Thursday 24 December 2020

Top 5 Posts for 2020

It's nearly the end of the year so here are the top 5 posts on this blog this year:

1. Passive and Active Infrastructure Sharing - May 2020

2. SuperMicro's 5G Pole-Mounted DU Server Solution - April 2020

3. NTT Docomo's 5G RAN Infrastructure - November 2020

4. Nokia's AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) Small Cells - July 2020

5. NEC's 5G Antenna-equipped Smart Street Lighting to be Trialled in Tokyo - June 2020

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Thursday 17 December 2020

5G connectivity and IoT intelligence for Leuven Digital City Pole project

We have seen some interesting lamp posts and poles concept on this blog (see related posts at the end of this post). Now, Nokia announced last week that it is providing industrial-grade, 5G-ready private wireless networking to the Digital City Pole project in Leuven, Belgium. The project paves the way for future citywide 5G connectivity that will stimulate local innovation, drive productivity and create jobs, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses.

Working with the consortium led by TRES, Nokia is demonstrating use cases that leverage IoT intelligence across a new secure city data backbone. In doing so, the project will explore new revenue opportunities based on IoT data and energy marketplaces.

The TRES broader initiative will also see streetlight poles upgraded with energy-efficient LED lighting and electric vehicle charging points. Distributed extensively in urban areas, digital city poles provide an effective platform to host high performance connectivity and sensors as cities seek to introduce ubiquitous smart city services.

The Digital City Pole project is supported by the Flemish Government and the EU Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Leuven, which was recently awarded European Capital of Innovation 2020, is committed to new technologies to boost sustainable development and it aims to become one of Europe's Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model that facilitates collaborative innovation.

In addition to Nokia 5G-ready connectivity deployed in partnership with local service provider Citymesh, Nokia will also supply its Gigabit Passive Optical Networks technology for ultra-high-speed connectivity over an end-to-end broadband network.

TRES's website does not have much information but this presentation from last year has some details of this project. The following video explains the concept and shows some real deployment and use case examples 

We will hopefully hear more about the results, etc. next year.

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Thursday 10 December 2020

ZTE's PAD and iMacro gets 5G Upgrade

ZTE announced the Pad base stations back in 2015. From the press release:

The Pad series base stations use a distributed architecture to provide flexible networking models, meeting multi-point and multi-sector coverage requirements. The Pad baseband unit (BBU) is only one third the size of similar products making it the world's smallest outdoor BBU, and can be installed in a concealed location.

The Pad series also features a newly released remote radio unit (RRU), The Pad RRU is a similar size to a tablet, has built-in antennas, and can be mounted to poles, walls, or other common locations in stations, buildings, and streets, allowing for easy site selection for intensive coverage. With low transmit power and interference, the Pad RRU provides seamless network coverage through macro-micro coordination. Multiple Pad RRUs can be included in a logical cell to reduce handovers and provide better user experience.

Earlier this year, ZTE announced in another press release:

ZTE and the Hangzhou branch of China Telecom have deployed the industry’s first 4G/5G dual-band micro RRU supporting 3.5 GHz frequency band in Hangzhou, China. With the downlink rate reaching 1.1Gbps, it can provide users with excellent 4G/5G network experiences.

Featuring 2.1GHz LTE anchors, the latest 4G/5G dual-band 4T4R products of ZTE’s 5G Pad RRU series can realize the fast NSA network commissioning, guaranteeing the service experience of 4G/5G coverage in a 5G SA network. Moreover, it supports 3G/4G/5G multi-mode, and 200 MHz continuous ultra-large bandwidth on 3.5 GHz frequency band. 

In addition, the 4G/5G dual-band micro RRU is small in size, light in weight,  and quick to deploy, thus effectively solving the challenge of insufficient site resources and realizing fast 5G signal coverage extension. 

The pad RRU is usually installed on smart light poles, which integrate HD camera, environmental monitoring, weather sensor, screen, and new-energy vehicle charging functions. Therefore, smart light poles can monitor the real-time road conditions, such as flood, to avoid potential hazards.  

Moreover, the smart light poles can be used as a site location for 5G micro RRUs to solve the problem of insufficient coverage, and transfer live information of smart light poles in real time.

iMacro base station was launched in 2015 as well. From the press release:

The new iMacro base station, with integrated RFUs (radio frequency unit) and antennas of compactness and high performance, was debuted at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai 2015 conference in Shanghai. iMacro joins other products of the ZTE multi-scenario coverage product family, including the Pad series outdoor base stations and Qcell indoor coverage solutions, helping operators to build high-quality 4G networks.

Due to a large number of pedestrian streets, commercial streets, residential areas, and other densely-populated areas alongside urban streets, it is difficult to build new sites, leading to increasingly prominent problems of urban street coverage. Integrated RF unit and antenna unit, ultra broadband power amplification, together with its small size, light weight, compact design, and even one device is capable of multiple frequency bands, ZTE iMacro base station is what exactly operators desire. Moreover, iMacro base station is featured with flexible and rapid deployment without any site resources, which effectively makes the deployment alongside urban streets easier.

The iMacro base station, which can be pole-mounted or wall-mounted, is suitable for installation on lampposts along urban roads and bus station awnings, and can even be placed on the lamp poles along the roads or building’s fa├žade. In the absence of new site resources, the iMacro base station provides intensive coverage in densely-populated areas, effectively enhancing the quality and capacity of network coverage. In addition, the iMacro base station with a compact and elegant appearance can perfectly blend in with the surrounding environment.

In addition to the technology innovation, ZTE also concerns the friendliness and convenience of network deployment. iMacro can connected to external devices through a single power cable and an optical fiber that is connected to the BBU, and multiple iMacro base stations are connected to one remote BBU, allowing for flexible and rapid network deployment, and significantly reducing deployment costs.

Anyway, here is a recent video on PAD and iMacro that ZTE shared on their YouTube channel

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Thursday 3 December 2020

Samsung Talks about TCO Optimization to Accelerate 5G Network Evolution

At IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference (WCNC) 2020, Young Lee, Head of Network Architecture, Samsung Networks gave a keynote entitled “5G Network Evolution: Next Steps and Challenges.” The keynote emphasized the unbelievable rate of 5G deployment and coverage expansion, the 5G market status in Korea, the economic aspects of 5G deployment, and key technology drivers for 5G evolution. Some of the slides from that event is available here.

Young also wrote a couple of blog posts on "How to optimize total cost of ownership (TCO) to accelerate 5G network evolution". Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

The picture at the top of this post is a fantastic summary of the posts as it shows what contributes to the increase of cost and what helps in reducing the network costs. Before proceeding further, if you do not understand TCO then please check out tutorial out.

Part 1 looks at the different RAN deployment architectures as can be seen in the picture above. Quoting from the blog:

In D-RAN (Distributed RAN), the baseband is co-located with radio. All the baseband functions such as PHY, MAC, RLC, PDCP, and RRC/SDAP are done in the cell site. As basebands are centralized at Edge Cloud/DC, there is gain with simplified radio operation and site leasing cost reduction. In this sense, C-RAN is clearly a cost optimizer.

C-RAN (Centralized RAN) comes with a higher transport cost. As all baseband processing functions are moved to a central hub site, this creates a large amount of data overhead between radio and baseband. Thus, C-RAN requires a very high capacity fronthaul transport network where you may need more fibers and efficient packet switching that supports stringent synchronization. To maintain the gain by centralized architecture, C-RAN requires a fronthaul solution that is economical and technically viable to remain as a cost-optimizer.

Having addressed all these drawbacks of C-RAN, vRAN (Virtualized RAN), the new architecture, is receiving strong interest within the industry. It further enhances the flexibility by virtualizing the functions of basebands in a common resource pool made up of the COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) servers, allocating resources in a flexible manner according to traffic conditions. There is resource pooling gain with vRAN.

  • Resource Pooling gain comes from the programmable S/W control of total cell capacity allocation that can be dynamically changed per traffic conditions: for instance, when more traffic comes from some cell sites measured as the active number of UEs, then the UE allocation capacity for such cells can be dynamically increased. Likewise, when less traffic comes from some cell sites, the UE allocation capacity for such cells can be dynamically decreased.

On the other hand, O-RAN (Open RAN) can also provide cost efficiency and serve as one of the cost optimizers.

  • O-RAN function split is another opportunity to reduce the transport cost by off-loading some centralized Baseband L1 functions to the radio side. Option 7-2x is one of the standardized options by O-RAN and they are discussing other options such as Option 6.
  • O-RAN Function Split helps to reduce transport cost significantly.

Part 2 looks at reducing OPEX to make TCO lower. Four technology pillars are discussed in the blog post as can be seen from the picture above: automation, virtualization, cloudification and network slicing. Success in these four pillars, will accelerate the 5G evolution.

I am not providing the details here, best to check the Samsung blog post.

It is worth mentioning that every region, country and operator is different. While at the high level this makes complete sense, other operators may face completely different challenges. The main challenge all operators face is how to make more money as they have to continuously keep pumping money in network upgrades and new services. Nobody has an answer to the killer application and the killer use case.

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