Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Flying Small Cells are here...

The UK mobile network operator EE has done a press release on 'Airmast technology for rural mobile coverage and disaster recovery'. The idea of having mobile base stations was first conceived by the previous CEO of EE, Olaf Swantee and then Director of RAN Mansoor Hanif in early 2015.

With the 4G small cells making it to the market in 2015/16, Mansoor brought in the  Ayan Ghosh (a.k.a. "Droneman") to lead the airmast project. While Parallel Wireless (PW) and Nokia had been actively working with EE, innovative solutions require innovative partners. This led to finding some very innovative solution providers, some of them based in the UK. Allsopp Helikites based for example is based in Salisbury who specialise in balloon deployments. Other partners included Voltserver with their smart digital power, Avanti with the satellite, UVue with their drones, Parallel Wireless with the Mesh 4G radio and Nokia with Smallcells were introduced to each other for collaboratively coming up with a solution.

The Helikite and Drone solutions are designed to provide temporary coverage not only in case of emergency but also in case of floods, power failures, fiber breaks, etc. They can also supplement the existing coverage in case of big festivals like Glastonbury, etc. In fact one of the example given by Marc Allera, CEO of EE was that anyone climbing a mountain where there may be a limited coverage can order 'coverage on demand' in future.

As part of the team to convert these innovative ideas into reality, we (Parallel Wireless) focused on small cell on the helikite with with tethered power, in-band backhaul (IBBH) and mesh link. The picture below will clarify what we have achieved.

In our case, the small cells worked in tandem with the HetNet Gateway (HNG) can self-configure and self-optimize the power, coverage, etc.

A more detailed slide from Mansoor Hanif's presentation at the Facebook TIP Summit can be seen below.
In fact to make this a success, there were many different components. Voltserver providing digital power that allows a thin cable to run along with the tether and power the small cell and other equipment on the Helikite. Having power to the helikite ensures that it can stay up for 2 - 4 weeks before being brought down to refill helium. Without this power source, 2 x 24V battery would last maybe an hour or two.

The Helikite itself by Allsopp helikites which are unique in their own way. A whitepaper by Aerostats All Australia (AAA) provides a nice comparison of different Aerostats and shows that Helikite performs better than other types, mainly in windy scenarios.

In addition to the Parallel Wireless solution, Nokia showed drones with and without the power tether and also satellite based backhaul, powered by Avanti.

From EE's press release:

EE’s breakthroughs in developing innovative aerial solutions have been achieved with the support of the most innovative partners from the mobile industry and beyond: Nokia has provided world class, lightweight, compact and portable Flexi Zone small cell basestation solutions; Parallel Wireless has delivered a unique technology with self-configuring and self-optimising basestation, in-band backhaul capability, and network meshing techniques; Avanti has enabled a fast, reliable satellite backhaul connection; VoltServer has provided touch-safe and flexible Digital Electricity power over data cable/tether; uVue has evolved drone designs to meet the specific requirements of providing mobile coverage; and Allsopp Helikites has provided the ‘Helikite’ solution that makes a stable, high altitude service possible.

The press release also notes that "EE’s tethered and powered mobile ‘air mast’ solutions are currently in patent-pending status."

Here is an interesting video from EE on how air masts will work:

My favourite picture is one posted by Mansoor Hanif on Linkedin after the first demo at BT, Madley.

Related links:

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

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Deployment guidelines for Small Cells and Not So Small Cells

This post is collection of an article and presentation from Omar Masry, Senior Analyst at City and County of San Francisco. The presentation is a good quick summary and the article below gives a more detailed explanation of some of the issues

Also read: 10 Key Issues for California Cities & Counties on the Challenges of Small Cells & “Not So Small Cells” by Omar Masry.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

5G Small Cells for Smart Cities

Accenture Strategy highlights Economic and Societal Impact of Investing in 5G Infrastructure in a new Research. A small section is devoted to the role small cells will play in smart cities. quoting from the report:

The key to this new wireless infrastructure is the small cell. Telecom operators are already using 4G small-cell technology in limited deployments today to support increased capacity for new users and Smart City sensors. But the full promise of Smart Cities and 5G requires a robust deployment of small cells.

That is because tomorrow’s wireless networks will require hundreds, or even thousands, of small cells, densely deployed across a city or town, instead of traditional macro cell towers, which are hundreds of feet tall and transmit wireless signals for miles. Complementing the existing macro cell sites, these small cells can be the size of a shoe box and discretely deployed nearly anywhere – from street lamps and utility poles to the sides of buildings.

The approach is similar to the supply-operations concept of distributing dispatch centers across a geographic area to serve customers more efficiently than one main, central warehouse. The approaches have similar benefits:

1 Speed to deliver: Just as numerous small dispatch centers can be located closer to the ultimate destination, and thus provide faster delivery, widely distributed small cells also deliver higher speed, and enable large amounts of data to be more readily delivered to users.

2 Capacity to serve: When a given dispatch center does not have the capacity to serve a certain client within the required timeframe due to the shortage of available resources/products, other nearby centers are able to provide service. Likewise, if a small cell experiences too much traffic demand due to a major event (e.g., an emergency situation in the area), other small cells can help meet demand, preventing the communication interruption that usually occurs with current technology.

3 Specialization and diversification of fulfillment: Just as small niche centers can provide specialized service to a local area, a “small cell” can also provide specialization of service to a large, diversified number of users. With the availability of sufficient numbers of small cells, wireless networks will support both specialized transportation solutions (e.g., vehicle-to-vehicle communication) and specialized public safety solutions (e.g., gunshot detection sensor communication), all while ensuring the best quality of service to other highly critical applications, such as a nearby hospital which requires highly reliable communications (e.g., for remote surgery).

Small cells are already beginning to supplement the operations of existing 4G macro towers, and will initially be the central strategy by which telecom operators deal with this ongoing growth in demand for mobile capacity and coverage ultimately leading to the full-scale 5G deployment that will be required by Smart Cities.

While the benefits of pervasive small-cell 5G technology are highly significant, the real-world logistics of deploying small cells on a large scale must also address the cost, complexity and time involved in deployment...

You can read the complete report here.

Related posts:

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Look back and forecast of Small Cells

Going through 'End of Year Report' by ThinkSmallCell. A good summary of what happened in 2016 and what we can see in 2017. This picture above from the same report is interesting. As you can see that the average speeds of 3G have decreased while that of 4G has increased significantly. I suspect what has happened is that the newer devices with more advanced 3G capabilities now have access to 4G while the older devices with basic HSDPA support have stayed on 3G, decreasing the average speeds.

You can also read the top 5 posts from this blog here.

Coming back to forecasts, another ThinkSmallCell Analyst Spotlight webinar where Caroline Gabriel from Rethink research and Kyung Mun from Mobile experts provide their insight into where small cells are headed in 2017 and beyond.

Personally, I think with VoWiFi becoming common in our devices, the market for residential and enterprise eventually will decrease. I hear you say what about QoS, well see my 3G4G blog post here.

Here are the slides and video from ThinkSmallCell webinar:

Friday, 6 January 2017

Rogue One: When Small Cells interfere with Macro

Came across this interesting case study from Cellcom Israel where femtocells cause interference with the macro to reduce availability and in one case paralyze the whole area. Case study embedded below

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Antennas for Small Cells and C-RAN

While a special antenna is not required for Small Cell deployment in general, they do require the right kind of antennas to make sure the original purpose of deployment is achieved.

Specifications for base-station antennas for use with small cells developed by NTT DOCOMO are shown in the picture above. The following is from the NTT Docomo Technical Journal:

These antennas feature dual polarization and can be shared among the 1.5 GHz and 1.7 GHz frequency bands. A separately developed compact duplexer is installed between the SRE and antenna to separate and combine signals of these frequency bands. The compact configuration of these antennas simplifies their installation.

When planning a service area by placing small cells next to each other, deterioration in signal quality due to interference between small cells is an issue of concern. To resolve this issue, downward tilting in the vertical plane is effective to reduce the interference caused by that antenna’s signals on adjacent cells while also to raise the receive level within the antenna’s own cell. The end result is improved throughput. The following summarizes the features of three types of antennas developed by NTT DOCOMO taking interference reduction and diverse installation environments into account.

1) Rod Antenna (Two Types): Having an omnidirectional radiation pattern in the horizontal plane, this type of antenna is installed on the wall or ceiling of a building to form a service area in its periphery. Two types of rod antennas have been developed: one with tilting for an interference-reduction effect and the other with no tilting for a compact configuration. The rod antenna with tilting consists of multiple vertically aligned antenna elements, the amplitude and phase of each of which is adjusted to produce an electrical tilt. The tilt angle, however, is predetermined.

2) Plane Antenna: This type of antenna has high gain while having a unidirectional radiation pattern making it applicable to installation on high places like building roofs to form a service area in a spot-like manner. A plane antenna can be given a mechanical tilt with a metal fixture to reduce interference.

Interested readers can download the article from here.

I also posted an article on the 3G4G blog titled 'Antenna evolution: From 4G to 5G'. The presentation by Kathrein provides more details on Small Cells and mmWave antennas. Why mmWave? Because most of the industry thinks that mmWave 5G will be small cells.

The relevant part is embedded below

As always, comments, insights and suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Small Cells for Public Safety Communications

One of the many use cases for Small cells is for public safety communications. In case of emergency situations (earthquake, floods, terrorism, etc.) when the macro network is damaged or as it generally happens, the power supply is disrupted, small cells can quickly come in action and provide a coverage solution. This was discussed in an earlier post here.

Another scenario is when dedicated public safety coverage needs to be provided for hard to reach places or in a stadium kind if scenario, small cells be fill the void.

While in USA there is a dedicated band (Band 14 – 700MHz) available for use with public safety communications, most other countries do not rely on dedicated spectrum. In case there is no dedicated spectrum, there are still many different approaches to make sure that the personnel from emergency services can continue communication (as long as there is coverage available).

Parallel Wireless*, a Small Cells solution provider based in Nashua, NH, USA specializes in public safety and rural coverage solutions using small cells. The following slide pack contains some of their stories of deployments, demos and trials:

Further Reading:

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

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Multi-vendor LTE Small Cells SON

Before we proceed further, in case the reader is not aware of Self-Organizing Networks (SON), please refer to my old tutorial here.

BT has recently published a white paper on multi-vendor LTE SON based on tests using LTE small cells provided by Node-H and Qucell. From the news posted on Node-H website:

The white paper focuses on the important issue of interference management between small cells. The paper is the result of a joint effort by British Telecom's Research and Innovation group and the technical teams of Qucell and Node-H. It addresses some of the major challenges of LTE HetNets and expands on the work of the 2016 ETSI Plugfest, which was run under the auspices of the Small Cell Forum. The authors’ conclusion is that interoperability between different vendors' SON implementations is achievable and so operators can look forward to robust, seamless and tailored solutions from multiple vendors.
The white paper shows that it is possible to operate mobile networks in which the individual LTE cells execute different ICIC algorithms. These findings challenge preconceptions about SON that are common in the mobile industry and make the case towards larger multi-vendor deployments of LTE small cells and call for bolder efforts in multi-vendor SON testing.
The ICIC algorithms used during these tests have been developed independently and without exchange of technical details between two separate HeNB vendors. Despite this, it has been shown that both algorithms can gracefully co-exist in the same LTE network. ICIC standardization efforts within 3GPP, along with the Small Cell Forum's Plugfest activities, have been key to this success.

The whitepaper embedded as follows and is available to download from here:

Related posts: