Thursday 25 August 2016

Small Cells vs Macro Cells Densification

Here is a presentation by KPN from Small Cells World Summit 2016 explaining how densification using small cells makes more sense than using macro cells. They have presented case study of Rembrandtplein to explain this. Feel free to add your views as comments.

Related posts:

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Drone cells are becoming a reality

Back in early 2015, the then EE CEO Olaf Swantee said, "We will begin exploring 'Air Masts', essentially aerial small cells positioned in the sky above a hard-to-reach area, using either tethered balloons or unmanned craft, bridging the UK's transmission gap."

The vision has not changed a lot. I recently blogged about 'EE's vision of Ultra-Reliable Emergency Network'. If you look at the slide above you will notice temporary solutions include Air masts, UAV's and Network in a box (NIB).

Nokia recently did a trial with EE where they used a drone to carry a tiny base station to remote areas around Inverness. Weighing in at only 2 kg, the Nokia Flexi Zone Pico cell has all the punch of LTE in a very compact package, allowing 4G services to be provided wherever a drone can reach. High quality LTE voice calls between responders, video streaming and up to 150 Mbps data throughput were all achieved, with no need for a connection to an external core network.

While it doesn't exactly say the area that was covered, I would expect it to be able to do at least 1 km diameter to be effective in an emergency scenario.

According to a recent International Business Times article, US operator AT&T is trying something similar to deal with the struggle to provide enough wireless data are large venue events to please customers. The mobile operator says that drones known as "Flying Cell on Wings (COWs)" could make all the difference. The idea would be that the drone would be tethered to the ground so they would hover in one place, sort of like a portable hovering small cell. 

Finally, Ericsson and China Mobile conduct world’s first 5G drone prototype field trial. In their recent press release it says:

In the trial, held in Wuxi in China’s Jiangsu province, a drone was flown using operator’s cellular network with 5G-enabled technologies and with handovers across multiple sites. In order to demonstrate the concept’s validity in a real-world setting, the handovers were performed between sites that were simultaneously in use by commercial mobile phone users.

The potential use cases for this technology include mission-critical applications such as support for emergency services. However, end-to-end low latency needs to be guaranteed by the operator’s network to ensure the safety and reliability of such services.

I am sure we will be hearing more on this topic soon.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Small Cells: Best solution for rural coverage?

I drive around the UK a great deal. While I rely mostly on my phone to call and message/text, I also use it to check tweets, Facebook, emails and most important of all as a Satnav (I'm a big fan of Waze). I often end up in scenarios where I have no coverage so a wrong turn results in my Satnav route failure. This can mean I have to drive around for miles before I can get back on route.

In most countries (including UK) when an operator mentions its coverage, its means population based coverage. The problem is that one may have reasonable coverage in a big town/cities but not on small roads and villages but the operator would have still met their coverage obligation. However this will be changing, at least in UK, with the announcement by EE that they will do a 95% geographic coverage. Kudos to them!

Picture Source: Point-Topic

This map I came across recently shows the rural challenges in Europe for providing connectivity. Whilst not that detailed, I can definitely say from a UK point of view, there are many places outside big towns and cities that have coverage gaps.

As can be seen above, a similar problem is present in Africa and Carribean and Latin America (CALA). In these regions, in addition to the coverage gap, affordability and lack of relevant content are also major issues.

To put it simply in most countries, there is that last 10% of the population for whom coverage is not deemed feasible for the operator.  The problem is that the investment would generally outweigh the revenues. The installation (site, backhaul, etc.) and the maintenance cost would almost always outweigh the profits.

This is one of the challenges that Parallel Wireless* is trying to solve.

What if you can make the deployment very simple and reduce the installation cost and have minimal maintenance cost?

The operator would be far more willing to give it a try. There was an announcement between Parallel Wireless and Telefonica I+D for exactly this reason recently. The small communities wherein these small cells are deployed also have a vital role to play. Not only could they help by making sites available, they can have directly report any issues that would arise. An example of this can be seen in the picture above, demonstrating a small cell deployment in a community center.

An important thing to bear in mind is the support for different types of backhaul for small cells. While cellular/LTE backhaul can allow quick deployment, additional type of backhaul can become available much quicker than anticipated. The small cell deployment should be flexible enough to be able to handle this new change.

A real life example of the above statement can be seen in the picture from a recent site survey.

Finally, I would like to embed this video that explains the Parallel Wireless Rural Solution very well.

Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

*Full Disclosure: I work for Parallel Wireless as a Solutions Architect. This blog is maintained in my personal capacity and expresses my own views, not the views of my employer or anyone else. Anyone who knows me well would know this.