Wednesday 29 July 2020

Nokia's AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) Small Cells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday 24 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday 14 July 2020

Huawei 5G Lampsite wins awards and speed tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 9 July 2020

Drones for Tower Inspections and Optimization

With the advancements in drone design, technology and automation, over the last couple of years I have noticed quite a few announcements about drones for tower inspections and optimisation. It would not be possible to cover all the companies here that have a solution but here are three big well known names in our industry that we are going to look in this post.

Back in March 2019, NTT Docomo announced that they have agreed to test docomo sky(TM) for Tower Inspection with PT Solusi Tunas Pratama Tbk. (STP), a company that leases out telecommunication towers in Indonesia. 

The service uses drones to photograph base stations and telecom towers and transmit the information to a command center in real time. The partners hope to expand the scope of the test to include other locations and facilities prior to launching a full-scale commercial service in the first half of this year.

The system being tested is based on an operational drone-based tower inspection system developed by DOCOMO for its commercial network throughout Japan, and supports the "docomo sky" ground control station (GCS) app for assistance in inspection tasks, enabling drone operators to input flight data with ease. For the test, DOCOMO will provide its cloud-based platform for operational support and data analysis. The drones fly automatically, take photos and transmit the images via the platform in real time, enabling technicians to inspect the towers via the docomo sky web browser immediately.

Indonesia is undergoing rapid urban development, including the construction of tall buildings and transportation infrastructure, which has resulted in large structures occasionally interfering with radio propagation from telecom towers. STP, which manages such facilities, must dispatch technicians to visually check conditions by climbing the towers. The new service will enable remote inspections to be conducted much more quickly and safely than at present, thereby allowing STP to achieve greater customer satisfaction with its service to mobile network operators.

In addition, the service is expected to support efforts to speed up procedures for inspecting and restoring telecom facilities in Indonesia whenever a natural disaster occurs.

Going forward, DOCOMO will continue to develop and upgrade its advanced drone services, one of the many ways the company is serving society by leveraging its diverse technical assets and know-how, including mobile network technology and platform businesses.

This week Docomo announced new features of drone platform "docomo sky" and new tariff. Details (in Japanese) available here.

Back in April this year, Rakuten Mobile announced that it will collaborate with Rakuten Group company Rakuten AirMap, Inc., which provides solutions supporting safe and compliant drone operations to enterprises, airspace authorities and drone operators in Japan, in using drones to conduct completion inspections of base stations for its mobile network.

As Rakuten Mobile expands its base station network across Japan, drones will take multi-angle photographs of the newly constructed base stations. In typical completion inspections, an engineer climbs the antenna tower on which the base station is installed and visually inspects the equipment. However, these inspections raise a number of concerns regarding safety, the time required to carry out the inspections and personnel costs. By carrying out the work with drones, completion inspections can be conducted in a shorter amount of time, more efficiently and with a higher degree of safety. Completion inspections will be conducted using AirMap’s TowerSight, a unified system that allows tower companies and MNOs to transform their tower inspections using automated drone workflows.

To date, Rakuten Mobile has conducted limited trials of base station completion inspections using drones in certain areas, and will now fully adopt drones for completion inspections nationwide. By using drones in completion inspections, Rakuten Mobile aims to improve the efficiency of base station construction and accelerate the expansion of its network area.

Drone captures of the base station and surrounding area are shared through Rakuten AirMap’s cloud-based inspection system, allowing staff working on the construction of the base stations to manage and share information efficiently and chronologically.

Rakuten AirMap has been instrumental in establishing the infrastructure for safe and scalable drone use in Japan and will leverage its expertise in completion inspections to contribute to the growth of drone applications in business. The two companies are also looking into the use of drone-based inspections during natural disasters and other emergency situations.

The official Rakuten Blog has a much more detailed article here.

The final announcement is from Samsung Electronics where they announced a successful demonstration of their new drone-based antenna configuration measurement solution for 4G and 5G networks in the company’s campus.

This automated solution will offer operators a simplified way to more efficiently manage cell sites, improve employee safety, and ultimately optimize network performance.

In the demonstration, an engineer on the ground used a smartphone with a remote control application to fly a camera-equipped drone that captured photos of the antennas installed on a building’s rooftop. The visual data was viewable via the engineer’s smartphone and then was transmitted to a cloud server within seconds. The deep learning-based artificial intelligence (AI) solution instantly verified the rotation and tilt of the antennas, so that the engineers could determine if the antennas were installed correctly at predefined optimal angles.

It took less than a minute to transmit the data and process the results, enabling the engineer to view results on-site in real-time on the smartphone screen. The demonstration verified that Samsung’s solution can accomplish the task within 15 minutes – starting from flying the drone to the delivery of measurement results. This compares to the several hours it can take for a tower climber to prepare, climb up and down a cell tower, and measure antenna configurations.

In conjunction with this new solution, Samsung will continue to add additional features, which will allow the engineers to remotely adjust the antenna tilts to its optimal position from a mobile device and PC.

Cellular antennas are typically installed at significant heights on sites such as cell towers or rooftops, in order to ensure optimal mobile coverage. Operator field engineers ordinarily carry heavy and expensive equipment as they climb up cell sites to measure the antenna configurations. With Samsung’s drone-based AI solution, operators will have a new approach for reinforcing the safety of their employees.

The solution’s safety benefits will be especially helpful during site audit and maintenance in the U.S., which often requires two field personnel to be dispatched to a site to audit or adjust the antenna angles -- and requires climbs that use more advanced safety training.

“As the number of 5G network sites grows, there has been a heightened focus on network performance by operators, and we are seeing an increased market demand for intelligent solutions for site maintenance,” said Sohyong Chong, Vice President and Head of Network Automation, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “Once this solution launches globally later this year, it will offer a safer, more cost-effective and convenient way to satisfy market demands, leveraging our unique capabilities in combining the latest technologies—drones, AI and 5G.”

Samsung Networks is a pioneer in the successful delivery of 5G end-to-end solutions ranging from chipset, radio and core network to cloud platform for both mid-band (2.5GHz/3.5GHz) and mmWave (28GHz/39GHz) frequencies. The company has been supporting 5G commercial services in leading markets, including Korea, U.S. and more recently Japan, where the majority of worldwide 5G subscribers are currently located.