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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Friday, 12 March 2021

AWS Edge to Power Private Networks and Industry 4.0

At the ONF 2020 Spotlight Series, '5G Connected Edge Cloud for Industry 4.0 Transformation', Ishwar Parulkar, Chief Technologist, Telco, Amazon Web Services (AWS) gave a keynote presentation on 'How AWS Edge is Powering Industry 4.0'. 

He talked about how AWS Edge is powering the 4th Industrial Revolution by building the connected edge cloud. His talks covers:

  • Edge Developer Expectations
  • AWS Vision of Edge
  • Edge Infrastructure
  • AWS Enabled Private Networks
  • Services for the Connected Edge

The video of the talk is embedded below and the slides are available here.

Back in January, AWS also released a nice whitepaper on 'Next-Generation Mobile Private Networks Powered by AWS'.

This whitepaper introduces the relevant use cases, solutions, and best practices for designing and deploying mobile private networks powered by AWS. Cloud-enabled mobile private networks allow enterprises, governments, and professional organizations to autonomously deploy their own geo-dispersed, secure mobile private networks. These networks cover private facilities while meeting their performance, reliability, availability, security, and scalability requirements. 

It's available to download here.

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Friday, 5 March 2021

The Myths and Facts of O-RAN Whitebox

Dr. Chih-Lin I, China Mobile Chief Scientist of Wireless Technologies, in charge of advanced wireless communication R&D effort of China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) recently spoke at Electronic Design Innovation Conference (EDI CON) which was held October 13-14, 2020 in Beijing at the China National Convention Center. (CNCC).

Her plenary talk on "The Myths and Facts of O-RAN Whitebox" looked at the 5G progress of China Mobile, the O-RAN Alliance architecture and workgroups and then focussed on O-RAN WG7, Whitebox Working Group. She then discussed the 6 myths of white boxes. She then discussed the usage scenarios and finally the roadmap of O-RAN whitebox. 

In addition to the above, she discussed a lot of additional information and shared some valuable insights and trials information. Thanks to the Microwave Journal for making the video available.

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Friday, 26 February 2021

Samsung and Ericsson Talks Massive MIMO

Massive MIMO is a fascinating topic. First is that there is no end to learning about it and secondly, the more information I put out, the more hunger people have about it. In the recent months there have been quite a few product announcements on the topic so we thought, why not do a blog post on it. 

Before we start, why not look at Massive MIMO and Beamforming. Mpirical has a short and sweet video explaining it. It is embedded below.

The video discusses four main topic areas: Beamforming vs Spatial Multiplexing, Beam Creation and Steering, Massive MIMO and finally MIMO Panel Antennas.

Now that we have refreshed the concept, let's look at what the product announcements were. 

The first was this blog post by Ericsson on 'How to build high-performing Massive MIMO systems' where they talked about how Ericsson has mastered the Art and Science of Massive MIMO to both unleash the full capacity benefits and extend the coverage of the new 5G mid-band spectrum - bringing outstanding user experience today, and setting the stage for the advanced applications of tomorrow.

The post starts with the 101 of radio physics, then talks about “Outsmarting” physics with Massive MIMO and Beamforming and finally it talks about the secret sauce in Ericsson AAS (Advanced Antenna Systems). The tweet below shows a practical Massive MIMO antenna and how it works.

In addition, Ericsson announced an "ultra-light Massive MIMO radios and RAN Compute baseband solutions." You can read all about it on their Massive MIMO page here and in the Tweet below.

The second was a press release by Samsung announcing Massive MIMO Roadmap in New Whitepaper, which is available here.

The following video shows world's 1st commercial 5G Massive MIMO Radio by Samsung

As the deployments start ramping up, we will see more product announcements on these. The main challenge that needs solving is the huge amount of power consumption. Probably a year or two before we see a breakthrough.

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Friday, 19 February 2021

Open RAN (O-RAN) RRU (O-RU) and DU (O-DU) Design

We often publish Open RAN related information on this blog. Now, TelefĂłnica has just published a whitepaper providing an overview of the main technology elements that it is developing in collaboration with selected partners in the Open RAN ecosystem. 

It describes the architectural elements, design criteria, technology choices and key chipsets employed to build a complete portfolio of radio units and baseband equipment capable of a full 4G/5G RAN rollout in any market of interest. More details here and the PDF is here.

The following is a selective abstract from the paper:

Sites within TelefĂłnica footprint can be broadly classified into four types, from low/medium capacity 4G to high/dense capacity 4G+5G, as illustrated in Figure 1. Each of those types correspond to a particular arrangement of DUs and RRUs whose design and dimensioning represents a key milestone that must be achieved prior to any further development. Representative frequency bands are just shown for illustration purposes, as well the number of cells that can be typically found in each site type.

3GPP defined a new architectural model in Release 15, where the gNB is logically split into three entities denoted as CU, DU and RRU. The RAN functions that correspond to each of the three entities are determined by the so-called split points. After a thorough analysis of the potential split options, 3GPP decided to focus on just two split points: so-called split 2 and split 7, although, only the former one was finally standardized. The resulting partitioning of network functions is shown in Figure 2.

The CU (Centralized Unit) hosts the RAN functions above split 2; the DU (Distributed Unit) runs those below split 2 and above split 7; and the RRU hosts the functions below split 7 as well as all the RF processing.

The O-RAN Alliance further specified a multi-vendor fronthaul interface between the RRU and DU, by introducing a specific category of split 7 called split 7-2x, whose control, data, management, and synchronization planes are perfectly defined. The midhaul interface between CU and DU is also specified by 3GPP and further upgraded by the O-RAN Alliance to work in multivendor scenarios.

The CU and DU can be co-located with the RRU (Remote Radio Unit) in purely distributed scenarios. However, the real benefit of the split architecture comes from the possibility to centralize the CU, and sometimes also the DU, in suitable data centers where all RAN functions can be fully virtualized and therefore run on suitable servers.

The infrastructure needed to build a DU is nothing else than a server based on Intel Architecture optimized to run those real-time RAN functions located below split 2, and to connect with the RRUs through a fronthaul interface based on O-RAN split 7-2x. It is the real-time nature of the DU which motivates the need to optimize the servers required to run DU workloads.

The DU hardware includes the chassis platform, mother board, peripheral devices, power supply and cooling devices.

When the DU must be physically located inside a cabinet, the chassis platform must meet significant mechanical restrictions like a given DU depth, maximum operating temperature, or full front access, among others. The mother board contains processing unit, memory, the internal I/O interfaces, and external connection ports. The DU design must also contain suitable expansion ports for hardware acceleration. Other hardware functional components include the hardware and system debugging interfaces, and the board management controller, just to name a few. Figure 3 shows a functional diagram of the DU as designed by Supermicro.

In the example shown above, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) is an Intel Xeon SP system that performs the main baseband processing tasks. To make the processing more efficient, an ASIC based acceleration card, like Intel’s ACC100, can be used to assist with the baseband workload processing. The Intel-based network cards (NICs) with Time Sync capabilities can be used for both fronthaul and midhaul interfaces, with suitable clock circuits that provide the unit with the clock signals required by digital processing tasks. PCI-e slots are standard expansion slots for additional peripheral and auxiliary cards. Other essential components not shown in the figure are randomaccess memory (RAM) for temporary storage of data, flash memory for codes and logs, and hard disk devices for persistent storage of data even when the unit is powered-off.

An Open RAN Remote Radio Unit (RRU) is used to convert radio signals sent to and from the antenna into a digital baseband signal, which can be connected to the DU over the O-RAN split 7-2x fronthaul interface.

For illustration, the reference architecture of an Open RAN RRU from Gigatera Communications is shown in Figure 7. It shows the functional high-level diagram of the RRU containing the following components:

  • Synchronization and Fronthaul Transport Functional Block
  • Lower PHY Layer Baseband Processing Functional Block
  • Digital Front End (DFE) Functional Block
  • RF Front End (RFFE) Functional Block

For more details, check out the whitepaper here.

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Friday, 12 February 2021

Small Cells World Summit Open RAN Webinar

Small Cell Forum hosted an open industry Small Cells World Summit webinar, on December 9, 2020, on the topic of Small Cell Open RAN. It included panelists from companies across the global Small Cell eco-system - Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Radisys, Reliance Jio and Picocom. The panel shared insight into SCF’s FAPI and Option 6 open interfaces and their applications within 3GPP and O-RAN frameworks.

The video of the webinar as follows:

Agenda and speakers:

  1. Julius Robson, Chief Strategy Officer, SCF - Small Cell Open RAN specifications:  5G FAPI and Option 6 
  2. Andrei Radulescu, Senior Staff Engineer, Qualcomm - FAPI: MAC/PHY interface for Small and Macro Cells
  3. Ganesh Shenbagaraman, Head of Integrated Products and Ecosystems, Radisys  - Network FAPI deployment scenarios and O-RAN alignment
  4. Ravi Sinha, Director, TechDev and Solutions (4G, 5G & MEC Solutions), Reliance Jio - Building the small cell  ecosystem around FAPI components and Option6 interfaces
  5. Vicky Messer, Director Product Management, Picocom - nFAPI test support
  6. Summary, next steps and Q&A

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