Sunday, 26 June 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following video has also been shared:

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Friday, 10 June 2022

Omniflow Smart Street Lighting for 5G and IoT

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

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

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

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

Digital Catapult has a case study on Omniflow here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 27 May 2022

London Underground Mobile Network Infrastructure

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, 20 May 2022

Vodafone Explains Mobile Phone Mast

Questions related to what does a mobile phone mast consist of keeps popping up time and again. I looked at it some years back but it doesn't stop people asking additional questions. 

When the UK MNOs started their Shared Rural Network journey, Vodafone put together a nice primer on what does a mobile network mast consist of. Here is an extract from the article:

What do all the bits of a mast actually do?

  1. Antenna: Antennas send calls, texts and internet data to your smartphone using radio waves and in turn receive radio waves from it. The higher up an antenna is, the more likely it is that you’ll get a strong and reliable mobile signal from it. Most masts will have at least three antennas to provide coverage in every direction. Masts that need to serve more people, because they’re located in more heavily populated areas, will have more antennas.
  2. Radio unit: The radio unit generates the radio waves transmitted by the antennas. Traditionally, the radio unit was installed at ground level. Nowadays, they’re more likely to be installed higher up the mast closer to the antenna to help improve performance.
  3. Transmission/backhaul: Cables, traditionally copper but now far more likely to be fibre optic, are used to connect the mast with other masts and the rest of the Vodafone network in the UK. These are usually buried in the ground. In a few cases, a microwave dish is used instead.
  4. Cabin/cabinets: Located at ground level, these contain computers which communicate with other masts in the network. Additional equipment, such as a battery backup in case of power failure and connectors for the transmission/backhaul, are also stored here.
  5. Power: Most masts will draw their power from the National Grid; some will have their own renewable power source on-site. In a handful of cases, such as with temporary masts, power will instead be provided by a diesel generator.
  6. Microwave dish: In some locations, such as remote rural areas, a microwave satellite dish is used instead of fibre optic cables to act as transmission/backhaul, connecting the mast to the rest of Vodafone’s network. To do so, the dish must be within line of sight of a dish on another mast.

Why can’t you build it somewhere else?

Not all sites are suitable. To provide the strongest mobile signal to as wide an area as possible, there can’t be too many neighbouring buildings, trees or other geographical features in the way. These tend to block the mast’s signal.

Masts also need their own power and what’s known as “backhaul” – data connections to the rest of the network. To meet soaring demand for faster speeds, that backhaul often consists of fibre optic cables under the ground – it’s a common misconception that most of Vodafone UK’s masts communicate wirelessly with the rest of the network.

And to run these power and data lines to a mast, we have to negotiate with the owners of the land, and quite often, with the owners of land adjacent to it. Those negotiations aren’t just about how much rent we will pay, but how easily we can access those sites for construction, maintenance and repairs.

These so-called “wayleave” negotiations can take time – and sometimes break down completely – setting back mast construction by several months.

Why can’t you just build a shorter, less conspicuous mast?

The taller the mast, the wider the area it can cover and the more people it can provide with a fast and reliable mobile signal. Under current rules, most UK masts are around 25m (82ft) tall. But in fact 50m masts would provide a better, more far-reaching signal in many areas.

Update April 2021 – the UK Government has proposed rule changes that would allow new and existing masts to be up to five metres taller and two metres wider than they currently can be. This would not only help increase the range of their wireless signal, it would also make it easier for masts to be potentially shared with other mobile network operators, as more equipment can be fitted onto taller masts.

Who decides where masts are built?

Our engineers pick sites that best meet the technical, logistical and economic requirements for hosting a mast, but the local council has to grant planning permission for the building works to go ahead. So councils hold public consultations before making their decision and residents can have their say.

You can read the complete article here.

The old video of cell tower construction site is worth a watch and is embedded below:

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Friday, 6 May 2022

Comba Telecom Helps Bring Open RAN to New Markets

Comba Telecom is a global leading wireless solutions provider with their own R&D facilities, manufacturing base, and sales and service teams. The company offers a comprehensive suite of products and services including wireless access, wireless enhancement, antenna and subsystems and wireless transmission to its global customers. Comba's core product portfolio includes antennas and subsystems and network products (DAS, Small Cells, Repeater, RRU, etc.), offering turnkey solutions for indoor and outdoor 2G/3G/4G/Wifi/5G to their global customers.

Last year, Comba announced the launch of the industry's first Open RAN multi-RAT, multi-band Remote Radio Unit (“RRU”) that supports 1800MHz and 2100MHz, promoting widespread adoption of emerging open standards in the globe. The announcement says:

The RRU is designed to minimize the total cost of ownership (“TCO”) for operators and neutral hosts in macro deployments through fast and easy deployment, energy savings, improved coverage and throughput, smaller footprint and easy maintenance. Engineered for efficient high power (320W) operation, the multi-RAT multi-band 4T4R RRU minimizes the environmental footprint and reduces the energy spend for the operator. 

As a first in the Open RAN industry the GSM/UMTS/LTE/5G NR multi-mode operation makes it ideal for simple upgrades of legacy sites without compromises. The 4T4R radio supports two LTE/5G NR carriers per band and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (“DSS”). This enables operators to serve arising 5G traffic demand without additional spectrum or removing LTE service.

Comba has a long-standing collaboration with major industry partners and alliances and has participated in the initial Open RAN trials and lab projects in different regions. With all in-house expertise in interoperability and optimizing radio designs for market specific criteria, Comba enables mobile operators to accelerate time to market, and mitigate the overall technology risk when adopting to Open RAN strategy in their next generation of RAN. 

A recent video looks at these Open RAN Multi-band RRUs

While most Open RAN RUs are focused on 4G & 5G, Comba's radios work on 2G & 3G as well. This has allowed them to bring Open RAN solutions to many different parts of the world that may not be ready for 5G yet. Some of these include announcements with their software partner Parallel Wireless in Latin America and Indonesia. Another recent standalone announcement included one with Turkcell in Turkey.

Telefonica also listed them as one of the partners in a presentation at MWC

Telecom Infra Project's TIP Exchange features quite a few radios from Comba which you can see here.

If you are interested in learning more, what the Comba keynote and Panel Discussion on Maturity of Open RAN Adoption at MWC22 Open RAN Summit below:

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Friday, 15 April 2022

ZTE Shows-off New 5G Products and Solutions at MWC 2022

Like all other big vendors, ZTE's booth at MWC 2022 was closed for visitors. They did however create a video explaining all their new products and solutions launched at MWC. Here is a summary from their press release:

ZTE's UniSite NEO, among the new solutions, is the industry’s simplest site solution. Powered by the integrated radio unit OmniUBR Series, it is capable of reducing the radio units from 18 to 5, and supporting a 6-band 3-sector site with only 5 units, thus significantly decreasing site rental cost by up to 57% and delivering 40% lower power consumption. 

Also, ZTE has updated its 5G RAN portfolio with the new-generation Massive MIMO product series. It includes 32TR and 64TR AAUs, up to 192 antenna elements and 320 watt, and introducing the industry's lightest Massive MIMO product weighing 9kg for high traffic site with limited space. ZTE's full scenario product portfolio update wraps up the radio network enhancement and improves the ROI for its operators.

At MWC 2022, ZTE presents an all-in-one 5G private network solution based on the new model of 5G network as a service. This is a one-stop order-to-service package with the pre-integrated software and hardware, as well as converged 4G and 5G networks. The package has the tailor-made network features to empower the digital society. 

ZTE introduces three major types of 5G private network, including the compact cabinet for smart factories with dozens of enterprise applications to be launched on the cloud, single server i5GC for comprehensive campus where applications are more diversified and data security and self-service are mandatory, and embedded MEC for a very limited equipment room and simple application scenarios.

In additon, ZTE has launched VMAX, the accelerator of digital transformation at MWC 2022, to satisfy the increasing complexity of the network O&M, which is regarded as one of the biggest issues for operators.ZTE's VMAX can help improve customer experiences, reduce costs and enhance operating performance.

VMAX is a part of uSmartNet, ZTE's Autonomous Network solution, and changes single-domain operation into all-domain and end-to-end perspective providing One-stop Insight. When network errors occur, VMAX supports cross-domain service self-healing. It gets to the root cause of service problem and customer complaint in minutes with more than 80% location accuracy and efficiency increase by 30%. 

In addition, VMAX can interpret the service intent, output network planning suggestion accurately with minimal intervention. Meanwhile, it provides end-to-end security for different scenarios to protect personal privacy.

Here is the video of their products and solutions

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Friday, 25 March 2022

Taoglas Advanced Antennas and RF Components

Taoglas is a leading provider of advanced technology for a smarter world. Focused on best-in-class, high-performance antenna and RF design with advanced positioning, imaging, audio and artificial intelligence technologies, Taoglas has unique expertise in integrating and commercializing highly complex technology solutions. 

At the Mobile World Congress 2022, we caught up with Baha Badran, Global Head of Engineering at Taoglas to tell us about the different types of antennas and what they are used for. Baha didn't disappoint us and gave us a whirlwind tour of all the antennas on the display at their booth. The video is embedded below.

To learn more about Taoglas, visit their website here.

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Friday, 18 March 2022

The Provider (Telecom, Cloud) and User Open Edge: Innovation with No Vendor Lock-in

Dr. Cliff Grossner was hired at Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation back in September last year. He leads the market intelligence function at OCP and is responsible for driving awareness of OCP, training and certification programs, and guiding inventors presenting their early-stage company ideas to potential investors.

At the Layer123 Conference back in November 2021, Cliff presented a talk that covered the edges that are forming, use cases and forces driving edge computing. His talk is embedded below:

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Sunday, 13 March 2022

Benetel shows their Open RAN RU Progress

Benetel, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, has a 20 year history with over 6 million Benetel designed radios deployed around the world. We caught up with them at Mobile World Congress 2022 to find out what they have been up to. 

We first heard of Benetel when they announced the launch of its flagship BNTL-RAN550 High-Performance 5G O-RAN radio unit (O-RU) back in 2020. Their MWC 2022 press release provides details on their latest RAN650 RU :

This is intended to bring 5G capacity to private, campus and industrial networks, as well as rural networks and public hotspots. A 4T4R antenna arrangement is featured with up to 5W of output power being delivered per antenna port (equating to 20W in total). The 7.2x functional split employed will help minimize the costs associated with fronthaul network implementations, while support for 100MHz of instantaneous bandwidth will allow maximum coverage to be attained.

Benetel’s new RAN650 RU can be deployed in either a Cat A or Cat B based configuration (using selected distributed units), thereby providing flexibility to address radio access network architectures. Key to its elevated performance and versatility is the cutting-edge semiconductor technology that has been designed into it. Each RU incorporates an Intel Arria 10 FPGA along with an Analog Devices’ ADRV9029 4T4R transceiver with integrated Digital Pre-Distortion (DPD). The initial version of the RAN650 covers the n77u (3.7GHz to 4.2GHz) frequency range. An n78 variant (3.3GHz to 3.8GHz) will be made available in the second quarter of 2022.

The RAN650 RU runs off a 48V supply. It has a maximum power consumption of 110W. The robust IP65-rated enclosure use means that even the most challenging of outdoor conditions can be coped with. An operational temperature range spanning from -33°C to +45°C is supported.

The RAN650 complements Benetel’s existing OpenRAN portfolio, including the RAN550 indoor 5G RU that the company announced back in late 2020. Active network trials are already being conducted on the Benetel RAN650 by several pilot customers.

TMN reported last year that, Benetel said it has integrated its Radio Unit (RU) with Radisys’ 5G NR Open RAN CU-DU software and has also licensed Radisys’ LTE software for its eNodeB radio platforms. The official announcement comes after Benetel told TMN last month that it was working with both Radisys and Altran on DU-CU integration.

If you are interested in learning more about Benetel then watch Olli Andersson, Benetel's senior VP for the Americas, discussing the O-RAN architecture's climb into market relevance here.

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Sunday, 27 February 2022

Rakuten Mobile shows off their Open RAN Portfolio

(Click on image to enlarge)

During the Full Year and Fourth Quarter 2021 earning call, President of Rakuten Mobile, Yoshihisa Yamada gave a short summary of the progress of the mobile network. During that, he also showed the Open RAN product portfolio spanning to address diverse deployment use cases.

The portfolio can be seen in the picture above and you can listen to his part of the talk in the video below: 

You can download the slides from here.

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