Friday 26 August 2022

Rakuten Mobile and TEPCO Power Grid establish 'Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution'

Back in 2019, I wrote about how TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany) Power Grid was trying to utilize their utility poles and other electric power infrastructure for mobile network infrastructure sharing. They managed to get KDDI, Softbank and Rakuten Mobile onboard with their approach. 

Japan is vying to be a global leader in 5G and that has been one of the main drivers to encourage active and passive mobile network sharing. We covered some of these in the blog post here.

In their annual report for last year, TEPCO said: 

We shall coordinate with other operators and leverage the assets of TEPCO Power Grid to provide support for the efficient installation of base stations and eliminate landscape issues by clustering facilities together. We aim to further improve convenience in your daily lives by building infrastructure that meets diverse needs.

Our base station sharing service will integrate location, fiberoptics, and co-location services for configuring base stations. Sharing base stations with multiple companies will contribute to reducing the facility investment of communications operators.

In 2020, TEPCO also carried out trials with NTT Docomo and Rakuten Mobile where they deployed 5G smart poles and digital signage on their power distribution ground equipment. 

In the most recent announcement, Rakuten Mobile and TEPCO Power Grid announced the establishment of a new company for base station construction solutions. "Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution, Inc.," started business on 01 July 2022. The press release said:

Rakuten Mobile Infra Solution will further improve the efficiency of base station construction by effectively utilizing public assets to expand Rakuten Mobile's network, developing installation specifications for Rakuten Mobile's base station equipment and managing installation work. Through this work, the company aims to contribute to the provision of a stable communications environment.

In the construction of its network, Rakuten Mobile is already utilizing some power assets to enable rapid network construction. This has contributed to Rakuten Mobile achieving its target for 4G population coverage on its network about four years ahead of schedule. With the establishment of the new company, Rakuten Mobile will further expand its 4G and 5G coverage, increase the densification of its base stations and strengthen the development of communications infrastructure to provide a stable service. In addition, utilizing existing power assets will improve the cost efficiency of base station construction.

TEPCO PG is actively engaged in infrastructure sharing that utilizes electric power assets such as distribution ground equipment, and has been considering the possibility of new social contributions through its electric power assets. Through the establishment of this new company, TEPCO PG will contribute to the realization of a stable communications environment by supporting the efficient installation of base stations and reducing capital investment, through utilization of the assets, construction capabilities and know-how of the TEPCO PG Group.

We are looking forward to the companies sharing details about the operation in the future.

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Monday 8 August 2022

Verizon's Growing Small Cells Footprint

Verizon was in news recently when their CTO, Ed Chan, mentioned that the operator had plans to speed up its small cell buildout starting in 2023. Light Reading quoted in an article:

His comments, made to financial analysts at Wells Fargo, come after the small cell market in the US took a breather during 2021 as big network operators focused on building out their new midband spectrum holdings via bigger, macro cell sites.

"Verizon anticipates small cells activity will ramp in 2023 as activity shifts toward 16t16r deployments from early 8t8r deployments built in 2022," wrote the Wells Fargo analysts of their recent meeting with Chan. Newer 5G radios can generally support more antennas, including 16T16R configurations.

"Chan also referenced that a third party had taken longer to grow scale and expertise to handle the installs Verizon had planned, but that it is reaching a point where a higher mix will trend toward third-party deployments from self deployments today," the analysts added.

Verizon officials did not respond to questions from Light Reading about Chan's meeting with Wells Fargo executives. The meeting is not listed among the operator's recent public investor events.

The small cell news could be important to equipment vendors, ranging from Airspan to Ericsson to CommScope. Jennifer Fritzsche, managing director at investment bank Greenhill & Company, wrote recently that Chan's comments could presage a resurgence in the US small cell market. She speculated that Verizon could turn to third-party small cell providers like Crown Castle and ExteNet Systems.

Small cells are big in the USA but the definition of it has become a bit fuzzy. In the old days it used to be an all-in-one unit but now anything that is deployed with an omnidirectional antenna or anything that is deployed on lamp posts or poles can be considered a small cell. 

Over the last few years we have looked at the small cells pics in the USA (see related posts at the bottom), so here are some of them from Verizon.

Quoting again from the Light Reading article:

Verizon is widely regarded as the leader in small cells in the US. The company has so far deployed 30,000 small cells sites for its millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network.

"We continue to deploy millimeter wave, which is a key part of our network, providing massive bandwidth in dense urban areas," said Verizon's Rima Qureshi, the operator's chief strategy officer, during a recent Verizon investor event. But company officials haven't provided any specific goals for small cell buildout in 2023 and beyond.

T-Mobile has said that it eventually expects to operate around 40,000 to 50,000 small cells as it completes its big 5G network buildout, while AT&T at one point had planned to operate 40,000 small cells by 2015. But AT&T did not meet its goal, and company officials have remained quiet about small cells since.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all been working to deploy their midband 5G spectrum holdings, and that work has shifted their focus away from small cells. Macro cell towers can cover wide geographic areas, while small cells – which typically sit atop street lights and rooftops rather than large cell towers – are primarily viewed as a method to improve capacity rather than coverage.

Which one is your favourite? Let us know if you have more pictures.

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