Tuesday, 15 September 2020

BrightSites Smart poles for Smart Cities

There is no shortage of posts on this blog looking at small cells and other infrastructure on lamp posts and smart poles. Here is another one from Signify, the new company name of Philips Lighting.

The BrightSites website boldly proclaims:

BrightSites smart poles by Signify turbocharge cities’ infrastructure

The digital transformation of public spaces is accelerating rapidly. Yet most components of a city’s digital backbone are insufficient to meet the modern connectivity needs of today and tomorrow. The BrightSites smart poles from Signify, offer an all-in-one solution – providing a broadband connectivity, 4G/5G and WiFi infrastructure, as well as platform for number of IoT applications. And all this, while maintaining the aesthetics of the urban environment.

Elegant and multi-functional design: BrightSites offer an elegant and aesthetically pleasing multi-functional smart poles, making it a matching addition to your cityscape. BrightSites poles are available in various heights, colors, styles, enabling integration into any streetscape with optimal visual impact. 

Easy deployment and scalability: Mobile operators can deploy dozens or hundreds of cell sites quickly and easily, making it possible to densify network capacity and coverage with a minimal disruption.

Digital pathway: Signify BrightSites is the digital pathway of the modern city. Using the ubiquity of a city's existing street lighting infrastructure, BrightSites poles deliver 4G/5G, Wi-Fi, LoRa, Sigfox, fiber hubs, and a possibility to accommodate wide range of IoT applications.

Energy Efficiency: Philips LED lighting provides a cost-effective, low-maintenance alternative to traditional street lighting – an important consideration for cities.

Our smart poles are highly suitable for dense urban areas, historic or transit centers, corporate and college campuses and any other areas with coverage- or capacity-challenged environments.

The Signify website has variety of solutions showing different models. We already looked at a very early evolution of this in the post here as we looked at the H-series Slim pole here.

BrightSites H-Series Slim Pole
  • integrated broadband connectivity, up to 4 radio units and 2 basebands from various vendors
  • a wide variety of digital technologies and IoT capabilities (Wi-Fi, cameras, and sensors)
  • Suitable for urban areas in historic or contemporary styles
  • wide range of customization for lighting requirements
  • transforms  streetlight into assets

Back in 2019, Signify had already announced that BrightSites smart poles have already been installed in San Jose, US and Hospitalet, Spain. Surely they have been installed in a lot more places by now. 

Finally, here is a video explaining the need for smart poles.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Loon Overview and Advancements

We have written about Alphabet's Loon many times on our blogs. While we agree that the business case for the technology is poor, it has nevertheless the potential to bring connectivity quickly to areas of need. Links to the different blog posts are at the bottom of this post.

The video below was posted by Loon on their YouTube channel

While there is no shortage on tutorials explaining how Loon works, here is an older video looking at the Loon infrastructure

The only real challenge left is how to control the trajectory when there is a hurricane or very windy situation as can be seen in this Tweet below

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Tuesday, 1 September 2020

5G Small Cells Definition

In our basic introduction on Small Cells and Macrocells, we discussed that the small cells definition can sometimes be fuzzy. Having said that, it was still easy to define the small cell based on the topology. With 5G, as there are quite a few different splits, you can have Integrated as well as disaggregated small cell. To simplify the confusion around this, Small Cell Forum (SCF) unveiled 5G Small Cell Architecture and Product Definitions.

Document 238.10.01 available here provides the necessary details. The contents of the report include:

  • Definition of 5G Small Cells and Small Cell Networks
  • 5G Small Cell Deployment Scenarios
  • Small Cell Network Architecture and Product Types
  • Small Cell Power Considerations
  • 5G-Small Cell Product Definitions
    • Integrated Small Cell Configurations (Survey Results)
    • Radio Unit (RU) for Disaggregated Networks (Survey Results)
    • Distributed Unit (DU) for Disaggregated Networks (Survey Results)
    • Analysis and Discussion of Configuration Results
  • Conclusions 

The article here states:

Why do we need definitions to inform the design of 5G small cells?  Well, in the 5G era, small cells will be deployed in a far wider range of scenarios than in the past, and the form factors and architectures will be extremely varied.

The introduction of virtualized, disaggregated networks means that some small cells will consist of two or three elements, while others will still be all-in-one. Some form factors will be classed as ‘mini-macros’, which can be deployed unobtrusively on street furniture but have performance and power levels close to those of larger base stations. Others will be so tiny they can be embedded into pavements or consumer electronics.

And we shouldn’t be focused on form before function. Are we talking about outdoor or indoor small cells? Are they to service airports or factories?

It is clear, then, that old definitions are now inadequate, and there are real and present dangers of the industry fragmenting between hundreds of different designs that had insufficient common features to achieve any scale.

This is a major piece of work to provide a consensus view and concise definition of the types of 5G small cells and the key characteristics of the different types of commercially viable 5G small cell RAN products over the next five years. It is supported by a major survey of operators, other small cell deployers, and supply chain members.

The official press release says:

As small cell use cases diversify, 5G Small cell architecture and product definitions highlights the need for clear understanding of the requirements for each of the range of options that will be needed. The risk of diversity is fragmentation, so deployers and vendors will benefit from having clear baseline definitions of the technical specifications, power and spectrum choices, and key interfaces, for any given architecture in any given environment. That will enable the industry to innovate within common, agreed design frameworks, supporting diversity while also maintaining scalability and interoperability.

The first such study of its kind, the report provides an informed view of the most important configurations and specifications for companies deploying small cells between now and 2025. It aims to provide a consensus view and concise definition of the types of 5G small cells being rolled out now and in the near future. It also includes definitions of the key characteristics of the different types of commercially viable 5G small cell RAN products that will be available over the next five years, including 3GPP and O-RAN Alliance 5G disaggregated open RAN specifications – work that covers macrocells, but also includes microcells and picocells.

This study also provides a uniquely detailed analysis of the capabilities that small cells will need to support in any combination of architecture and deployment environment. It makes it clear that in the 5G era, no single design or specification can meet every requirement across all the scenarios. Instead, it will be important to optimize small cell designs and specifications for each environment, to encourage adoption and drive new usage, especially in the enterprise, industrial and campus settings where many new use cases for dense cellular connectivity are emerging.

Some key conclusions are:

  • Split 6 and 7.x are the most popular among those currently planning disaggregated small cell deployments, as well as dual-split architectures including Split 2. Split 8 is also known to be popular in China for indoor enterprise deployments.
  • Split 7.2 O-RU based solutions are predominantly planned for outdoor campus, urban and private networks, whereas split 6 S-RU based solutions are for indoor enterprise.
  • Remote integrated and RU small cell products are limited by power consumption, environmental conditions, maximum output power and volume. gNodeB and RUs generally are passive-cooled, and powered by Ethernet (PoE), fiber (PoF) or powerline.
  • 2 and 4-layer MIMO is most popular in smaller deployments although 8-layer MIMO may be required in some larger enterprise campus, urban and private deployments, and potentially longer term.

“In the early days, small cells looked fairly similar, regardless of the environment in which they would be deployed, and were easily distinguishable in size, weight and power output from other mobile equipment. In the 5G era, small cells will be deployed in a far wider range of scenarios, and form factors and architectures will be extremely varied,” said Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair of Small Cell Forum. “The form factor, power, size, interfaces and specification will vary according to the use case and deployment scenario, and with the introduction of virtualized, disaggregated networks, some small cells will consist of two or three elements, while others will still be all-in-one. It is clear that old definitions are now inadequate, and there are clear and present dangers of the industry fragmenting between hundreds of different designs with insufficient common features to achieve any scale.”

Many of the challenges in the deployment of small cell networks to date have been rooted in regulators and legislators having to certify individual items in an increasingly fragmented market. This report will be valuable for the whole ecosystem: for vendors and components makers looking to prioritize their development efforts on areas of highest demand; for operators and neutral hosts, to help as they make their architecture choices; and for external stakeholders such as regulators and legislators, to expedite site selection, certification and deployment.

"Small cells, or femtocells as they were previously known, have played an increasingly important role in wireless networks since their introduction more than a decade ago. One would have thought that a small cell is well defined; however, it has taken significant effort to work out what a 5G small cell is,” remarked Vicky Messer, Director, Product Management at Picocom. “It has been a great pleasure working with industry colleagues over the past few months on this SCF 5G small cell architecture and product definitions paper. As a result, we now feel we have a definitive answer.”

The baseline small cell product configurations detailed in the report are essential to inform hardware component design and reference architectures, and crucially, are based on an SCF consensus which, in turn, represents inputs from a wide range of operators, vendors, component makers and other stakeholders.

This set of configurations is not prescriptive, and it takes account of work done by other organizations. In this way, the report will help drive the increased ecosystem diversity and lower-cost small cell solutions demanded by the industry and, most importantly, its customers.

Small Cell Forum’s work on common interfaces, at system-on-chip level (FAPI and 5G FAPI) and system level (nFAPI) is the best-established effort to define a common framework within which many designs and many suppliers can innovate and interwork. The survey of operators and other stakeholders, conducted for this report to understand key design requirements, highlighted strong support for these interfaces and SCF’s Split 6 architecture.

Related Links:

Monday, 24 August 2020

Leveraging Streetlights for the Digital Future

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you will know we love lamp posts, street lights and poles. There are quite a few posts whose references you can find at the end of this post.

The mmWave Networks group at Telecom Infra Project (TIP) have recently released a new whitepaper, Leveraging Streetlights for the Digital Future. Street fixtures like lamp posts, light poles, traffic signals and other vertically-oriented assets that provide line of sight to targeted facilities and residential areas were identified as having a huge potential for rapid deployment of high speed future broadband networks (including 5G) in the TIP Playbook for Smart Cities.

This new whitepaper looks at "Deployment of high capacity urban mobile networks and smart city applications converges on assets in the public space, such as streetlights. This study and analysis deepens the understanding of the obstacles to deploying on streetlights today and points to possible pathways to accessing such assets to enable fast and flexible deployments"

Quoting from the whitepaper:

In a Digital Networks Working Group handbook by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Germany), streetlighting infrastructure has been identified as being very suitable in comparison to other street fixtures.

Deutsche Telekom initiated a study to explore such fixtures and possible pathways to accessing them. Before tackling any challenges, we wanted to understand what the "landscape of the players' ecosystem" looks like, what drives it, what slows it down or stops it from moving, how it works today, and what may need to change.

We did this specifically for our German home market, but feel confident that the study results can serve as pointers for the challenges and opportunities this asset poses for many other markets. We also believe the political and legal challenges will be very similar for similar assets apart from streetlights.

The study set out to describe the rules and regulations of public administration, public economy, and public law to which this infrastructure is subject, as well as to identify challenges, opportunities, and potential for its future design.

We chose a design thinking approach because we need to understand the players and stakeholders who control this infrastructure. And we wanted to undertake this before assessing what can and should be done with these potential assets to enable comprehensive broadband coverage and smart city development.

The whitepaper is available here.

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Monday, 17 August 2020

Commscope's 4G / 5G Outdoor Small Cell Solutions

Commscope are well known for their small cells deployment solutions. Their small cell densification page contains a lot of different implementations, some of which have been compiled in the image above.

CommScope provides virtually everything needed to deploy outdoor small cells—from base station antennas, RF transmission systems and fiber to poles, concealment solutions and more. The Professional Services team can help with network designs, construction plans, and permitting.

In addition, Commscope offers a wide range of concealment options that integrate advanced technology into aesthetic packages to complement urban streetscapes and meet permitting requirements. The small cell site concealment solutions are designed to meet both thermal and aesthetic requirements across multiple types of radios and environments.

This 4G/5G Outdoor Small Cell Solutions Brochure provides more details while the Metro Cell Concealment Solutions video shows the solution.

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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Facebook's Fiber Deploying Robot

Facebook Connectivity, in collaboration with a number of partners, has spent the last few years developing an aerial fiber deployment solution that uses a robot designed to safely deploy a specialized fiber-optic cable on medium-voltage (MV) power lines. An article on Facebook Engineering page provides more details:

Each robot will be capable of installing over a kilometer of fiber and passing the dozens of intervening obstacles autonomously in approximately an hour and a half. To account for the human interaction steps such as setup, loading and unloading the robot, installing transitions, etc., we have been conservatively estimating an overall build speed of 1.5 km to 2 km per robot per day on average.

While traditional aerial fiber deployment involves heavy machinery, reel carts, large spools and large crew sizes, a fiber deployment crew deploying our solution, will comprise two or three electric utility linemen and a pickup truck with a few kilometer spools of fiber, a robot, and a few accessories, allowing many crews to work in parallel. These accessories will include an apparatus, developed by our partners Quanta Services, that’s designed to allow the robot to be safely loaded and unloaded from the live line by the line staff. There is also a custom cable clamp, which can be used to periodically clamp the fiber to the power line using a hot stick, along with a specially designed splice case and phase to ground assembly. We expect the total cost, including labor, depreciation, and materials, to be between $2 and $3 USD per meter in developing countries.

By lowering the total cost of aerial fiber deployment, we expect that our system will have a significant impact on internet penetration, especially among the half of the world earning less than $5.50 USD per day. This is thanks to a subtle benefit of the enormous bandwidth of each fiber strand, which allows large capacity upgrades to be made via simple changes to the electronics on either end of the fiber. Illustrated in the chart below, with each small increase in cost, we get a large increase in capacity, resulting in the cost per bit falling over time. We believe this feature of fiber will help enable those even in lowest income brackets to be able to afford all the rich content the internet has to offer, helping to bridge the digital divide.

Here is a video from them:

The post on the website is far more detailed and is available here.

Interestingly AFL has a similar type of robot they have been using for a while to do similar kinds of deployments. Details available here and a video, back from 2013, below:

These innovations should definitely help connect more unconnected people in every part of the world soon.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Some Pictures of Macrocells (and Small Cells) from Rakuten, Japan

If you have been following the Japanese operator Rakuten's progress, you will already know that they use variety of radio hardware vendors. Some of these we have covered in this blog. For example, Airspan's macros and small cells that I blogged here is used in quite a few locations. Similarly, I blogged about NEC O-RAN radios here that are being used in the live network too.

Here are some pictures from Twitter.

Rakuten mobile base station in Akiba (source)

Rakuten Mobile 5G base station, Komazawa Dori from Kanhachi (source)

Rakuten Mobile's 5G n77 base station. (source)

Indoor Rakuten mobile base station at the Haneda Airport International Terminal (source)

Antenna for high-rise buildings (source)

NEC on Rakuten Mobile 5G (source)

Airspan Air5G RDU 46, 28GHz (n257) (source)

You can't have a post on base stations without a speed test, so here we go

Speedtest on Rakuten 4G network (source)

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Nokia's AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) Small Cells

Nokia’s AirScale indoor Radio solution, ASiR for short, is the latest in a long line of small cell solutions deployed in more than 300 networks around the world. ASiR supports multiple radio access technologies and is a great solution across a wide variety of situations from a small office to large enterprises, hospitals and transportation hubs. It’s easy to deploy, using Cat 6a cable, which significantly simplifies and speeds up installation. What’s more, the ASiR pico radio heads (pRRH) are powered from the same Cat 6a cable, via power over Ethernet; no more unsightly power supplies and their cables.

ASiR is highly flexible. Begin with LTE and when the time is right, add 5G. Need to expand coverage? Simply daisy-chain additional pRRHs in the required locations. Network planning of in-building solutions can be challenging. However, with ASiR’s single frequency network (SFN) approach, interference and network planning concerns all but disappear … and so do the associated costs.

ASiR System is an enhanced indoor solution with a centralized architecture, including multi-band ASiR-pRRH, ASiR-sHUB, and AirScale BBU. The platform supports 2G/3G technology via an optional ASiR-RFC (RF Converter). ASiR System is 5G-ready and can evolve into a 4G+5G mixed network on the same platform via graceful 5G radio insertion.

Nokia’s next generation indoor system supports all technologies (2G/3G/4G/5G) and is designed to upgrade 4G to 5G NR via plug-and-play with minimal on-site work. To ensure consistent network performance across all layers, ASiR is driven by AirScale BBU and combines multiple ASiR-pRRH into one Single Frequency Network (SFN). Each ASiR-pRRH is a high power ( 4x250mW) access point that is connected via a single Ethernet cable for both fronthaul and Power over Ethernet (PoE). Planning should be considered in such a way that support the capabilities of each technology.

The key components of the ASiR solution include:
  • ASiR-BBU: Same BBU used by the macro deployment.
  • ASiR-sHUB: Connects to the ASiR-BBU via CPRI 9,8Gbps (Option 8) and serves as an ASiR-pRRH aggregation point. For the downlink, the ASiR-sHUB provides multi-casting to all ASiR-pRRH in a given SFN. For the uplink, the ASiR-sHUB provides radio summing and forwarding to the AirScale BBU.
  • ASiR-pRRH: Connects to the ASiR-sHUB via a proprietary CPRI over 10GBASE-T/5GBASE-T. The ASiR-pRRH provides DFE and Radio functions.
  • ASiR-RFC: Supports neutral hosting, 2G/3G/4G technology.
The connection between ASiR-sHUB and ASiR-pRRH is a highly optimized interface designed to specifically carry more carrier bandwidth and MIMO layers as well as support the ability to chain 5G ASiR-pRRH other ASiR-pRRH. Since ASiR-pRRH chaining provides both traffic and power, ASiR-pRRH (e.g. 5G or non-5G) may simply connect together without the need for additional ASiR-sHUB cabling.

The ASiR solution is very flexible and supports various indoor deployment scenarios.

  • Tri-bands support – 3 technologies into 1 box
  • 40MHz OBW / legacy band , 100MHz OBW / 5G band
  • 50 - 250mW output power – Wide coverage, high ceiling support, cost saving
  • Integrated / External antenna variants – Extend deployment to full scenarios
  • 4G-5G chaining – 4G/5G co-site with just one Cat6a transmission
  • 12 x 10GBASE-T ports – The highest pRRHs connectivity in industry, perfect for adding 5G
  • 4 x 9.8G (SFP ports) backhaul to BBU – Strong backhaul capability to enable 4 Hub chaining or use 1x 9,8G for ASiR RFC connectivity
  • 4G/5G concurrent support – smooth upgrade to 5G without hardware changing
  • Rich feature support (SFN, Virtual 4T4R) – coverage or capacity driven, as customer wish
  • Multi-tech RF conversion – GSM/WCDMA/LTE in one system
  • 3 x 4 RF ports (12 SMA connectors)– Neutral Hosting for multi-vendor scenario
  • 8 x 9.8G SFP ports (CPRI interface)– Strong connectivity to Hubs
Resolving the issue of indoor densification and providing a path to 5G
Today’s networks must be densified to provide the extreme capacity needed to meet soaring traffic demand. Yet densification is often perceived as a challenge by many CSPs as it may require multiple small cell sites, which could delay roll outs and incur large investment.

The ASiR was designed to provide the flexibility needed to ensure smooth installations with an easy and cost-effective upgrade path from 4G to 5G.

With Nokia deploying 5G networks with many different operators, we will surely see more of these soon.

Related Posts:

Friday, 24 July 2020

FC Bayern and Deutsche Telekom bring 5G to the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany

Allianz Arena is a football stadium in Munich, Bavaria, Germany with a 70,000 seating capacity for international matches and 75,000 for domestic matches. Widely known for its exterior of inflated ETFE plastic panels, it is the first stadium in the world with a full colour changing exterior.

The official website, not too long ago, announced that 5G mobile connection is now available in the stadium and complements the previous LTE network.

A total of eleven 5G antennas in and around the stadium ensure the best network quality in the Allianz Arena. This new mobile connection makes it possible to transmit larger amounts of data more quickly - almost in real time. As soon as the stadium reopens, every visitor will now have the capacity to upload multiple pictures or videos.

Telekom Blog had more details (Google translated from German):

When the Allianz Arena was opened in 2005, mobile communications were still in the middle of the GSM era. And the cell phones were from Nokia. Since then, UMTS ( 3G ) and LTE ( 4G ) have also moved into the FC Bayern stadium . Now 5G is added. To this end, Telekom has set up antennas in three places. Where exactly, knows Frank Buchholz, the radio network planner for the arena. First of all, there is "an antenna behind the facade that is not visible from the outside. It supplies the motorway, the driveway and the esplanade" - in other words, the large square in front of the stadium where fans meet.

It continues on the other side of the Esplanade: "There we have a location in the Park and Ride building. It also supplies the Esplanade and the ways to the subway." And besides, "of course we have the antennas that are in the stadium. They supply the bowl inside and provide a 5G basic service".

A lot of bandwidth is required for 75,000 spectators who come to the Allianz Arena for every home game - if there is no Corona . Because 75,000 people, that corresponds to the population of a larger city. And almost everyone wants to send their selfies, photos and videos of the games directly from the arena to their homes, or post them on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

In the Allianz Arena, Telekom installed so-called "massive MIMO " antennas for 5G. With this state-of-the-art technology currently available, a large number of antennas in a single housing ensure particularly high bandwidths. In addition, radio technology, power supply and cooling are housed together.

All this makes the 5G antennas not only particularly powerful, but also particularly heavy. An antenna weighs up to 45 kg. With three units, in order to be able to emit the signal in all directions, this can amount to around 135 kg, which were hoisted under the roof of the Allianz Arena and assembled there. "This high weight must be taken into account for roof loads, statics and wind loads. That is a massive intervention in the infrastructure of such an object," says Telekom radio network planner Frank Buchholz.

He also had to take into account and calculate that the antennas for GSM, UMTS and LTE also remained in operation in order to really be able to provide all visitors to the stadium with mobile communications. In the end, the 5G assembly in Fröttmaning worked perfectly - because the planning was as clever as an action by Thomas Müller.

Although 5G smartphones are only gradually coming onto the market, the new antennas should already offer 5G coverage with high quality and high area coverage. To do this, they use the 3.6 GHz spectrum for which Deutsche Telekom bought the frequencies in 2019. "This has the advantage that we can offer there in the gigabit range and that we have an undisturbed spectrum that is not yet fully utilized," explains radio network planner Buchholz.

The extremely fast 3.6 GHz spectrum already enables downloads at 1,000 megabits per second. For football fans for comparison: This is at least as fast as left-back Alphonso "Phonzie" Davies, the new Bayern rocket from Canada.

Shortly after the installation, a test with the 5G smartphone on the esplanade in front of the stadium showed a speed of 889 megabits / second. And that is by no means the end of the story, as the UMTS example shows. There, the downloads increased from an initial 384 kilobits / second to a maximum of 42 megabits / second within a few years. This shows the enormous potential of successor 5G.

And in the future, the new mobile radio in the Allianz Arena will also enable completely new applications - such as graphics that are placed directly over the smartphone's camera image using augmented reality (AR). Then everyone can see the calibrated offside line on their cell phone , or cheer a goal from all perspectives.

Here is the video, in German with no English subtitles. It still gives an idea on how the installation was done.

If you know more details, feel free to add in comments below.

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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Huawei 5G Lampsite wins awards and speed tests

I have talked about Huawei Lampsite since early days, the first being nearly 6 years back. Recently I talked about them with regards to Neutral Host networks and as an Indoor digital network vision.
Back in Feb this year, Huawei's 5G LampSite won the iF DESIGN AWARD at the 2020 iF International Industrial Design Forum due to its consistent high-quality design, high level of integration, and simplified, intuitive installation experience. A press release on their website said

Launched in March 2018, 5G LampSite is the industry's first multiband integrated solution that provides digital indoor coverage through both 5G NR and 4G LTE technology.

The all-new 5G LampSite series product continues the tradition of the family's "morning-dew" styling, featuring a sleek, smooth arc surface that ensures an extraordinary user-friendly layout. On top of a perfected appearance and curved visual style, the tensile design allows for excellent flexibility and adaptability, enabling it to perfectly blend in with modern urban environments.

Less than 2 liters in dimension, 5G LampSite supports 5G NR and LTE modules integrated in one box on both C-band and all sub-3 GHz bands, while also allowing for both CAT6A Ethernet and fiber-optic transmission. At a result, both eMBB and IoT services are implemented with a single box, achieving a superb balance between product performance and aesthetics.

As with all 5G rollouts, there are loads of speetests on Sunrise, Switzerland network to prove their in-building effectiveness. Here is a short promo video by Huawei from the Sunrise network.

A presentation from last year is embedded below and can be downloaded from techUK here.

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