Tuesday, 30 June 2020

QCell - ZTE’s 5G Solution for Gigabit Indoor User Experience

ZTE unveiled its 5G RAN product portfolio for the 'Networks of the Future' back in February, just in time for the MWC that was unfortunately cancelled. One of the products was QCell.

ZTE’s QCell 5G indoor solution provides not only multi-mode, multi-frequency, ultrawide-bandwidth and large-capacity 4TR products, but also a more budget-friendly 2TR product that supports 300 MHz bandwidth, which is ideal for indoor RAN sharing and rapid introduction of 5G with lower deployment cost.

Yesterday, ZTE announced that along with the Jiangsu branch of China Telecom, they have deployed 5G 200 MHz Qcell 4T4R digital indoor distribution system in the indoor scenarios with high amounts of data traffic, such as shopping malls and subway stations, in Xuzhou, China. The system provides high-quality 5G indoor coverage, and accelerates future 5G indoor system deployment.

This commercial deployment has employed ZTE’s latest 5G Qcell ultra-wideband product series, which supports 200MHz continuous ultra-large bandwidth at 3.5 GHz frequency band, and 100MHz+100MHZ dual-carrier aggregation technology that doubles download rate. 

For the time being, by virtue of China Telecom’s 100MHz 5G bandwidth, the single 5G user download rate has turned out to exceed 1 Gbps. In case of the activation of 200 MHz bandwidth in the future, the single 5G user download rate will exceed 2 Gbps, providing an excellent 5G experience. 

Moving forward, ZTE will give full play to its technical and commercial advantages in the 5G field, continue to work closely with China Telecom to build high-quality 5G digital indoor networks, and develop 5G industrial applications, thereby facilitating the development of smart cities.

A partner feature on Mobile World Live provides a lot more technical details:

The ZTE QCell system consists of pRRU/pBridge/BBU (Baseband Unit) 3-level equipment. The 3-level efficient architecture supports the rapid cabling of CAT6a network cables or optical-electrical hybrid cables. It supports pBridge multi-level cascading, cell splitting and combination, and can rapidly respond to the operator’s requirements for the complex networking of different frequency bands and systems, rapid adjustment and flexible expansion of capacity and coverage.

The 300 MHz large bandwidth products with multi-mode and multi-frequency band enable the ZTE QCell solution the powerful network architecture integration capability, to meet the requirements of multi-operator’s co-building and sharing and have the compatibility and adaptability of global deployment. It not only supports the overlay networking of the existing DAS and 5G QCell, but also supports the feed-in of the GSM/UMTS DAS RF signals from different manufacturers in the existing network through the MAU, to protect the operator’s existing indoor distribution investment and introduce value-added services based on 5G coverage and precise positioning. QCell supports GSM/CDMA/UMTS/FDD LTE/TDD LTE/5G NR, which makes once deployment to implement the multi-operator/multi-band/multi-system indoor distribution system that achieves agile, long-term, co-construction, sharing, and lowest cost indoor distribution network, multi-system equipment and common management and maintenance. It only needs software upgrade for service expansion and network architecture evolution in the future so as to protect the investment in early-stage 5G indoor deployment and reduce the overall TCO cost from the perspective of long-term operation.

ZTE adopts innovative design of QCell products to reduce the cost and power consumption of equipment units. The pRRU transceiving channel not only supports high-performance 4T4R, but also supports low-cost 2T2R, further reducing the cost and power consumption. The pBridge enhanced product is designed to reduce the cost and power consumption after the electrical interface and optical interface are separated and the SoC solution is introduced. Moreover, the simplest BBU product is introduced to further reduce the QCell system networking cost.

The hierarchical QCell networking well matches diverse scenarios

Based on the analysis of the requirements for indoor distribution of operators, vertical industry enterprises, and large business owners, the indoor distribution scenarios can be divided into three types: capacity-sensitive scenario (type A), capacity and coverage balancing scenario (type B), and coverage-sensitive scenario (type C).

For the above three types of scenarios, ZTE provides hierarchical QCell networking solutions. Compared with the Benchmark QCell solution of 4T4R built-in antenna pRRU, ZTE provides a cost reduction solution of 2T2R built-in antenna pRRU and a low cost solution of 4T4R pRRU+ connected with external DAS antenna according to the scenario requirements, thus achieving the accurate network construction and saving operators’ investment. Evaluations based on the 40,000 square meters isolated indoor distribution scenario show: for scenario type B, the total main equipment investment is reduced by about 1/4; for scenario type C, through the external DAS antenna, the single-pRRU coverage area is greatly expanded and the overall investment is greatly reduced by about 1/2.

Extensive QCell Digital Smart Indoor Application, Making 5G Service Ubiquitous

The QCell digital intelligent indoor distribution system can be deployed for indoor and semi-indoor to achieve wireless coverage and service provision in high-value areas, such as large traffic hub, large stadiums, CBD and university campuses.

The large-scale traffic hub scenarios, such as airports, railway stations, and subway stations, have a large area and high population density, and are high-value areas for operators to guarantee both coverage and performance. The Wi-Fi system of most transportation hubs is often limited in capacity and cannot meet passengers’ requirements for future 4K/8K HD video. In Changsha Huanghua Airport, ZTE deployed the indoor high-capacity digital intelligent QCell solution with high-density networking and the first 3-carrier aggregation technology in China, to achieve the throughput of 8400Mbps for the airport. The solution supports 3,500 people simultaneously to enjoy HD video smoothly. At present, the QCell solution has been widely used in various metropolitan airports and railway hub stations, including Changsha Airport in Hunan, Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou, Nanjing South Station and Xining Railway Station, serving millions of passengers. Nanjing South Railway Station has a total building area of 45.8 million square meters, which is the largest railway station in Asia. After QCell is deployed, the SINR is increased by 13% and the throughput is increased by 91.8%.

The large stadiums, such as stadiums and exhibition halls, have a large number of users and a huge amount of data volume in a centralized manner. The QCell solution supports vertical partitioning to achieve seamless multi-layer coverage from the upper stands, the middle mezzanines to the bottom passages. At present, the QCell solution has been widely deployed in large stadiums such as Hangzhou Olympic Center, Hangzhou Expo Center, Suzhou International Expo Center, and Shenzhen New High-Tech Center. In August 2019, the ZTE 5G Smart Digital Indoor Division QCell solution covered many important sports venues including the Main Conference venue of the Red Lantern Stadium for the second National Youth Games (Shanxi), and made the Game the first “5G Games” in China. Through such technologies as MEC deployment and low delay coding, the ZTE 5G Smart stadium solution reduces the end-to-end live broadcast delay to 1 second, and provides audience with the excellent experience comparable to watching on the spot. In addition, ZTE also provides audience with brand-new experience in three 5G scenarios: immersive viewing experience from multi-angle live streaming, “Flexible Zooming” and “360-degree Free View” services. As an iconic application in the Game, the 5G Smart Stadium Solution provided an excellent demonstration for the live broadcast of sports events.

A recent promo video of QCell is embedded below:

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Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Edge Computing and the Future of Small Cell Networks

Small Cell Forum (SCF) recently published report setting out how edge computing will impact the future of small cell networks, with particular focus on private 4G / 5G cellular networks. A survey of service providers for the paper showed that by 2025 almost 75% new indoor small cell deployments will be co-located with edge and/or private EPC. The paper (SCF 234) is available to download here.

The press release on this stated:

Edge Computing and Small Cell Networks identifies core synergies between edge computing (EC) and small cell networks (SCNs) and highlights how those synergies are present across multiple domains – business, technical, deployment, product and vendor ecosystems.

It describes how the benefits of small cells co-located with edge can be applied to commercial and operational advantage in key industry segments, such as automation and Industry 4.0, worksites, mission critical services, enterprises and public safety. The paper looks in detail at the architectures and deployment considerations for edge and small cells in three premises-based use cases:
  • Fully private cellular networks (PCNs)
  • PCNs that have a roaming relationship with MNO networks
  • PCNS integrated with MNO networks

While small cells and edge computing have significant potential to meet enterprise demand and drive new business models for service providers, best practice needs to be agreed and adopted, and technical barriers/gaps addressed to optimize that potential for both enterprises and service providers. Key areas of focus include:
  • Edge network recommendations: For edge computing solutions, the ‘edge network’ has to work in concert with the ‘core network’ via open interfaces and APIs to enable true multi-vendor ecosystem. SCF believes that current specifications are incomplete and need enhancements.
  • Edge platform services and applications recommendations: Open and consistent APIs across multiple organizations must evolve and align to enable a broad ecosystem of edge platform services and edge applications.
  • EC platform solution recommendations: Blueprints/reference-designs/solutions for open-source edge computing platforms are urgently required for rapid growth of the EC ecosystem.
  • EC and small cell recommendations: Design/deployment blueprints must be available for core use cases to best leverage small cell/edge synergies to deliver multiple benefits: shared virtualized implementations leading to cost efficiencies; integrated network functions & mutually beneficial analytics (radio environment, RAN characteristics, location etc.) leading to advanced functionalities to the edge computing platforms.
  • EC infrastructure recommendations: In determining the COTS hardware for optimal edge computing infrastructure, service providers and enterprises shouldn’t be tempted to reinvent the wheel. There are already robust guidelines for data center & hardware design & implementations from TIA, BICSI and OCP that should be followed.

‘The benefits of edge computing are well known, but what we have begun to demonstrate with this work is that small cells and edge will be critical for enabling service providers and enterprises to realize new profitable service opportunities,’ said Dr. Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair of Small Cell Forum. ‘Small cells plus edge will also enable new business models for a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including edge infrastructure, edge network and edge platform as a service, as well as direct edge application services to subscribers, enterprises and service providers.’

Going forward, working in collaboration with other relevant Industry Forums, SCF will lead the development of a set of harmonized and consistent set of application, network & system-level APIs to enable small cell networks to facilitate EC services and applications.

SCF will also spearhead the deployment of design blueprints for core use cases, leveraging small cell/edge synergies and open source environments.

The research was made possible by an extended collaboration of leading MNOs, OEMs and Infrastructure providers, brought together by Small Cell Forum, including; American Tower, AT&T, Crown Castle, Druid, Intel, Nokia and Reliance Jio.

A video by Small Cell Forum provides a bit more background of this new Edge Computing and Small Cell Networks whitepaper:

Edge computing is a hot topic and every time we have posted something, we have got a lot of engagement on the topic.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

ZTE 'Unisite+' helps accelerate co-site deployment of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G with fewer devices

One of the things ZTE had planned to show during MWC 2020 is a more 'Capable', 'Compact' and 'Faster' 5G RAN Product Portfolio for the Networks of the Future. While we missed out on that, here is once such product called 'Unisite+'

Pic source: Mobile World Live

ZTE describes this as:

Driven by the idea of maximizing RATs, bands and capacity with as few devices as possible, ZTE has launched UniSite+, the upgraded version of its UniSite solution. The A + P design enables replacing all the antennas and adding a new 5G AAU all by just one single radio unit. The active part of the solution offers flexible options between 64TR and 32TR over N78, N41, and N79 bands, and the passive part offers 14 ports and supports all sub-3GHz frequency bands. 

The solution employs two tri-band UBR (Ultra Broadband Radio) products, the industry’s first 1.8G+2.1G+2.6G product, and the 700M+800M+900M with the industry’s largest capacity and smallest form factor. 

By deploying the UniSite+ solution, the operators can easily realize "1 + 2 = 7," the concept of using one antenna and two radio units to support 7-band all-RAT deployment. Therefore, it is the simplest site solution in the industry which reduces the number of required devices by more than 70%.

In addition to radio simplification, the latest baseband technology is also now at another superb level. ZTE has launched the industry's first all-RAT baseband board, which supports 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in one board to facilitate “site-intervention-free” for 5G evolution.

While the radio sites get greatly simplified, ZTE has also reduced the power consumption of the equipment by 30% with new-generation chipsets and high-efficiency power amplifiers. 

To meet the requirements of 5G transmission, the UniSite+ solution also includes the latest microwave products with a transmission capacity up to 25 Gbps and improved latency performance. In addition, the solution can work with the ordinary frequency band microwave of a 3rd-party solution to form a Multiband group, thereby providing the best MPLS/SDN network upgrade solution to maximize the return on investment of operators.

Here are couple of videos in the playlist, one recent one about Unisite+ and the other is about Unisite from last year that provides background to this.

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Friday, 12 June 2020

IOWN - Innovative Optical and Wireless Network

If you are not watching the optical networking space, chances are you have not heard of this Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) initiative which was proposed by NTT and is now being standardised by IOWN Global Forum.

NTT Technical Review published a detailed article on this topic earlier this year. The following is from the article:

To create an affluent and diverse society, NTT has proposed the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) concept, which is a new communication infrastructure that can provide high-speed broadband communication and enormous computing resources by using innovative technologies including optical technologies. NTT also believes that these innovative technologies can optimize society as a whole and individuals using all types of information. IOWN uses three elements, All-Photonics Network, Digital Twin Computing, and Cognitive Foundation® to create a smart world, as shown below (Fig. 3).

  • Dramatic reduction in power consumption and broadening of communication bandwidth can provide enormous processing capacity for the explosive increase in computational complexity.
  • By increasing the capacity and reducing the delay of communications, it is possible to share in real time huge amounts of information collected from various sensors, exceeding the five senses.
  • Dedicated use of optical wavelengths provides a high level of confidentiality and stability and can be used for mission-critical services.
  • Multi-orchestration capabilities for centralized management of various resources, enabling resource utilization across industrial and regional domains
  • The creation of a cyberspace that replicates and expands the real world by combining various digital twins and human models

All-Photonics Network

As the number of people and things connected to a network increase, advanced, complex, and large-scale information processing such as for AI will require a vast amount of power consumption. To reduce such power consumption and meet mission critical service requirements, NTT applies photonics technologies to end-to-end environments for achieving ultra-low-power consumption, large-capacity, and low-delay networks. For example, NTT aims to increase power efficiency 100 fold by developing transmission devices that control optical wavelengths and photonics-electronics convergence devices. NTT also aims to expand transmission capacity 125 fold by increasing multiplexing in optical fibers and expanding multicores in a fiber (Fig. 4).

Digital Twin Computing

A digital twin is an image of real-world objects, such as production machines, aircraft engines, and automobiles in factories, by mapping their shapes, conditions, and functions into cyberspace and expressing them accurately. Using digital twins enables us to analyze the current situation, predict the future, and simulate objects in cyberspace.

Digital Twin Computing is a new computing paradigm that makes it possible to reproduce and simulate the interaction between things and people freely in cyberspace by conducting computations such as exchange, fusion, duplication, and synthesis for many digital twins representing the real world.

Cognitive Foundation®

To achieve low-power-consumption, high-capacity, high-quality communication networks and large-scale interactions between people and objects, it is necessary to select and use various resources appropriately. The Cognitive Foundation is an infrastructure that provides a set of functions necessary to build and operate services by using various methods of collecting, processing, storing, and communicating data scattered throughout various locations.

NTT recently released Technology Report for Smart World 2020 which introduces 11 technologies that they think are crucial to thinking about the changing world ahead. According to them, these technologies are the focus of their own research and development efforts, and are also being vigorously pursued around the world. Some of these technologies are key components of IOWN, while others can be expected to see wide adoption as a result of IOWN according to the report.

Back in April, IOWN GF unveiled its Vision 2030 White Paper. With artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented realities, 5G, dynamic computing scaling, blockchain and other advanced technologies on the verge of becoming part of the daily lives for billions of people, IOWN GF’s Vision 2030 is to define and build a global communications infrastructure over the next decade capable of sustainably maximizing the benefits these new technologies offer society and businesses. The hope is to create a smarter world where technology is used more naturally and becomes more pervasive for all. Download the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network Global Forum Vision 2030 and Technical Directions White Paper here.

Finally, the videos will provide a much clearer idea about the vision of IOWN. As always, feel free to provide your insights in the comments below.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

NEC's 5G Antenna-equipped Smart Street Lighting to be Trialled in Tokyo

Smart poles and lamp posts are popular topic in this blog. You will find links of many examples at the bottom of this post. NEC has a Smart Street Lighting solution that is designed with smart cities in mind. You can read more about it here.

In a recent press release, it announced

Sumitomo Corporation has concluded an agreement with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on the preliminary/trial installation and verification of smart poles being carried out by the government. Together with NEC Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation intends to install two types of smart poles in the Nishi-shinjuku area of Tokyo by the end of June 2020.

In its "TOKYO Data Highway Basic Strategy" formulated in August 2019, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government calls for constructing an ultra-high-speed mobile Internet network in Tokyo. As part of that effort, the government is looking to install smart poles at an early date in the Nishi-shinjuku area, a priority improvement zone. Smart poles are multi-functional poles equipped with communication base stations, Wi-Fi, street lighting, signage, etc., and they are expected to serve as infrastructure useful for the provision of new community services.

In partnering with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Sumitomo Corporation and NEC will be installing two types of smart poles in the Nishi-shinjuku area by the end of June 2020 to verify their utility under both ordinary and emergency circumstances. More specifically, the two companies plan to install two models of NEC's "Smart Street Lighting" equipped with functions such as digital signage and pedestrian traffic flow analysis cameras; one model will be outfitted with a 5G shared antenna system for joint use by multiple telecommunications carriers, while the other, a site-sharing model, will be equipped with 5G base stations for multiple telecommunications carriers. With the aim of bringing 5G shared antenna systems into full-scale use by March 2021, efforts will be made to extend these systems across the entire metropolis and to help develop services for Tokyo residents/visitors through the construction of efficient infrastructure by accumulating knowledge on the installation and operation of smart poles.

Sumitomo Corporation is engaged in a variety of information and telecommunications endeavors, being involved with the cable television business in Japan and investing in telecommunications and telecommunication tower businesses overseas. In the 5G sector, it has taken part in 5G base station sharing verification projects alongside Tokyu Corporation, Osaka Metro Co., Ltd., and Tokyo's Minato Ward. In addition to advancing the "TOKYO Data Highway Basic Strategy" through this latest agreement, Sumitomo Corporation will in the future be collaborating with companies, local governments and others to create 5G-related businesses.

NEC has positioned the public safety business as an engine for its global growth, and this verification project will accelerate and enhance the development of solutions and services to realize "NEC Safer Cities", while helping to create safer and more secure streets.

A concept video explaining how NEC's Smart Street Lighting will be used in future cities as follows:

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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Drivers and Enablers for Large Scale Small Cell Deployments

In the Cambridge Wireless Smart Cities & Small Cell seminar last year, Andrew Entwistle from New Street Research talked about "Small cells around the world: an analyst’s perspective". His presentation is embedded below (with permission). What I wanted to share with you was this one slide (pic above) looking at the drivers and enablers for a large-scale small cell deployment.

Interesting to see that even though there is a lot of potential for outdoor small cells in Europe, the enablers are not there, thereby making it difficult for a large-scale small cell deployment. 

With regards to the USA, I have posted about their small cells deployments many times. The thing is that the definition for small cell in the USA includes small form factor. So a small site with RRH would be considered a small cell. Anyway, check out these posts here and here.

Presentation as follows:

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Passive and Active Infrastructure Sharing

I have written about Network sharing before here. In that particular tutorial, my main focus was to explain Active Infrastructure / Network Sharing mainly. So the focus was on two most common approaches, MORAN and MOCN. The Passive Infrastructure / Network Sharing can be a bit involved as well depending on the agreement between the different parties. Here, let's focus on this.

Quoting from the GSMA whitepaper:

Passive infrastructure sharing is where non-electronic infrastructure at a cell site, such as power supply and management system, and physical elements such backhaul transport networks are shared. This form can be further classified into site sharing, where physical sites of base stations are shared and shared backhaul, where transport networks from radio controller to base stations are shared. Passive infrastructure sharing is the simplest and can be implemented per sites, which enables operators to easily share sites and maintain their strategic competitiveness depending on the sites shared. Operation is also easier with this form of sharing because network equipment remains separated. However, the cost-saving potential of sharing is limited relative to other forms of sharing.

Active infrastructure sharing is sharing of electronic infrastructure of the network including radio access network (consists of antennas/transceivers, base station, backhaul networks and controllers) and core network (servers and core network functionalities). This form can be further classified into MORAN (Multi-Operator Radio Access Network), where radio access networks are shared and dedicated spectrum is used by each sharing operator, MOCN (Multi-Operator Core Network), where radio access networks and spectrum are shared, and core network sharing, where servers and core network functionalities are shared.

As in the case of site sharing, MORAN and MOCN can be implemented per sites and enables strategic differentiation. However, operation of network equipment needs to be shared (or at least issues must be shared with participants) and therefore increases the complexity of sharing relative to site sharing. The cost-saving potential is greater than site sharing. Core network enables greater cost-saving potential but is complicated to operate and to maintain strategic differentiation. It is important to note that core network sharing has not been popular and only a few cases have been suspected to be so.

The pros and cons for different sharing types can be seen in the table above.

This old presentation from 2014, explains the pros and cons of the two passive sharing approach nicely

Passive sharing: Site + tower sharing

  • What is shared?
    • Cell site
    • Shelters, towers
    • Power, A/C
    • Security for buildings and systems
  • Potential advantages
    • Cost sharing for site acquisition, infrastructure, lease, maintenance, power
    • Reduced network footprint
  • Potential drawbacks
    • Entrants may not benefit if they lacks own sites to offer
    • Costly to negotiate and implement when established networks are being consolidated

Passive sharing: Backhaul

  • What is shared?
    • All elements of site sharing
    • Backhaul links: cables/fiber, leased lines, microwave
  • Advantages
    • Cost savings in equipment cost
    • Cost saving in deployment
      • Joint-digging of trenches (70-80% of costs)
      • Microwave links – reduced license fees
    • Faster deployment timeframe

The presentation has examples from different parts of the world and also pros and cons of active sharing. Check it out here.

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Monday, 4 May 2020

Samsung's 5G NR Integrated Radio for mmWave spectrum

At MWC LA last year, Samsung Electronics announced its new 5G New Radio (NR) Access Unit (AU) supporting 28GHz spectrum. This new AU brought together a radio, antenna and digital unit into one compact box, making it according to them, the industry’s first 3GPP compliant integrated radio for mmWave spectrum.

According to Samsung, by integrating these RU-DU technologies with 1,024 antenna elements for mmWave spectrum into one compact box, the new AU can be more easily installed on streetlight poles and building walls, providing operators a faster, simplified way to build out 5G networks.

The AU is also able to deliver an capacity of 10Gbps throughput, enabling operators to deliver higher 5G NR speeds to more users. Additionally, improved cost-efficiency is achieved by eliminating the need for ‘fronthaul’ fiber connections, thanks to the AU’s integration of the digital unit.

This video explains it nicely.

In addition, Samsung recently also announced that it has achieved the industry’s fastest 5G speeds in a lab demonstration that combined 800MHz of mmWave spectrum with MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) technology, running on their AU.

According to their press release:

Using two test mobile devices, the demonstration achieved approximately 4.3Gbps speeds on each, reaching an industry peak speed of 8.5Gbps across both devices. In order to achieve the speed, two key technologies were used: carrier aggregation and MU-MIMO.

This demonstration highlights the key difference of 5G – its use of mmWave spectrum. The wide bandwidth from mmWave spectrum enables mobile operators to provide multi-gigabit speeds that lower band spectrums are unable to match. With multi-gigabit speeds, users can experience transformational 5G mobile services. Mobile operators will be able to deliver new and rich services such as 8K video streaming, AR remote learning and holistic VR teleconferencing as well as new use cases that are yet to be imagined.

Finally, this Tweet by Samsung Network shows how the AU uses an ultra-quiet convection cooling design that lowers operating costs and environmental noise.

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Monday, 27 April 2020

Huawei's 5G Book RRUs Start Delivering On Their Promises

We have blogged about Huawei's Book RRUs last year here. Now, Huawei and China Telecom Shenzhen (a.k.a. Telecom Shenzhen) have taken the lead in achieving the global ultra-large scale 3D networking that involves macro and pole base stations in China. Hundreds of 5G C-Band (3.4 - 4.2 GHz) Book RRUs were used to help the operator deliver an undifferentiated experience in 5G-covered areas.

Huawei announced in a press release:

Book RRU is an innovative product that is small in size, lightweight, and easy to deploy. This offers an effective approach of addressing challenges associated with insufficient site resources. 5G Book RRUs enable significant improvements in 5G in-depth coverage and user experience in residential areas while increasing network capacity.

In-depth coverage in residential areas, urban villages, upscale communities, and backstreet alleys is a long-standing challenge which has faced operators. Insufficient resources and difficult acquisition lead to difficult and time-consuming site deployment.

Lightweight 5G Book RRUs enable quick 5G deployment in residential areas by using walls, lamp poles, monitoring poles, and electricity poles as sites. This offers a quick solution to achieving quick deployment, helping eliminate coverage holes and offload network traffic.

In December 2019, China Telecom Shenzhen completed the deployment and verification of the first 5G Book RRU. 4T4R 5G Book RRUs were used in the project.

After the recent 5G Book RRU deployment, tests show showed that the downlink speed exceeds 1.2Gbps on commercial mobile devices (Mate30 Pro) when the network spectrum is 100 MHz. With Book RRU deployment, coverage holes 150 to 200 m away from streets are eliminated and indoor in-depth coverage of low-rise buildings standing 50 m to 100 m above the ground is achieved.

This places the operator in a unique position to meet the capacity requirements in value hotspots in Shenzhen, such as school campuses, office buildings, business districts, and scenic parks. Book RRUs supplement macro base stations with in-depth coverage and hotspot capacity absorption. This improves user experience and releases suppressed traffic while also increasing ROI.

Shenzhen Telecom is the pioneer of digital construction. Under the overall construction plan of the new infrastructure construction China Telecom Shenzhen will continue to collaborate with Huawei to complete quick 3D networking based on 5G standalone (SA) technologies through combined deployment of macro, pole, and indoor products, enabling optimal user experience while securing 5G leadership.
Picture Source: Susan Welsh de Grimaldo

Last year, Huawei gave a tour to analysts in Zurich, Switzerland to show their kit on Sunrise's network. This tweet from analyst Kester Mann, shows two examples of Book RRU deployments for Sunrise network in 3.7 GHz spectrum with local coverage up to 200 metres and speeds recorded above 700 Mbps with 9 milliseconds of latency.

With operators have to provide dense coverage to meet the 5G expectations, we won't be surprised to see more products like these in the near future.

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Monday, 20 April 2020

SuperMicro's 5G Pole-Mounted DU Server Solution

Back in December 2019, Supermicro launched Server Class Edge Systems for Open 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) Solutions. These new SuperServers offer O-RAN Open-Platform Software, Intel Xeon Scalable Processors, GPUs, FPGA and IP65-rated protective enclosures for Pole-Mounted Cell Tower Deployments. The solutions for 5G cell tower deployments leverage fully-configurable SuperServers based on 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Intel Xeon D processors, O-RAN compliant partner software, and ability to operate in harsh environments. These capabilities accelerate the mobile network evolution from proprietary hardware/software to open source software and disaggregated hardware for 5G installations.

The press release states:

“Supermicro’s data center customers and global telecommunication operators are asking for non-proprietary disaggregated hardware and software 5G solutions supporting multi-vendor web-scale networks, said Charles Liang, president, and CEO of Supermicro. “Supermicro’s new SuperServer solutions provide the 5G network infrastructure with maximum deployment flexibility and efficient total cost of ownership (TCO).”

Supermicro’s two new systems are its first servers for 5G, the Intelligent Edge, and other embedded applications to be based on 2nd Gen Intel Xeon processors. The E403-9P-FN2T is built for demanding environments and includes three PCI-E slots for GPU and FPGA accelerator cards. The compact 1U 1019P-FHN2T is well-suited for controlled environments such as micro data centers and re-purposed central office locations and features two full-height full-length PCI-E slots.

With these expansion slots, Supermicro can provide real-time Edge AI inferencing via GPU cards, and accelerate 5G RAN software and open-standard site-to-site communication using the Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card N3000. These new servers complement Supermicro’s successful Intel Xeon D-based 1019D and E403 models. Supermicro is developing IP65-rated protective enclosures to meet the needs of outdoor environments such as cell towers and microcell sites.

5G Physical Layer splits can be seen in the picture above. While 4G used the BBU + RRU/RRH architecture, 5G will have a Central Unit (CU) and a Distributed Unit (DU). A Radio Unit (RU) may be present in some scenarios as well.

The Outdoor Edge Systems page on their website provides more information about the Pole-Mounted IP65 Server Platform for 5G and the Intelligent Edge. We will end with a video that depicts their vision

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Tuesday, 7 April 2020

TIP Webinar on Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT)

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) group is a project group within Telecom Infra Project that works on the definition of open technologies, architectures and interfaces in Optical and IP Networking.

The project is an engineering-focused effort led by major operators, technology vendors and research institutions. It concentrates on different parts of the Transport network architecture, including optical transponders, line systems, IP access devices, open APIs and network simulation and planning tools.

TIP held a public webinar on 25th March with a lot of details about the group and the different projects within the group. The webinar is embedded below:
OOPT Public Webinar March 2020 from Telecom Infra Project on Vimeo.

You can jump to the part that may be of interest to you:

02:20 - Welcome & Introduction to TIP, Attilio Zani (TIP)
12:30 - Introduction to Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) Project Group, V铆ctor L贸pez 脕lvarez (Telef贸nica)
23:00 - Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG), Jos茅 Antonio G贸mez (Vodafone) & Jo茫o Gabriel Evangelista Aleixo (TIM Brasil)
41:00 - Disaggregated Optical System (DOS), Johan Hortas (Telia)
45:00 - Cassini Overview, Jeff Catlin (EdgeCore) & Jos茅 Miguel Guzm谩n (Whitestack)
1:00:00 - Phoenix Overview, Anders Lindgren (Telia)
1:09:00 - Disaggregated Optical Routers (DOR), Kenji Kumaki (KDDI)
1:17:00 - Physical Simulation Environment (PSE), Gert Grammel (Juniper) & Gabriele Galimberti (Cisco)
1:28:30 - Control, Information Models and APIs (CIMA), Harald Bock (Infinera) & Stephan Neidlinger (ADVA)
1:38:30 - Converged Architectures for Network disaggregated & Integration (CANDI), Oscar Gonz谩lez de Dios (Telef贸nica) & Hirotaka Yoshioka (NTT)
1:52:30 - OOPT NOS – Goldstone, Kingston Selvaraj (PaIC Networks)
2:02:00 - Closing Remarks, V铆ctor L贸pez 脕lvarez (Telef贸nica)

Friday, 3 April 2020

Operator Cloud Infrastructure and Innovation Strategy

When I wrote about Docomo's Open Innovation Cloud, there was some discussion about what exactly is meant by the cloud, whether it has to be public or private (there is hybrid as well) and if service providers (SPs) are embracing it or not.
So before we jump into the mobile operator's strategies, I thought it would be good to do a quick introduction / recap on what is meant by cloud. Embedded below is a slightly long presentation, which goes in some detail but for most people the first 7 minutes is more than enough.

GSMA's 'The 5G Guide' which was produced last year has a lot of valuable information for the operators and everyone else willing to learn from that. Section 3.11 deals with '5G Value Enablers: Operator Cloud'. The key takeaways from that section are:

  • The Operator Cloud will combine the best of both cloud and edge to enable the 5G ‘Service Delivery Model’.
  • Edge computing in 5G networks will be delivered as Multi-access Edge Computing to reduce latency.
  • An Operator Cloud can help operators to save up to 2% of capex by improving operational efficiency and customer experience.
  • If operators can create competitive global platforms for edge/cloud services, this could unlock a new revenue opportunity of up to $100bn.

The GSMA whitepaper details the importance of operator cloud and the case for MEC, which is suited in what scenario. I am not detailing them here except for the final section below:

Value creation and capture with the Operator Cloud is firstly about an ‘infrastructure strategy’

A common refrain in the industry about the Operator Cloud, edge computing and MEC is that they present a chicken and egg dilemma. Operators seek a robust business case with clearly identified revenue sources and sizes before embarking on the journey to deploy the distributed edge/cloud infrastructure. While this may look like the prudent thing to do, it creates inertia for action and can lead to operators foregoing the opportunity completely.

An alternative approach is to consider the Operator Cloud, firstly as part of the infrastructure strategy of an operator. Under this approach, the Operator Cloud is progressively rolled out together with 5G network build out. Operators also begin to use it for backhaul relief and to improve the QoE for customers.

Under this approach, operators can satisfy their own operational and customer experience needs, and then address new opportunities without needing to impose an unachievable ROI hurdle. Figure 3.11.3 shows the contrast between the infrastructure strategy vs. the innovation strategy.

With new 5G services and applications being defined in more mature markets, operators are keeping their options open as to when is the right time to change their strategy from infrastructure centric to innovation centric.

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Monday, 23 March 2020

Docomo 5G Open Innovation Cloud

Earlier, I wrote about how the Japanese operator NTT Docomo is creating a whole new set of innovative 5G applications and use cases with the help of partners. For that purpose they have created the 5G Open Cloud platform. While NTT Docomo is using it to deliver it's own use cases and innovative applications, partners are encouraged to create their own services on top of that too.

In this post I am embedding a talk and the corresponding presentation looking at the challenge of creating this platform and how this is being solved. This presentation is from last year but still has lots of good information and I doubt things would have changed significantly.

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Tuesday, 17 March 2020

LuxTurrim5G smart light pole concept

There is no shortage of concepts to create a truly smart infrastructure for smart cities but this one may be different. LuxTurrim5G is Nokia Bell Labs driven, Finnish publicly funded, Smart City Ecosystem research project innovating & piloting novel digital services and business opportunities for a real smart city enabled by smart 5G light pole network.

Here is a short summary of LuxTurrim5G from their website.

Smart cities need digital service infrastructure to improve safety, energy efficiency, air quality, effectivity of transportation and quality of living.

  • Develop & demonstrate key technical solutions & concepts based on smart 5G light pole infrastructure with integrated 5G mmW radios, sensors, cameras, info screens & other devices
  • Create an open access ecosystem and platform for digital services. 
  • Build a real life real time outdoor test and demo network at Nokia Espoo Campus to demonstrate new innovations on top of and enabled by 5G small cell infrastructure.
  • Pilot business & service innovations on e.g. navigation, information sharing & advertisement, public safety, weather monitoring and smart lighting.
Key results
Provide breakthrough enablers for a digital smart city ecosystem in street level deployments, by building versatile technology and service platform utilizing a single flexible and fast 5G network enabling data driven services from show case demos through pilots to real implementation

Here is a playlist of videos that provides further insights into the project.

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Sunday, 8 March 2020

Super Bowl 2020 Infrastructure in Miami, Florida, USA

Superbowl is a big thing in the US and is catching on in other parts of the world. My favorite part is all the trailers for the upcoming movies that gets dropped in the half time. All the US operators spend months getting ready with the infrastructure in the city and the stadium. After all, as an operator, you expect a fantastic feedback from your existing customers and show off the speeds after the game.

Quoting from Verizon news:

Verizon is on the ground in Miami working hand-in-hand with first responders, local and state government agencies to help keep everyone connected during the big game. 

Our work in Miami has been focused on three key areas: network investment, our state-of-the-art Command Center and being embedded at Florida’s Emergency Operations center.

Verizon's network engineers have been hard at work for more than two years to ensure that our network is ready for the big game and all the festivities that go along with it. As part of the preparations, Verizon has invested over $80 million dollars to enhance our to support the Super Bowl in and around the stadium and the greater Miami area.

Other investments include laying more than 230 miles of fiber throughout Miami, adding existing capacity to over 280 existing cell sites, installing 5G nodes to support NFL Super Bowl venues and events, installing close to 30 in-building solutions to enhance performance around the city (i.e. popular hotels and shopping centers), installing 5G at both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale Airports and more.

These are permanent network enhancements that will benefit the Miami residents and visitors for years to come.

In their announcement, AT&T said:

We’ve been working for more than a year – and have invested more than $85 million – to boost our network through a series of both permanent and temporary upgrades in the city. All this is designed to help residents, first responders and fans stay connected wherever they are.

And to keep fans safe at one of the year’s biggest sporting events, the FirstNet team at AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) are working hand-in-hand with dozens of public safety agencies to prepare. This advance work helps ensure first responders have the coverage, capacity and capabilities – network priority and preemption included – that they need to stay connected throughout the festivities.

We’ve upgraded our portion of the in-stadium Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and other network enhancements – like adding 5G+ and Band 14 spectrum – to provide over 300% more LTE capacity than what was available at the start of the football season. That means we’re utilizing the most LTE capacity currently available on any AT&T DAS in the state of Florida.

The DAS, a system of strategically-placed antennas that distribute and actively manage wireless network coverage throughout the stadium, help evenly distribute coverage, creating a better fan experience. This capacity boost helps manage heavy wireless traffic and gives fans and first responders strong wireless coverage throughout game day – from early tailgating to the final trophy presentation.  

We didn’t stop with in-stadium enhancements. Fans and first responders will be able to enjoy improved coverage in hotels, arenas, airports and convention centers, among other venues through a series of network enhancements:

  • We now offer extra speed and capacity over 5G+ in parts of 35 cities, including Miami and Miami Gardens.
  • We’ve upgraded or installed a new DAS at 29 additional locations throughout the Miami area.
  • We’re deploying 6 Cell on Wheels (COWs) to handle expected increased wireless network demands. They will improve reliability and data speeds during the week leading up to and during the Big Game.
  • We’re also enhancing network coverage for the 10th annual AT&T TV Super Saturday Night. The deployments will include a Super COW capable of 5G+ at Meridian Island Gardens to enhance coverage for all the fans headed to see Lady Gaga perform the night before the Big Game.
These investments will allow Florida residents, businesses, visitors and attendees at the festivities to celebrate the Big Game over the AT&T network at home, at work or on the go.
In addition to these network enhancements, we’ve been making public safety-specific preparations to ensure the FirstNet communications platform is ready for the Big Game:
  • We deployed high-quality Band 14 spectrum across the area to provide optimal coverage and capacity for first responders. We look at Band 14 as public safety’s VIP lane. In an emergency, it can be cleared and locked just for FirstNet subscribers, further elevating public safety’s connected experience and emergency response.
  • We’ve installed metro cells at numerous local and federal public safety agency centers. These enhancements provide agencies with a direct network connection to the critical information they need.
  • We’ll place three FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTs) outside of the stadium for extra redundancy and to provide additional coverage to first responders, if needed.
  • We’re equipping first responders with FirstNet Ready™ devices to help ensure they have communications across the highly secure FirstNet network core.
Plus, members of the FirstNet team will staff the public safety command posts to support local, state and federal agencies in the week leading up to and through the day of the Big Game. This will help ensure communication needs for public safety officials are met.

In their announcement, T-Mobile said:

Over the last year, T-Mobile permanently boosted network capacity at venues throughout Miami so customers can share their game day moments in real time. T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile customers already have the biggest 5G network in Miami.  And now, customers with capable 5G smartphones can get a speed boost from millimeter wave 5G in places like Hard Rock Stadium and Bayfront Park.

With 150,000 people predicted to travel to Miami for Super Bowl LIV events, T-Mobile focused network enhancements where the biggest crowds will be, including Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Beach Convention Center, Bayfront Park, Miami Beach and Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports. And almost all the updates are permanent, so Miami residents and visitors can enjoy the improvements long after the Super Bowl is over.

T-Mobile more than doubled LTE capacity at Hard Rock Stadium so customers can stream, tweet, post and chat about every big moment from the game. To enhance indoor capacity at key venues throughout Miami, T-Mobile built new distributed antenna systems (DAS) and deployed small cells throughout the city to provide additional performance boosts in places that can be difficult for towers to reach.

Almost all of Miami is covered with T-Mobile’s far reaching low-band 5G and fast LTE, so whether customers watch the game from the couch or the beach they’ll be ready to share the action.  In addition to launching broad 5G coverage last month, T-Mobile has newly deployed millimeter wave 5G for customers with capable smartphones in parts of Miami, including nearly all of Bayfront Park and at Hard Rock Stadium in the lower bowl, parking lot and main entrances.

To ensure customers with compatible smartphones know where they can access 5G in Miami, T-Mobile has an interactive map of its nationwide low-band 5G to show where coverage is available down to the neighborhood level and created new millimeter wave maps for the city.

Finally, Sprint, who is the only one to share it's deployment pictures and equipment (shown on the top) said:

As part of our Next-Gen Network build, over the last two years we’ve invested millions of dollars in network infrastructure and upgrades to improve our customers’ wireless experience across Miami.

For the second year in a row, Sprint’s Big Game MVP for increased capacity and faster speeds than before is our innovative Massive MIMO technology. And this year, we’re not only bringing customers a better LTE experience, but we’ve lit up Sprint True Mobile 5G service in some areas of Miami including the stadium, in preparation for this exciting event!

Those who live, work or visit Miami should be fired up because these aren’t temporary fixes. These permanent solutions will benefit Sprint customers for a long time to come.

Based on the huge increase in customers’ data usage last year and in 2018, we’re using two different technologies this year to help meet fans’ demands to stream, download, video chat, text and connect on social.
  • In and around the stadium, Sprint’s Massive MIMO radios using our fast 2.5 GHz spectrum and breakthrough “split-mode” feature will enable us to simultaneously deliver our most-advanced LTE service and Sprint 5G for customers attending the showdown in person.
  • In addition, we will be providing 4G/5G dual connectivity within the stadium, transmitting 4G over a state-of-the-art distributed antenna system (DAS) with more than 1,800 antennas and 5G through Massive MIMO radios.
Together, these solutions will provide the equivalent of 10 macro cell towers at the stadium. That will give fans the coverage and capacity they need whether they’re in their seats, at the concession stand or tailgating in the parking lot.

With massive crowds expected throughout Miami and the surrounding areas, we extended our network upgrades in Downtown and Midtown Miami and Miami Beach, as well as areas in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale.
  • Several dozen new Massive MIMO radios in high-traffic areas such as Downtown Miami, Midtown Miami, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Palm Beach Convention Center will provide improved capacity and faster LTE speeds than before. Customers on Sprint 5G devices in these areas will automatically connect to even faster speeds on our next-generation wireless network. Sprint’s average 5G download speed of 215 Mbps is over 5X faster than our LTE.*
  • Hundreds of new small cells have been installed across the urban and dense areas of the city to “fill in” the network with our 2.5 GHz spectrum. This will result in more capacity in that area and a boost in speed for customers.
  • Nearly 300 cell sites throughout the area have been upgraded to use all three of Sprint’s spectrum bands - 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz - for faster, more reliable service than before.
  • Dozens of new macro cell sites have also been built in areas including Delray Beach, Doral, Hialeah, Homestead, Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, and Pompano Beach to further expand wireless coverage in the Southeastern, Florida market.

So who won? Well, that depends on who you ask.

On the Speedtest blog, they said:

Sprint’s home team might have won the game, but Verizon triumphed when it came to mobile download speeds, coming in 143.7% faster than second-place T-Mobile when considering Speedtest® results over all technologies. Sprint had the third fastest mean download speed in this category and AT&T came in fourth.

Focusing on their 5G game really helped Verizon take the day when considering overall speeds as T-Mobile had the fastest mean download speed (66.35 Mbps) on LTE. Sprint was second on LTE with a mean download speed of 56.16 Mbps, AT&T third at 39.18 Mbps and Verizon fourth at 30.67 Mbps. We break out 5G speeds for each operator below.

T-Mobile’s mean upload speed over all technologies was far better than competitors’. Upload speed is especially important at big events like this as fans try to share their game day experience with those not in the stadium.

T-Mobile also had the lowest latency, coming in 26.0% faster than second-place AT&T. Sprint was third for latency and Verizon fourth.

For comparison, the mean download speed over mobile in the U.S. in January 2020 was 41.23 Mbps, upload was 10.55 Mbps and latency was 46 ms.

Verizon easily beat T-Mobile and Sprint when it came to mean download speed over 5G during the big game. Verizon came in last, however, for both mean upload speed over 5G and latency. T-Mobile showed the fastest mean upload speed over 5G and Sprint had the best latency on 5G. While we did see 5G Speedtest results for AT&T during the game, there were fewer than 10, the minimum threshold we set for this event.

In 2019, fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta used over 24 TB of data on the stadium Wi-Fi network on game day with an average Wi-Fi download speed of 30.98 Mbps. To get a baseline on the Miami experience, we looked at Wi-Fi performance during the Bengals v. Dolphins matchup on December 22, 2019.

Wi-Fi at the stadium did show some game day stresses yesterday, with a mean download speed 33.7% slower than the December 22 game. Mean upload speed dropped 25.7% and latency was up 28.6%.

Verizon also provided Wi-Fi for their customers during the big game yesterday, and the mean download speed was comparable to that on the stadium’s SSID. Mean upload speed on Verizon’s SSID was 12.1% slower than on the stadium’s, but Verizon’s Wi-Fi latency was also lower, showing a 22.2% improvement over stadium Wi-Fi.

It’s worth noting that mean upload speed in all cases was faster than that on download. This is impressive and helpful to fans trying to livestream their experience for friends back home.

This does not mean that it has stopped T-Mobile in claiming that they were winners.

You can say that based on the 5G coverage, this was justifiable

Hopefully in the next Superbowl, we will see some more concrete deployment pictures along with the marketing spin.

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