. During the flight, Valmont demonstrated the capability of a 5G-enabled technology to preemptively monitor infrastructure such as power lines, railroads and bridges in Texas with greater accuracy, helping to prevent malfunctions and infrastructure-related emergencies.

When disasters strike, T-Mobile deploys cutting-edge 5G Search and Rescue (SAR) drones and tethered drones to aid in disaster response efforts. SAR drones can fly up to 75 miles per mission to provide coverage and use infrared and thermal imaging to locate people, especially in unfavorable conditions. And with a 55-pound payload capacity, they can also deliver lifesaving supplies. Connected to power and backhaul resources, tethered drones can fly up to 400 feet to provide nearly continuously coverage to surrounding areas.

You can read the complete article here which contains a lot of pictures of their disaster response vehicles.

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